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Request and Response Objects


This chapter is adapted from a portion of the WebOb documentation, originally written by Ian Bicking.

Pyramid uses the WebOb package to supply request and response object implementations. The request object that is passed to a Pyramid view is an instance of the pyramid.request.Request class, which is a subclass of webob.Request. The response returned from a Pyramid view renderer is an instance of the webob.Response class. Users can also return an instance of webob.Response directly from a view as necessary.

WebOb is a project separate from Pyramid with a separate set of authors and a fully separate set of documentation. Pyramid adds some functionality to the standard WebOb request, which is documented in the pyramid.request API documentation.

WebOb provides objects for HTTP requests and responses. Specifically it does this by wrapping the WSGI request environment and response status/headers/app_iter (body).

WebOb request and response objects provide many conveniences for parsing WSGI requests and forming WSGI responses. WebOb is a nice way to represent “raw” WSGI requests and responses; however, we won’t cover that use case in this document, as users of Pyramid don’t typically need to use the WSGI-related features of WebOb directly. The reference documentation shows many examples of creating requests and using response objects in this manner, however.


The request object is a wrapper around the WSGI environ dictionary. This dictionary contains keys for each header, keys that describe the request (including the path and query string), a file-like object for the request body, and a variety of custom keys. You can always access the environ with req.environ.

Some of the most important/interesting attributes of a request object:

The request method, e.g., 'GET', 'POST'
A multidict with all the variables in the query string.
A multidict with all the variables in the request body. This only has variables if the request was a POST and it is a form submission.
A multidict with a combination of everything in req.GET and req.POST.
The contents of the body of the request. This contains the entire request body as a string. This is useful when the request is a POST that is not a form submission, or a request like a PUT. You can also get req.body_file for a file-like object.
A simple dictionary of all the cookies.
A dictionary of all the headers. This dictionary is case-insensitive.
req.urlvars and req.urlargs:
req.urlvars are the keyword parameters associated with the request URL. req.urlargs are the positional parameters. These are set by products like Routes and Selector.

Also, for standard HTTP request headers there are usually attributes, for instance: req.accept_language, req.content_length, req.user_agent, as an example. These properties expose the parsed form of each header, for whatever parsing makes sense. For instance, req.if_modified_since returns a datetime object (or None if the header is was not provided).


Full API documentation for the Pyramid request object is available in pyramid.request.

Special Attributes Added to the Request by Pyramid

In addition to the standard WebOb attributes, Pyramid adds special attributes to every request: context, registry, root, subpath, traversed, view_name, virtual_root, virtual_root_path, session, and tmpl_context, matchdict, and matched_route. These attributes are documented further within the pyramid.request.Request API documentation.


In addition to these attributes, there are several ways to get the URL of the request. I’ll show various values for an example URL http://localhost/app/blog?id=10, where the application is mounted at http://localhost/app.

The full request URL, with query string, e.g., http://localhost/app/blog?id=10
The host information in the URL, e.g., localhost
The URL with the host, e.g., http://localhost
The URL of the application (just the SCRIPT_NAME portion of the path, not PATH_INFO). E.g., http://localhost/app
The URL of the application including the PATH_INFO. e.g., http://localhost/app/blog
The URL including PATH_INFO without the host or scheme. e.g., /app/blog
The URL including PATH_INFO and the query string. e.g, /app/blog?id=10
The query string in the URL, e.g., id=10
req.relative_url(url, to_application=False):
Gives a URL, relative to the current URL. If to_application is True, then resolves it relative to req.application_url.


There are several methods but only a few you’ll use often:

Creates a new request with blank information, based at the given URL. This can be useful for subrequests and artificial requests. You can also use req.copy() to copy an existing request, or for subrequests req.copy_get() which copies the request but always turns it into a GET (which is safer to share for subrequests).
This method calls the given WSGI application with this request, and returns a Response object. You can also use this for subrequests, or testing.


Many of the properties in the request object will return unicode values if the request encoding/charset is provided. The client can indicate the charset with something like Content-Type: application/x-www-form-urlencoded; charset=utf8, but browsers seldom set this. You can set the charset with req.charset = 'utf8', or during instantiation with Request(environ, charset='utf8'). If you subclass Request you can also set charset as a class-level attribute.

If it is set, then req.POST, req.GET, req.params, and req.cookies will contain unicode strings. Each has a corresponding req.str_* (e.g., req.str_POST) that is always a str, and never unicode.

More Details

More detail about the request object API is available in:

  • The pyramid.request.Request API documentation.
  • The WebOb documentation. All methods and attributes of a webob.Request documented within the WebOb documentation will work with request objects created by Pyramid.


