Connect middleware to enable intelligent cache headers for dynamic content
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NodeJS is connect middleware to make it easy to add ETag or Last-Modified headers to your dyanmic resources to allow browsers to cache responses.


var app = require('express').createServer();


app.get('/page', function(req, res) {
  res.send("Some content that is generated based on state");

app.get('/page2', function(req, res) {
    res.setEtag("Some well-known value");
    res.send("Some large content that we have a pre-defined etag we can use for (such as a revision id or something)");

app.get('/page3', function(req, res) {
    res.setLastModifiedDate(new Date("Thu Feb 21 2013 21:46:00"));
    res.send("Some large content generated by something that we can track with a modified date, such as a db record");

... and on the other side of the TCP connection ...

HTTP/1.0 304 Not Modified
Content-Length: 0


ETag headers basically give the client something to identify this version of the document with. Using it with dynamic data like this all the processing still happens on the server, but you can save a lot of bandwidth (and speed up the client experience) by supporting ETag or Last-Modified date caching.

This middeware adds three methods for caching; you can use res.autoEtag() anywhere before the first data is sent to the client to have it generate an etag using an md5 hash of your page. If you have some identifier that can be used to uniquely identify this version of the page you can set that using res.setEtag(etag), and if you have a modified date that you can use you can set that with res.setLastModifiedDate().



Call this function to have the response object automatically calculate the md5 sum of your response and use that as the ETag. This is probably the easiest method to use. However, it should be noted, that this method does not help you pre-validate a request - your code below this will always run!


If you already have something that is a valid etag (something that will absolutely change if the document ever changes) then you can use it here in this call to setEtag. If the ETag provided by the page matches this one then this method will return true. If it does, you can stop processing and just call res.end().


If you know when the last time the current page was modified, such as if the core database table the page is generated from has a modified date on it, you can use that here either in place of or in addition to the ETag. If the client already has a cached copy of the page based on the date they provided, this method will return false. If it does, you can stop processing and just call res.end().


You can use this method to tell the browser when explicitly this will expire. Not all browsers take note of it, but some do - which is always a good reason to set it.

res.setCacheControl(maxAge, more)

Set the Cache-control header, to tell the browser for how long exactly a file or content should be cached. This header is ignored if an ETag is present.

Use the more parameter to add other stuff to this message. By default, this array contains: ["public"].


Tell the engine to watch over a file. This generates an ETag and a Last-Modified line, and allows you to refer to a file, from which you take dynamic content. See the example for File-based dynamic content below.


Test if this file is watched.


Remove the file from the list of watched files.


Look at what the browser sent (If-not-modified and If-none-match) and return accordingly:

  • true, if ETag matches and the file was not recently modified.
  • false, when the file is all okay.

See the file-based dynamic content example below.

Some notes

This extension does not serve files! This is ment to explicitly cache dynamic content.

And here is an example. Imagine you are using oj to convert your OJ scripts to JavaScript, this might look like something you could do:

app.use("/oj", function(req, res, next){
    // Pick up the source file. Example: /oj/main.js -> /oj/main.oj
    var file = ...;
    if(res.isWatching(file)) res.watchFile(file);
    if(res.isChanged(file)) {
        // If the browser does not send the headers (aka. its new/changed),
        // then generate the new content.
        var contents = ojc(file);
        fs.writeFile(myCacheDir+file, contents, function(err){
            if(err) {...}
            res.setHeader("Content-type", "text/javascript");
            return res.end(contents);
    } else {
        // If the file is not changed, then...

In a personal example, I use this method to generate optimized versions of my image. By using the nice short syntax above, I save about 40 lines of code - and I counted them.

If you have another cool example to show off, send a Pull Request with it!


see also...

...cachify - middleware to help with caching static resources. ...etagify - a different approach to etag caching for pages that don't change during the lifetime of the process.

Help out

I created this because I needed it; feel free to extend it with examples, fix bugs, and add functionality through pull requests!


Copyright (c) 2013, Richard Bateman <>

You can use this however you want. I disavow responsibility for
*anything* that occurs as a result of using this, whether good
or bad, including but not limited to: Correct caching behavior,
incorrect caching behavior, promotion and/or positive change of
employment, downsizing and/or negative change of employment,
terrorism, philanthropism, sleep deprivation, sleep apnia,
excessive spam, marital problems, weddings, funerals, unexpected
lottery winnings, uncomfortable social situations, new facebook
friends, increase in website speed, decrease in website speed,
groupies, guppies, puppies, or loss of sales.

Use at your own risk.