Introduction to Templating

Twig (opens new window) is a fast and powerful templating system, commonly used to power front-end views in content management systems like Craft, Drupal, and WordPress (via the Timber (opens new window) plugin).

Let’s take a look at how it works.

# Types of Twig code

Twig templates are HTML files that are sprinkled with bits of Twig code. When Twig loads a template, the first thing it will do is separate the raw HTML code from the Twig code. The raw HTML code will be output to the browser without any tampering.

All Twig code follows a basic pattern that separates it from the surrounding HTML. At its outer edges you will find left and right curly braces ({ and }), coupled with another character that signifies what type of Twig code it is. These sets of characters are called “delimiters”.

There are three types of delimiters that Twig looks out for:

# Comments

Twig comments are wrapped in {# and #} delimiters. You can use them to leave little notes for yourself in the code.

They are similar to HTML comments in that they won’t show up as rendered text in the browser. The difference is that they will never make it into the HTML source in the first place.

<!-- This will be visible in the HTML source -->
{# This won’t! #}

# Tags

Twig tags are wrapped in {% and %} delimiters, and are used to define the logic of your template, such as conditionals, loops, variable definitions, template includes, and other things.

The syntax within the {% and %} delimiters varies from tag to tag, but they will always start with the same thing: the name of the tag.

In their simplest form, the tag name might be all that’s required. Take Craft’s requireLogin tag, for example:

{# A user must be logged in to visit this page #}
{% requireLogin %}

Other tags can accept parameters. In the case of Craft’s exit tag, you can optionally set the HTTP status code that should be sent to the browser in the response:

{# This is not the page you are looking for #}
{% exit 404 %}

Some tags are meant to be used in pairs, such as the js tag, which registers JavaScript code onto the page.

{% js %}
  console.log('Hello world');
{% endjs %}

Some tags can have nested tags between the opening and closing tags:

{% if currentUser %}
  <a href="/logout">Logout</a>
{% else %}
  <a href="/login">Login</a>
{% endif %}

Refer to the Tags page for a full list of tags available to your Craft templates.

To output additional HTML code dynamically, use a print statement. They are wrapped in {{ and }} delimiters, and you can put just about anything inside them, as long as it can be treated as a string.

<p>Hi, {{ }}</p>

Don’t place a print statement (or any other Twig code) within another print statement. See Combining Strings to learn how to combine strings with other expressions.

# Auto-escaping

Most of the time, print statements will automatically HTML-encode the content before actually outputting it (called auto-escaping), which helps defend against cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerabilities.

For example, let’s say you have a search results page, where the search query is defined by a q query string parameter, and in the event that there are no results, you want to output a message to the user that includes the query:


{% set query ='q') %}

{% set entries = craft.entries()
  .all() %}

{% if entries %}
  <h3>Search Results</h3>
    {% for entry in entries %}
      <li>{{ entry.getLink() }}</li>
    {% endfor %}
{% else %}
  <p>Sorry, no results for <strong>{{ query }}</strong> were found.</p>
{% endif %}

If it weren’t for auto-escaping, a search for <script>alert('Uh-oh')</script> would result in this HTML:

<p>Sorry, no results for <strong><script>alert('Uh-oh')</script></strong>.</p>

Which would cause JavaScript to execute on the page, even though it wasn’t part of the original Twig template. But thanks to auto-escaping, you’d actually end up with this HTML:

<p>Sorry, no results for <strong>&lt;script&gt;alert('Uh-oh')&lt;/script&gt;</strong>.</p>

There are two cases where print statements will output content directly, without auto-escaping it first:

  • When the content is deemed safe by the last tag or function that was called within the print statement (such as the markdown filter).
  • When you explicitly mark the content as safe using a raw (opens new window) filter.

# Manual escaping

There are times where you may need to work with both trusted and untrusted content together. For example, let’s say you want to output user-supplied content as Markdown, but you want to ensure they haven’t put anything nefarious in there first.

To do that, you could explicitly encode all HTML within the user-supplied content using the escape (opens new window) filter, before passing it to the markdown filter:

{# Escape any HTML in the Body field, then format as Markdown #}
{{ entry.body|escape|markdown }}

Alternatively if you want to allow some HTML, so long as it’s tame, you can use the purify filter, which sanatizes the content using HTML Purifier (opens new window).

