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Templates

Templates

While Flask doesn't force us to use any particular templating language, it assumes that we're going to use Jinja. Most of the developers in the Flask community use Jinja, and I recommend that you do the same. There are a few extensions that have been written to let us use other templating languages, like Flask-Genshi and Flask-Mako. Stick with the default unless you have a good reason to use something else. Not knowing the Jinja syntax yet is not a good reason! You'll save yourself a lot of time and headache.

Note

Almost all resources imply Jinja2 when they refer to "Jinja." There was a Jinja1, but we won't be dealing with it here. When you see Jinja, we're talking about this: http://jinja.pocoo.org/

A quick primer on Jinja

The Jinja documentation does a great job of explaining the syntax and features of the language. I won't reiterate it all here, but I do want to make sure that you see this important note:

There are two kinds of delimiters. {% ... %} and {{ ... }}. The first one is used to execute statements such as for-loops or assign values, the latter prints the result of the expression to the template.

Jinja Template Designer Documentation

How to organize templates

So where do templates fit into our app? If you've been following along at home, you may have noticed that Flask is really flexible about where we put things. Templates are no exception. You may also notice that there's usually a recommended place to put things. Two points for you. For templates, that place is in the package directory.

myapp/
    __init__.py
    models.py
    views/
    templates/
    static/
run.py
requirements.txt
templates/
    layout.html
    index.html
    about.html
    profile/
        layout.html
        index.html
    photos.html
    admin/
        layout.html
        index.html
        analytics.html

The structure of the templates directory parallels the structure of our routes. The template for the route myapp.com/admin/analytics is templates/admin/analytics.html. There are also some extra templates in there that won't be rendered directly. The layout.html files are meant to be inherited by the other templates.

Inheritance

Much like Batman's backstory, a well organized templates directory relies heavily on inheritance. The parent template usually defines a generalized structure that all of the child templates will work within. In our example, layout.html is a parent template and the other .html files are child templates.

You'll generally have one top-level layout.html that defines the general layout for your application and one for each section of your site. If you take a look at the directory above, you'll see that there is a top-level myapp/templates/layout.html as well as myapp/templates/profile/layout.html and myapp/templates/admin/layout.html. The last two files inherit and modify the first.

Inheritance is implemented with the {% extends %} and {% block %} tags. In the parent template, we can define blocks which will be populated by child templates.

{# _myapp/templates/layout.html_ #}

<!DOCTYPE html>
<html lang="en">
    <head>
        <title>{% block title %}{% endblock %}</title>
    </head>
    <body>
    {% block body %}
        <h1>This heading is defined in the parent.</h1>
    {% endblock %}
    </body>
</html>

In the child template, we can extend the parent template and define the contents of those blocks.

{# _myapp/templates/index.html_ #}

{% extends "layout.html" %}
{% block title %}Hello world!{% endblock %}
{% block body %}
    {{ super() }}
    <h2>This heading is defined in the child.</h2>
{% endblock %}

The super() function lets us include whatever was inside the block in the parent template.

Note

For more information on inheritance, refer to the Jinja Template Inheritence documentation.

Creating macros

We can implement DRY (Don't Repeat Yourself) principles in our templates by abstracting snippets of code that appear over and over into macros. If we're working on some HTML for our app's navigation, we might want to give a different class to the "active" link (i.e. the link to the current page). Without macros we'd end up with a block of if ... else statements that check each link to find the active one.

Macros provide a way to modularize that code; they work like functions. Let's look at how we'd mark the active link using a macro.

{# myapp/templates/layout.html #}

{% from "macros.html" import nav_link with context %}
<!DOCTYPE html>
<html lang="en">
    <head>
    {% block head %}
        <title>My application</title>
    {% endblock %}
    </head>
    <body>
        <ul class="nav-list">
            {{ nav_link('home', 'Home') }}
            {{ nav_link('about', 'About') }}
            {{ nav_link('contact', 'Get in touch') }}
        </ul>
    {% block body %}
    {% endblock %}
    </body>
</html>

What we are doing in this template is calling an undefined macro — nav_link — and passing it two parameters: the target endpoint (i.e. the function name for the target view) and the text we want to show.

Note

You may notice that we specified with context in the import statement. The Jinja context consists of the arguments passed to the render_template() function as well as the Jinja environment context from our Python code. These variables are made available in the template that is being rendered.

Some variables are explicitly passed by us, e.g. render_template("index.html", color="red"), but there are several variables and functions that Flask automatically includes in the context, e.g. request, g and session. When we say {% from ... import ... with context %} we are telling Jinja to make all of these variables available to the macro as well.

Note

Now it's time to define the nav_link macro that we used in our template.

{# myapp/templates/macros.html #}

{% macro nav_link(endpoint, text) %}
{% if request.endpoint.endswith(endpoint) %}
    <li class="active"><a href="{{ url_for(endpoint) }}">{{text}}</a></li>
{% else %}
    <li><a href="{{ url_for(endpoint) }}">{{text}}</a></li>
{% endif %}
{% endmacro %}

Now we've defined the macro in myapp/templates/macros.html. In this macro we're using Flask's request object — which is available in the Jinja context by default — to check whether or not the current request was routed to the endpoint passed to nav_link. If it was, than we're currently on that page, and we can mark it as active.

Note

The from x import y statement takes a relative path for x. If our template was in myapp/templates/user/blog.html we would use from "../macros.html" import nav_link with context.

Custom filters

Jinja filters are functions that can be applied to the result of an expression in the {{ ... }} delimiters. It is applied before that result is printed to the template.

<h2>{{ article.title|title }}</h2>

In this code, the title filter will take article.title and return a title-cased version, which will then be printed to the template. This looks and works a lot like the UNIX practice of "piping" the output of one program to another.

Note

There are loads of built-in filters like title. See the full list in the Jinja docs.

We can define our own filters for use in our Jinja templates. As an example, we'll implement a simple caps filter to capitalize all of the letters in a string.

Note

Jinja already has an upper filter that does this, and a capitalize filter that capitalizes the first character and lowercases the rest. These also handle unicode conversion, but we'll keep our example simple to focus on the concept at hand.

We're going to define our filter in a module located at myapp/util/filters.py. This gives us a util package in which to put other miscellaneous modules.

# myapp/util/filters.py

from .. import app

@app.template_filter()
def caps(text):
    """Convert a string to all caps."""
    return text.uppercase()

In this code we are registering our function as a Jinja filter by using the @app.template_filter() decorator. The default filter name is just the name of the function, but you can pass an argument to the decorator to change that.

@app.template_filter('make_caps')
def caps(text):
    """Convert a string to all caps."""
    return text.uppercase()

Now we can call make_caps in the template rather than caps: {{ "hello world!"|make_caps }}.

To make our filter available in the templates, we just need to import it in our top-level __init.py__.

# myapp/__init__.py

# Make sure app has been initialized first to prevent circular imports.
from .util import filters

Summary

  • Use Jinja for templating.
  • Jinja has two kinds of delimeters: {% ... %} and {{ ... }}. The first one is used to execute statements such as for-loops or assign values, the latter prints the result of the contained expression to the template.
  • Templates should go in myapp/templates/ — i.e. a directory inside of the application package.
  • I recommend that the structure of the templates/ directory mirror the URL structure of the app.
  • You should have a top-level layout.html in myapp/templates as well as one for each section of the site. The former extend the latter.
  • Macros are like functions made-up of template code.
  • Filters are functions made-up of Python code and used in templates.