JSON and XML views

New in CakePHP 2.1 are two new view classes. The XmlView and JsonView let you easily create XML and JSON responses, and integrate with the RequestHandlerComponent.

By enabling RequestHandlerComponent in your application, and enabling support for the xml and or json extensions, you can automatically leverage the new view classes. XmlView and JsonView will be referred to as data views for the rest of this page.

There are two ways you can generate data views. The first is by using the _serialize key, and the second is by creating normal view files.

Enabling data views in your application

Before you can use the data view classes, you’ll need to do a bit of setup:

  1. Enable the json and or xml extensions with Router::parseExtensions(). This will enable Router to handle multiple extensions.

  2. Add the RequestHandlerComponent to your controller’s list of components. This will enable automatic view class switching on content types. You can also set the component up with the viewClassMap setting, to map types to your custom classes and/or map other data types.

New in version 2.3: RequestHandlerComponent::viewClassMap() method has been added to map types to viewClasses. The viewClassMap setting will not work on earlier versions.

After adding Router::parseExtensions('json'); to your routes file, CakePHP will automatically switch view classes when a request is done with the .json extension, or the Accept header is application/json.

Using data views with the serialize key

The _serialize key is a special view variable that indicates which other view variable(s) should be serialized when using a data view. This lets you skip defining view files for your controller actions if you don’t need to do any custom formatting before your data is converted into json/xml.

If you need to do any formatting or manipulation of your view variables before generating the response, you should use view files. The value of _serialize can be either a string or an array of view variables to serialize:

class PostsController extends AppController {
    public $components = array('RequestHandler');

    public function index() {
        $this->set('posts', $this->Paginator->paginate());
        $this->set('_serialize', array('posts'));

You can also define _serialize as an array of view variables to combine:

class PostsController extends AppController {
    public $components = array('RequestHandler');

    public function index() {
        // some code that created $posts and $comments
        $this->set(compact('posts', 'comments'));
        $this->set('_serialize', array('posts', 'comments'));

Defining _serialize as an array has the added benefit of automatically appending a top-level <response> element when using XmlView. If you use a string value for _serialize and XmlView, make sure that your view variable has a single top-level element. Without a single top-level element the Xml will fail to generate.

Using a data view with view files

You should use view files if you need to do some manipulation of your view content before creating the final output. For example if we had posts, that had a field containing generated HTML, we would probably want to omit that from a JSON response. This is a situation where a view file would be useful:

// Controller code
class PostsController extends AppController {
    public function index() {
        $this->set(compact('posts', 'comments'));

// View code - app/View/Posts/json/index.ctp
foreach ($posts as &$post) {
echo json_encode(compact('posts', 'comments'));

You can do more complex manipulations, or use helpers to do formatting as well.


The data view classes don’t support layouts. They assume that the view file will output the serialized content.

class XmlView

A view class for generating Xml view data. See above for how you can use XmlView in your application.

By default when using _serialize the XmlView will wrap your serialized view variables with a <response> node. You can set a custom name for this node using the _rootNode view variable.

New in version 2.3: The _rootNode feature was added.

New in version 2.6: The XmlView class supports the _xmlOptions variable that allows you to customize the options used to generate XML, e.g. tags vs attributes.

class JsonView

A view class for generating Json view data. See above for how you can use JsonView in your application.

New in version 2.6: JsonView now supports the _jsonOptions view variable. This allows you to configure the bit-mask options used when generating JSON.

JSONP response

New in version 2.4.

When using JsonView you can use the special view variable _jsonp to enable returning a JSONP response. Setting it to true makes the view class check if query string parameter named “callback” is set and if so wrap the json response in the function name provided. If you want to use a custom query string parameter name instead of “callback” set _jsonp to required name instead of true.