URL Rewrites

Module: mod_rewrite


internal redirects, url rewrite

The result of a rewritten url-path must begin with '/' (enforced since 1.4.50)



Rewrites a set of URLs internally in the webserver BEFORE they are handled.


url.rewrite-once = ( "<regex>" => "<relative-uri>" )

or for multiple rules..

url.rewrite-once = ( 
  "<regex1>" => "<relative-uri1>",
  "<regex2>" => "<relative-uri2>" 


Rewrites a set of URLs internally in the webserver BEFORE they are handled


url.rewrite-repeat = ( "<regex>" => "<relative-uri>" )

The difference between these options is that, while url.rewrite-repeat allows for applying multiple (seperately defined) rewrite rules in a row, url.rewrite-once will cause further rewrite rules to be skipped if the expression was matched. As such, url.rewrite-once behaves like Apaches' RewriteRule ... [L]:

The options url.rewrite and url.rewrite-final were mapped to url.rewrite-once in 1.3.16.


New: For the 1.4.x branch as of 1.4.24 or r2647 from svn:

Rewrites a set of URLs internally in the webserver BEFORE they are handled and checks that files do not exist.

Take examples from above, this is to mimic Apache´s "!-f" RewriteRule. Please note this does not work for directories, pipes, sockets or alike.

Where do I want to use this? Maybe with e.g. Drupal backend, where mod_magnet (has an Apache´s -f and -d solution) might not be handy or simply "too much" for just this kind of rewrites. This closes feature request #985.

Regular Expressions

  • . (full stop) - match any character
  • \* (asterisk) - match zero or more of the previous symbol
  • \+ (plus) - match one or more of the previous symbol
  • ? (question) - match zero or one of the previous symbol
  • \\? (backslash-something) - match special characters
  • ^ (caret) - match the start of a string
  • $ (dollar) - match the end of a string
  • [set] - match any one of the symbols inside the square braces.
  • [^set] - match any symbol that is NOT inside the square braces.
  • (pattern) - grouping, remember what the pattern matched as a special variable
  • {n,m} - from n to m times matching the previous character (m could be omitted to mean >=n times)
  • (?!expression) - match anything BUT expression at the current position. Example: "^(/(?!(favicon.ico$|js/|images/)).*)" => "/fgci/$1"
  • Normal alphanumeric characters are treated as normal

Replacement Patterns

If the matched regex contains groups in parentheses, $1..$9 in the replacement refer to the captured text in the
matching group "$1" meaning the first group, "$2" the second, and so on.

Note that % replacements (like %1, %2, %0, etc.) in url.rewrite-* targets are permitted, but do not have the meaning they would have in evhost.path-pattern. If url.rewrite-* is specified within a regex conditional, % patterns are replaced by the corresponding groups from the condition regex. %1 is replaced with the first subexpression, %2 with the second, etc. %0 is replaced by the entire substring matching the regexp. See below for an example using "%0".

Extended Replacement Patterns

lighttpd provides ways to encode redirect and rewrite backreference substitutions (since 1.4.50) in curly-braces %{...} or ${...}

Up to nine (9) matches are saved for %{1} - %{9}. Up to nineteen (19) matches are saved for ${1} - ${19}.

In addition to %1 and $1, the following modifiers are now supported, followed by the number for the backreference, e.g. ${esc:1}.

  • ${noesc:...} no escaping
  • ${esc:...} escape all non-alphanumeric - . _ ~ incl double-escape %
  • ${escape:...} escape all non-alphanumeric - . _ ~ incl double-escape %
  • ${escnde:...} escape all non-alphanumeric - . _ ~ but no double-esc %
  • ${escpsnde:...} escape all non-alphanumeric - . _ ~ / but no double-esc % (preserves literal /)
  • ${tolower:...}
  • ${toupper:...}
  • ${encb64u:...} encode to base64url characters (no-padding)
  • ${decb64u:...} decode from base64url characters
  • %{noesc:...}
  • %{esc:...}
  • %{escape:...}
  • %{escnde:...}
  • %{escpsnde:...}
  • %{tolower:...}
  • %{toupper:...}
  • %{encb64u:...}
  • %{decb64u:...}

lighttpd provides ways to substitute URI parts without needing a regex match (since 1.4.50) (and can be preceded by encoding modifier, e.g. ${tolower:url.authority})

  • ${url.scheme}
  • ${url.authority}
  • ${url.port}
  • ${url.path}
  • ${url.query}
  • ${qsa} appends query string, if not empty


The regex is matching the full REQUEST_URI which is supplied by the user including query-string.

# the following example, is, however just simulating vhost by rewrite
# * you can never change document-root by mod_rewrite
# use mod_*host instead to make real mass-vhost

server.document-root = "/www/htdocs/" 
$HTTP["host"] =~ "^.*\.([^.]+\.com)$" {
  url.rewrite-once = ( "^/(.*)" => "/%0/$1" )

# request: 
# before rewrite: REQUEST_URI="/www/htdocs/url/" 
# and DOCUMENT_ROOT="/www/htdocs/" %0="" $1="url/" 
# after rewrite:  REQUEST_URI="/www/htdocs/" 
# still, you have DOCUMENT_ROOT=/www/htdocs/

# please note, that we have two regular expressions: the one which 
# $HTTP["host"] is been compared with, and the one of the rewrite rule.
# the numbered subexpressions available to build the relative uri are
# being prefixed by '%' for subexpressions of the first regular expression 
# match and by '$' for subexpressions of the second one.
# subexpression 0 interpolates the whole matching string: %0 for the whole
# string matching the conditional, and $0 for the whole string matching the
# rewrite rule.

# if the rewrite rule is not included in a conditional 
# block, only the '$' prefixed variables are available.

url.rewrite-once = ( "^/id/([0-9]+)$" => "/index.php?id=$1",
                     "^/link/([a-zA-Z]+)" => "/index.php?link=$1" )

With mod_redirect

Rewrite rules always execute before redirect rules. This is true regardless of the order of module loading or the order of rules in the configuration (lighttpd v1.4.13). However, mod_rewrite provides a mechanism to pass URLs through unmangled: specify "$0" as the rule target, but be sure that the rule matches the entire string since $0 is the entire matched string.


url.rewrite-once = (
    "^/foo"  => "$0",
    "^/(.*)" => "/handler/$1" 

url.redirect = (
    "^/foo"  => "" 

Since version 1.4.40, an alternative is to specify a blank target to the rewrite rule. This will cause the matched rule to leave the url unmodified, and will skip any further rewrite rules.

url.rewrite-once = (
    "^/foo"  => "",   # instead of (nonsensical) blank url, the url will not be modified
    "^/(.*)" => "/handler/$1" 

Workaround for "File name too long" on Windows

While running Lighttpd on Windows you may get 500 Internal Server Error if computed filename is longer than 255 symbols.
In error log it will be (response.c.537) file not found ... or so: File name too long /very_looooong_path ->.
As workaround you can use mod_rewrite to avoid this error.

server.modules += ("mod_rewrite")
url.rewrite-once = ( ".{250,}" => "/toolong.php" )

If error handler is PHP, $_SERVER['REQUEST_URI'] will contain full URI.

Passing / Matching the Query string (GET variables)

If you wanna pass the Query String (?foo=bar) to the rewrite destination you have to explicitly match it:

url.rewrite-once = (
    "^/news/([^\?]+)(\?(.*))?" => "/news.php?title=$1&$3" 

Misc Notes

NOTE: url rewriting does not work within a $HTTP["url"] conditional, but fixed in v1.4.34 (see #2526).

Updated by gstrauss 4 days ago · 55 revisions