Tag Archives: pylons

Ruby on Rails… Revisited

Updated with links and a couple typo corrections.

Update: It wasn’t long before the project got too complex on the back end (SOAP blech) for my limited Ruby knowledge. I switched it back to Python/Pylons and never looked back. The Pylons => Rails migration was straightforward. I guess I could have pushed through with Ruby/Rails, but with deadlines looming, it made more sense for me to go with what I knew best. Being familiar Python and its ecosystem was far more pertinent than the deficiency of any particular library. There’s probably another blog post or two in here…

I’ve been working on a fairly big Web site project lately. My partner and I initially decided to use Django to build the site, mainly because I’m a Python “expert” and Django is (apparently) the #1 Python Web framework. We were also lured by the easy admin interface.

After trying to use Django and not really enjoying it, I tried switching to Pylons because I’ve had a good amount of experience with it in the building of byCycle.org. It’s gone through two fairly major releases since then, and so have a bunch of the libraries that tend to get used with it, like SQLAlchemy, Elixir, etc.

I was having a hard time with the Pylons docs, and so I ended screwing around with Grok (which actually looks fairly interesting) and even took a look at the Zope 3 site. I’m sure Zope is really awesome or whatever, but it might as well suck. Every time I look at that site, I’m just like “WTF! This shit has been around for like five years!” Anyway, I might just not be smart enough for Zope.

This led us back toward Rails (even if it is a ghetto). I used Rails a bit last year but never did anything too serious with it. Diving into it today was quite a pleasure. There are issues to be sure, but overall I’m enjoying it by far over any of the other options we had tried. I’m also enjoying learning/relearning Ruby.

If Pylons had good docs, we’d probably be using that.

So, I don’t know if this is a particularly useful post, since I didn’t get into much in the way of reasons (what, i have back this up?!). This subject’s been hashed and rehashed, but I just wanted (needed) to make a qualitative statement about my/our experience, which, of course, is purely personal.

Restler, a RESTful Base Controller for Pylons

Restler is a base controller for Pylons projects that provides a set of default RESTful(ish) actions that can be overridden as needed. It also handles database connectivity as long as a few simple rules are followed.

It adds a bit of convention-over-configuration to Pylons and takes some inspiration from Rails’ scaffold_resource generator.

Restler’s aim is twofold: 1) make it easier to get started with Pylons and 2) encourage a RESTful project architecture.

It attempts to remove some of the pain of database setup in a Pylons project by providing a default configuration. All users need to do is specify their connection settings with one line in a config file.

The project is hosted on GitHub.

PS If anyone happened to come across Restler on PyPI previously, some of the wonkiness has been removed (e.g., use of execfile to include restler) and most of the actions have been filled out such that they actually do (something closer to) the right thing.

PPS Sorry about the comment spam earlier on Planet Python. I’m not really sure why comments are coming through, and I don’t see any settings in Mephisto that would allow me to change that. I disabled comments for the offending post and emailed the Planet Python moderator to see if there’s anything that can be changed on that end.

Creating a (Google Maps) ToscaWidget

[Updated 28 Mar 2007 after tweaking twMaps according to Alberto’s comments.]

I’ve been watching ToscaWidgets (TW) for a while now and keep thinking that widgets could be very useful. I’ve been perusing the TW site and the new TW mailing list, and there doesn’t seem to be much documentation on how to create new widgets.

Today, I got the idea to create a Google Maps widget. It started with someone asking in the #pylons IRC channel about getting access to a domain-specific Google Maps API key from the configuration settings during a request.

In the byCycle trip planner, our API keys are buried in a JavaScript file, but the config file would be a much better place for them. But then there’s the question of how to stuff the right API key into the JavaScript at the right point. Widgets seemed like they might be the answer, and since a map widget is something that could be useful in the trip planner, I decided to dive in.

By looking through the examples in the TW documentation, the TW source, the twForms source, and this PDF of a presentation by Kevin Dangoor, I was able to get something reasonable working within a few hours. It’s even easy_install-able (easy_install twMaps).

I also created a simple Pylons project to test the widget. This entry on the new Python Web Documentation Project site was very helpful for showing how to integrate ToscaWidgets into a Pylons application (I assume there’ll soon be a magic incantation you can use instead of copying a bunch of stuff into your middleware settings).

What I’m going to focus on in this post is creating a new widget and packaging it up for use by others, using a recipe-style approach with commentary at each step. In a future post, I’ll show how to use the twMaps Google Maps widget in a Pylons project. For now, you can browse a sample Pylons app here.

