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§Adding support for a custom format to the template engine

The built-in template engine supports common template formats (HTML, XML, etc.) but you can easily add support for your own formats, if needed. This page summarizes the steps to follow to support a custom format.

§Overview of the templating process

The template engine builds its result by appending static and dynamic content parts of a template. Consider for instance the following template:

foo @bar baz

It consists in two static parts (foo  and  baz) around one dynamic part (bar). The template engine concatenates these parts together to build its result. Actually, in order to prevent cross-site scripting attacks, the value of bar can be escaped before being concatenated to the rest of the result. This escaping process is specific to each format: e.g. in the case of HTML you want to transform “<” into “&lt;”.

How does the template engine know which format correspond to a template file? It looks at its extension: e.g. if it ends with .scala.html it associates the HTML format to the file.

Finally, you usually want your template files to be used as the body of your HTTP responses, so you have to define how to make a Play result from a template rendering result.

In summary, to support your own template format you need to perform the following steps:

§Implement a format

Implement the play.twirl.api.Format[A] trait that has the methods raw(text: String): A and escape(text: String): A that will be used to integrate static and dynamic template parts, respectively.

The type parameter A of the format defines the result type of the template rendering, e.g. Html for a HTML template. This type must be a subtype of the play.twirl.api.Appendable[A] trait that defines how to concatenates parts together.

For convenience, Play provides a play.twirl.api.BufferedContent[A] abstract class that implements play.twirl.api.Appendable[A] using a StringBuilder to build its result and that implements the play.twirl.api.Content trait so Play knows how to serialize it as an HTTP response body (see the last section of this page for details).

In short, you need to write to classes: one defining the result (implementing play.twirl.api.Appendable[A]) and one defining the text integration process (implementing play.twirl.api.Format[A]). For instance, here is how the HTML format is defined:

// The `Html` result type. We extend `BufferedContent[Html]` rather than just `Appendable[Html]` so
// Play knows how to make an HTTP result from a `Html` value
class Html(buffer: StringBuilder) extends BufferedContent[Html](buffer) {
  val contentType = MimeTypes.HTML

object HtmlFormat extends Format[Html] {
  def raw(text: String): Html = …
  def escape(text: String): Html = …

§Associate a file extension to the format

The templates are compiled into a .scala files by the build process just before compiling the whole application sources. The TwirlKeys.templateFormats key is a sbt setting of type Map[String, String] defining the mapping between file extensions and template formats. For instance, if HTML was not supported out of the box by Play, you would have to write the following in your build file to associate the .scala.html files to the play.twirl.api.HtmlFormat format:

TwirlKeys.templateFormats += ("html" -> "my.HtmlFormat.instance")

Note that the right side of the arrow contains the fully qualified name of a value of type play.twirl.api.Format[_].

§Tell Play how to make an HTTP result from a template result type

Play can write an HTTP response body for any value of type A for which it exists an implicit play.api.http.Writeable[A] value. So all you need is to define such a value for your template result type. For instance, here is how to define such a value for HTTP:

implicit def writableHttp(implicit codec: Codec): Writeable[Http] =
  Writeable[Http](result => codec.encode(result.body), Some(ContentTypes.HTTP))

Note: if your template result type extends play.twirl.api.BufferedContent you only need to define an
implicit play.api.http.ContentTypeOf value:

implicit def contentTypeHttp(implicit codec: Codec): ContentTypeOf[Http] =

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