This is an overview of the major components of Tiled.


Tiled ships with a Python client. This is separable from the rest of the project, and could potentially someday be split off as a separate package. The client enables the user to navigate and access the data in a Tiled server using familiar Python item-lookup and slicing idioms, while it generates HTTP requests to transfer metadata and data.

Connection Context

When the user connects, a Context object is created. The Context is shared by all client-side objects that use this connection. It wraps an httpx HTTP client, which in turn wraps an HTTP connection pool and (if applicable) authentication-related state—either an API key or a pair of OAuth2 access and refresh tokens.

Further Reading:

Client-side Caching

The Context also may hold an HTTP response Cache, similar to a web browser’s cache. This is currently not enabled by default because it is experimental.

Further Reading:


The Tiled HTTP server is built using the framework FastAPI, which is built on Starlette. A key feature of FastAPI is auto-generated OpenAPI documentation, which Tiled serves at the GET /docs endpoint. FastAPI works with Pydantic to parse and validate requests.


Most endpoints require authentication, unless the server is configured to be public. For single-user deployments, a single API key is specified or randomly generated at server startup. For multi-user deployments, an Authentication Database (PostgreSQL or SQLite) is used to store session information and to validate API keys.

Further Reading:

Accessing Data and Metadata

Endpoints that serve metadata or data resolve the URL path to identify the relevant Adapter, which returns the data as a scientific data structure. It may be a “lazy” data structure, representing data that will be loaded later – on demand and piecemeal.

Content Negotiation and Serializers

The endpoint implements content negotiation, comparing the list of requested formats that are accepted by the client to those supported by the server for this particular dataset. It dispatches to a registry of Serializers, which convert the data structure into bytes which can be sent in a response by FastAPI. Custom serializers may be registered during server configuration.

Further Reading:


On its way, the response may be compressed, again using content negotiation to compare the list of compression schemes supported by the client (if any) to those the server deems appropriate to the dataset.


In Tiled, an Adapter provides a standard interface to data, regardless of how it is stored. Adapters that wrap different structure have different interfaces. For example, an array adapter implements read_block whereas a table adapter implements read_partition. But all array adapters are alike, and all table adapters are alike. They enable the server to abstract over the details of how to get the data.

Typically Adapters take a filepath or URI and, perhaps, some additional configuration. For development, test, or demonstration purposes, Adapters can wrap in-memory data, such as a numpy array. Several Adapters are included in the Tiled codebase, in the spirit of “batteries included,” but Adapters can be defined in external modules, too, and operate on the same footing as the built-in ones.

Further Reading:


The Catalog is an Adapter that stores the metadata and structure for a potentially large number of datasets in a SQL database (PostgreSQL or SQLite). This enables it to efficiently respond to metadata requests and search requests without opening any data files. Requests for data are then dispatched down to the appropriate Adapter which can load the data from the given storage medium and format.

Not all Tiled servers are configured to use the Catalog:

  • Demo deployments wrapping a handful of datasets use data Adapters directly, with no need for a database.

  • Specialized deployments with custom Adapters may use a custom database or external service.

But for most standard applications, including serving a directory of files or providing a writable data store, the Catalog is used.

See Catalog Database for an explanation of the database.