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Writing your first Django app, part 3
This tutorial begins where :doc:`Tutorial 2 </intro/tutorial02>` left off. We're
continuing the Web-poll application and will focus on creating the public
interface -- "views."
A view is a "type" of Web page in your Django application that generally serves
a specific function and has a specific template. For example, in a Weblog
application, you might have the following views:
* Blog homepage -- displays the latest few entries.
* Entry "detail" page -- permalink page for a single entry.
* Year-based archive page -- displays all months with entries in the
given year.
* Month-based archive page -- displays all days with entries in the
given month.
* Day-based archive page -- displays all entries in the given day.
* Comment action -- handles posting comments to a given entry.
In our poll application, we'll have the following four views:
* Poll "index" page -- displays the latest few polls.
* Poll "detail" page -- displays a poll question, with no results but
with a form to vote.
* Poll "results" page -- displays results for a particular poll.
* Vote action -- handles voting for a particular choice in a particular
In Django, each view is represented by a simple Python function.
Design your URLs
The first step of writing views is to design your URL structure. You do this by
creating a Python module, called a URLconf. URLconfs are how Django associates
a given URL with given Python code.
When a user requests a Django-powered page, the system looks at the
:setting:`ROOT_URLCONF` setting, which contains a string in Python dotted
syntax. Django loads that module and looks for a module-level variable called
``urlpatterns``, which is a sequence of tuples in the following format::
(regular expression, Python callback function [, optional dictionary])
Django starts at the first regular expression and makes its way down the list,
comparing the requested URL against each regular expression until it finds one
that matches.
When it finds a match, Django calls the Python callback function, with an
:class:`~django.http.HttpRequest` object as the first argument, any "captured"
values from the regular expression as keyword arguments, and, optionally,
arbitrary keyword arguments from the dictionary (an optional third item in the
For more on :class:`~django.http.HttpRequest` objects, see the
:doc:`/ref/request-response`. For more details on URLconfs, see the
When you ran `` startproject mysite`` at the beginning of
Tutorial 1, it created a default URLconf in ``mysite/``. It also
automatically set your :setting:`ROOT_URLCONF` setting (in ````) to
point at that file::
ROOT_URLCONF = 'mysite.urls'
Time for an example. Edit ``mysite/`` so it looks like this::
from django.conf.urls import patterns, include, url
from django.contrib import admin
urlpatterns = patterns('',
url(r'^polls/$', 'polls.views.index'),
url(r'^polls/(?P<poll_id>\d+)/$', 'polls.views.detail'),
url(r'^polls/(?P<poll_id>\d+)/results/$', 'polls.views.results'),
url(r'^polls/(?P<poll_id>\d+)/vote/$', ''),
url(r'^admin/', include(,
This is worth a review. When somebody requests a page from your Web site -- say,
"/polls/23/", Django will load this Python module, because it's pointed to by
the :setting:`ROOT_URLCONF` setting. It finds the variable named ``urlpatterns``
and traverses the regular expressions in order. When it finds a regular
expression that matches -- ``r'^polls/(?P<poll_id>\d+)/$'`` -- it loads the
function ``detail()`` from ``polls/``. Finally, it calls that
``detail()`` function like so::
detail(request=<HttpRequest object>, poll_id='23')
The ``poll_id='23'`` part comes from ``(?P<poll_id>\d+)``. Using parentheses
around a pattern "captures" the text matched by that pattern and sends it as an
argument to the view function; the ``?P<poll_id>`` defines the name that will be
used to identify the matched pattern; and ``\d+`` is a regular expression to
match a sequence of digits (i.e., a number).
Because the URL patterns are regular expressions, there really is no limit on
what you can do with them. And there's no need to add URL cruft such as ``.php``
-- unless you have a sick sense of humor, in which case you can do something
like this::
(r'^polls/latest\.php$', 'polls.views.index'),
But, don't do that. It's silly.
Note that these regular expressions do not search GET and POST parameters, or
the domain name. For example, in a request to ````,
the URLconf will look for ``myapp/``. In a request to
````, the URLconf will look for ``myapp/``.
If you need help with regular expressions, see `Wikipedia's entry`_ and the
documentation of the :mod:`re` module. Also, the O'Reilly book "Mastering
Regular Expressions" by Jeffrey Friedl is fantastic.
Finally, a performance note: these regular expressions are compiled the first
time the URLconf module is loaded. They're super fast.
.. _Wikipedia's entry:
Write your first view
Well, we haven't created any views yet -- we just have the URLconf. But let's
make sure Django is following the URLconf properly.
Fire up the Django development Web server:
.. code-block:: bash
python runserver
Now go to "http://localhost:8000/polls/" on your domain in your Web browser.
