A TODO list made with the flask framework for PyClass at Noisebridge
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This is the second installment of our tour of web frameworks. This will be a simple TODO list.

Again, this tutorial is probably not suited to Windows users. Please pair with a friend if you are working in a windows environment. Sorry!

Up and Running

Just like in the last class, you want to run bootstrap and buildout. Unlike the last class, the cloned noiselist is the full solution so you can view the commit log to see how the app was built step by step. To get the first step:

> git clone ttps://github.com/noisebridge/flask-noiselist.git
> cd flask-noiselist
> virtualenv .
> git checkout ba4ebf111f

Because things have been updated, we need the latest bootstrap.py:

>  git checkout master bootstrap.py
> ./bin/python bootstrap.py
> ./bin/buildout

To get the server running in foreground mode, do:

> ./bin/flask-ctl debug fg

Your app will be running at with a simple hello world placeholder.

Take a minute to notice the differences between this app and web2py. There is no admin console and no formatting by default. Flask is really a micro framwork.

Notice as well that we are starting in foreground mode, and that you don't have to kill a process or terminal to restart. Foreground mode will autodetect changes and reload new code automatically. In doubt, simply Ctrl-C and restart the server with './bin/flask-ctl debug fg'. This also means that any pdbing will take you directly to this console.

Technical Note: Please be aware that the extra virtualenv step is likely not required if your system has always used buildout or virtual envs. I leave it here for anyone who has already mucked up their global packages. It's good practice anyways :)

Modifying These Instructions

Since this is written by a human, please feel free to update the instructions in this file itself and commit back. If you need permissions, feel free to contact me or just fork and I will merge back. If there is interest in class we will discuss how this works with github.

Folder Structure

Unlike web2py, you can not edit the application through the web (TTW). All the files you will be editing will be in flask-noiselist/src. Take note that the app itself should be in egg format.

script.py has a bunch of stuff you don't need to worry about in the moment. This basically just sets up the app for running and testing. You should never have to modify this.

The only python file we will be working with is __init__.py. Because the app we are doing is small, this will be sufficient for all of our code, although it is not really considered to be best practice.


Note that unlike web2py, you are presented with a completely blank slate. We will be touching a few different files in this exercize than the previous one because of this. Let's get a few pretty things ironed out first so we know what we want the end result to look like.

First, notice that we don't have any templates yet. Flask uses Jinja2, a "standalone" templating engine. Most modern frameworks should be integrating with 1 or more different templating engines. This is beneficial to you because you can learn one framework and not have to learn a new templating language every time (web2py has its own templating language). Jinja2 is very popular and widely used (and more importantly that means it is well supported).

First we need to create a directory for holding our templates:

> cd src/noiselist
> mkdir templates

And lets take our Hello page and make it into a template by adding a template:

> touch templates/hello.html

In that file, let's add a few lines to show how our list will look in the end:

<!DOCTYPE html>
     <title>TODO at Noisebridge</title>
     <h1>My Personal TODO List</h1>
       <li>Finish evaluating pull requests</li>
       <li>Finish writing up class work</li>
       <li>Swim and enjoy the sun</li>
     <form action="" method="POST" id="add_to_todo_list">
       <input type="text" name="todo_item"/>
       <input type="submit" name="add_todo_submit" value="Add to List!"/>

And then in __init__.py, we will connect the index page with that template doing the following modifications:

from flask import Flask
from flask import request
from flask import render_template


def index():
  return render_template('hello.html')

Reload the page to see the changes.


Because there are no styles by default, I will show you where and how we can add javascript, css, and othe image files.

Let's start by hooking up some styles. Since it's all the craze with kids these days, we will use twitters Bootstrap library.

First let's add the default styles to the top of hello.html. The first link is hosted by twitter and the second link will be hosted by us:

  <title>TODO at Noisebridge</title>
  <link rel="stylesheet" href="//netdna.bootstrapcdn.com/bootstrap/3.0.3/css/bootstrap.min.css"/>
  <link rel="stylesheet" href="/static/css/noiselist.css"/>

Note that in this case, flask will be serving the css for us. In most cases of production deployment you will want to have your webserver do this. We will talk more about this in later classes.

Let's add a some directories for service static content (must be called static):

> mkdir static
> mkdir static/css
> mkdir static/javascript
> mkdir static/images
> touch static/css/noiselist.css

Now let's add some styles to static/css/noiselist.css:

  background-image: url(https://www.noisebridge.net/NB-logo-red-black-med.png);
  background-position: bottom right;
  background-repeat: no-repeat;
  min-height: 130px;

  margin-top: 70px;

This is just a basic logo that let's us know that we are serving up the correct content.

