Fastest web stack you could possibly set up for prototyping

Categories Development, hack, Working smart

You should be already used to my religious prototyping habits – I tend to try out a lot of stuff, build a lot of things that I later discard and so on.

Knowing that I do this a lot, I tend to actively look for tools that are either very easy to set up or that don’t even have an install footprint. Last year (I think) I found Mongoose, and used it to replace my normal prototyping instance – an Apache instance that I had running all the time on my dev machine.

Mongoose turned out to be the best choice, being just an executable (small – in the hundreds of kilo range) that you can run to get an instant web server, serving files from any folder.

My normal usage is to copy the Mongoose binary and a small config file to an empty folder and then to start churning out HTML, CSS and JavaScript – and it worked fabulous… until I needed something dynamic and I was forced to switch back to Apache.

Well, tonight I got my revenge. I needed some dynamic calls to test a RESTful API, and because my API builder is not ready yet I had to resort to some fast PHP hacking.

As my new home dev machine is not fully configured yet and I had no Apache installed and configured I thought what the hell, how’s about trying to hook up the Mongoose CGI. I knew it had support for it but I never tried it before, until now.

So, without further a due, I present the fastest setup for a prototyping web stack (on Windows) ever:

1. Create a folder – duh

2. Get the latest Mongoose binary from and copy it to the folder

3. Get the latest PHP zip distribution from, unzip it and copy the php support files for CGI to the folder (php-cgi.exe, php5.dll and php.ini are enough)

4. Create a mongoose.conf file with the following lines:

listening_ports 80
document_root .
cgi_pattern **.php$
cgi_interpreter .\php-cgi.exe

5. Run the Mongoose binary (I usually rename mine to mng.exe) and access it with your favorite browser

And that’s it, you now have a web server and PHP configured, all under 5 minutes. Enjoy!


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