Basics Learn about Layouts Renderer fun More about Dynasnips Cleaning up


Since you almost certainly want your site to look good, one of the first things you’ll want to change in your vanilla site is the layout.

When the browser requests a snip, normally vanilla will present it within a layout template. This would typically include a header, a footer, and any other peripheral markup that shouldn’t be within the content of the snip itself. If you’re familiar with the construction of web applications, this will be exactly as you expect.

Layouts are just like any other snip - they can be sent through a renderer, and include other snips. The default layout snip is called, predictable, layout.snip, and here’s the content:

<!DOCTYPE html>
<html lang="en">
    <article class="h-entry">
        <span class="p-name">{title-for}</span>
      <section class="e-content">

When you request /start, this is the snip that’s actually rendered first. If this snip was just text, that’s all that would be returned; however, there are some dynasnip calls in here which help us actually return the content that the user requested.


The most significant is the call to current_snip. This figures out what snip was actually requested (e.g. if the url is /start, it’s the start snip), and renders it in place.

Here’s the source of current_snip:

class CurrentSnip < Vanilla::Dynasnip
  usage %|
    The current_snip dyna normally returns the result of rendering the snip named by the
    'snip' value in the parameters. This way, it can be used in templates to place the currently
    requested snip, in its rendered form, within the page.

    It can also be used to determine an attribute of the current snip in a consistent way:

      {current_snip name}

    will output the name of the current snip.

  def handle(attribute=nil)
    return usage if app.request.snip_name == snip_name

    if attribute ||= app.request.part

The default case just renders a string corresponding to snip inclusion of whichever snip was actually requested. In the case of /start, this will generate the string “

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Hello, new Rails developer! Welcome to WidgetCorp. I hope you enjoyed orientation. Those old corporate videos are a hoot, right? Still, you gotta sit through it, we all did. But anyway, let’s get stuck in.

So as you know, here at WidgetCorp, we are the manufacturer, distributor and direct seller of the worlds highest quality Widgets. None finer!

These widgets are high-value items, it’s a great market to be in, but they’re also pretty complicated, and need to be assembled from any number of different combinations of doo-hickeys, thingamabobs and whatsits, and unless we have the right quantities and types of each, then a particular kind of widget may not actually be available for sale.


”, which Vanilla itself then deals with, including the contents of that snip using the right renderer and so on, placing our snip in the appropriate place in the layout.

Other dynas

Of course, you can put other plain content in your layout, and other dynasnips too. In the provided layout there are calls to three other dynasnips.

The first is page_title, which simply places a (hopefully) meaningful string in the title element of the page. Snips can set the title to be used by defining a :page_title attribute. As usual, the source explains it more clearly:

class PageTitle < Vanilla::Dynasnip
  def handle
    if app.request.snip
      app.request.snip.page_title || app.request.snip.title || app.request.snip.name
      "Not found"


The second is link_to, which is used to create links to other snips by name; although of course you can still just write HTML, this is often more convenient and wiki-esque. Here’s the source:

class LinkTo < Vanilla::Dynasnip
  usage %|
The link_to dyna lets you create links between snips: 

  {link_to blah} 

would insert a link to the blah snip.|

  def handle(name=nil, link_text=name, part=nil)
    return usage if requesting_this_snip?
    return "You must provide a snip name" unless name
    if app.soup[name]
      %{<a href="#{url_to(name, part)}">#{link_text}</a>}
      %{<a class="missing" href="#{url_to(name, part)}">#{link_text}</a>}


The third dynasnip used is link_to_current_snip, which returns an HTML link to the snip that’s currently being rendered. I’ll let you figure out how to view the source yourself.

Other layouts

Vanilla looks for a snip called layout by default, but this can be changed by setting the default_layout configuration option in your application, e.g.

class Application < Vanilla::App; end

Application.configure do |config|

  # other stuff..

  config.default_layout = "my_layout"

You can also override the layout on a per-snip basis, simply by setting the :layout attribute of the snip to the name of the layout snip to use instead.

Finally, if you implement a custom renderer class (see the renderers tutorial), you can also specify a layout to be used when the requested snip invokes that renderer. This can be useful if you have a particular kind of content that requires a different layout entirely.

Basics Learn about Layouts Renderer fun More about Dynasnips Cleaning up