Serve Files with Custom Formats

Out of the box, Tiled can serve a directory of files that have common formats with recognizable file names like *.csv, *.tiff, or *.h5. In this guide, we will configure it to recognize files that have nonstandard (e.g. custom) names and/or custom formats.


Tiled is not limited to serving data from files.

Large deployements typically involve a database, supporting fast search on metadata, and perhaps external files or “blob stores” with large data.

But starting with files is a good way to get rolling with Tiled.

Formats are named using “MIME types”

Tiled refers to formats using a web standard called MIME types a.k.a. “media types”. MIME types look like:


There is an official list of registered MIME types, and if an official one exists we use it. If a format is not registered, then the standard tells us to use text/x-SOMETHING if the format is textual or application/x-SOMETHING if it is binary. For example, we use text/x-xdi for XDI and applicaiton/x-hdf5 for HDF5, formats which are not registered.

Case 1: Unfamiliar File Extension

Suppose you have data files that are formatted in a supported format like CSVs. If they were named *.csv then Tiled could handle them natively without any additional configuration:

tiled serve directory path/to/directory

But if they use some unusual extension like *.stuff Tiled needs to be told that it should read *.stuff files like CSVs.

Map the unfamiliar file extension to a MIME type

tiled serve directory path/to/directory --ext '.stuff=text/csv'

We are mapping the file extension, .stuff (including the leading .) to the MIME type text/csv.

Multiple file extensions can be mapped to the same MIME type. For example, Tiled’s default configuration maps both .tif and .tiff to image/tiff. Multiple custom mapping can be specified by using --ext repeatedly.

Case 2: No File Extension

Not all files have a name like <name>.<extension>. Some have no dot, like:


Others do have a dot, but the part after the dot is not really a file extension; it does not signify the format. Instead, it’s scientific metadata of some kind, as in:


Write a custom function for detecting the MIME type

The best solution is to avoid naming files like this, but we cannot always control how our files are named. To cope with this, we need to write a Python function.


def detect_mimetype(filepath, mimetype):
    if mimetype is None:
        # If we are here, detection based on file extension came up empty.
        mimetype = "text/csv"
    return mimetype

The function detect_mimetype will be passed the full filepath (e.g. path/to/filename) not just the filename. It can use this to examine the filename or even open the file to, for example, look for a file signature. The function will also be passed the mimetype, if any, that was detected based on its file extension. Therefore, this function can be used to catch files that have no file extension or to override the determination based file extension if it is wrong.

Place in the current working directory and reference it like this:

tiled serve directory path/to/directory --mimetype-hook custom:detect_mimetype
  • The names and detect_mimetype are arbitrary.

  • The function may be in the any importable location; it does not have to be in the current working directory. Functions in nested packages can referenced like package.module.submodule:function_name. Notice the .s between modules and the : before the function.

  • The --mimetype-hook may be used in combination with --ext above.

Case 3: Custom Format

In this case we format that Tiled cannot read. It’s not just a familiar format with an unfamiliar name; it’s a new format that Tiled needs to be taught how to read.

Choose a MIME type

Referring back to the top of this guide, we need to choose a MIME type to refer to this format by. As an example, we’ll call our format


The is, of course, some risk of name collisions when we invent names outside of the official list of MIME types, so be specific.

Write a custom adapter

Tiled must represent the content of your file as:

  • An array + a dictionary of metadata

  • A table + dictionary of metadata

  • A nested structure (i.e. directory-like hierarchy) of the above

You must choose which is appropriate for this data format. Examples for each structure follow.

Simple Array example

from tiled.adapters.array import ArrayAdapter

def read_custom_format(filepath, metadata=None, **kwargs):
    # Extract an array and an optional dictionary of metadata
    # from your file.
    array = ...  # a numpy array
    if metadata is None:
        metadata = ...  # a dictionary or None
    return ArrayAdapter.from_array(array, metadata=metadata, **kwargs)

Simple Tabular example

from tiled.adapters.table import TableAdapter

def read_custom_format(filepath, metadata=None, **kwargs):
    # Extract a DataFrame and an optional dictionary of metadata
    # from your file.
    df = ...  # a pandas DataFrame
    if metadata is None:
        metadata = ...  # a dictionary or None
    return TableAdapter.from_pandas(df, npartitions=1, metadata=metadata, **kwargs)

Simple Nested Structure example

from tiled.adapters.array import ArrayAdapter
from tiled.adapters.table import TableAdapter
from tiled.adapters.mapping import MapAdapter

def read_custom_format(filepath, metadata=None, **kwargs):

    # Build a dictionary (potentially nested) of arrays and/or tables.
    # See examples above for ArrayAdapter and TableAdapter usage.

    if metadata is None:
        metadata = ...  # a dictionary or None
    return MapAdapter(
            "stuff": ArrayAdapter.from_array(...),
            "things": TableAdapter.from_pandas(...),

Advanced: Delay I/O

See the implementations in the pacakage tiled.adapters for more advanced examples, especially ways to refer reading the entire file up front if the user only wants to read part of it.

Advanced: Mark up Structure with optional “Specs”

If the array, table, or nested structure follows some convention or standard for its internal layout or naming scheme, it can be useful to notate that. Some Tiled clients may be able to use that information to provide additional functionality or performance.

See :doc:../explanations/metadata for more information on Specs.

Specify them as an argument to the Adapter, as in:

TableAdapter.from_pandas(..., specs=["xdi"])

Configure Tiled Server to use this Adapter

Our configuration file should use mimetypes_by_file_ext (Case 1) or mimetype_detection_hook (Case 2) to recognize this custom file. Additionally, it should add a section adapters_by_mimetype to map our MIME type application/x-stuff to our custom function.

Again, Tiled will find if it is placed in the same directory as config.yml. The name is arbitrary, and you can have multiple such files if needed.

# config.yml
  - tree: catalog
    path: /
      uri: ./catalog.db
        - path/to/directory
        application/x-stuff: custom:read_custom_format

We then use the configuration file like this:

tiled serve config config.yml --api-key secret

and register the files in a separate step. Use --ext and/or --mimetype-hook described above to register files as your custom MIME type (e.g. application/x-stuff). For example:

tiled register http://localhost:8000 \
  --api-key secret \
  --verbose \
  --ext '.stuff=application/x-stuff' \
  --adapter 'application/x-stuff=custom:read_custom_format' \