10.2. Document submission using HTML Forms

It is possible to write to a CouchDB document directly from an HTML form by using a document update function. Here’s how:

10.2.1. The HTML form

First, write an HTML form. Here’s a simple “Contact Us” form excerpt:

<form action="/dbname/_design/ddocname/_update/contactform" method="post">
        <label for="name">Name:</label>
        <input type="text" id="name" name="name" />
        <label for="mail">Email:</label>
        <input type="text" id="mail" name="email" />
        <label for="msg">Message:</label>
        <textarea id="msg" name="message"></textarea>

Customize the /dbname/_design/ddocname/_update/contactform portion of the form action URL to reflect the exact path to your database, design document and update function (see below).

As CouchDB no longer recommends the use of CouchDB-hosted web applications , you may want to use a reverse proxy to expose CouchDB as a subdirectory of your web application. If so, add that prefix to the action destination in the form.

Another option is to alter CouchDB’s CORS settings and use a cross-domain POST. Be sure you understand all security implications before doing this!

10.2.2. The update function

Then, write an update function. This is the server-side JavaScript function that will receive the POST-ed data.

The first argument to the function will be the document that is being processed (if it exists). Because we are using POST and not PUT, this should be empty in our scenario - but we should check to be sure. The POST-ed data will be passed as the second parameter to the function, along with any query parameters and the full request headers.

Here’s a sample handler that extracts the form data, generates a document _id based on the email address and timestamp, and saves the document. It then returns a JSON success response back to the browser.

function(doc, req) {

    if (doc) {
        return [doc, toJSON({"error": "request already filed"})]

    if !(request.form && request.form.email) {
        return [null, toJSON({"error": "incomplete form"})]

    var date = new Date()
    var newdoc = req.form
    newdoc._id = req.form.email + "_" + date.toISOString()

    return [newdoc, toJSON({"success":"ok"})]

Place the above function in your design document under the updates key.

Note that this function does not attempt any sort of input validation or sanitization. That is best handled by a validate document update function instead. (A “VDU” will validate any document written to the database, not just those that use your update function.)

If the first element passed to return is a document, the HTTP response headers will include X-Couch-Id, the _id value for the newly created document, and X-Couch-Update-NewRev, the _rev value for the newly created document. This is handy if your client-side code wants to access or update the document in a future call.

10.2.3. Example output

Here’s the worked sample above, using curl to simulate the form POST.

$ curl -X PUT localhost:5984/testdb/_design/myddoc -d '{ "updates": { "contactform": "function(doc, req) { ... }" } }'

$ curl --data "name=Lin&[email protected]&message=I Love CouchDB" http://localhost:5984/testdb/_design/myddoc/_update/contactform
*   Trying
* Connected to localhost ( port 5984 (#1)
> POST /testdb/_design/myddoc/_update/contactform HTTP/1.1
> Host: localhost:5984
> User-Agent: curl/7.59.0
> Accept: */*
> Content-Length: 53
> Content-Type: application/x-www-form-urlencoded
* upload completely sent off: 53 out of 53 bytes
< HTTP/1.1 201 Created
< Content-Length: 16
< Content-Type: text/html; charset=utf-8
< Date: Thu, 05 Apr 2018 19:56:42 GMT
< Server: CouchDB/2.2.0-948a1311c (Erlang OTP/19)
< X-Couch-Id: lin%40example.com_2018-04-05T19:51:22.278Z
< X-Couch-Request-ID: 03a5f4fbe0
< X-Couch-Update-NewRev: 1-34483732407fcc6cfc5b60ace48b9da9
< X-CouchDB-Body-Time: 0
* Connection #1 to host localhost left intact

$ curl http://localhost:5984/testdb/lin\@example.com_2018-04-05T19:51:22.278Z
{"_id":"[email protected]_2018-04-05T19:51:22.278Z","_rev":"1-34483732407fcc6cfc5b60ace48b9da9","name":"Lin","email":"[email protected]","message":"I Love CouchDB"}