Customize specific virtual host

Table of Contents


What is vhost-gen

vhost-gen is a python script which is able to dynamically generate Apache 2.2, Apache 2.4 and Nginx virtual host or reverse proxy configuration files.

It is intended to be used by other means of automation such as change of directories or change of listening ports.

See also

If you intend to use vhost-gen for your own projects, have a look at its project page and its sister projects:

Where do I find templates

The latest version of vhost-gen templates are shipped in the Devilbox git directory under cfg/vhost-gen/.

How does it work

By default new virtual hosts are automatically generated and enabled by vhost-gen and watcherp using the vanilla templates which are glued into the webserver Docker images. The used templates are exactly the same as what you will find in cfg/vhost-gen/.

This ensures to have equal and sane default virtual host for all of your projects. If you want to have a different virtual host configuration for a specific project of yours, you can copy a corresponding template into your project directory and adjust it to your needs.

How to apply templates to a specific project

Customizing a virtual host via vhost-gen template is generally done in four steps:

  1. Retrieve or set template directory value in .env.
  2. Copy webserver template to project template directory
  3. Adjust template
  4. Make Devilbox pick up those changes

Let’s assume the following default values and one project named project-1:

Variable Value
Devilbox path /home/user/devilbox
Templates to copy from /home/user/devilbox/cfg/vhost-gen
Project name project-1
HTTPD_TEMPLATE_DIR .devilbox (default value)
HOST_PATH_HTTPD_DATADIR ./data/www (default value)

Those assumed settings will result in the following directory paths which must be created by you:

What Path
Project directory path /home/user/devilbox/data/www/project-1/
Project template path /home/user/devilbox/data/www/project-1/.devilbox/

1. Retrieve or set template directory value

By default the HTTPD_TEMPLATE_DIR value is .devilbox. This is defined in the .env file. Feel free to change it to whatever directory name you prefer, but keep in mind that it will change the Project template path which you need to create yourself.

For this example we will keep the default value for the sake of simplicity: .devilbox.


The HTTPD_TEMPLATE_DIR value is a global setting and will affect all projects.

2. Copy webserver template to project template directory

First you need to ensure that the HTTPD_TEMPLATE_DIR exists wihin you project.

# Navigate to the Devilbox directory
host> cd /home/user/devilbox

# Create template directory in your project
host> mkdir ./data/www/project-1/.devilbox

Then you can copy the templates.

host> cp cfg/vhost-gen/*.yml-example-* ./data/www/project-1/.devilbox


You actually only need to copy the template of your chosen webserver (either Apache 2.2, Apache 2.4 or Nginx), however it is good practice to copy all templates and also adjust all templates synchronously. This allows you to change web server versions and still keep your virtual host settings.

3. Adjust template

At this stage you can start adjusting the template. Either do that for the webserver version you have enabled via HTTPD_SERVER: /home/user/devilbox/data/www/project-1/.devilbox/apache22.yml. /home/user/devilbox/data/www/project-1/.devilbox/apache24.yml, /home/user/devilbox/data/www/project-1/.devilbox/nginx.yml or do it for all of them synchronously.


What exactly to change will be explained later.

4. Make Devilbox pick up those changes

Whenever you change a project vhost template or the HTTPD_TEMPLATE_DIR value, you need to restart the Devilbox.


It is also possible to do it without a restart which will be explained later.

Templates explained

Before the templates are explained, have a look at the following table to find out what template needs to be in place for what webserver version.

Webserver Template
Apache 2.2 apache22.yml
Apache 2.4 apache24.yml
Nginx stable nginx.yml
Nginx mainline nginx.yml


Nginx stable and mainline share the same template as their syntax has no special differences, whereas Apache 2.2 and Apache 2.4 have slight differences in syntax and therefore require two different templates.

Ensure yaml files are valid


Pay close attention that you do not use TAB (\t) characters for indenting the vhost-gen yaml files. Some editors might automatically indent using TABs, so ensure they are replaced with spaces. If TAB characters are present, those files become invalid and won’t work.

You can use the bundled yamllint binary inside the container to validate your config.

# Navigate to the Devilbox directory
host> cd /home/user/devilbox

# Enter the PHP container
host> ./

# Go to your project's template directory
devilbox@php-7.0.19 in /shared/httpd $ cd project-1/.devilbox

# Check the syntax of apache22.yml
devilbox@php-7.0.19 in /shared/httpd/project-1/.devilbox $ yamllint apache22.yml

108:81    error    line too long (90 > 80 characters)  (line-length)
139:81    error    line too long (100 > 80 characters)  (line-length)
140:81    error    line too long (84 > 80 characters)  (line-length)
142:81    error    line too long (137 > 80 characters)  (line-length)

Long line errors can safely be ignored.

Template variables

Every uppercase string which begins with __ and ends by __ (such as __PORT__) is a variable that will be replaced by a value. Variables can contain a string, a multi-line string or can also be replaced to an empty value.

