Written on April 12 2019 at 08:50 and updated on July 24 2011 at 16:53

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">
  <div id="container">
    <article id="content">
        <div class="details">{snip-details}</div>
      <hr class="separator" />

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:

require 'vanilla/dynasnip'

class CurrentSnip < 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 app.request.snip
      if attribute ||= app.request.part
      app.response.status = 404
      %{Couldn't find snip "#{app.request.snip_name}"}

The default case, as in our layout, is app.render(app.request.snip, app.request.part) - it delegates rendering back to the application, which then takes care of processing start using the right renderer and so on. This method call returns the fully rendered string, and vanilla replaces the call to the dynasnip with that output, 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 two 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:

require 'vanilla/dynasnip'

class PageTitle < Dynasnip
  def handle
    app.request.snip ? (app.request.snip.page_title || app.request.snip.name) : ''


The second 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