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Customizing Web Services

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Creating MapFish Web ServicesΒΆ

The framework provides a command for automatically generating web services for creating, reading, updating and deleting geographic objects (features). Web services generated with the framework implement specific HTTP interfaces. These interfaces are described in Protocol page.


MapFish web services are also called layers, both terms will be used interchangeably in the rest of this documentation.

A MapFish web service generated by the framework operates on the data of a geographic database table. Because MapFish uses GeoAlchemy several databases are supported (as of today: PostgreSQL/PostGIS, MySQL, SQLite/Spatialite and Oracle).

It is important to note that the code of generated web services belongs to the application. You, as the application developer, can therefore customize the generated web services at will. You are completely free to not rely on code generation, and manually create your web services.

Before you can have working MapFish web services you need to configure a database connection in the application’s configuration file (development.ini). A database connection is set through the sqlalchemy.url property. This specifies the data source name (DSN) for the database, for PostgreSQL/PostGIS it looks like this:

sqlalchemy.url = postgresql://username:password@host:port/database

Creating a MapFish web service is done in two steps. The first step involves describing the database table in the layers.ini configuration file. The second step involves invoking the paster mf-layer command.


The layers.ini file is the layer configuration file. Its syntax is as defined in the documentation of the Python Standard Library’s Configuration file parser module.

As an example, here is what would the description of a table named users look like in the layers.ini file:


The name given in the square brackets, users in the above example, is the identifier of the layer. It will be used in the command when generating the web service.

We describe below each layer property:

The singular property provides a singular name for the layer. This is used by the framework for naming variables and classes in the generated code.
The plural property provides a plural name for the layer. Likewise singular this is used by the framework for naming variables and classes in the generated code.
The table property provides the name of database table.
The epsg property provides the EPSG code of the spatial reference system (SRS) of the table data.
The geomcolumn property provides the name of the table’s geometry column.
geomtype (optional)
The geomtype property provides the geometry type of the table’s geometry column (for example Point or Polygon). If no value is given, Geometry is used as geometry type.
schema (optional)
The schema property provides the name of the table’s schema.
paster mf-layer

The second step involves entering the paster mf-layer command with the layer identifier as the argument to the command. This command must be entered from within the application’s main directory (HelloWorld in our example). The command used to generate the users web service is:

(venv) $ paster mf-layer users

The output of the command looks like this:

Creating /home/elem/HelloWorld/helloworld/controllers/
Creating /home/elem/HelloWorld/helloworld/tests/functional/

To create the appropriate RESTful mapping, add a map statement to your
config/ file in the CUSTOM ROUTES section like this:

map.resource("user", "users")

Creating /home/elem/HelloWorld/helloworld/model/

As indicated in the output the mf-layer command generates three files: a controller file, a model file and a test file. The output also indicates to edit the helloworld/config/ file and add a route to the users controller in this file. The CUSTOM ROUTES section should look like this:

map.resource("user", "users")

You can now visit, for example, http://localhost:5000/users?limit=3 in your browser. You should get a GeoJSON representation of the first three users of the users table. Look at the Protocol page to know more about parameters that can be passed to MapFish web services.