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What to do if the Home Page is missing

The Web Server Administrator has two choices as to what he / she should do when a content provider doesn't supply a home page (index.html or similar) in a directory - either he can generate an error such as a 403 ("Forbidden") or 404 ("Not found"), or he can generate a directory listing, so that the web site visitor can access the content of the directory anyway.

Question - How does the web site admin turn directory listing on and off?

The Web Server configuration file is usually called httpd.conf, though were you find it varies depending on your operating system and configuration. For a web server installed on a Linux server, as configured on our Linux Web Server and Deploying Apache httpd and Tomcat courses, you'll be looking at /usr/local/apache2/conf.

Find the Options line for the directory in which the directory tree you're interesting in altering is located and add (or remove) Indexes. For example:

<Directory "/home/www/htdocs">
Options Indexes FollowSymLinks


allows web directories served from within /home/www/htdocs to display their contents, but

<Directory "/home/www/htdocs">
Options FollowSymLinks


will give anyone who tries a 400 series error.

Question - can the web develop control this too?

Yes, if given such permission by the Web Site Admin. The Web Site Admin need to allow overrides - if the httpd.conf file says

AllowOverride None

then the web developer has no control but it it says either of

AllowOverride Options

or
AllowOverride All

the it CAN be overridden by the web developer ... who would provide a file called .htaccess in the top level directory to which the automatic indeing should apply. The line in that file would be either

Options Indexes

to allow Indexes (only) or

Options +Indexes

To turn indexes on in addition to options inherited from the directory above.

There may be other things in the .htaccess file too, and these files can exist in multiple places on the web site - here's an example of mine that allows a directory listing and turn off any page rewrites too:

RewriteEngine Off
Options Indexes


and here's one which (by contrast) diverts all .html and .htm requests to a script with the undescriptive name 8.php, passing in the name of the page that was called up as a parameter.

RewriteEngine On
RewriteRule ^(.*)\.htm 8.php?pagename=index&sharename=$1&%{QUERY_STRING}



Question - is it a good idea to allow automatic indexes?

In general NO. If you leave out the home page from a directory by mistake, you'll be exposing yourself to anyone who visits your web site. When I go to a web site following a link to an obscure page on a domain I don't know, I often "research" the domain by cutting sections off the path. By disallowing, you stop people like me spying around, and perhaps finding backup files (e.g. copies of .php scripts that have a .bak extension) from which I could (but wouldn't!) break holes in your site.

But if you want to make a directory from which people can quickly and easily grab pictures and you're not too worried about it looking pretty, then in these LIMITED CIRCUMSTANCES it can be a good idea.

In fact I have turned in on for one of my directories today - here where you can some some record shots of this morning's breakfast setup, and of Devizes last night.


Note - than answers on this page apply to the Apache httpd web server, which is used to serve the majority of domains on the web. Options and configuration files differ for other servers.
(written 2008-05-08, updated 2008-05-09)

 
Associated topics are indexed as below, or enter http://melksh.am/nnnn for individual articles
A603 - Web Application Deployment - Further httpd Configuration
  [4307] Identifying and clearing denial of service attacks on your Apache server - (2014-09-27)
  [4001] Helping search engines with appropriate 400 error codes - (2013-02-11)
  [3955] Building up from a small PHP setup to an enterprise one - (2012-12-16)
  [3862] Forwarding a whole domain, except for a few directories - Apache http server - (2012-09-17)
  [3635] Parse error: parse error, unexpected T_STRING on brand new web site - why? - (2012-03-03)
  [3449] Apache Internal Dummy Connection - what is it and what should I do with it? - (2011-09-19)
  [3133] An image from a website that occasionally comes out as hyroglyphics - (2011-01-14)
  [2900] Redirecting a page - silent, temporary or permanent? - (2010-08-03)
  [2478] How did I do THAT? - (2009-10-26)
  [2272] Monitoring and loading tools for testing Apache Tomcat - (2009-07-07)
  [2060] Database connection Pooling, SSL, and command line deployment - httpd and Tomcat - (2009-03-01)
  [1974] Moving a directory on your web site - (2009-01-03)
  [1955] How to avoid duplicating web page maintainance - (2008-12-20)
  [1954] mod_rewrite for newcomers - (2008-12-20)
  [1939] mod_proxy_ajp and mod_proxy_balancer examples - (2008-12-13)
  [1778] Pointing all the web pages in a directory at a database - (2008-08-30)
  [1767] mod_proxy and mod_proxy_ajp - httpd - (2008-08-22)
  [1762] WEB-INF (Tomcat) and .htaccess (httpd) - (2008-08-20)
  [1707] Configuring Apache httpd - (2008-07-12)
  [1619] User and Group settings for Apache httpd web server - (2008-04-22)
  [1566] Strange behaviour of web directory requests without a trailing slash - (2008-03-06)
  [1564] Default file (MiMe types) for Apache httpd and Apache Tomcat - (2008-03-04)
  [1554] Online hotel reservations - Melksham, Wiltshire (near Bath) - (2008-02-24)
  [1551] Which modules are loaded in my Apache httpd - (2008-02-23)
  [1381] Using a MySQL database to control mod_rewrite via PHP - (2007-10-06)
  [1377] Load Balancing with Apache mod_jk (httpd/Tomcat) - (2007-10-02)
  [1355] .php or .html extension? Morally Static Pages - (2007-09-17)
  [1351] Compressing web pages sent out from server. Is it worth it? - (2007-09-14)
  [1207] Simple but effective use of mod_rewrite (Apache httpd) - (2007-05-27)
  [1121] Sharing the load with Apache httpd and perhaps Tomcat - (2007-03-29)
  [1080] httpd.conf or .htaccess? - (2007-02-14)
  [1009] Passing GET parameters through Apache mod_rewrite - (2006-12-27)
  [934] Clustering, load balancing, mod_rewrite and mod_proxy - (2006-11-21)
  [853] To list a directory under httpd on a web server, or not? - (2006-09-02)
  [755] Using different URLs to navigate around a single script - (2006-06-11)
  [662] An unhelpful error message from Apache httpd - (2006-03-30)
  [649] Denial of Service ''attack'' - (2006-03-17)
  [631] Apache httpd to Tomcat - jk v proxy - (2006-03-03)
  [550] 2006 - Making business a pleasure - (2006-01-01)
  [526] Apache httpd - serving web documents from different directories - (2005-12-12)
  [466] Separating 'per instance' data from binaries and web sites - (2005-10-16)
  [345] Spotting a denial of service attack - (2005-06-12)

