§HTTP routing

§The built-in HTTP router

The router is the component in charge of translating each incoming HTTP request to an Action.

An HTTP request is seen as an event by the MVC framework. This event contains two major pieces of information:

Routes are defined in the conf/routes file, which is compiled. This means that you’ll see route errors directly in your browser:

§Dependency Injection

Play’s default routes generator creates a router class that accepts controller instances in an @Inject-annotated constructor. That means the class is suitable for use with dependency injection and can also be instantiated manually using the constructor.

Play also comes with a legacy static routes generator that works with controllers declared as objects. This is generally not recommended because it breaks encapsulation, makes code less testable, and is incompatible with many of Play’s new APIs.

If you need to use static controllers, you can switch to the static routes generator by adding the following configuration to your build.sbt.

routesGenerator := StaticRoutesGenerator

The code samples in Play’s documentation assumes that you are using the injected routes generator. If you are not using this, you can trivially adapt the code samples for the static routes generator, either by prefixing the controller invocation part of the route with an @ symbol, or by declaring each of your controllers as an object rather than a class.

§The routes file syntax

conf/routes is the configuration file used by the router. This file lists all of the routes needed by the application. Each route consists of an HTTP method and URI pattern, both associated with a call to an Action generator.

Let’s see what a route definition looks like:

GET   /clients/:id Long)

Each route starts with the HTTP method, followed by the URI pattern. The last element is the call definition.

You can also add comments to the route file, with the # character.

# Display a client.
GET   /clients/:id Long)

You can tell the routes file to use a different router under a specific prefix by using “->” followed by the given prefix:

->      /api                        api.MyRouter

This is especially useful when combined with String Interpolating Routing DSL also known as SIRD routing, or when working with sub projects that route using several routes files.

It is also possible to apply modifiers by preceding the route with a line starting with a +. This can change the behavior of certain Play components. One such modifier is the “nocsrf” modifier to bypass the CSRF filter:

+ nocsrf
POST  /api/new              controllers.Api.newThing

§The HTTP method

The HTTP method can be any of the valid methods supported by HTTP (GET, PATCH, POST, PUT, DELETE, HEAD).

§The URI pattern

The URI pattern defines the route’s request path. Parts of the request path can be dynamic.

§Static path

For example, to exactly match incoming GET /clients/all requests, you can define this route:

GET   /clients/all          controllers.Clients.list()

§Dynamic parts

If you want to define a route that retrieves a client by ID, you’ll need to add a dynamic part:

GET   /clients/:id Long)

Note: A URI pattern may have more than one dynamic part.

The default matching strategy for a dynamic part is defined by the regular expression [^/]+, meaning that any dynamic part defined as :id will match exactly one URI path segment. Unlike other pattern types, path segments are automatically URI-decoded in the route, before being passed to your controller, and encoded in the reverse route.

§Dynamic parts spanning several /

If you want a dynamic part to capture more than one URI path segment, separated by forward slashes, you can define a dynamic part using the *id syntax, also known as a wildcard pattern, which uses the .* regular expression:

GET   /files/*name

Here for a request like GET /files/images/logo.png, the name dynamic part will capture the images/logo.png value.

Note that dynamic parts spanning several / are not decoded by the router or encoded by the reverse router. It is your responsibility to validate the raw URI segment as you would for any user input. The reverse router simply does a string concatenation, so you will need to make sure the resulting path is valid, and does not, for example, contain multiple leading slashes or non-ASCII characters.

§Dynamic parts with custom regular expressions

You can also define your own regular expression for the dynamic part, using the $id<regex> syntax:

GET   /items/$id<[0-9]+> Long)

Just like with wildcard routes, the parameter is not decoded by the router or encoded by the reverse router. You’re responsible for validating the input to make sure it makes sense in that context.

§Call to the Action generator method

The last part of a route definition is the call. This part must define a valid call to a method returning a play.api.mvc.Action value, which will typically be a controller action method.