Global variables

There are global variables that are determined by the command line arguments of vhost-gen itself or are elsewhere replaced by the Devilbox webserver container such as:

  • __PORT__
  • __VHOST_NAME__
  • __ACCESS_LOG__
  • __ERROR_LOG__

vHost type variable

There are also two variables that will be replaced according to the type of the vhost - either a normal vhost or a reverse proxy vhost.


The Devilbox always uses a normal vhost by default, so the __VHOST_DOCROOT__ variable will be replaced by what the vhost_type.docroot section provides. The vhost_type.rproxy will be ignored and __VHOST_PROXY__ will be replaced by an empty string.

Feature variables

All other variables will be replaced by what is provided in the features: section. All subsections of features: have corresponding variables in the following form:

Feature directive Variable name pattern
lower_case: __UPPER_CASE__

As an example, the contents of the features.php_fpm: section will be replaced into the __PHP_FPM__ variable.

Template structure

Each vhost-gen template has three main yaml directives:

  1. vhost:
  2. vhost_type:
  3. features:

1. vhost:

The vhost: directive will contain the final resulting virtual host configuration that will be applied by the webserver. Each of its containing variables will be substituted and its content will be copied to a webserver configuration file.

By default the vhost: section has variables from global scope, from the vhost_type: section and from the features: section.

You can also fully hard-code your webserver configuration without any variables. This way you can specify a fully self-brewed webserver configuration. An example for Apache 2.2 could look like this:

vhost: |
  <VirtualHost *:80>

      CustomLog  "/var/log/apache/access.log" combined
      ErrorLog   "/var/log/apache/error.log"

      DocumentRoot "/shared/httpd/project-1/htdocs"
      <Directory "/shared/httpd/project-1/htdocs">
          DirectoryIndex index.php

          AllowOverride All
          Options All

          RewriteEngine on
          RewriteBase /

          Order allow,deny
          Allow from all

      ProxyPassMatch ^/(.*\.php(/.*)?)$ fcgi://$1

2. vhost_type:

The vhost_type: contains docroot and rproxy. The Devilbox only makes use of docroot which holds the definition of a normal vhost. Its content will be replaced into the __VHOST_DOCROOT__ variable.

The rproxy section will be ignored and the __VHOST_RPROXY__ variable will contain an empty value.

vHost Type section Variable to be replaced into
docroot: __VHOST_DOCROOT__
rproxy: __VHOST_RPROXY__ (empty)

3. features:

This section contains directives that will all be replaced into vhost: variables.

Feature section Variable to be replaced into
php_fpm: __PHP_FPM__
alias: __ALIASES__
deny: __DENIES__
server_status: __SERVER_STATUS__
xdomain_request: __XDOMAIN_REQ__

Apply Changes

After having edited your vhost-gen template files, you still need to apply these changes. This can be achieved in two ways:

  1. Rename your project directory back and forth
  2. Restart the Devilbox

Rename project directory

# Navigate to the data directory
host> /home/user/devilbox/data/www

# Rename your project to something else
host> mv project-1 project-1.tmp

# Rename your project to its original name
host> mv project-1.tmp project-1

If you want to understand what is going on right now, check the docker logs for the web server.

# Navigate to the devilbox directory
host> /home/user/devilbox

# Check docker logs
host> docker-compose logs httpd

httpd_1  | vhostgen: [2018-03-18 11:46:52] Adding: project-1.tmp.loc
httpd_1  | watcherd: [2018-03-18 11:46:52] [OK]  ADD: succeeded: /shared/httpd/project-1.tmp
httpd_1  | watcherd: [2018-03-18 11:46:52] [OK]  DEL: succeeded: /shared/httpd/project-1
httpd_1  | watcherd: [2018-03-18 11:46:52] [OK]  TRIGGER succeeded: /usr/local/apache2/bin/httpd -k restart

httpd_1  | vhostgen: [2018-03-18 11:46:52] Adding: project-1loc
httpd_1  | watcherd: [2018-03-18 11:46:52] [OK]  ADD: succeeded: /shared/httpd/project-1
httpd_1  | watcherd: [2018-03-18 11:46:52] [OK]  DEL: succeeded: /shared/httpd/project-1.tmp
httpd_1  | watcherd: [2018-03-18 11:46:52] [OK]  TRIGGER succeeded: /usr/local/apache2/bin/httpd -k restart

What happened?

The directory changes have been noticed and a new virtual host has been created. This time however your new vhost-gen template has been read and the changes have applied.


Renaming a project directory will only affect a single project. In case your change the value of HTTPD_TEMPLATE_DIR it will affect all projects and you would have to rename all project directories. In this case it is much faster to just restart the Devilbox.

Restart the Devilbox

Stop the Devilbox and start it up again.

Further readings

See also

Have a look at the following examples which involve customizing vhost-gen templates: