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Chapter 7. Indexing

As we saw back on site.first (see Chapter 3, "Toward a Real Web Site"), if there is no index.html file in ... /htdocs, Apache concocts one called "Index of /", where "/" means the DocumentRoot directory. For many purposes this will, no doubt, be enough. But since this jury-rigged index is the first thing a client sees, you may want to do more.

7.1. Making Better Indexes in Apache

There is a wide range of possibilities; some are demonstrated at ... /site.fancyindex :

User webuser
Group webgroup
ServerName www.butterthlies.com
DocumentRoot /usr/www/site.fancyindex/htdocs

<Directory /usr/www/site.fancyindex/htdocs>
FancyIndexing on
AddDescription "One of our wonderful catalogs" catalog_summer.html 
    catalog autumn.html
IndexIgnore *.jpg
IndexIgnore  ..
IndexIgnore  icons HEADER README
AddIconByType (CAT,icons/bomb.gif) text/*
DefaultIcon icons/burst.gif
#AddIcon (DIR,icons/burst.gif) ^^DIRECTORY^^
HeaderName HEADER
ReadMeName README
</Directory>

When you type go on the server and access http://www.butterthlies.com/ on the browser, you should see a rather fancy display:

Welcome to BUTTERTHLIES INC  Name Last Modified Size Description 
--------------------------------------------------------------------
    <bomb>	catalog_autumn.html	23-Jul-1998 09:11	1k 	One of our wonderful catalogs 
    <bomb>	catalog_summer.html	25-Jul-1998 10:31	1k	One of our wonderful catalogs 
    <burst> index.html.ok		23-Jul-1998 09:11	1k 	
-------------------------------------------------------------------- 	Butterthlies Inc, Hopeful City, Nevada 99999

(This output is from Apache 1.3; the year is displayed in four-digit format to cope with the Year 2000 problem.) How does all this work? As you can see from the httpd.conf file, this smart formatting is displayed directory by directory. The key directive is IndexOptions.

7.1.1. IndexOptions

IndexOptions option  option ...
Server config, virtual host, directory, .htaccess

This directive was altered by the Apache Group as we went to press with this edition of the book; therefore, its behavior is different before and after Apache version 1.3.2. The options are as follows:

FancyIndexing

Turns on fancy indexing of directories (see Section 7.1.2, "FancyIndexing", later in this chapter).

Note that in versions of Apache prior to 1.3.2, the FancyIndexing and IndexOptions directives will override each other. You should use IndexOptions FancyIndexing in preference to the standalone Fancy-Indexing directive. As of Apache 1.3.2, a standalone FancyIndexing directive is combined with any IndexOptions directive already specified for the current scope.

IconHeight[= pixels] (Apache 1.3 and later)

The presence of this option, when used with IconWidth, will cause the server to include HEIGHT and WIDTH attributes in the <IMG> tag for the file icon. This allows browsers to precalculate the page layout without having to wait until all the images have been loaded. If no value is given for the option, it defaults to the standard height of the icons supplied with the Apache software.

IconsAreLinks

This option makes the icons part of the anchor for the filename, for fancy indexing.

IconWidth[= pixels] (Apache 1.3 and later)

The presence of this option, when used with IconHeight, will cause the server to include HEIGHT and WIDTH attributes in the <IMG> tag for the file icon. This allows browsers to precalculate the page layout without having to wait until all the images have been loaded. If no value is given for the option, it defaults to the standard width of the icons supplied with the Apache software.

NameWidth=[ n | *] (Apache 1.3.2 and later)

The NameWidth keyword allows you to specify the width of the filename column in bytes. If the keyword value is " * ", then the column is automatically sized to the length of the longest filename in the display.

ScanHTMLTitles

Enables the extraction of the title from HTML documents for fancy indexing. If the file does not have a description given by AddDescription, then httpd will read the document for the value of the <TITLE> tag. This process is CPU- and disk-intensive.

SuppressColumnSorting

If specified, Apache will not make the column headings in a fancy indexed directory listing into links for sorting. The default behavior is for them to be links; selecting the column heading will sort the directory listing by the values in that column. Only available in Apache 1.3 and later.