A607 - Web Application Deployment - Apache httpd mod_rewrite
  [3753] Adding a passcode to a directory - (2012-06-05)
  [3568] Telling which ServerAlias your visitor used - useful during merging domains - (2012-01-04)
  [3339] Simplest ever proxy configuration? - (2011-06-28)
  [3197] Finding and diverting image requests from rogue domains - (2011-03-08)
  [2981] How to set up short and meaningfull alternative URLs - (2010-10-02)
  [2773] Dynamically watching your web site via a PHP wrapper - (2010-05-21)
  [2768] Carrying a long URL around - looking for memorable shorts - (2010-05-17)
  [2728] Redirecting a home page using mod_rewrite - (2010-04-17)
  [2555] Bookkeeping - (2009-12-29)
  [2094] If you have a spelling mistake in your URL / page name - (2009-03-21)
  [1771] More HowTo diagrams - MySQL, Tomcat and Java - (2008-08-24)
  [1731] Apache httpd, MySQL, PHP - installation procedure - (2008-08-01)
  [1376] Choosing between mod_proxy and mod_rewrite - (2007-10-02)
  [1006] Apache httpd and Apache Tomcat together tips - (2006-12-24)

W501 - Introduction to Web Site Structure
  [2552] Web site traffic - real users, or just noise? - (2009-12-26)
  [2282] Checking robots.txt from Python - (2009-07-12)
  [2214] Global Index to help you find resources - (2009-06-01)
  [1969] Search Engines. Getting the right pages seen. - (2009-01-01)
  [1686] FTP - how not to corrupt data (binary v ascii) - (2008-06-24)
  [1431] Getting the community on line - some basics - (2007-11-13)
  [1198] From Web to Web 2 - (2007-05-21)
  [1176] A pu that got me into trouble - (2007-05-04)
  [1168] Moving out some of the web site bloat - (2007-04-29)
  [1031] robots.txt - a clue to hidden pages? - (2007-01-13)
  [1024] Web site - a refresh to improve navigation - (2007-01-07)
  [528] Getting favicon to work - avoiding common pitfalls - (2005-12-14)
  [332] Looking up IP addresses - (2005-06-01)


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Providing exceptional service - and carrying on doing so.
Some other Articles
Walking on The Wiltshire Downs
Minehead Marauder
Pictures far apart
Providing exceptional service - and carrying on doing so.
What to do if the Home Page is missing
Spring in Devizes
Kiss and Book
Changing a screen saver from a web page (PHP, Perl, OSX)
Lua - a powerful, up and coming scripting language
Looking back through some photos
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This is a page archived from The Horse's Mouth at http://www.wellho.net/horse/ - the diary and writings of Graham Ellis. Every attempt was made to provide current information at the time the page was written, but things do move forward in our business - new software releases, price changes, new techniques. Please check back via our main site for current courses, prices, versions, etc - any mention of a price in "The Horse's Mouth" cannot be taken as an offer to supply at that price.

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