Apache Guide: Generating Fancy Directory Listings with mod_autoindex

When a user requests a directory without specifying a particular file name, Apache attempts to serve up a default document. The document served is determined by the directive DirectoryIndex, and is usually called index.html. However, if that document is not present, it is sometimes desirable to instead give a complete directory listing, permitting the user to select a file.

Sometimes you want to give users a wider selection of files to load. If you want to spiff up the default file listings that Apache returns when an index file is unavailable, you can generate fancy directory listings. Rich Bowen explains how.

Directory listings are generated by the module mod_autoindex, which is compiled into Apache by default. Left to itself, it generates an uninteresting file listing, but with the techniques I'll show you in this article, you'll be able to make these listings as fancy as you like.

If your directory does not have a index.html in it, they you will get a directory listing, ordered by date, in which each filename is linked to that file for download. For each file, you are also given the last modified date of the file, and the size of the file.

There are a variety of default icons defined, so that different file types have different icons associated with them. And there's a link to the parent directory.

It's actually pretty nice, but there are some annoying things about it. The directories are interspersed amoung the files, rather than appearing at the top like most of us are used to. There's a Description column, but there's nothing actually in that column. And although files are alphabetically listed, the a's come after the Z's, rather than with the A's.

Some of the problems can be solved with the directives available in mod_autoindex.

For the whole story ...

For the full scoop on what you can do with mod_autoindex, you should see the documentation at http://www.apache.org/docs/mod/mod_autoindex.html I'm working on that while I work on this, so it should be a little more current by the time you read this.

Changing the Icons

To the left of each file name in a file listing, there's a little icon which presumably represents the type of file you're looking at. There's a pretty good selection of image files to choose from, but there are some file types missing, and occasionally you might want to have your own images, rather than the ones that ship with Apache.

There are three directives with which you can rectify this situation. These are the AddIcon, AddIconByType, and AddIconByEncoding. They let you specify a particular icon to be displayed, by file name, file type, or file encoding, respectively.

AddIcon lets you specify particular file names that should be displayed with a particular icon. The syntax of this directive is:

     AddIcon (ALT,/url/of/image.gif) filename

ALT is the alternate text to be displayed if the image does not load. filename can be a while file name, a wildcard, or some portion of a file name, such as a file extension. Examples might be:

     AddIcon (Image,/icons/image3.gif) .gif .jpg .png
     AddIcon /images/tmp.jpg *~

AddIconByType is the preferred directive, as it lets you specify an icon by mime type, rather than by file name. This allows for matching entire categories of files, rather than having to try to guess at file names.

     AddIconByType (Image,/icons/image1.gif) image/*

Finally, AddIconByEncoding lets you specify the icon by the mime encoding of the file. The syntax is the same as the other directives, and the argument is a mime-encoding:

     AddIconByEncoding /icons/compressed.gif x-compress

This article was originally published on Oct 9, 2000
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