Templating in Python

Templating, and in particular web templating is a way to represent data in different forms. These forms often (but not always) intended to be readable, even attractive, to a human audience. Frequently, templating solutions involve a document (the template) and data. Template usually looks much like the final output, with placeholders instead of actual data (or example data in simplified form), bears common style and visual elements. Data which is presented using that template may be also separated in two parts - data required to be rendered, and data required for template itself (navigation elements if it is a site, button names if it is some UI). Combining template+data produces the final output which is usually (but not always) a web page of some kind.

Templating Engines

There are many, many different HTML/XML templating packages and modules for Python that provide different feature sets and syntaxes. These libraries usually assume that you know how to write HTML or XML.

The number of templating engines is so great because the mechanisms involved are pretty easy to write in Python, at least for a fairly basic template engine; this recipe from the Python Cookbook shows how easy it is.

Engines using Value Substitution

The simplest form of templating engine is that which merely substitutes values into a template in order to produce the final output. They sometimes provide tags for if statements or loops, but they are crude.

Engines Mixing Logic into Templates

A popular approach with templating engines is to embed logic or control-flow statements into the templates themselves in a way that can make the the final output appear rather different from the original template. For example:

  for item in items:
      <td><%= item.name %></td>

The introduction of such logic may also cause problems for some XML-based tools. Despite these shortcomings, such templating engines may be more applicable to non-Web templating problems or for situations where separating logic from content may actually make the solution harder to understand.

Engines with Annotated Templates

The following engines feature template documents whose sections are marked using special attributes (or, less frequently, special elements or tags). For example:

<table annotation:element="items">
  <tr annotation:element="item">

In some systems, the sections are then manipulated within program code; in others, the template structure indicates sections which are to be repeated, omitted, and so on, and the templating system then merges the template with some data structure provided by the program. Generally, the reason for annotating templates in this way (particularly through the use of attributes) is to better support the editing of such templates in XML-based tools which might otherwise complain about or damage template information if it were not included carefully in documents.

In other systems, the annotations are actually evaluated in order to produce repeated sections, to omit or include sections, and so on:

HTML Shorthand Processors

The libraries in this section implement simpler markup languages that can be automatically converted to HTML. This lets you avoid having to write HTML by hand.

Template engines implemented as Internal DSL's

These engines are implemented as an internal DSL, that is, they don't process text into markup, rather they represent the final document as actual Python code and data structures. See: An overview of the benefits of this internal DSL approach vs external template languages

HTML Generation Packages

Many of these links are dead. Perhaps someone more knowledgeable might want to fix or prune them.

These packages are not really templating systems in that they do not typically employ a template document as such to define the form of the output they produce, but they can be useful in applications where it is more convenient to programmatically generate output.

Static Website Generators

Static website generators are more than templating engines in that they create the whole site structure, not just individual files. While templating is an important part of their function, determining the site structure and incorporating structural information in the output (for example to automatically generate navigational elements) is what really makes a static website generator a useful tool.

See StaticSiteGenerator for the list.

Java Templating Engines

The following templating engines are accessible or usable via Jython:

CPython-accessible C Templating Engines


Templating (last edited 2016-03-20 22:51:36 by Anthon van der Neut)

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