Install ToscaWidgets

easy_install -U ToscaWidgets

Create a Package Layout

ToscaWidgets includes a paster template for creating a package layout:

paster create --template=toscawidgets

This will prompt for a bunch of info, then create a directory structure similar to this:

- twMaps
    - twMaps.egg-info
    - tests
    - toscawidgets
        - widgets
            - maps
                - release.py
                - samples.py
                - widgets.py
                - __init__.py
        - __init__.py
    - setup.cfg
    - setup.py

Under the maps directory, I added this:

                - static
                    - gmap
                        - gmap.css
                        - gmap.js
                    - templates
                        (Empty for now)
                    - gmap.py  (GMap widget class will go here)

This layout allows for multiple related widgets in a package. You could put multiple widgets in widgets.py and import them all into ‘maps.init.py’, but I prefer to put each widget into a separate module, then import each one into ‘maps.init.py’.

There are only a few files you need to create for each widget. It’s possible to write your HTML template, CSS, and Javascript inline in the widget module, but usually that’s a bad idea. In my case, the HTML template was so simple, that I wrote it inline anyway (which is why the templates directory is empty).

Create Your Widget

Conceptually, creating a widget is quite simple. You create your static resources (stylesheets and javascripts) and template and tie everything together in a widget class. In your Web app, you just import your widget, pass it some parameters, and tell it to display itself. (You have to add a few lines to your templates also—see below.)

The javascript

/* gmap.js */

twGMap = (function () {
  var api_url = 'http://maps.google.com/maps?file=api&v=2&key=';

  function $(id) {
    return document.getElementById(id);

  return {
    load_api: function (api_key) {
      document.write('<script type="text/javascript" src="api_key=%s"></script>');

     * ``opts`` is an Object that may contain the following keys:
     *     ``center_y``
     *     ``center_x``
     *     ``zoom``
    create_map: function(container_id, opts) {
      // We need ``_create_map`` to close over ``container_id`` and ``opts``
      var _create_map = function () {
        if (typeof(GMap2) == 'undefined') {
          setTimeout(_create_map, 1000);
        var container = $(container_id);
        var map = new GMap2(container);
        center_y = opts.center_y || 0;
        center_x = opts.center_x || 0;
        zoom = opts.zoom || 7;
        map.setCenter(new GLatLng(center_y, center_x), zoom);
        // TODO: add opts for everything below
        map.addControl(new GLargeMapControl());
        map.addControl(new GMapTypeControl());
        map.addControl(new GScaleControl());
        map.addControl(new GOverviewMapControl());
        new GKeyboardHandler(map);
        this.map = map;

There’s nothing particularly special about this; it’s just JavaScript.

(Aside: The only thing that may be interesting is the style, if you haven’t seen it before. The anonymous function that everything is wrapped in creates a private namespace. We can declare functions and vars in there and they’re not accessible from the outside. We return an anonymous literal object that exposes twGMap’s public interface. The private vars are accessible within this object.)

The stylesheet

/* gmap.css */

#twgmap {
    width: 400px;
    height: 400px;

Again, nothing interesting; just default dimensions to make sure the map will show up. A user could include a different stylesheet that overrides this.

We could probably also parameterize the dimension settings, send them to the “create_map“ JavaScript function, and set the map container dimensions using DOM methods (a good idea actually, now that I think of it). It would also be cool if it was possible to create CSS templates that can be filled in similarly to HTML templates. (It’s likely that this already possible and I just don’t know how to do it.)

The HTML template

Normally, you’d probably write your HTML template in a separate file under the templates directory. As you can see in the “GMap“ class below, though, the template for the the Google Maps widget is very simple, so I just wrote it inline.

To point to a template in a separate file, use Buffet syntax, which looks something like this:

template = 'template-package:path.to.template'

The widget class

Here’s where things start to get interesting. The HTML template, JS and CSS above are just standard stuff, and we could use them by copying them into our project and using script and link tags to include the JS and CSS in the template.

In other words, we don’t need to create a widget, but there are some compelling reasons for why we might want to.

For one thing, we normally have separate directories for different types of files (css, js, etc). We don’t have to do this—we could create a widgets directory with a layout similar to the one above. This would get us part way there in that it would at least be a little easier to detach a particular widget from a project and use it somewhere else.

Using Widgets, though, allows complete separation; the files don’t need to be copied into your project at all. You just import the widget and it sets things up so your framework knows how to access the widget’s resources. This makes it really easy for you to reuse your widgets and share them. In turn, it makes it easy for you to use other widgets (the twForms package has a bunch, for example).

Another thing that’s nice with Widgets is that we don’t have to manually include widget templates or script and link tags ourselves. The widget system knows how to do that for us, so that all that’s required to display a widget in a page is telling it to display itself in a particular place in the page.

So, there are some reasons to use widgets; now, let’s look at the code.

