How to set different layouts in Phoenix

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This post is based on behaviour in Elixir 1.0.5 & Phoenix 0.15.

By default, a new phoenix application provides you with a layout file called app.html.eex, which is super. However, sometimes we need to use different layouts when we build specific areas of applications, like an admin section. This is a quick guide on how to use a different layout file.

For all of the examples below, I'm assuming that there is a file admin.html.eex within the web/templates/layout directory.

Modify controller functions to render with the specific layout file

The first way I found which allows you to set the layout file, is to directly pass an additional argument to the render/3 function:

def index(conn, _params) do
  render conn, "index.html",
    layout: {MyApp.LayoutView, "admin.html"}

Which works... However it does mean that if we have a lot of functions that render in our controller, we need to duplicate this bit of code.

Apply the layout at a controller level

The next approach is a bit nicer, which reduces the repetition of explicity declaring the layout.

defmodule MyApp.Admin.SomeController do
  use MyApp.Web, :controller

  plug :put_layout, "admin.html"

  def index(conn, _params) do
    render conn, "index.html"

This is nice, but we still have some duplication if we have a number of admin controllers.

Apply the layout at the router

This is my current approach to solving the problem. Create a new pipeline with our plug and use it along with the standard :browser pipeline. Declaring it as part of the plug pipeline used in the admin routing, it covers all of our admin controllers.

# web/router.ex
pipeline :admin_layout do
  plug :put_layout, {MyApp.LayoutView, :admin}

scope "/admin", MyApp do
  pipe_through [:browser, :admin_layout]
  resources "/some_path", Admin.SomeController
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