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Outputting CSV with Django
This document explains how to output CSV (Comma Separated Values) dynamically
using Django views. To do this, you can either use the Python CSV library or the
Django template system.
Using the Python CSV library
Python comes with a CSV library, :mod:`csv`. The key to using it with Django is
that the :mod:`csv` module's CSV-creation capability acts on file-like objects,
and Django's :class:`~django.http.HttpResponse` objects are file-like objects.
Here's an example::
import csv
from django.http import HttpResponse
def some_view(request):
# Create the HttpResponse object with the appropriate CSV header.
response = HttpResponse(mimetype='text/csv')
response['Content-Disposition'] = 'attachment; filename="somefilename.csv"'
writer = csv.writer(response)
writer.writerow(['First row', 'Foo', 'Bar', 'Baz'])
writer.writerow(['Second row', 'A', 'B', 'C', '"Testing"', "Here's a quote"])
return response
The code and comments should be self-explanatory, but a few things deserve a
* The response gets a special MIME type, :mimetype:`text/csv`. This tells
browsers that the document is a CSV file, rather than an HTML file. If
you leave this off, browsers will probably interpret the output as HTML,
which will result in ugly, scary gobbledygook in the browser window.
* The response gets an additional ``Content-Disposition`` header, which
contains the name of the CSV file. This filename is arbitrary; call it
whatever you want. It'll be used by browsers in the "Save as..."
dialogue, etc.
* Hooking into the CSV-generation API is easy: Just pass ``response`` as the
first argument to ``csv.writer``. The ``csv.writer`` function expects a
file-like object, and :class:`~django.http.HttpResponse` objects fit the
* For each row in your CSV file, call ``writer.writerow``, passing it an
iterable object such as a list or tuple.
* The CSV module takes care of quoting for you, so you don't have to worry
about escaping strings with quotes or commas in them. Just pass
``writerow()`` your raw strings, and it'll do the right thing.
Handling Unicode
Python's :mod:`csv` module does not support Unicode input. Since Django uses
Unicode internally this means strings read from sources such as
:class:`~django.http.HttpRequest` are potentially problematic. There are a few
options for handling this:
* Manually encode all Unicode objects to a compatible encoding.
* Use the ``UnicodeWriter`` class provided in the `csv module's examples
* Use the `python-unicodecsv module`_, which aims to be a drop-in
replacement for :mod:`csv` that gracefully handles Unicode.
For more information, see the Python documentation of the :mod:`csv` module.
.. _`csv module's examples section`:
.. _`python-unicodecsv module`:
Using the template system
Alternatively, you can use the :doc:`Django template system </topics/templates>`
to generate CSV. This is lower-level than using the convenient Python :mod:`csv`
module, but the solution is presented here for completeness.
The idea here is to pass a list of items to your template, and have the
template output the commas in a :ttag:`for` loop.
Here's an example, which generates the same CSV file as above::
from django.http import HttpResponse
from django.template import loader, Context
def some_view(request):
# Create the HttpResponse object with the appropriate CSV header.
response = HttpResponse(mimetype='text/csv')
response['Content-Disposition'] = 'attachment; filename="somefilename.csv"'
# The data is hard-coded here, but you could load it from a database or
# some other source.
csv_data = (
('First row', 'Foo', 'Bar', 'Baz'),
('Second row', 'A', 'B', 'C', '"Testing"', "Here's a quote"),
t = loader.get_template('my_template_name.txt')
c = Context({
'data': csv_data,
return response
The only difference between this example and the previous example is that this
one uses template loading instead of the CSV module. The rest of the code --
such as the ``mimetype='text/csv'`` -- is the same.
Then, create the template ``my_template_name.txt``, with this template code:
.. code-block:: html+django
{% for row in data %}"{{ row.0|addslashes }}", "{{ row.1|addslashes }}", "{{ row.2|addslashes }}", "{{ row.3|addslashes }}", "{{ row.4|addslashes }}"
{% endfor %}
This template is quite basic. It just iterates over the given data and displays
a line of CSV for each row. It uses the :tfilter:`addslashes` template filter to
ensure there aren't any problems with quotes.
Other text-based formats
Notice that there isn't very much specific to CSV here -- just the specific
output format. You can use either of these techniques to output any text-based
format you can dream of. You can also use a similar technique to generate
arbitrary binary data; see :doc:`/howto/outputting-pdf` for an example.
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