# gmap.py

from toscawidgets.api import Widget, CSSLink, JSLink, js_function

__all__ = ['GMap']

twgmap_css = CSSLink(modname=__name__, filename='static/gmap/gmap.css',
twgmap_js = JSLink(modname=__name__, filename='static/gmap/gmap.js')

class GMap(Widget):
    params = ['css_class', 'map_opts']
    css_class = 'twgmap'
    map_opts = {'api_key': None, 'center_y': 0, 'center_x': 0, 'zoom': 14}
    template = '

    css = [twgmap_css]
    javascript = [twgmap_js]
    include_dynamic_js_calls = True

    def __init__(self, id=None, parent=None, children=[], **kw):
        self.map_opts.update(kw.get('map_opts', {}))
        super(GMap, self).__init__(id, parent, children, **kw)

    def update_params(self, d):
        super(GMap, self).update_params(d)
        self.add_call('twGMap.load_api("%s");' % self.map_opts['api_key'])
        create_map = js_function('twGMap.create_map')
        # Use initial map opts as base...
        map_opts = self.map_opts.copy()
        # ...then update with map opts in ``d``
        map_opts.update(d.get('map_opts', {}))
        for k in map_opts:
            try: v = float(map_opts[k])
            except: pass
            else: map_opts[k] = v
        self.add_call(create_map(self.id, map_opts))

There’s not a whole lot to it in the end.

“CSSLink“, in essence, creates a stylesheet link tag. The link is relative to the “modname“ package so that if “modname“ is twmaps.widgets.maps.gmap and filename is static/my_widget/my_widget.css, the full path to the CSS file will be /twmaps.widgets.maps.gmap/static/my_widget/my_widget.css. “JSLink“ does the same thing.

Basically, CSSLink and JSLink are just fancy ways to create CSS & JS tags that can be associated with a widget in Python. Using “twgmap_css“ from the example above, twgmap_css.display() outputs `<link rel=”stylesheet” type=”text/css” href=”/twmaps.widgets.maps.gmap/static/gmap/gmap.css” media=”screen” />`.

Inside the “GMap“ class:

“params“ are the params that can be set when creating a widget; they get added to the “params“ list of any base classes. We can set a default value for a param, as I did with both “css_class“ and “map_opts“. (I think params can be set to be required too.)

The first argument passed to the constructor becomes the “id“ param. (One issue I had was that I was unable to set a default “id“ and then override it.)

“template“ is the HTML template for the widget. It can either be specified directly as a string or as pointer to an external template file. The names in “params“ are available in the template (e.g., ${css_class}).

“css“ is a list of CSS resources; note that it must be a list, even if it just contains one item

“javascript“ is just like “css“ (at least in basic usage)

“include_dynamic_js_calls“ tells the widget to include JavaScript function calls during page load; you specify these functions using “self.add_call“. The argument to “add_call“ is JavaScript code in the form of a string. Those JS calls are added to the bottom of the HTML body.

In the code above, I used “js_function“ to generate a Python function that when called, creates a string of JS code. The arguments to that function are converted to JSON, which become the args to the JS function call.

So there you have it: set up some CSS and JS links, point to your HTML template, define parameters for the widget that you can pass through to your template and/or JS, add some callbacks to initialize your JS, and that’s about it.

Example usage:

>>> from toscawidgets.widgets import maps
>>> opts = {'api_key': 'XYZ', 'center_y': 45, 'center_x': -123}
>>> map_widget = maps.gmap.GMap('twgmap', map_opts=opts)
>>> map_widget.display()
'<div id="twgmap" class="twgmap"></div>'


Tests would be a good thing to add, yes. Using `paster create` to generate the package layout creates a tests package to use as a starting point.

Package It Up

Packaging is a matter of writing a setup.py file that contains various metadata (name, license, and so forth) and then running a build command. Using the `paster create` command generates a setup.py—it prompts for the metadata and fills in setup.py with that metadata and the necessary commands. It may be necessary to tweak setup.py, but then again, it may not.

Once setup.py is in order, we can run python setup.py bdist_egg. The resulting egg can be found in the dist directory. You could post this somewhere and people could download it and install it using python setup.py install. It’s much cooler though to put the package up on PyPI (AKA cheeseshop). Here’s one way to do that:

python setup.py register  # follow instructions
python setup.py register bdist_egg upload
python setup.py register sdist upload
easy_install YourPackage


Install latest version of twMaps

easy_install -U twMaps

Check out the code, including a sample Pylons app

svn co http://guest:guest@svn.bycycle.org/spinoffs/twMaps


That concludes creating and packaging a ToscaWidget. In an upcoming post, I’ll go through an example of using the GMap widget in a Pylons project.

Please add any corrections, suggestions, etc in the comments. If you have any questions, I’ll try to answer them, but keep in mind that I am just getting started with TW myself.