SuppressDescription

This option will suppress the file description in fancy indexing listings.

SuppressHTMLPreamble (Apache 1.3 and later)

If the directory actually contains a file specified by the HeaderName directive, the module usually includes the contents of the file after a standard HTML preamble (<HTML>, <HEAD>, etc.). The SuppressHTMLPreamble option disables this behavior, causing the module to start the display with the header file contents. The header file must contain appropriate HTML instructions in this case. If there is no header file, the preamble is generated as usual.

SuppressLastModified

This option will suppress the display of the last modification date in fancy indexing listings.

SuppressSize

This option will suppress the file size in fancy indexing listings.

There are some noticeable differences in the behavior of the IndexOptions directive in recent (post-1.3.0) versions of Apache. In Apache 1.3.2 and earlier, the default is that no options are enabled. If multiple IndexOptions could apply to a directory, then the most specific one is taken complete; the options are not merged. For example, if the specified directives are:

<Directory /web/docs> 
IndexOptions FancyIndexing 
</Directory>
<Directory /web/docs/spec> 
IndexOptions ScanHTMLTitles 
</Directory>

then only ScanHTMLTitles will be set for the /web/docs/spec directory.

Apache 1.3.3 introduced some significant changes in the handling of IndexOptions directives. In particular:

  • Multiple IndexOptions directives for a single directory are now merged together. The result of the previous example will now be the equivalent of IndexOptions FancyIndexing ScanHTMLTitles.

  • Incremental syntax (i.e., prefixing keywords with "+" or "-") has been added.

Whenever a "+" or "-" prefixed keyword is encountered, it is applied to the current IndexOptions settings (which may have been inherited from an upper-level directory). However, whenever an unprefixed keyword is processed, it clears all inherited options and any incremental settings encountered so far. Consider the following example:

IndexOptions +ScanHTMLTitles -IconsAreLinks FancyIndexing 
IndexOptions +SuppressSize

The net effect is equivalent to IndexOptions FancyIndexing +SuppressSize, because the unprefixed FancyIndexing discarded the incremental keywords before it but allowed them to start accumulating again afterward.

To unconditionally set the IndexOptions for a particular directory, clearing the inherited settings, specify keywords without either "+" or "-" prefixes.

7.1.3. IndexIgnore

IndexIgnore file1 file2 ...
Server config, virtual host, directory, .htaccess

IndexIgnore is followed by a list of files or wildcards to describe files. As we see in the following example, multiple IndexIgnores add to the list rather than replacing each other. By default, the list includes ".".

Here we want to ignore the *.jpg files (which are, after all, no use without the .html files that display them) and the parent directory, known to Unix and to Win32 as "..":

...
<Directory /usr/www/fancyindex.txt/htdocs>
FancyIndexing on
AddDescription "One of our wonderful catalogs" catalog_autumn.html catalog_summer.html
IndexIgnore *.jpg ..
</Directory>

You might want to use IndexIgnore for security reasons as well: what the eye doesn't see, the mouse finger can't steal.[51] You can put in extra IndexIgnore lines, and the effects are cumulative, so we could just as well write:

[51]Well, OK, you should never rely on this, but it doesn't hurt, right?

<Directory /usr/www/fancyindex.txt/htdocs>
FancyIndexing on
AddDescription "One of our wonderful catalogs" catalog_autumn.html catalog_summer.html
IndexIgnore *.jpg
IndexIgnore ..
</Directory>

We can add visual sparkle to our page, without which success on the Web is most unlikely, by giving icons to the files with the AddIcon directive. Apache has more icons than you can shake a stick at in its ... /icons directory. Without spending some time exploring, one doesn't know precisely what each one looks like, but bomb.gif sounds promising. The icons directory needs to be specified relative to the DocumentRoot directory, so we have made a subdirectory ... /htdocs/icons and copied bomb.gif into it. We can attach the bomb icon to all displayed .html files with:

...
AddIcon icons/bomb.gif  .html


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