You should get a pleasantly-colored error page with the following message::
ViewDoesNotExist at /polls/
Could not import polls.views.index. View does not exist in module polls.views.
This error happened because you haven't written a function ``index()`` in the
module ``polls/``.
Try "/polls/23/", "/polls/23/results/" and "/polls/23/vote/". The error
messages tell you which view Django tried (and failed to find, because you
haven't written any views yet).
Time to write the first view. Open the file ``polls/``
and put the following Python code in it::
from django.http import HttpResponse
def index(request):
return HttpResponse("Hello, world. You're at the poll index.")
This is the simplest view possible. Go to "/polls/" in your browser, and you
should see your text.
Now lets add a few more views. These views are slightly different, because
they take an argument (which, remember, is passed in from whatever was
captured by the regular expression in the URLconf)::
def detail(request, poll_id):
return HttpResponse("You're looking at poll %s." % poll_id)
def results(request, poll_id):
return HttpResponse("You're looking at the results of poll %s." % poll_id)
def vote(request, poll_id):
return HttpResponse("You're voting on poll %s." % poll_id)
Take a look in your browser, at "/polls/34/". It'll run the `detail()` method
and display whatever ID you provide in the URL. Try "/polls/34/results/" and
"/polls/34/vote/" too -- these will display the placeholder results and voting
Write views that actually do something
Each view is responsible for doing one of two things: Returning an
:class:`~django.http.HttpResponse` object containing the content for the
requested page, or raising an exception such as :exc:`~django.http.Http404`. The
rest is up to you.
Your view can read records from a database, or not. It can use a template
system such as Django's -- or a third-party Python template system -- or not.
It can generate a PDF file, output XML, create a ZIP file on the fly, anything
you want, using whatever Python libraries you want.
All Django wants is that :class:`~django.http.HttpResponse`. Or an exception.
Because it's convenient, let's use Django's own database API, which we covered
in :doc:`Tutorial 1 </intro/tutorial01>`. Here's one stab at the ``index()``
view, which displays the latest 5 poll questions in the system, separated by
commas, according to publication date::
from polls.models import Poll
from django.http import HttpResponse
def index(request):
latest_poll_list = Poll.objects.all().order_by('-pub_date')[:5]
output = ', '.join([p.question for p in latest_poll_list])
return HttpResponse(output)
There's a problem here, though: The page's design is hard-coded in the view. If
you want to change the way the page looks, you'll have to edit this Python code.
So let's use Django's template system to separate the design from Python::
from django.template import Context, loader
from polls.models import Poll
from django.http import HttpResponse
def index(request):
latest_poll_list = Poll.objects.all().order_by('-pub_date')[:5]
t = loader.get_template('polls/index.html')
c = Context({
'latest_poll_list': latest_poll_list,
return HttpResponse(t.render(c))
That code loads the template called "polls/index.html" and passes it a context.
The context is a dictionary mapping template variable names to Python objects.
Reload the page. Now you'll see an error::
TemplateDoesNotExist at /polls/
Ah. There's no template yet. First, create a directory, somewhere on your
filesystem, whose contents Django can access. (Django runs as whatever user your
server runs.) Don't put them under your document root, though. You probably
shouldn't make them public, just for security's sake.
Then edit :setting:`TEMPLATE_DIRS` in your ```` to tell Django where
it can find templates -- just as you did in the "Customize the admin look and
feel" section of Tutorial 2.
When you've done that, create a directory ``polls`` in your template directory.
Within that, create a file called ``index.html``. Note that our
``loader.get_template('polls/index.html')`` code from above maps to
"[template_directory]/polls/index.html" on the filesystem.
Put the following code in that template:
.. code-block:: html+django
{% if latest_poll_list %}
{% for poll in latest_poll_list %}
<li><a href="/polls/{{ }}/">{{ poll.question }}</a></li>
{% endfor %}
{% else %}
<p>No polls are available.</p>
{% endif %}
Load the page in your Web browser, and you should see a bulleted-list
containing the "What's up" poll from Tutorial 1. The link points to the poll's
detail page.
A shortcut: render_to_response()
It's a very common idiom to load a template, fill a context and return an
:class:`~django.http.HttpResponse` object with the result of the rendered
template. Django provides a shortcut. Here's the full ``index()`` view,
from django.shortcuts import render_to_response
from polls.models import Poll
def index(request):
latest_poll_list = Poll.objects.all().order_by('-pub_date')[:5]
return render_to_response('polls/index.html', {'latest_poll_list': latest_poll_list})
Note that once we've done this in all these views, we no longer need to import
:mod:`~django.template.loader`, :class:`~django.template.Context` and
The :func:`~django.shortcuts.render_to_response` function takes a template name
as its first argument and a dictionary as its optional second argument. It
returns an :class:`~django.http.HttpResponse` object of the given template
rendered with the given context.
