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TLHL - The Last HTML Library you will ever need!

Yeah right.


I wanted to generate HTML without:

  • Learning another language.

  • Configuring my editor to understand another language.

  • Dealing with the inevitable brain slowdown associated with the python versus template language context shift that occurs when swapping between writing code and writing page templates.

  • Being constrained by another projects' design goals or philosophy.

I wanted a library that:

  • Looks and feels natural inline in my code.

  • Lets me abstract away common idioms.

  • Lets me have an escape hatch to emit ugly hacks when required.

  • Has a very natural feel which respects python idioms and also suggests the final structure.

  • Produces HTML that is easy to read (not strictly necessary however I find well structured HTML that is easy to read a great boon for debugging and hence productivity).

  • Can be used for producing HTML snippets to make working with templating systems in legacy applications less painful.


Why another HTML generation library in python?

Well in no particular order in python I've used;

In common-lisp I've used;

I've written a few of my own, some in python and one in lisp.

I have come to the conclusion that templating languages are a solution to a problem that does not exist.i.

But enough blabbing, where's the cheese?

page = \
  (title, "Pythonic HTML generation that tries to suck only a little."),
  (css, dict(href="colour-me-happy.css"))),
  (h1, "Something witty here..."),
   (li, "I can think of..."),
   [(li, number + 1) for number in range(random.randint(10, 100))],
   (li, "reasons this is better than the alternatives")),
  (p, "but I only need one:"),
  (strong, "very low impedance mismatch.")))

print render(page, PrettyPrinter()).show()

<html .... blah blah blah lots of redundant extra <> displayed.




HTML documents are just one way to encode hierarchical relationships between elements.

A combination of lists, tuples, dictionaries and simple conventions are another.

This library is just a translation from one encoding to another, ie, python data structures to HTML.


TLHL assumes that you will give it a data structure that conforms to some simple conventions, it will then turn that into HTML.

Here are the conventions:

  • Tuples are Elements.

    The first element of a tuple must either be an Element instance or a callable with a renderer_pii. attribute which evaluates to True.

  • Some Dictionaries are Element attributes.iii.

    If the second element of a tuple whose first element is an Element instance is a dictionary then it overrides and adds attributes to the element.

  • Callables are called.

    If the first element in a tuple passes the renderer_p test then it is called and passed the remaining elements in the tuple as the first argument and the current printer as the second.

    Anything returned by the callable is treated as more content and converted too.

  • Lists are nested content.

    Lists are a handy way of embedding dynamic content. Python generators are particularly useful for this.

  • None and False are ignored.

    This includes element attributes.

  • True element attributes are converted to xhtml conventions.

    For example selected=True becomes selected="selected" when emitted.

  • Everything else is content.

    Anything not falling into one of the above categories gets unicode() called on it in preparation for output.

Quick Examples

In the examples below some redundant noise has been removed, please see for the real deal.

Example 1 - Hello World


  (head, (title, Hello World")),
    (h1, "Hello World")))


    <title>Hello World</title></head>
    <h1>Hello World</h1></body></html>

Example 2 - Hello World - dynamic content


lis = [(li, idx + 1) for idx in range(3)]

  (head, (title, Hello World")),
    (h1, "Hello World"),


    <title>Hello World</title></head>
    <h1>Hello World</h1>

Common pitfalls

Missing Commas

I find that by far the most common mistake I make is forgetting commas. This results in a file that wont compile.

If you get something like;

TypeError at /some-root/999/some-page

'tuple' object is not callable

Then you forgot a comma after a tuple.

If you get an error complaining about something being an invalid index then you forgot a comma after a list. Eg

 (h1, "Some title"),
  [(li, "dynamic content: ", idx) for idx in range(10)]     <-- need a comma here
  (li, "some custom footer li")))

If you are a lisper then you will probably make this mistake all the time (well I do anyway) but it is quickly corrected and as a benefit you get to navigate around the structure using all those emac's keybindings that are burned into your brain.

Official Releases

None, everything could change at anytime! Use at your risk.

If you do use this library please let me know how you think it could be improved.


i. Django claims that non-technical users can use their templating system and that this frees the developers from having to worry about the presentation layer. Their use case is quite specific (newspaper publishing) but personally I've never had any success with integrating non-developers into the software process in this way.

In my experience the restrictions and conventions required to make such a practice work are far worse then just dedicating a portion of time to converting mock ups to code and keeping them updated.

Your mileage may vary.

ii. A simple renderer_p decorator is provided for this purpose.

iii. provides an attrs function that has the following useful features for producing a dictionary tailored for generating attributes.

  • The key of 'classes' is special.

    It will be emitted as 'class'.

    It can be a string or a list.

    Lists elements are joined with a single space in preparation for output.

  • Double underscores in attribute names are converted to colons, provding poor man's namespace support.

  • The first parameter to attrs can specify an 'id' and classes.

    This is similar to what HAML does. For example;

    "#id class1 class2" becomes id="id" class="class1 class2"

    "classA classB classC" becomes class="class1 class2"

    See the examples for usage.

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