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Mustache template engine for Erlang (fork to implement custom template reader)
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Mustache for Erlang

An Erlang port of Mustache for Ruby. Mustache is a framework-agnostic templating system that enforces separation of view logic from the template file. Indeed, it is not even possible to embed logic in the template. This allows templates to be reused across language boundaries and for other language independent uses.

This project uses Semantic Versioning for release numbering.

Working with Mustache means dealing with templates, views, and contexts. Templates contain HTML (or some other format) and Mustache tags that specify what data to pull in. A template can be either a string or a file (usually ending in .mustache). Views are Erlang modules that can define functions that are called and provide the data for the template tags. A context is an Erlang dict that contains the current context from which tags can pull data. A few examples will clarify how these items interact.

NOTE: This is alpha software. Do not use it in production without extensive testing. The API may change at any time. It still lacks some of the features of Mustache for Ruby and the performance (even with compiled templates) is not yet where I'd like it to be.


To compile the code and the standalone tool, navigate to the mustache.erl project root and issue:


This will produce a *.beam files in the ebin directory that must be included in the code path of projects that need it.

The Simplest Example

The simplest example involves using a string template and a context from the REPL.

1> Ctx = dict:from_list([{planet, "World!"}]).

2> mustache:render("Hello {{planet}}", Ctx).
"Hello World!"

In line 1 we created a context that contains a value bound to the planet tag. In line 2 we render a string template by passing in the template and the context.

Two-File Example

A more complex example consists of two files: the view and the template. The view (logic) file is an Erlang module (simple.erl):


name() ->

value() ->

taxed_value() ->
  value() - (value() * 0.4).

in_ca() ->

In the view we define functions that will be called by the template. The names of the functions correspond to the tag names that will be used in the template. Some functions reference others, some return values, and some return only booleans.

The template file (simple.mustache) looks like so:

Hello {{name}}
You have just won ${{value}}!
Well, ${{ taxed_value }}, after taxes.

Notice that the template references the functions in the view module. The return values from the view dictate how the template will be rendered. To get the HTML output, make sure the simple.beam bytecode file is in your code path and call the following function:


This tells Mustache to use the simple view and to look for a template named simple.mustache in the same directory as the simple.beam bytecode file. If all goes well, it returns the rendered HTML:

Hello Tom
You have just won $10000!
Well, $6000.00, after taxes.

Compiled Templates (for speed)

In order to boost performance for templates that will be called many times in the lifetime of a runtime, Mustache allows you to compile a template and then provide that to the render function (instead of having to implicitly recompile the template on each call).

1> TFun = mustache:compile(simple).
2> mustache:render(simple, TFun).

Now, each call to render will use the compiled template (TFun) instead of compiling the template on its own.

The Power of Context

You will often want to provide additional data to your template and view. You can do this by passing in an initial context to the render function. During rendering, tag lookups always hit the context first before looking for a view function. In this way, the context can be used to override view functions. Using the same template and view as above, we can replace the name tag with different data by constructing a context and passing it to render:

1> Ctx = dict:from_list([{name, "Chris"}]).
1> TFun = mustache:compile(simple).
2> mustache:render(simple, TFun, Ctx).

This will produce the following output:

Hello Chris
You have just won $10000!
Well, $6000.00, after taxes.

The context is also accessible from view functions, making it easy to pass in initialization data. Consider a case where we want to pass in a user ID:

Ctx = dict:from_list([{id, 42}])

View functions can get access to the context by accepting a single argument:

name(Ctx) ->

Now when this function is called, it will be handed the context. In order to fetch data from the context, use mustache:get/2:

name(Ctx) ->
  Id = mustache:get(id, Ctx),

If the requested key does not exist in the context, the empty list [] will be returned.

Custom Template Reader

One may pass a custom template reader (aka "file" reader) if templates should be found somewhere else that in the computer filesystem. For example, you may store the templates in a data base (Mnesia for instance or Riak). The simplest usage is like this (storing templates in Mnesia template table):

Reader = fun (TemplateId) ->
           MnesiaKey  = filename:basename(TemplateId),
           [Template] = mnesia:dirty_read(templates, MnesiaKey)
           {ok, Template}
mustache:render(simple, {reader, Reader})

(note that TemplateId would be equal to "<path>/ebin/simple.mustache" so it should be better to convert it to something more nicer). You may also use a context dictionary:

mustache:render(simple, {reader, Reader}, Ctx)

The similar API exists for template compilation (the difference is you do not use tuple {reader, Fun}):

mustache:compile(simple, Reader)

or giving a template id explicity:

mustache:compile(simple, Reader, TemplateId)

Custom Context Reader/Retriever

The default way is to use "view" module which eventually is to be merged with provided context dict (see above). Additionaly, you may specify another waya to obtain the context dict. This is introduced mainly to be able to define context values in a file, like the following:

% This is a file "a_context.ctx"
[{planet, "Earth"},
 {other, [[{name, "Mercury"}],
          [{name, "Saturn"}, {size, [{value, 100000000}, {description, "huge"}]}],
          [{name, "Mars"}]]}].