Raising 404
Now, let's tackle the poll detail view -- the page that displays the question
for a given poll. Here's the view::
from django.http import Http404
# ...
def detail(request, poll_id):
p = Poll.objects.get(pk=poll_id)
except Poll.DoesNotExist:
raise Http404
return render_to_response('polls/detail.html', {'poll': p})
The new concept here: The view raises the :exc:`~django.http.Http404` exception
if a poll with the requested ID doesn't exist.
We'll discuss what you could put in that ``polls/detail.html`` template a bit
later, but if you'd like to quickly get the above example working, just::
{{ poll }}
will get you started for now.
A shortcut: get_object_or_404()
It's a very common idiom to use :meth:`~django.db.models.query.QuerySet.get`
and raise :exc:`~django.http.Http404` if the object doesn't exist. Django
provides a shortcut. Here's the ``detail()`` view, rewritten::
from django.shortcuts import render_to_response, get_object_or_404
# ...
def detail(request, poll_id):
p = get_object_or_404(Poll, pk=poll_id)
return render_to_response('polls/detail.html', {'poll': p})
The :func:`~django.shortcuts.get_object_or_404` function takes a Django model
as its first argument and an arbitrary number of keyword arguments, which it
passes to the :meth:`~django.db.models.query.QuerySet.get` function of the
model's manager. It raises :exc:`~django.http.Http404` if the object doesn't
.. admonition:: Philosophy
Why do we use a helper function :func:`~django.shortcuts.get_object_or_404`
instead of automatically catching the
:exc:`~django.core.exceptions.ObjectDoesNotExist` exceptions at a higher
level, or having the model API raise :exc:`~django.http.Http404` instead of
Because that would couple the model layer to the view layer. One of the
foremost design goals of Django is to maintain loose coupling.
There's also a :func:`~django.shortcuts.get_list_or_404` function, which works
just as :func:`~django.shortcuts.get_object_or_404` -- except using
:meth:`~django.db.models.query.QuerySet.filter` instead of
:meth:`~django.db.models.query.QuerySet.get`. It raises
:exc:`~django.http.Http404` if the list is empty.
Write a 404 (page not found) view
When you raise :exc:`~django.http.Http404` from within a view, Django
will load a special view devoted to handling 404 errors. It finds it
by looking for the variable ``handler404`` in your root URLconf (and
only in your root URLconf; setting ``handler404`` anywhere else will
have no effect), which is a string in Python dotted syntax -- the same
format the normal URLconf callbacks use. A 404 view itself has nothing
special: It's just a normal view.
You normally won't have to bother with writing 404 views. If you don't set
``handler404``, the built-in view :func:`django.views.defaults.page_not_found`
is used by default. Optionally, you can create a ``404.html`` template
in the root of your template directory. The default 404 view will then use that
template for all 404 errors when :setting:`DEBUG` is set to ``False`` (in your
settings module).
A couple more things to note about 404 views:
* If :setting:`DEBUG` is set to ``True`` (in your settings module) then your
404 view will never be used (and thus the ``404.html`` template will never
be rendered) because the traceback will be displayed instead.
* The 404 view is also called if Django doesn't find a match after checking
every regular expression in the URLconf.
Write a 500 (server error) view
Similarly, your root URLconf may define a ``handler500``, which points
to a view to call in case of server errors. Server errors happen when
you have runtime errors in view code.
Use the template system
Back to the ``detail()`` view for our poll application. Given the context
variable ``poll``, here's what the "polls/detail.html" template might look
.. code-block:: html+django
<h1>{{ poll.question }}</h1>
{% for choice in poll.choice_set.all %}
<li>{{ choice.choice_text }}</li>
{% endfor %}
The template system uses dot-lookup syntax to access variable attributes. In
the example of ``{{ poll.question }}``, first Django does a dictionary lookup
on the object ``poll``. Failing that, it tries an attribute lookup -- which
works, in this case. If attribute lookup had failed, it would've tried a
list-index lookup.
Method-calling happens in the :ttag:`{% for %}<for>` loop:
``poll.choice_set.all`` is interpreted as the Python code
``poll.choice_set.all()``, which returns an iterable of ``Choice`` objects and is
suitable for use in the :ttag:`{% for %}<for>` tag.
See the :doc:`template guide </topics/templates>` for more about templates.
Simplifying the URLconfs
Take some time to play around with the views and template system. As you edit
the URLconf, you may notice there's a fair bit of redundancy in it::
urlpatterns = patterns('',
url(r'^polls/$', 'polls.views.index'),
url(r'^polls/(?P<poll_id>\d+)/$', 'polls.views.detail'),
url(r'^polls/(?P<poll_id>\d+)/results/$', 'polls.views.results'),
url(r'^polls/(?P<poll_id>\d+)/vote/$', ''),
Namely, ``polls.views`` is in every callback.
