Request and Response Objects

repoze.bfg uses the WebOb package to supply request and response object implementations. The request object that is passed to a repoze.bfg view is an instance of the webob.Request class. The response returned from a repoze.bfg view renderer is an instance of the webob.Response class. Users can also return an instance of webob.Response directly from a view as necessary.

WebOb is a project separate from repoze.bfg with a separate set of authors and a fully separate set of documentation.


The following information is only an overview of the request and response objects provided by WebOb. See the reference documentation for more detailed API reference information.

WebOb provides objects for HTTP requests and responses. Specifically it does this by wrapping the WSGI request environment and response status/headers/app_iter(body).

The request and response objects provide many conveniences for parsing HTTP request and forming HTTP responses. Both objects are read/write: as a result, WebOb is also a nice way to create HTTP requests and parse HTTP responses; however, we won’t cover that use case in this document. The reference documentation shows many examples of creating requests.


The request object is a wrapper around the WSGI environ dictionary. This dictionary contains keys for each header, keys that describe the request (including the path and query string), a file-like object for the request body, and a variety of custom keys. You can always access the environ with req.environ.

Some of the most important/interesting attributes of a request object:

The request method, e.g., 'GET', 'POST'
A dictionary-like object with all the variables in the query string.
A dictionary-like object with all the variables in the request body. This only has variables if the request was a POST and it is a form submission.
A dictionary-like object with a combination of everything in req.GET and req.POST.
The contents of the body of the request. This contains the entire request body as a string. This is useful when the request is a POST that is not a form submission, or a request like a PUT. You can also get req.body_file for a file-like object.
A simple dictionary of all the cookies.
A dictionary of all the headers. This is dictionary is case-insensitive.
req.urlvars and req.urlargs:
req.urlvars is the keyword parameters associated with the request URL. req.urlargs are the positional parameters. These are set by products like Routes and Selector.

Also, for standard HTTP request headers there are usually attributes, for instance: req.accept_language, req.content_length, req.user_agent, as an example. These properties expose the parsed form of each header, for whatever parsing makes sense. For instance, req.if_modified_since returns a datetime object (or None if the header is was not provided). Details are in the Request reference.


In addition to these attributes, there are several ways to get the URL of the request. I’ll show various values for an example URL http://localhost/app-root/doc?article_id=10, where the application is mounted at http://localhost/app-root.

The full request URL, with query string, e.g., 'http://localhost/app-root/doc?article_id=10'
The URL of the application (just the SCRIPT_NAME portion of the path, not PATH_INFO). E.g., 'http://localhost/app-root'
The URL with the host, e.g., 'http://localhost'
req.relative_url(url, to_application=False):
Gives a URL, relative to the current URL. If to_application is True, then resolves it relative to req.application_url.


There are several methods but only a few you’ll use often:

Creates a new request with blank information, based at the given URL. This can be useful for subrequests and artificial requests. You can also use req.copy() to copy an existing request, or for subrequests req.copy_get() which copies the request but always turns it into a GET (which is safer to share for subrequests).
This method calls the given WSGI application with this request, and returns a Response object. You can also use this for subrequests or testing.


Many of the properties in the request object will return unicode values if the request encoding/charset is provided. The client can indicate the charset with something like Content-Type: application/x-www-form-urlencoded; charset=utf8, but browsers seldom set this. You can set the charset with req.charset = 'utf8', or during instantiation with Request(environ, charset='utf8'). If you subclass Request you can also set charset as a class-level attribute.

If it is set, then req.POST, req.GET, req.params, and req.cookies will contain unicode strings. Each has a corresponding req.str_* (like req.str_POST) that is always str and never unicode.


The response object looks a lot like the request object, though with some differences. The request object wraps a single environ object; the response object has three fundamental parts (based on WSGI):

The response code plus message, like '200 OK'. To set the code without the reason, use response.status_int = 200.
A list of all the headers, like [('Content-Type', 'text/html')]. There’s a case-insensitive dictionary-like object in response.headers that also allows you to access these same headers.
An iterable (such as a list or generator) that will produce the content of the response. This is also accessible as response.body (a string), response.unicode_body (a unicode object, informed by response.charset), and response.body_file (a file-like object; writing to it appends to app_iter).

Everything else in the object derives from this underlying state. Here’s the highlights:

The content type not including the charset parameter. Typical use: response.content_type = 'text/html'. You can subclass Response and add a class-level attribute default_content_type to set this automatically on instantiation.
The charset parameter of the content-type, it also informs encoding in response.unicode_body. response.content_type_params is a dictionary of all the parameters.
This optional attribute can point to the request object associated with this response object.
response.set_cookie(key, value, max_age=None, path='/', domain=None, secure=None, httponly=False, version=None, comment=None):
Set a cookie. The keyword arguments control the various cookie parameters. The max_age argument is the length for the cookie to live in seconds (you may also use a timedelta object). The Expires` key will also be set based on the value of max_age.
response.delete_cookie(key, path='/', domain=None):
Delete a cookie from the client. This sets max_age to 0 and the cookie value to ''.
This makes this response cacheable for the given number of seconds, or if seconds is 0 then the response is uncacheable (this also sets the Expires header).
response(environ, start_response): The response object is a WSGI
application. As an application, it acts according to how you create it. It can do conditional responses if you pass conditional_response=True when instantiating (or set that attribute later). It can also do HEAD and Range requests.


Like the request, most HTTP response headers are available as properties. These are parsed, so you can do things like response.last_modified = os.path.getmtime(filename).

The details are available in the extracted Response documentation.

Instantiating the Response

Of course most of the time you just want to make a response. Generally any attribute of the response can be passed in as a keyword argument to the class; e.g.:

from webob import Response

response = Response(body='hello world!', content_type='text/plain')

The status defaults to '200 OK'. The content_type does not default to anything, though if you subclass Response and set default_content_type you can override this behavior.


To facilitate error responses like 404 Not Found, the module webob.exc contains classes for each kind of error response. These include boring but appropriate error bodies.

Each class is named webob.exc.HTTP*, where * is the reason for the error. For instance, webob.exc.HTTPNotFound. It subclasses Response, so you can manipulate the instances in the same way. A typical example is:

from webob.exc import HTTPNotFound
from webob.exc import HTTPMovedPermanently

response = HTTPNotFound('There is no such resource')
# or:
response = HTTPMovedPermanently(location=new_url)

These are not exceptions unless you are using Python 2.5+, because they are new-style classes which are not allowed as exceptions until Python 2.5. To get an exception object use response.exception. You can use this like:

    ... stuff ...
    raise HTTPNotFound('No such resource').exception
except HTTPException, e:
    return e(environ, start_response)

The exceptions are still WSGI applications, but you cannot set attributes like content_type, charset, etc. on these exception objects.


Several parts of WebOb use a “multidict”; this is a dictionary where a key can have multiple values. The quintessential example is a query string like ?pref=red&pref=blue; the pref variable has two values: red and blue.

In a multidict, when you do request.GET['pref'] you’ll get back only 'blue' (the last value of pref). Sometimes returning a string, and sometimes returning a list, is the cause of frequent exceptions. If you want all the values back, use request.GET.getall('pref'). If you want to be sure there is one and only one value, use request.GET.getone('pref'), which will raise an exception if there is zero or more than one value for pref.

When you use operations like request.GET.items() you’ll get back something like [('pref', 'red'), ('pref', 'blue')]. All the key/value pairs will show up. Similarly request.GET.keys() returns ['pref', 'pref']. Multidict is a view on a list of tuples; all the keys are ordered, and all the values are ordered.

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