Content Handlers

Content handlers are responsible for preparing request data and evaluating response data based on the content-type of the request and response. A content handler operates as follows:

  • Structured YAML data provided via the data attribute is converted to a string or bytes sequence and used as request body.
  • The response body (a string or sequence of bytes) is transformed into a content-type dependent structure and stored in an internal attribute named response_data that is:
    • used when evaluating the response body
    • used in $RESPONSE[] substitutions

By default, gabbi provides content handlers for JSON. In that content handler the data test key is converted from structured YAML into a JSON string. Response bodies are converted from a JSON string into a data structure in response_data that is used when evaluating response_json_paths entries in a test or doing JSONPath-based $RESPONSE[] substitutions.

Further content handlers can be added as extensions. Test authors may need these extensions for their own suites, or enterprising developers may wish to create and distribute extensions for others to use.


One extension that is likely to be useful is a content handler that turns data into url-encoded form data suitable for POST and turns an HTML response into a DOM object.


Content handlers are an evolution of the response handler concept in earlier versions gabbi. To preserve backwards compatibility with existing response handlers, old style response handlers are still allowed, but new handlers should implement the content handler interface (described below).

Registering additional custom handlers is done by passing a subclass of ContentHandler to build_tests():

driver.build_tests(test_dir, loader, host=None,

If pytest is being used:

driver.py_test_generator(test_dir, intercept=simple_wsgi.SimpleWsgi,


When there are multiple handlers listed that accept the same content-type, the one that is earliest in the list will be used.

With gabbi-run, custom handlers can be loaded via the --response-handler option – see load_response_handlers() for details.


The use of the --response-handler argument is done to preserve backwards compatibility and avoid excessive arguments. Both types of handler may be passed to the argument.

Implementation Details

Creating a content handler requires subclassing ContentHandler and implementing several methods. These methods are described below, but inspecting JSONHandler will be instructive in highlighting required arguments and techniques.

To provide a response_<something> response-body evaluator a subclass must define:

  • test_key_suffix: This, along with the prefix response_, forms the key used in the test structure. It is a class level string.
  • test_key_value: The key’s default value, either an empty list ([]) or empty dict ({}). It is a class level value.
  • action: An instance method which tests the expected values against the HTTP response - it is invoked for each entry, with the parameters depending on the default value. The arguments to action are (in order):
    • self: The current instance.
    • test: The currently active HTTPTestCase
    • item: The current entry if test_key_value is a list, otherwise the key half of the key/value pair at this entry.
    • value: None if test_key_value is a list, otherwise the value half of the key/value pair at this entry.

To translate request or response bodies to or from structured data a subclass must define an accepts method. This should return True if this class is willing to translate the provided content-type. During request processing it is given the value of the content-type header that will be sent in the request. During response processing it is given the value of the content-type header of the response. This makes it possible to handle different request and response bodies in the same handler, if desired. For example a handler might accept application/x-www-form-urlencoded and text/html.

If accepts is defined two additional static methods should be defined:

  • dumps: Turn structured Python data from the data key in a test into a string or byte stream. The optional test param allows you to access the current test case which may help with manipulations for custom content handlers, e.g. multipart/form-data needs to add a boundary to the Content-Type header in order to mark the appropriate sections of the body.
  • loads: Turn a string or byte stream in a response into a Python data structure. Gabbi will put this data on the response_data attribute on the test, where it can be used in the evaluations described above (in the action method) or in $RESPONSE handling. An example usage here would be to turn HTML into a DOM.

Finally if a replacer class method is defined, then when a $RESPONSE substitution is encountered, replacer will be passed the response_data of the prior test and the argument within the $RESPONSE.

Please see the JSONHandler source for additional detail.