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3.3. Block Directives

Apache has a number of block directives that limit the application of other directives within them to operations on particular virtual hosts, directories, or files. These are extremely important to the operation of a real web site because within these blocks -- particularly <VirtualHost> -- the webmaster can, in effect, set up a large number of individual servers run by a single invocation of Apache. This will make more sense when you get to Section 3.5, "Two Sites and Apache", further on in this chapter.

The syntax of the block directives is detailed next.

3.3.1. <VirtualHost>

<VirtualHost host[:port]>
Server config

The <VirtualHost> directive within a Config file acts like a tag in HTML: it introduces a block of text containing directives referring to one host; when we're finished with it, we stop with </VirtualHost>. For example:

<VirtualHost www.butterthlies.com>
ServerAdmin sales@butterthlies.com
DocumentRoot /usr/www/site.virtual/htdocs/customers
ServerName www.butterthlies.com
ErrorLog /usr/www/site.virtual/name-based/logs/error_log
TransferLog /usr/www/site.virtual/name-based/logs/access_log

<VirtualHost> also specifies which IP address we're hosting and, optionally, the port. If port is not specified, the default port is used, which is either the standard HTTP port, 80, or the port specified in a Port directive. host can also be _default_ , in which case it matches anything no other <VirtualHost> section matches.

In a real system, this address would be the hostname of our server. The <VirtualHost> directive has three analogues that also limit the application of other directives:

  • <Directory>

  • <Files>

  • <Location>

This list shows the analogues in ascending order of authority, so that <Directory> is overruled by <Files>, and <Files> by <Location>. Files can be nested within <Directory> blocks. Execution proceeds in groups; in the following order:

  1. <Directory> (without regular expressions) and .htaccess are executed simultaneously.[25] .htaccess overrides <Directory>.

    [25]That is, they are processed together for each directory in the path.

  2. <DirectoryMatch> and <Directory> (with regular expressions).

  3. <Files> and <FilesMatch> are executed simultaneously.

  4. <Location> and <LocationMatch> are executed simultaneously.

Group 1 is processed in the order of shortest directory to longest.[26] The other groups are processed in the order in which they appear in the Config file. Sections inside <VirtualHost> blocks are applied after corresponding sections outside.

[26]Shortest meaning "with the fewest components" rather than "with the fewest characters."

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