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(แ€€) Polpetta

any folder is served spiced

polpetta at work

What Is Polpetta

polpetta is a script able to initialize a node.js server in any folder you want and behave like CGI or, if you prefer PHP, too, in order to have not static files serving only but dynamic content as well.

node polpetta ~/path is basically all you need to start surfing the ~/path folder as if it is a web-server with the plus that any file.njs inside that folder will act as node.js module. Here the most basic example of an index.njs file.

In few words, polpetta is the easiest way for quick prototyping with both client files and node.js modules.

How Is Polpetta Different From Python SimpleHTTPServer, serverdir, etc

The JavaScript weekly description couldn't be more precise

Runs up a Node-powered HTTP server in any folder you want whereupon '.njs' files get executed CGI-style.

And this is almost it, except it finds automatically an available port if not specified, so you don't have to bother inventing numbers by your own, it allows interceptions on files via .htaccess like mechanism, and it require("folder/file.njs") to let you test modules for node.js in the possible easiest way ever, without writing from scratch again and again something able to run a web server.

Can I Use Polpetta In Production ?

You are using node.js which is not even at release 1.0 so I would say yes, you can :{D

However, there are more mature projects such Express probably with some hosting possibility. You can still test Express node.js modules in polpetta with a "zero effort kick-in" process: type polpetta in that folder and you are basically done.

Moreover, polpetta can be a solution for embedded devices able to run node.js thanks to all possible techniques used to minimize creation of pointless objects, recycle as much as possible in a single thread, and a simplified behavior able to cover most of web cases. Last, but not least, I am willing to rent a server and use polpetta there so .. stay tuned :-)

Does It Run This And That ?

polpetta runs everything available with npm with a secured mechanism that disable browsers from reading any node_modules folder present in your project tree (together with hidden files prefixed via a simple . dot). If you have written a node.js module, polpetta will be more than happy to let you use it, or test it, in a simple, and familiar, onload exported callback.

Supported Platforms

polpetta should just work wherever a recent version of node.js is available. Known platforms are Linux, Mac, and Windows where for latter one the polpetta.cmd file will simply start a polpetta server through double click.


Same as serverdir

polpetta [path] [port]
  • path, the folder you want to use as web-server root, by default is where polpetta is
  • port, the port you want to use, by default polpetta finds a free port automatically

Bear in mind if you specify a port and it's not available, polpetta will exit with a notice in console.

If you don't remember later on ... polpetta --help or polpetta -h to have some hint.

OK, How Do I Start

Well, the very first step is to grab polpetta, either via git clone git:// or simply getting the unique file.

You can install polpetta through npm install polpetta -g or you can grab directly a freshly baked polpetta:

# go in a directory, if emty is better
# grab the built file from this repo
curl -0 >polpetta

# if you don't want to make
# polpetta executable
# point to polpetta via node
node ~/the/path/where/is/polpetta

# if you want make it executable
# be sure polpetta firstline points to the right
# bin folder with node then chmod it
chmod +x polpetta

# if that is the case, test if it runs via
# and exit via Ctrl+C or simply go to
# the http://address:port/ showed and start playing

You should see something like this in your console (I have used the /tmp folder here)

polpetta at work

# if you want make your life easier and call
# polpetta from anywhere, hoping you have not
# configured node as super user ( this could hurt )
which node
# output: /usr/local/bin/node

# move the file into that bin folder
[sudo] mv polpetta /usr/local/bin

# now, whatever folder you want ..
polpetta ~/myhtml/only/website/

# and you are ready to go

If you want clone this repository, help me improving polpetta or do some test/change, remember to make in order to build polpetta in the build folder then node build/polpetta test or any other path you like.

Make options

  • build, the default one, creates a freshly new backed polpetta in the build/ folder
  • clean, remove the build folder and everything included
  • types, grab the Apache file, parse it, overwrite the EXTENSION_TO_MIME.js file and build polpetta again

What About .njs Files

If the file extension is .njs it is executed CGI (or PHP) style but with the whole power of node.js. You can require("module") and do what you want and you receive per each web-server call the request and the response object. All you have to do in your file is to export an onload function. This function will be called with a spiced up polpetta with some utility but you don't really have to use them, just do what you want.

// generic.njs file
this.onload = function (
) {
  var fs = require("fs");
  fs.writeFileSync("gotcha.txt", "it works");
  // note that polpetta here points
  // to a new polpetta instance
  // per each request lifecycle

What About External npm Modules

There are two options here, the easy one and the even easier. The easy one is about putting your modules in a folder called node_modules inside your project. This folder is forbidden by default so nobody can read it through the url but you can require(module) without problems.

