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When Apache encounters an error, it displays a designated error message that's prebuilt into the server. For example, let's say that you try to load a page that Apache can't find or that doesn't exist. Apache returns a 404 (page not found) error and provides a rather drab Web page that indicates the error (and often the e-mail address of the Webmaster).
Apache draws this information from the data stored in the httpd.conf configuration file. However, you can spice things up by creating your own error documents.
Your error documents can be regular HTML, PHP, or any other Web document that the server supports. For instance, to create a new error message for a 404 error that better fits your site, use something like the following:
ErrorDocument 404 /404.php
You can use this globally or inside a VirtualHost stanza to affect one particular domain.
Of course, you must supply the file; in this example, it's 404.php, located at http://www.yoursite.com/404.php. This file should contain the error message and anything else you want to specify.
You can also do this for any other error message type. In addition, you can present custom error messages without creating a whole page. Here's an example:
ErrorDocument 500 "The server has encountered a problem. Please send flowers."
Vincent Danen works on the Red Hat Security Response Team and lives in Canada. He has been writing about and developing on Linux for over 10 years and is a veteran Mac user.