{# Purify the content in the Body field, then format as Markdown #}
{{ entry.body|purify|markdown }}

# Variables

Twig supports setting custom variables in your templates, which let you save a value to be referenced later on in your template.

You can define variables using the set (opens new window) tag.

{% set title = "About Us" %}
{% set docTitle = title ~ " | ACME, Inc." %}

    <title>{{ docTitle }}</title>
    <h1>{{ title }}</h1>
    <!-- ... -->

Craft provides a few predefined variables that will be available in addition to the variables you define yourself. Refer to the Global Variables page for a full list of global variables available to your Craft templates.

# Functions

There are several functions available to your Twig templates, which can do a wide variety of things. For example, Craft provides a hiddenInput function that can be used to generate the HTML for a hidden input:

{{ hiddenInput('entryId', 100) }}
{# Output: <input type="hidden" name="entryId" value="100"> #}

Refer to the Functions page for a full list of functions available to your Craft templates.

# Filters

Filters are like functions, but they use a pipe syntax (|), and they are always meant to manipulate a value of some sort. For example, Craft provides an markdown filter, which converts Markdown (opens new window)-formatted text into HTML:

{% set text = "I **really** love Tom Petty." %}
{{ text|markdown }}
{# Output: <p>I <strong>really</strong> love Tom Petty.</p> #}

You can chain filters together. Each subsequent filters will use the result of the previous filter as its starting point.

{% set text = "I **really** love Tom Petty." %}
{{ text|markdown|striptags|upper }}
{# Output: I REALLY LOVE TOM PETTY.</p> #}

Note that filters will only apply to the value that immediately precedes it. If you want to apply the filter to the result of an expression, you must wrap the expression in parentheses first.

{{ 100.3 + 50.3|round }}
{# Output: 150.3 #}

{{ (100.3 + 50.3)|round }}
{# Output: 151 #}

Refer to the Filters page for a full list of filters available to your Craft templates.

# Tests

Tests are like functions that only return true or false, and are meant to reveal something about the nature of a value. For example, the defined (opens new window) test will return true or false depending on whether a variable or hash/object property is defined:

{% if specs.weight is defined %}
  <dd>{{ specs.weight }}</dd>
{% endif %}

If you are looking for whether a test returns false, use the is not syntax:

{% if entry is not defined %}
  {% exit 404 %}
{% endif %}

Refer to the Tests page for a full list of filters available to your Craft templates.

# Types of values

There are six types of values you’ll be working with in Twig:

Let’s take a look at each of them in detail.

# Strings

Textual values are called strings. To identify a string, wrap some text in either double or single quotation marks (but not curly/smart quotes).

{% set greeting = "Hello there" %}

Once you’ve started a string, Twig will keep parsing it until it comes across another matching quotation mark. Which means that you can safely add other quotation marks inside the string—as long as it’s not the same type of quotation mark.

{% set heading = 'Try the new 7" folding tablet' %}
{% set subheading = "The original Microsoft Surface was 3.5' long." %}

If you need to use both types of quotation marks in the same string, you can place a backslash (\) right before the one that matches the string’s opening delimiter to “escape” it from being parsed as the closing delimiter.

{% set subheading = "The original Microsoft Surface was 3' 6\" long." %}

# Combining strings

Twig provides two ways to combine strings together: You can concatenate them using the tilde (~) operator, or you can inject a string into the middle of another string using string interpolation.

{# Concatenation #}
{% set greeting = "Hello, " ~ currentUser.friendlyName %}

{# Interpolation #}
{% set greeting = "Hello, #{currentUser.friendlyName}" %}

String interpolation only works in double-quoted strings.

# Numbers

Numbers can be written verbatim without any special delimiters.

{% set answer = 42 %}

Numbers can be output in a print statement, or combined with a string.

<p>The answer is {{ answer }}</p>

# Booleans

Boolean values are either true or false. Those are reserved words in Twig, so if you want to create a boolean value, you just type it out.

{% set havingABud = true %}

Booleans are most often used within conditionals, which switch a part of the template on or off depending on an expression.

If you were to output a boolean value in a print statement, or combine it with another string, the value will be converted to either '1' or '0'.

# Arrays

Arrays are ordered lists of nested values. They are delimited with left and right square brackets ([ and ]), and their values are separated by commas.