The even easier way is to install your most used modules globally via npm install module -g so that these will be available in any case through the node.js require() mechanism and you update one place rather than all of them, if necessary.

What About Polpetta as Module

If you require("./polpetta") file you gonna have a module with a Polpetta constructor. Any time you want to initialize a Polpetta instance you can new Polpetta(request, response). As easy way to use it for generic http server response, you can http.createServer(Polpetta.factory);

What About .htaccess file

The .htaccess file is a feature that lets you intercept few calls such onrequest, onstaticfile, and onerror. You can find a [.htaccess example here]( folder/.htaccess). The .htaccess file works only if present in the root folder you chose for a polpetta instance. In all other folders this will be threaten as an hidden file rather than being parsed per each folder request. This simplifies and boost up a lot the server logic and is most likely everything you need. Here a summary of all current methods invoked, if present, with the .htaccess file.

  • onrequest, performed while polpetta is still backing, you can use this event to create your own redirects, internals or external, or do any sort of crazy things you might think about.
  • onstaticfile, performed once a non CGI/.njs file is going to be served. Here you can serve gzipped content or a completely different layout, accordingly with the file type.
  • onerror, performed when something bad occurs. Usually, for bad we mean a forbidden 403, a not found 404, or an internal server error, with code 500. Here you can serve an alternative nice page, informing the user something went wrong or so something else, if you think it's necessary.

Every time a callback is invoked, the event object will be sent. If you want to stop a default polpetta behavior, simply use even.preventDefault() or return false at some point in the callback. This works like DOM Level 3 or DOM 0 events ... as easy as that.

Special cgi-bin .htaccess file

In the cgi-bin directory is included a special .htaccess file which makes polpetta cgi compliant. If this htaccess is used any executable file will be executed as a cgi script. The script will checks if the file has the executable flag for the owner of the file, which should be the most probably scenario and also the safest solution (chmod 500).

Polpetta API

You can find almost everything documented in the prototype.js file. Look closer and you will find a polpetta.get(key[, default]) method, used to retrieve query string properties as it is for the PHP $_GET[$key] global, a[, default]) method to retrieve posted data, a polpetta.cookie(key[, default]) method, to get cookie, followed by polpetta.cookie.set(key, value) to set them. All these objects have a obj.keys() method too to retrieve all parsed keys for get, post, cookie, or file.

You can see an examples for cookie, get or post, and files upload in the test folder.

Last, but not least, there is a polpetta.output Array property where you can push your content and polpetta.output.flush([type || [code, type]]) once you have done. Bear in mind this is not a good technique to serve big files on the fly but that's not the purpose of the output property.

// example of get and output
this.onload = function (req, res, p) {
    "Hello ",
        // default if not present

// produced output for localhost:port
Hello unknown!

// produced output for localhost:port/?name=Polpetta
Hello Polpetta!


This polpetta project is under the Mit Style License

Copyright (C) 2011 by Andrea Giammarchi, @WebReflection

Permission is hereby granted, free of charge, to any person obtaining a copy
of this software and associated documentation files (the "Software"), to deal
in the Software without restriction, including without limitation the rights
to use, copy, modify, merge, publish, distribute, sublicense, and/or sell
copies of the Software, and to permit persons to whom the Software is
furnished to do so, subject to the following conditions:

The above copyright notice and this permission notice shall be included in
all copies or substantial portions of the Software.



  • pipe/stream files bigger than a predefined amount of MB (or just pipe them all)
  • reach more coverage through wru tests (integrated in the build system)
  • add default favicon with polpetta logo (or maybe not ....)
  • ... something else you can suggest me :-)


Polpetta means meatball and I am not a graphic designer at all ... so this is all I could do but if you want to create a better logo, you'll be credited and I'll pay you a beer, cheers :D


Oh Gosh ... Why

I am maintaining different projects and I am sick of setting up a web-server per each project. You might have noticed that most recent browsers do not let us test through the file:// protocol anymore and this is the most annoying thing ever for a developer, imho. You might be a node.js modules developer too and sometimes an easy way to test your modules is all you need. With polpetta you can create as many server as you want per each folder and test them without setting up a damn thing. Accordingly, if you develop anything for the web or the node.js community, polpetta could be exactly the solution to all your problems.