If the method does not define any parameters, just give the fully-qualified method name:

GET   /                     controllers.Application.homePage()

If the action method defines some parameters, all these parameter values will be searched for in the request URI, either extracted from the URI path itself, or from the query string.

# Extract the page parameter from the path.
GET   /:page      


# Extract the page parameter from the query string.
GET   /           

Here is the corresponding, show method definition in the controllers.Application controller:

def show(page: String) = Action {
  loadContentFromDatabase(page).map { htmlContent =>

§Parameter types

For parameters of type String, typing the parameter is optional. If you want Play to transform the incoming parameter into a specific Scala type, you can explicitly type the parameter:

GET   /clients/:id Long)

And do the same on the corresponding show method definition in the controllers.Clients controller:

def show(id: Long) = Action {
  Client.findById(id).map { client =>

§Parameters with fixed values

Sometimes you’ll want to use a fixed value for a parameter:

# Extract the page parameter from the path, or fix the value for /
GET   /            = "home")
GET   /:page      

§Parameters with default values

You can also provide a default value that will be used if no value is found in the incoming request:

# Pagination links, like /clients?page=3
GET   /clients              controllers.Clients.list(page: Int ?= 1)

§Optional parameters

You can also specify an optional parameter that does not need to be present in all requests:

# The version parameter is optional. E.g. /api/list-all?version=3.0
GET   /api/list-all         controllers.Api.list(version: Option[String])

§Routing priority

Many routes can match the same request. If there is a conflict, the first route (in declaration order) is used.

§Reverse routing

The router can also be used to generate a URL from within a Scala call. This makes it possible to centralize all your URI patterns in a single configuration file, so you can be more confident when refactoring your application.

For each controller used in the routes file, the router will generate a ‘reverse controller’ in the routes package, having the same action methods, with the same signature, but returning a play.api.mvc.Call instead of a play.api.mvc.Action.

The play.api.mvc.Call defines an HTTP call, and provides both the HTTP method and the URI.

For example, if you create a controller like:

package controllers

import javax.inject.Inject

import play.api._
import play.api.mvc._

class Application @Inject()(cc:ControllerComponents) extends AbstractController(cc)  {

  def hello(name: String) = Action {
    Ok("Hello " + name + "!")


And if you map it in the conf/routes file:

# Hello action
GET   /hello/:name          controllers.Application.hello(name)

You can then reverse the URL to the hello action method, by using the controllers.routes.Application reverse controller:

// Redirect to /hello/Bob
def helloBob = Action {

Note: There is a routes subpackage for each controller package. So the action controllers.Application.hello can be reversed via controllers.routes.Application.hello (as long as there is no other route before it in the routes file that happens to match the generated path).

The reverse action method works quite simply: it takes your parameters and substitutes them back into the route pattern. In the case of path segments (:foo), the value is encoded before the substitution is done. For regex and wildcard patterns the string is substituted in raw form, since the value may span multiple segments. Make sure you escape those components as desired when passing them to the reverse route, and avoid passing unvalidated user input.

§The Default Controller

Play includes a Default controller which provides a handful of useful actions. These can be invoked directly from the routes file:

# Redirects to with 303 See Other
GET   /about      controllers.Default.redirect(to = "")

# Responds with 404 Not Found
GET   /orders     controllers.Default.notFound

# Responds with 500 Internal Server Error
GET   /clients    controllers.Default.error

# Responds with 501 Not Implemented
GET   /posts      controllers.Default.todo

In this example, GET /about redirects to an external website, but it’s also possible to redirect to another action (such as /posts in the above example).

§Custom routing

Play provides a DSL for defining embedded routers called the String Interpolating Routing DSL, or sird for short. This DSL has many uses, including embedding a light weight Play server, providing custom or more advanced routing capabilities to a regular Play application, and mocking REST services for testing.

See String Interpolating Routing DSL

Next: Manipulating results

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