{% set todoList = [
  'Finish design',
  'Build HTML & CSS',
  'Manage content with Craft'
] %}

You can loop over an array using a for (opens new window) tag:

<ol class="todo">
  {% for item in todoList %}
    <li>{{ item }}</li>
  {% endfor %}

Note that you can’t output an array directly in a print statement, or combine it with another string. If you want to quickly output a comma-separated list of an array’s values, you could use the join (opens new window) filter:

{{ todoList|join(', ') }}

# Hashes

Hashes are similar to arrays, except that the values are indexed by custom keys.

To define a hash, use left and right curly braces as the delimiters ({ and }). Separate your hash’s key-value pairs with commas, like arrays, and separate the individual keys from the values with a colon.

{% set specs = {
  length: '108cm',
  width: '68.6cm',
  height: '53.3cm',
  weight: '90kg'
} %}

If you need to create a hash with a dynamic key, wrap the key in parentheses:


{% set myKey = 'weight' %}
{% set myValue = '90kg' %}

{% set specs = {
  (myKey): myValue
} %}

Like arrays, you can loop over all the values in a hash using a for (opens new window) tag:

<dl class="specs">
  {% for key, value in specs %}
    <dt>{{ key }}</dt>
    <dd>{{ value }}</dd>
  {% endfor %}

You can also access hash values directly by their keys, using either dot or array syntax:

<dl class="specs">
  <dd>{{ specs.length }} × {{ specs.width }} × {{ specs.height }}</dd>

  <dd>{{ specs['weight'] }}</dd>

# Arrow functions

Some functions and filters let you pass an arrow function as an argument. Arrow functions are compact functions that you define right in your template, which return a single value.

For example, Craft’s group filter will group all of the items in an array, based on the result of an arrow function you pass in:


{% set groceryList = [
  {name: 'Eggs', category: 'Dairy'},
  {name: 'Pancake Mix', category: 'Breakfast'},
  {name: 'Milk', category: 'Dairy'},
  {name: 'Onions', category: 'Produce'}
] %}

{# output the list by category #}
{% set itemsByCategory = groceryList|group(item => item.category) %}
{% for category, items in itemsByCategory %}
  <h3>{{ category }}</h3>
    {% for item in items %}
      <li>{{ }}</li>
    {% endfor %}
{% endfor %}

# Loops

You’ll frequently need to loop over multiple items in an array or hash. To do that, you’ll use a for (opens new window) tag.


{% set todoList = [
  'Finish design',
  'Build HTML & CSS',
  'Manage content with Craft'
] %}

<ol class="todo">
  {% for item in todoList %}
    <li>{{ item }}</li>
  {% endfor %}

# Conditionals

Your templates can contain conditionals, which are initiated by an if (opens new window) tag, which contains an expression that will be evaluated as either true or false, and will show part of a template depending on the result of that expression.

{% if currentUser %}
  <p>Hello, {{ currentUser.friendlyName }}</p>
{% endif %}

You can include a nested {% else %} tag, if you wish to show a different part of your template when the condition is false:

{% if currentUser %}
  <a href="/logout">Logout</a>
{% else %}
  <a href="/login">Login</a>
{% endif %}

You can also include nested {% elseif %} tags (before the {% else %} tag, if there is one), to create additional fallback conditions in the event that the original condition is false:

{% set hour = now|date('G') %}

{% if hour < 12 %}
  <p>Good morning, {{ currentUser.friendlyName }}</p>
{% elseif hour < 17 %}
  <p>Good afternoon, {{ currentUser.friendlyName }}</p>
{% else %}
  <p>Good evening, {{ currentUser.friendlyName }}</p>
{% endif %}

If you want to switch between different parts of your template depending on the value of something, switch tags provide a simpler syntax than multiple {% if %} and {% elseif %} tags each comparing the same value over and over again.

# DRY templating

Whenever you’re coding anything, it’s always a good practice to keep your code “DRY” (Don’t Repeat Yourself), to avoid writing and maintaining the same general logic or HTML in multiple places. This applies to Twig as well: each page on your website is likely to have the same header and footer, and the vast majority of your pages should be made up of shared, reusable components.