Because this is a common case, the URLconf framework provides a shortcut for
common prefixes. You can factor out the common prefixes and add them as the
first argument to :func:`~django.conf.urls.patterns`, like so::
urlpatterns = patterns('polls.views',
url(r'^polls/$', 'index'),
url(r'^polls/(?P<poll_id>\d+)/$', 'detail'),
url(r'^polls/(?P<poll_id>\d+)/results/$', 'results'),
url(r'^polls/(?P<poll_id>\d+)/vote/$', 'vote'),
This is functionally identical to the previous formatting. It's just a bit
Since you generally don't want the prefix for one app to be applied to every
callback in your URLconf, you can concatenate multiple
:func:`~django.conf.urls.patterns`. Your full ``mysite/`` might
now look like this::
from django.conf.urls import patterns, include, url
from django.contrib import admin
urlpatterns = patterns('polls.views',
url(r'^polls/$', 'index'),
url(r'^polls/(?P<poll_id>\d+)/$', 'detail'),
url(r'^polls/(?P<poll_id>\d+)/results/$', 'results'),
url(r'^polls/(?P<poll_id>\d+)/vote/$', 'vote'),
urlpatterns += patterns('',
url(r'^admin/', include(,
Decoupling the URLconfs
While we're at it, we should take the time to decouple our poll-app URLs from
our Django project configuration. Django apps are meant to be pluggable -- that
is, each particular app should be transferable to another Django installation
with minimal fuss.
Our poll app is pretty decoupled at this point, thanks to the strict directory
structure that ``python startapp`` created, but one part of it is
coupled to the Django settings: The URLconf.
We've been editing the URLs in ``mysite/``, but the URL design of an
app is specific to the app, not to the Django installation -- so let's move the
URLs within the app directory.
Copy the file ``mysite/`` to ``polls/``. Then, change
``mysite/`` to remove the poll-specific URLs and insert an
:func:`~django.conf.urls.include`, leaving you with::
from django.conf.urls import patterns, include, url
from django.contrib import admin
urlpatterns = patterns('',
url(r'^polls/', include('polls.urls')),
url(r'^admin/', include(,
:func:`~django.conf.urls.include` simply references another URLconf.
Note that the regular expression doesn't have a ``$`` (end-of-string match
character) but has the trailing slash. Whenever Django encounters
:func:`~django.conf.urls.include`, it chops off whatever part of the
URL matched up to that point and sends the remaining string to the included
URLconf for further processing.
Here's what happens if a user goes to "/polls/34/" in this system:
* Django will find the match at ``'^polls/'``
* Then, Django will strip off the matching text (``"polls/"``) and send the
remaining text -- ``"34/"`` -- to the 'polls.urls' URLconf for
further processing.
Now that we've decoupled that, we need to decouple the ``polls.urls``
URLconf by removing the leading "polls/" from each line, removing the
lines registering the admin site, and removing the ``include`` import which
is no longer used. Your ``polls/`` file should now look like
from django.conf.urls import patterns, url
urlpatterns = patterns('polls.views',
url(r'^$', 'index'),
url(r'^(?P<poll_id>\d+)/$', 'detail'),
url(r'^(?P<poll_id>\d+)/results/$', 'results'),
url(r'^(?P<poll_id>\d+)/vote/$', 'vote'),
The idea behind :func:`~django.conf.urls.include` and URLconf
decoupling is to make it easy to plug-and-play URLs. Now that polls are in their
own URLconf, they can be placed under "/polls/", or under "/fun_polls/", or
under "/content/polls/", or any other path root, and the app will still work.
All the poll app cares about is its relative path, not its absolute path.
Removing hardcoded URLs in templates
Remember, when we wrote the link to a poll in our template, the link was
partially hardcoded like this:
.. code-block:: html+django
<li><a href="/polls/{{ }}/">{{ poll.question }}</a></li>
To use the decoupled URLs we've just introduced, replace the hardcoded link
with the :ttag:`url` template tag:
.. code-block:: html+django
<li><a href="{% url 'polls.views.detail' %}">{{ poll.question }}</a></li>
.. note::
If ``{% url 'polls.views.detail' %}`` (with quotes) doesn't work,
but ``{% url polls.views.detail %}`` (without quotes) does, that
means you're using a version of Django < 1.5. In this case, add the
following declaration at the top of your template:
.. code-block:: html+django
{% load url from future %}
When you're comfortable with writing views, read :doc:`part 4 of this tutorial
</intro/tutorial04>` to learn about simple form processing and generic views.
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