What is Lasso?

Lasso is a dynamic scripting language designed for creating dynamic, data-driven websites. Lasso gives website pages the ability to be dynamic by integrating with a web server to create the content of the pages on-the-fly, pages which are then sent to a web browser.


A web page is essentially just a text document, like a Microsoft Word document or a PDF. When you open up a PDF to look at it, the PDF reader on your computer takes the code which makes up the document and paints it on the screen to make it readable for you.

In the same way, a web browser on your computer (like Safari or Chrome or Internet Explorer) takes a document and displays. When you request a web page, your computer goes out to the Internet and requests a document to be read. These documents are typically made with a specific set of descriptive wrappers, called “HTML”, which define what and where elements should be placed on the page.

Body Tag

If you take some basic text, and put it into a text document, you can open up that document with a browser and see your text. In this example, we’ll include the “body tag”, as it defines what should be in the body of the visible portion of the page in an HTML document:

   <body>Hello! I am an HTML document</body>

which would look like this in your browser:

Hello! I am an HTML document

Dealing with Dynamically Changing Content

However, websites these days are much more dynamic and have constantly changing information and content. This isn’t magic; the server must do the lifting for you. What follows is a simple example.

Display Current Date

Let’s say you wanted your document to show the current date. One inefficient way to do this would be to open your HTML document every day and manually change the date in your document. Then, when anyone viewed your document, they would get the correct date on your web page. Doing this would be an inefficient use of your time when you could use the server to do it automatically for you.

One way to have the server automatically update the date for you would be to write a script to open up the document every day and change the date for you. This works great until you want to show something more granular like seconds. Then you would have to open the document every second and change it. This wouldn’t just be inefficient for a human, but inefficient for a server; especially if the website has many pages that may need updating.

Instead, you can use Lasso to dynamically insert the date for you, whenever a browser requests the page. Here is how you would do it.

Create a file named “index.lasso” inside the web root for your website. Place the following code in that document:

   <body>Hello! I am an HTML document. Today is [date].</body>

When someone requests this document from the server, the server will use Lasso to find and process the Lasso code. In this case, the [date] portion of the page will be replaced with “2013-07-24 09:12:35”, so the document sent to the browser would be this:

   <body>Hello! I am an HTML document. Today is 2013-07-24 09:12:35.</body>

The person viewing this document wouldn’t see the underlying HTML code, but just the text in the body.

In order to make the date appear more meaningfully, you would have to adapt the Lasso code to display the date in the manner you intended. For example:

   <body>Hello! I am an HTML document. Today is [date->format('E, MMMM d, YYYY')].</body>

This would have the date display as “Wed, July 24, 2013”.

What we have just done here is embedded Lasso code into a document. With Lasso properly installed and configured, the web server will ask Lasso to process the document and create a response for it to send back to the requesting web browser. When Lasso processes the document, it looks for the embedded Lasso code to execute between special delimiters and leaves the rest of the document alone. Text that is between square brackets ([ ... ]) or <?lasso ... ?> or <?= ... ?> is interpreted as Lasso code.

Let’s take a closer look at the Lasso code we just used. In the first example, it was simply date. This creates a date object with the current date and time. Think of an object as an item that can be interacted with. In the second example, we are interacting with the object by calling its format method with a special string that tells it how we want it to format itself for display. (More on creating and working with objects in future chapters.)

This is a very simple example, so let’s move to something a little more complex.