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Generating HTML pages

Ocsigen provides several ways to generate and type xhtml pages.

  • The default technique to produce HTML5 pages using Eliom is the Eliom_content.Html5.F and Eliom_content.Html5.D module. It is the only one supported for client side Eliom programs. This module provides a typing based on OCaml's polymorphic variants, which ensures at compile time, that the pages you will generate will respect the recommendations of the W3C (or be very close). There also exists another module, Eliom_content.Xhtml.F that implements XHTML 1.1.
  • It is also possible to use a syntax extension to write your pages with the usual XHTML syntax. This solution is also typed with polymorphic variants and is compatible with the previous one.
  • The most powerful typing of pages is done with OcamlDuce. To take benefit of it, use OCamlDuce instead of OCaml.
  • You can also choose to generate untyped html as text.

Html5 and Xhtml

The types in OCaml closest to XML types are polymorphic variants. Ocsigen uses them to provide a module with very good HTML5 typing. The full documentation is available in the TyXML documentation.

XHTML syntax extension

Ocsigen also has a syntax extension for OCaml that allows you to write pages using HTML syntax (but you are free not to use it). This is convenient for example if you want to include (parts of) HTML pages that have been created by third party. To choose actual XML-implementation you have to provide a module named [Html5] (or [Xhtml] or [Svg] respectively):

For example, the following code:

module Xhtml = Xhtml.F (* NB this is TyXML's Xhtml; could also be Eliom_content.Xhtml.F *)

<< <html>
   </html> >>

is a caml value of type Xhtmltypes5.xhtml Xhtml.M.elt.

To compile a module containing this syntax, you need the camlp4 preprocessor:

ocamlc -I /path_to/ocsigen/
 -pp "camlp4o /path_to/ocsigen/xhtmlsyntax.cma -loc loc"
 -c your_module.ml

You can insert OCaml expressions of type 'a Xhtml.M.elt inside html using $...$, like this:

let oc = << <em>Ocsigen</em> >> in
<< <p>$oc$ will revolutionize web programming.</p> >>

You can insert OCaml expressions of type string inside html using $str:... $, like this:

let i = 4 in
<< <p>i is equal to $str:string_of_int i$</p> >>

If you want to use a dollar in your page, just write it twice.

You can write a list of xhtml expressions using the syntax <:xmllist<...>>, for example:

<:xmllist< <p>hello</p> <div></div> >>

Here are some other examples showing what you can do:

<< <ul class=$ulclass$ $list:other_attrs$>
   </ul> >>

Warning: lists antiquotations are allowed only at the end (before a closing tag). For example, the following is not valid:

<< <ul $list:other_attrs$ class=$ulclass$>
   </ul> >>

The syntax extension is not allowed in patterns for now.

Warning: The two syntaxes are not equivalent for typing. Using the syntax extension will do less checking. For example the following code is accepted but not valid regarding HTML5 standard (because <head> must contain a title):

<< <html>
   </html> >>

We recommend you use the functions from Html5.F, as you will (almost) always get valid HTML5. Use the syntax extension for example to enclose already created pieces of HTML, and check your pages validity with the W3C validator.


OCaml's type system is not powerful enough to type XML. The OCamlduce manual says: "The goal of the OCamlDuce project is to extend the OCaml language with features to make it easier to write safe and efficient complex applications that need to deal with XML documents. In particular, it relies on a notion of types and patterns to guarantee statically that all the possible input documents are correctly processed, and that only valid output documents are produced."

Ocamlduce's full documentation is available from here.

If OCamlDuce is installed on your system, it is now possible to use it instead of Xhtml.M to typecheck your pages. You will get a stronger type checking and more flexibility (easier to use other XML types, to parse incoming XML data, etc.).

However, Ocamlduce is not compatible with Camlp4 syntax extensions and client server Eliom applications support only HTML5 (for now).

To use it, make sure that you have Eliom compiled with OCamlDuce support. Then dynlink ocamlduce.cma and eliomduce.cma from the configuration file (after eliom.cma). Then use Eliom_duce.Xhtml instead of Eliom_registration.Xhtml to register your pages.

Here is an example:

let s =
    (fun () () ->
        {{ <html>
             [<head> [<title> ""]
              <body> [<h1> "Page type checked by OCamlDuce"]] }})


The last possibility is to use untyped xhtml. Just build strings containing your pages. Here is an example:

let coucoutext =
    (fun () () ->
        ("<html>n'importe quoi "^
         (Eliom_registration.HtmlText.a coucou "clic" ())^