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The most basic feature of any web application is the ability to interpret a request sent to a URL, then send back a response. In order to do this, your application has to be able to distinguish one URL from another.

Like most web frameworks, Sails provides a router: a mechanism for mapping URLs to actions and views. Routes are rules that tell Sails what to do when faced with an incoming request. There are two main types of routes in Sails: custom (or "explicit") and automatic (or "implicit").

Custom routes

Sails lets you design your app's URLs in any way you like—there are no framework restrictions.

Every Sails project comes with config/routes.js, a simple Node.js module that exports an object of custom, or "explicit" routes. For example, this routes.js file defines six routes; some of them point to actions, while others route directly to views:

// config/routes.js
module.exports.routes = {
  'GET /signup': { view: 'conversion/signup' },
  'POST /signup': { action: 'entrance/signup' },
  'GET /login': { view: 'portal/login' },
  'POST /login': { action: 'entrance/login' },
  '/logout': { action: 'account/logout' },
  'GET /me': { action: 'account/profile' }

Each route consists of an address on the left (e.g. 'GET /me') and a target on the right (e.g. { action: 'account/profile' }) The address is a URL path and (optionally) a specific HTTP method. The target can be defined in a number of different ways (see the expanded concepts section on the subject), but the syntax above is the most common. When Sails receives an incoming request, it checks the address of all custom routes for matches. If a matching route is found, the request is then passed to its target.

For example, we might read 'GET /me': { action: 'account/profile' } as:

"Hey Sails, when you receive a GET request to, run the account/profile action, would'ya?"

You can also specify the view layout within the route itself:

'GET /privacy': {
    view: 'legal/privacy',
    locals: {
      layout: 'users'


  • That a request matches a route address doesn't necessarily mean it will be passed to that route's target directly. HTTP requests will usually pass through some middleware before being passed to a route's target, and if the route points to a controller action, the request will first need to pass through any configured policies. There are also a few special route options which allow a route to be "skipped" for certain kinds of requests.
  • The router can also programmatically bind a route to any valid route target, including canonical Node middleware functions (i.e. function (req, res, next) {}). However, you should always use the conventional route target syntax when possible—it streamlines development, simplifies training, and makes your app more maintainable.

Automatic routes

In addition to your custom routes, Sails binds many routes for you automatically. If a URL doesn't match a custom route, it may match one of the automatic routes and still generate a response. The main types of automatic routes in Sails are:

Unhandled requests

If no custom or automatic route matches a request URL, Sails will send back a default 404 response. This response can be customized by adding a api/responses/notFound.js file to your app. See custom responses for more info.

Unhandled errors in request handlers

If an unhandled error is thrown during the processing of a request (for instance, in some action code), Sails will send back a default 500 response. This response can be customized by adding an api/responses/serverError.js file to your app. See custom responses for more info.

Supported protocols

The Sails router is "protocol-agnostic"—it knows how to handle both HTTP requests and messages sent via WebSockets. It accomplishes this by listening for messages sent to reserved event handlers in a simple format, called JWR (JSON-WebSocket Request/Response). This specification is implemented and available out of the box in the client-side socket SDK.


Advanced users may opt to circumvent the router entirely and send low-level, completely customizable WebSocket messages directly to the underlying server. You can bind socket events directly in your app's onConnect function (located in config/sockets.js), but bear in mind that in most cases you are better off leveraging the request interpreter for socket communication. Maintaining consistent routes across HTTP and WebSockets helps keep your app maintainable.