The .htaccess File

Htaccess (HyperText Access) is a simple configuration file that allows web programmer, developers and designers to alter the configuration of the Apache Web Server in order to provide additional functionality. Such functionality can include redirecting users, URL re-writes and providing password-protected directories; but it can do so much more…

Creating an .htaccess file is simple. First open Notepad or a similar text-based program, switch off word-wrap, add the code and save the file in the usual way. Save the file as “htaccess.txt”. Upload the new file to the relevant directory on your web server and then rename it to “.htaccess”. Be sure to check the files permissions (644).

A .htaccess file will affect the directory it is placed in and all resulting sub-directories. Therefore, if you add your ‘.htaccess’ file to the ‘web site root’ then it will affect all subsequent folders in the root.

Editing the .htaccess file

You can use the # symbol to comment out lines of text/commands like:

# this is a comment
# this is another comment

Useful Snippets

Directory Index

Change a default index file of directory with:

DirectoryIndex home.html home.php

Custom Error Pages

Redirect your users to an error page with:

ErrorDocument 404 error.html

And you can extend this like so:

ErrorDocument 400 /400.html
ErrorDocument 401 /401.html
ErrorDocument 403 /403.html
ErrorDocument 404 /404.html
ErrorDocument 500 /500.html
ErrorDocument 502 /502.html
ErrorDocument 504 /504.html

NB: Remember to create your error pages!

Remove the Need for www in Your URL

Keep your site consistent by removing the need for ‘www’ by using:

RewriteEngine On
RewriteBase /
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^ [NC]
RewriteRule ^(.*)$$1 [L,R=301]

Set the Time Zone for Your Server

SetEnv TZ Europe/London

Control Access to Files

The .htaccess is most often used to restrict or deny access to individual files and folders, like so:

deny from all

If you would like to be more specific and ban a specific IP address then you could use:

order allow,deny
deny from XXX.XXX.XXX.XXX
allow from all

or alternatively for several IP addresses, you could use:

allow from all
deny from
deny from 124.15

301 Permanent Redirects

Redirect Old links to the new ones (when launching a new website)

Redirect 301 /olddirectory/myoldfile.html

Set the Email Address for the Server Administrator

By using the following code you can specify the default email address for the server administrator:

ServerSignature EMail

Detecting Tablets and Redirecting

If you would like to redirect tablet-based users to a particular web page or directory, try:

RewriteCond %{HTTP_USER_AGENT} ^.*iPad.*$
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ [R=301]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_USER_AGENT} ^.*Android.*$
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ [R=301]

Link Protection

Concerned about hotlinking or simply want to reduce your bandwidth usage? Try experimenting with:

Options +FollowSymlinks
RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^$
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^http://(www.)? [nc]
RewriteRule .*.(gif|jpg|png)$ [nc]

Force “File Save As”

If you would like force users to download files rather than view them in the browser you could use:

AddType application/octet-stream .csv
AddType application/octet-stream .xls
AddType application/octet-stream .doc
AddType application/octet-stream .avi
AddType application/octet-stream .mpg
AddType application/octet-stream .mov
AddType application/octet-stream .pdf

or you simplify this as:

AddType application/octet-stream .avi .mpg .mov .pdf .xls .mp4

Rewrite URLs

If you would like to make your URLs a little easier to read (ie changing content.php?id=92 to content-92.html) you could implement the following ‘rewrite’ rules:

RewriteEngine on
RewriteRule ^content-([0-9]+)\.html$ content.php?id=$1

Redirect Browser to https

This is always useful for those who have just installed an SSL certificate:

RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{HTTPS} !on
RewriteRule (.*) https://%{HTTP_HOST}%{REQUEST_URI}

Activate SSI

If you want to activate SSI for HTML and or SHTML file types, try:

AddType text/html .html
AddType text/html .shtml
AddHandler server-parsed .html
AddHandler server-parsed .shtml
AddHandler server-parsed .htm

Disable or Enable Directory browsing

# disable directory browsing
Options All -Indexes
# enable directory browsing
Options All +Indexes

Change the Charset and Language headers

For those who want to change the current character set and language for a specific directory use:

AddDefaultCharset UTF-8
DefaultLanguage en-GB

Block Unwanted Referrals

If you want to block unwanted visitors from a particular website or range of websites you could use:

RewriteEngine on
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} [NC,OR]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} [NC,OR]
RewriteRule .* - [F]

Block Unwanted User Agents

With the following method, you could save your bandwidth by blocking certain bots or spiders from trawling your website:

SetEnvIfNoCase ^User-Agent$ .*(bot1|bot2|bot3|bot4|bot5|bot6|) HTTP_SAFE_BADBOT
SetEnvIfNoCase ^User-Agent$ .*(bot1|bot2|bot3|bot4|bot5|bot6|) HTTP_SAFE_BADBOT
Deny from env=HTTP_SAFE_BADBOT

Block Access to a Comprehensive Range of Files

If you want to protect particular files, or even block access to the .htaccess file, try customising the following code:

order allow,deny
deny from all
<FilesMatch ".(htaccess|htpasswd|ini|phps|fla|psd|log|sh)$">
Order Allow,Deny
Deny from all

And Lastly …

For reasons of security alone, I think the chance to rename the .htaccess file is very useful:

AccessFileName ht.access