Let's update our front page to use bootstraps styles. For brevity I will just point to the raw source since its a lot. Update hello.html with the <body/> code at:


Reload and party.

Hooking up to Data

Flask passes arguments to the templating language just like web2 py does. To quickly pass in a list of items to display on the front page, update __init__.py to say:

def index():
  todo_list = ["Watch TV",
           "Contemplate Work",
           "Go to Bed",
  return render_template('hello.html', todos=todo_list)

Then in hello.html we update the list to pull from the todos passed in:

<h2>Current TODOs</h2>
  {% for todo in todos %}
     <li>{{ todo }}</li>
  {% endfor %}

Note the difference in syntax here with web2py. To end a loop we use "endfor" instead of "pass". The = is not required to display a variable either.

The Database

Add the package for SQLAlchemy integration in setup.py of our package and rerun buildout. In flask-noiselist/setup.py:


Re-run buildout to pull in the new package (assuming you are in flask-noiselist directory):

> ./bin/buildout
> ./bin/flask-ctl debug fg

Now that we have the new egg, we can import and use all the db connections. In SQLAlchemy, we need to define and initialize the model. Let's make a new file called model.py and keep all of our access info there:

> touch src/noiselist/model.py

In this model, we will create the same todo item that we did in the web2py app with a bit of a different twist. Edit model.py to say:

from flask import Flask
from flaskext.sqlalchemy import SQLAlchemy

app = Flask(__name__)
app.config['SQLALCHEMY_DATABASE_URI'] = 'sqlite:////tmp/test.db'
db = SQLAlchemy(app)

class TodoItem(db.Model):
  id = db.Column(db.Integer, primary_key=True)
  description = db.Column(db.String(240), unique=True)

  def __init__(self, description):
      self.description = description

  def __repr__(self):
      return '<TODO %r>' % self.description

Next we need to initialize the database. Initializing the database will sync the model we created with the database, making sure that all the columns and tables we need are there and ready to use*. In src/noiselist/__init__.py:

from model import db


def init_db():
  """ Initialize the database """

Unlike web2py, we must initialize the database manually every time we update the model. There are several reasons and potential conflicts with this but SQLAlchemy does its best to make it all magically work. To resync the db, stop the server and run:

> ./bin/flask-ctl debug initdb
# restart
> ./bin/flask-ctl debug fg

Hang in there, we are almost there. Next let's pull our data from the database. From now on, flask-noiselist/src/noiselist directory is assumed. In __init__.py:

from model import TodoItem

def index():
  todo_list = TodoItem.query.all()
  return render_template('hello.html', todos=todo_list)

Keep in mind that at this moment the db is empty so a reload should just show an empty list.

Submitting Data

Because this is our second time adding data to a database, let's also introduce the concept of routing. Let's have our front page form submit to a url that is not the index page, process the data, and then redirect. First things first, let's add a new route that the form can submit to. This is just a matter of creating a function and testing that it goes to the right place. In __init__.py:

def add_todo():
  return "Made it!"

Now when we go to we see a nice message. Easy peasy. We won't set up a template for this page because we are planning to redirect back to index anyways.

Next we can update the form to submit to this new page "/add" in hello.html:

<form action="/add" method="POST" id="add_to_todo_list">
   <input type="text" name="todo_item"/>
   <input type="submit" class="btn" name="add_todo_submit" value="Add to List!"/>

You will notice that a blank submit causes a post error. This is a security measure that will help you keep your site from getting haxored. To allow posting to our new url in __init__.py modify the add function:

@app.route('/add', methods=['POST',])

Reload the front page and now you can see we are able to add an item and get redirected to the new form!

Saving Data

Last but not the very least, we need to save the data. In __init__.py, get the data from the REQUEST variable (we will discuss this in class) and then save to the database. The commit is REQUIRED!:

@app.route('/add', methods=['POST',])
def add_todo():
  if 'todo_item' in request.form:
      todo = TodoItem(description=request.form['todo_item'])
      return "Got it!"
  return "Unknown Error"

Note that unlike web2py, there is no validation out of the box. This could be a good thing or a bad things depending on your style and your project.

At this point you can go to the front page, add an item, then go back to to the front page to see the repr version of this object. To show only the todo item, update templates/hello.html:

  {% for todo in todos %}
     <li>{{ todo.description }}</li>
  {% endfor %}


Last but not least, let's add a redirect so that when the user submits a form, they go back to the front page. In __init__.py:

from flask import redirect, url_for
 return redirect(url_for('index'))

Note that the redirect here is saying to redirect the the url that the index function services!!!


More Info