As you see, the file contains an Erlang expression (like in good'n'old *.confg files) which is a list of {Key, Value} pairs where the Value may be:

  • a string
  • a list of {Key, Value} pairs
  • a list of list of {Key, Value} pairs

so that you may build a tiny, quite simple database of terms providing default values for your template tags.

The retriever

The context retriever is a function accepting one argument (which is the module view name, an atom) which should get a context list from somewhere and returns it in for of {ok, List}. By the default file:consult/1 is used (with a minor tweak).

You pass the retriver function in form of a pair {ctx_reader, Fun} in this places where Ctx dictionary typically is used. If your context files are in *beam files directory and have the same name as the view module, you may pass ctx_file atom. See the examples below.

Examples of usage

  • template given explicit as a string, the default context is read from a file:

      1> Body = "Hello, {{planet}}.
                 There are also other planets to say "Hello":
                 - {{name}}{{#size}} with size of {{value}} (which is {{description}}){{/size}}
      2> mustache:render(Body, "a_context.ctx").

    which gives you the following output (assumed that a_context.ctx is defined as in the upper paragraph):

      Hello, Earth.
      There are also other planets to say "Hello":
      - Mercury
      - Saturn with size of 100000000 (which is huge)
      - Mars
  • template taken from a file referenced by the view module name and the default context is read from a file "a_module.ctx":

      1> mustache:render(a_module, ctx_file).

    (note, that the default context file has to be available in the module *.beam file directory and have *.ctx extension).

  • template taken from a custom file and the default context is read from another file:

      1> mustache:render(a_module, 
                         {reader, fun (TemplateId) ->
                                    file:read_file("my-templates/" ++ TemplateId)
                         {ctx_reader, fun (TemplateId) ->
                                        {ok, [C]} = file:consult("my-contexts/" ++ TemplateId),
                                        {ok, C}


      1> mustache:render(a_module, "my_templates/a_module", "my-contexts/a_module").    

    or other combinations. See the API docs.

Tag Types

Tags are indicated by the double mustaches. {{name}} is a tag. Let's talk about the different types of tags.


The most basic tag is the variable. A {{name}} tag in a basic template will try to call the name function on your view. By default a variable "miss" returns an empty string.

All variables are HTML escaped by default. If you want to return unescaped HTML, use the triple mustache: {{{name}}}.

Boolean Sections

A section begins with a pound and ends with a slash. That is, {{#person}} begins a "person" section while {{/person}} ends it.

If the person method exists and calling it returns false, the HTML between the pound and slash will not be displayed.

If the person method exists and calling it returns true, the HTML between the pound and slash will be rendered and displayed.

List Sections

List sections are syntactically identical to boolean sections in that they begin with a pound and end with a slash. The difference, however, is in the view: if the function called returns a list, the section is repeated as the list is iterated over.

Each item in the enumerable is expected to be a dict that will then become the context of the corresponding iteration. In this way we can construct loops.

For example, imagine this template:


And this view code:

repo() ->
  [dict:from_list([{name, Name}]) || Name <- ["Tom", "Chris", "PJ"]].

When rendered, our view will contain a list of each of the names in the source list.


Comments begin with a bang and are ignored. The following template:

<h1>Today{{! ignore me }}.</h1>

Will render as follows:


mustache.erl script

This version comes with a script called mustache.erl which is a standalone tool (in form of Erlang escript file) which may be used to translate any mustache template file onto another format using a context defined in a file:

$> mustache.erl --ctx my-contexts/a_context.ctx my-templates/a_template.mustache

gives you the rendered template typed onto the terminal screen. The option -o or --out enables the output file. Use the --help or -h option to read the tool command line arguments.


  • Support partials
  • Learn some things from erlydtl (speed improvments, perhaps)


  • Code: git clone git://
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