Highlights of the Lift Web Framework 2.6 Release

Lift 2.6 is out. The announcement links to the tickets for the details. I count the changes from 2.5 to 2.6 as 321 commits from 25 people.

Here’s my personal selection of some of those changes.

You can now customize Menu.param for situations where a request almost, but doesn’t quite, match.

For example, say we’re matching on a request that contains an ID parameter, such as /product/123. Maybe you’re looking up that ID (123) in a database. If the ID isn’t in the database, Lift will 404 the request. That’s sane, but in practice you might want to do something else, like redirect the user someplace. You can easily do that now with Lift 2.6.

Here’s a regular Menu.param:

lazy val product = Menu.param[ProductInfo]("product", "Product Detail Page",
  id => database.get(id),
  info => info.id.toString
) / "product" / *

We’ve supplied two functions:

  • one from a String request parameter ID to an optional ProductInfo class (that I’ve made up for this example); and

  • one going the other way from a ProductInfo class into the value to use when generating a URL.

So that would 404 for products that don’t exist. To do something else we use the new MatchWithoutCurrentValue:

lazy val product = Menu.param[ProductInfo]("product", "Product Detail Page",
  id   => database.get(id),
  info => info.id.toString
  ) / "product" / * >> MatchWithoutCurrentValue >> FallbackToSearchPage

val FallbackToSearchPage =
  IfValue[ProductInfo](_.isDefined, () => RedirectResponse("/search"))

The change is on the fourth line. We’ve flagged that we want to match without a value (>> MatchWithoutCurrentValue), and also added a fallback behaviour (>> FallbackToSearchPage).

That fallback is saying “If you want to progress with this request as normal, you must have a defined value. If you don’t, you’re going to get redirected”.

That’s one very useful addition. I’ve put a full example on Github.

HTML5 by Default

The HTML5 parser is now the default, which removes one line of configuration. Yeah, this is a small one, but good to get done.

Historically, Lift parsed templates as XHTML, but we all love the HTML5 goodness and want to be strict about that. So now, by default, if you have an HTML template containing, say, <div />, Lift is going to give that the HTML5 interpretation. In other words, process it as an opening <div>.

And that’s what you want if you’re thinking in terms of HTML5, and it’s now the default in Lift 2.6.

Markdown Included

Lift now has a markdown parser. Markdown has become an important text format for sites, and Lift can now parse that format and convert it to HTML. This is available in the net.liftweb.markdown package. It’s the Actuarius implementation using Scala parser combinators.

It looks like this:

scala> import net.liftweb.markdown._

scala> new ActuariusTransformer().apply("""
     | # Hello World
     | In which we:
     | * Have a list
     | * Containing two items
     | _etc_...""")
res0: String =
"<h1>Hello World</h1>
<p>In which we:</p>
<li>Have a list</li>
<li>Containing two items</li>

The best place to see how to use this is at the Actuarius wiki, where you can also see how it works.

MongoDB Improvements

Lift 2.6 includes quite a few upgrades for MongoDB support:

  • the new MongoClient interface has been adopted, for the new and better way of connecting to Mongo;
  • JodaTime is supported via JodaTimeField;
  • there are lifecycle callbacks you can hook into for beforeUpdate and afterUpdate;
  • you can use ObjectId to access the document creation timestamp; and
  • there’s a dirty_? check to test to see if a record has changed since being loaded.

They may all seem small, but collectively they add up to a good chunk of MongoDB enhancements.

Ajax Form Submissions

You’ve always been able to submit forms over JavaScript with Lift. But there were hoops you had to jump through to preserve your button styling. I’ve written about this before if you want more background. This has been improved with 2.6.

A quick example. Lift can bind functions to elements of a form. Maybe you have a HTML form with a submit button, and when the button is pressed, the form is serialized to the server and a function called process is evaluated. The binding looks something like this on the server-side:

def render = {
  def process(): JsCmd = Alert("Thanks")
  "type=submit" #> ajaxSubmit("Click Me", process)

The problem with this is that ajaxSubmit creates an <input type="submit"> element, blowing away any styling you had on your submit button in your HTML template.

The fix is to replace ajaxSubmit with ajaxOnSubmit, which can bind to an <input> or <button>.

JSON in For Comprehensions

Anyone who has used Lift’s JSON support in a for comprehension may have seen:

`withFilter' method does not yet exist on net.liftweb.json.JsonAST.JValue,
using `filter' method instead

A very annoying warning, which we won’t see again, because withFilter has now been implemented. \o/

Security Paranoia

Lift continues with the security paranoia (a good thing). X-Frame-Option support has been added, which aims to prevent clickjacking of content.

The new header signals to the browser whether it should render content in a frame. It’s not an official standard, but has some degree of support across all the browsers. Lift’s default is to set the value as “SAMEORIGIN”, which means:

“A browser receiving content with this header field MUST NOT display this content in any frame from a page of different origin than the content itself.” —RFC17034


Those are a few of the changes I think are most notable for me.

The Lift Cookbook was written with Lift 2.5 in mind. The getting started guide has already been updated on-line for 2.6, although it was all cosmetic for version numbers. I’ll go through the rest of the text, but I doubt anything much will need updating.

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