The Pyramid response object can be imported as pyramid.response.Response. This import location is merely a facade for its original location: webob.Response.

A response object has three fundamental parts:

The response code plus reason message, like '200 OK'. To set the code without a message, use status_int, i.e.: response.status_int = 200.
A list of all the headers, like [('Content-Type', 'text/html')]. There’s a case-insensitive multidict in response.headers that also allows you to access these same headers.
An iterable (such as a list or generator) that will produce the content of the response. This is also accessible as response.body (a string), response.unicode_body (a unicode object, informed by response.charset), and response.body_file (a file-like object; writing to it appends to app_iter).

Everything else in the object derives from this underlying state. Here’s the highlights:

The content type not including the charset parameter. Typical use: response.content_type = 'text/html'.
The charset parameter of the content-type, it also informs encoding in response.unicode_body. response.content_type_params is a dictionary of all the parameters.
response.set_cookie(key, value, max_age=None, path='/', ...):
Set a cookie. The keyword arguments control the various cookie parameters. The max_age argument is the length for the cookie to live in seconds (you may also use a timedelta object). The Expires key will also be set based on the value of max_age.
response.delete_cookie(key, path='/', domain=None):
Delete a cookie from the client. This sets max_age to 0 and the cookie value to ''.
This makes this response cacheable for the given number of seconds, or if seconds is 0 then the response is uncacheable (this also sets the Expires header).
response(environ, start_response):
The response object is a WSGI application. As an application, it acts according to how you create it. It can do conditional responses if you pass conditional_response=True when instantiating (or set that attribute later). It can also do HEAD and Range requests.


Like the request, most HTTP response headers are available as properties. These are parsed, so you can do things like response.last_modified = os.path.getmtime(filename).

The details are available in the extracted Response documentation.

Instantiating the Response

Of course most of the time you just want to make a response. Generally any attribute of the response can be passed in as a keyword argument to the class; e.g.:

from pyramid.response import Response
response = Response(body='hello world!', content_type='text/plain')

The status defaults to '200 OK'. The content_type does not default to anything, though if you subclass pyramid.response.Response and set default_content_type you can override this behavior.

Exception Responses

To facilitate error responses like 404 Not Found, the module webob.exc contains classes for each kind of error response. These include boring, but appropriate error bodies. The exceptions exposed by this module, when used under Pyramid, should be imported from the pyramid.httpexceptions “facade” module. This import location is merely a facade for the original location of these exceptions: webob.exc.

Each class is named pyramid.httpexceptions.HTTP*, where * is the reason for the error. For instance, pyramid.httpexceptions.HTTPNotFound. It subclasses pyramid.Response, so you can manipulate the instances in the same way. A typical example is:

from pyramid.httpexceptions import HTTPNotFound
from pyramid.httpexceptions import HTTPMovedPermanently

response = HTTPNotFound('There is no such resource')
# or:
response = HTTPMovedPermanently(location=new_url)

These are not exceptions unless you are using Python 2.5+, because they are new-style classes which are not allowed as exceptions until Python 2.5. To get an exception object use response.exception. You can use this like:

from pyramid.httpexceptions import HTTPException
from pyramid.httpexceptions import HTTPNotFound

def aview(request):
        # ... stuff ...
        raise HTTPNotFound('No such resource').exception
    except HTTPException, e:
        return request.get_response(e)

The exceptions are still WSGI applications, but you cannot set attributes like content_type, charset, etc. on these exception objects.

More Details

More details about the response object API are available in the pyramid.response documentation. More details about exception responses are in the pyramid.httpexceptions API documentation. The WebOb documentation is also useful.


Several parts of WebOb use a “multidict”; this is a dictionary where a key can have multiple values. The quintessential example is a query string like ?pref=red&pref=blue; the pref variable has two values: red and blue.

In a multidict, when you do request.GET['pref'] you’ll get back only 'blue' (the last value of pref). Sometimes returning a string, and sometimes returning a list, is the cause of frequent exceptions. If you want all the values back, use request.GET.getall('pref'). If you want to be sure there is one and only one value, use request.GET.getone('pref'), which will raise an exception if there is zero or more than one value for pref.

When you use operations like request.GET.items() you’ll get back something like [('pref', 'red'), ('pref', 'blue')]. All the key/value pairs will show up. Similarly request.GET.keys() returns ['pref', 'pref']. Multidict is a view on a list of tuples; all the keys are ordered, and all the values are ordered.