Twig provides four ways to keep your templates DRY:

# Template inheritance

Twig templates can extend other templates, filling in more details than their parent. This concept is called template inheritance because sub-templates inherit a base set of HTML from their parent.

For example, you can create an _html5.twig template in your templates/ folder, which defines the base HTML boilerplate that all pages on your website should have:

<!DOCTYPE html>
<html xmlns="" lang="{{ currentSite.language }}">
  {% block head %}
    <meta http-equiv="X-UA-Compatible" content="IE=edge">
    <meta charset="utf-8">
    <title>{{ docTitle ?? siteName }}</title>
    <meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width, initial-scale=1.0, maximum-scale=1.0, user-scalable=no">
  {% endblock %}
<body {{ attr(bodyAttributes ?? {}) }}>
  {% block body %}
  {% endblock %}

This template is pretty worthless on its own, but it provides a framework for nested templates to take advantage of:

  • It defines head and body blocks, which give nested templates a way to override the contents of the <head> and <body> elements.
  • It allows nested templates to define a docTitle variable, which will become the <title> value, and defaults to the site name if that’s not defined.
  • It gives nested templates the ability to set custom attributes on the <body> element, by defining a bodyAttributes hash. (We’re using the attr function to convert that hash into a list of HTML attributes.)

With that template in place, you can now create a hello-world.twig template in your templates/ folder, which extends your _html5.twig template:

{% extends "_html5.twig" %}

{% set docTitle = 'Hello World' %}

{% set bodyAttributes = {
  class: 'hello-world'
} %}

{% block head %}
  {{ parent() }}
  <link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" href="/styles.css">
{% endblock %}

{% block body %}
  <h1>Hello world!</h1>
{% endblock %}

This template is doing a few things:

  • It’s declaring that it is meant to extend our _html5.twig template.
  • It’s setting docTitle and bodyAttributes variables, which will be passed up to the parent template.
  • It’s overriding the parent template’s head and body blocks.
  • It’s pulling the parent template’s head block contents into the overridden block, via that {{ parent() }} print statement.

Note that when a template extends another template, it doesn’t have any HTML code that will be output to the browser directly. All of its HTML code must be defined within template blocks.

You can extend templates recursively. Try creating another template that extends hello-world.twig and adds additional HTML to the body block.

# Includes

You can create “partial” templates, which only output the HTML for an individual component, and then include them within other templates using an include (opens new window) tag.

For example, create a template called _tip.twig in your templates/ folder, with this:

<div class="tip">
  <p>{{ tipText }}</p>

Now you can include that from another template, passing in the tipText value:

{% include '_tip.twig' with {
  tipText: 'I’m a helpful tip!'
} %}

# Embeds

Embeds are similar to includes, with a superpower: they can override template blocks within the included template. Going with our tip example, let’s say you want to make the content more customizable. you could do that by wrapping the <p> tag in a block:

<div class="tip">
  {% block content %}
    <p>{{ tipText }}</p>
  {% endblock %}

The template will continue to work with include (opens new window) tags like before, but now other templates have the option of using an embed (opens new window) tag instead, and overwriting the entire content block:

{% embed '_tip.twig' %}
  {% block content %}
    <p>I’m a helpful tip!</p>
  {% endblock %}
{% endembed %}

# Macros

Your templates can define macros, which are reusable functions that output HTML. These are especially useful when a template needs to output similar HTML multiple times, but it’s not worth using an include because no other templates are going to need it.

For example, let’s say you find yourself repeating the same HTML and Twig code for each the global nav items in your site layout template:

<nav class="global-nav">
    <li class="nav-item"><a href="{{ url('about') }}">About</a></li>
    <li class="nav-item"><a href="{{ url('blog') }}">Blog</a></li>
    <li class="nav-item"><a href="{{ url('contact') }}">Contact</a></li>

You could pull that <li> HTML into a macro (opens new window) tag, and then call it for each of your nav items instead:

{% macro navItem(label, path) %}
  <li class="nav-item"><a href="{{ url(path) }}">{{ label }}</a></li>
{% endmacro %}

<nav class="global-nav">
    {{ _self.navItem('About', 'about') }}
    {{ _self.navItem('Blog', 'blog') }}
    {{ _self.navItem('Contact', 'contact') }}

You can import macros from other templates using an import (opens new window) tag.

# Additional resources

To learn more about Twig, check out these resources: