Advanced tutorial: How to write reusable apps¶
This advanced tutorial begins where Tutorial 7 left off. We’ll be turning our Web-poll into a standalone Python package you can reuse in new projects and share with other people.
If you haven’t recently completed Tutorials 1–7, we encourage you to review these so that your example project matches the one described below.
It’s a lot of work to design, build, test and maintain a web application. Many Python and Django projects share common problems. Wouldn’t it be great if we could save some of this repeated work?
Reusability is the way of life in Python. The Python Package Index (PyPI) has a vast range of packages you can use in your own Python programs. Check out Django Packages for existing reusable apps you could incorporate in your project. Django itself is also a normal Python package. This means that you can take existing Python packages or Django apps and compose them into your own web project. You only need to write the parts that make your project unique.
Let’s say you were starting a new project that needed a polls app like the one
we’ve been working on. How do you make this app reusable? Luckily, you’re well
on the way already. In Tutorial 1, we saw how we
could decouple polls from the project-level URLconf using an
In this tutorial, we’ll take further steps to make the app easy to use in new
projects and ready to publish for others to install and use.
A Python package provides a way of grouping related Python code for easy reuse. A package contains one or more files of Python code (also known as “modules”).
A package can be imported with
import foo.bar or
from foo import
bar. For a directory (like
polls) to form a package, it must contain
a special file
__init__.py, even if this file is empty.
A Django application is a Python package that is specifically intended
for use in a Django project. An application may use common Django
conventions, such as having
Later on we use the term packaging to describe the process of making a Python package easy for others to install. It can be a little confusing, we know.
Your project and your reusable app¶
After the previous tutorials, our project should look like this:
mysite/templates in Tutorial 7,
polls/templates in Tutorial 3. Now perhaps
it is clearer why we chose to have separate template directories for the
project and application: everything that is part of the polls application is in
polls. It makes the application self-contained and easier to drop into a
polls directory could now be copied into a new Django project and
immediately reused. It’s not quite ready to be published though. For that, we
need to package the app to make it easy for others to install.
Installing some prerequisites¶
The current state of Python packaging is a bit muddled with various tools. For
this tutorial, we’re going to use setuptools to build our package. It’s the
recommended packaging tool (merged with the
distribute fork). We’ll also be
using pip to install and uninstall it. You should install these
two packages now. If you need help, you can refer to how to install
Django with pip. You can install
the same way.
Packaging your app¶
Python packaging refers to preparing your app in a specific format that can be easily installed and used. Django itself is packaged very much like this. For a small app like polls, this process isn’t too difficult.
First, create a parent directory for
polls, outside of your Django project. Call this directory
Choosing a name for your app
When choosing a name for your package, check resources like PyPI to avoid naming conflicts with existing packages. It’s often useful to prepend
django-to your module name when creating a package to distribute. This helps others looking for Django apps identify your app as Django specific.
Application labels (that is, the final part of the dotted path to application packages) must be unique in
INSTALLED_APPS. Avoid using the same label as any of the Django contrib packages, for example
pollsdirectory into the
Create a file
django-polls/README.rstwith the following contents:
===== Polls ===== Polls is a Django app to conduct Web-based polls. For each question, visitors can choose between a fixed number of answers. Detailed documentation is in the "docs" directory. Quick start ----------- 1. Add "polls" to your INSTALLED_APPS setting like this:: INSTALLED_APPS = [ ... 'polls', ] 2. Include the polls URLconf in your project urls.py like this:: path('polls/', include('polls.urls')), 3. Run ``python manage.py migrate`` to create the polls models. 4. Start the development server and visit http://127.0.0.1:8000/admin/ to create a poll (you'll need the Admin app enabled). 5. Visit http://127.0.0.1:8000/polls/ to participate in the poll.
django-polls/LICENSEfile. Choosing a license is beyond the scope of this tutorial, but suffice it to say that code released publicly without a license is useless. Django and many Django-compatible apps are distributed under the BSD license; however, you’re free to pick your own license. Just be aware that your licensing choice will affect who is able to use your code.
Next we’ll create
setup.pyfiles which detail how to build and install the app. A full explanation of these files is beyond the scope of this tutorial, but the setuptools documentation has a good explanation. Create the files
django-polls/setup.pywith the following contents:
[metadata] name = django-polls version = 0.1 description = A Django app to conduct Web-based polls. long_description = file: README.rst url = https://www.example.com/ author = Your Name author_email = email@example.com license = BSD-3-Clause # Example license classifiers = Environment :: Web Environment Framework :: Django Framework :: Django :: X.Y # Replace "X.Y" as appropriate Intended Audience :: Developers License :: OSI Approved :: BSD License Operating System :: OS Independent Programming Language :: Python Programming Language :: Python :: 3 Programming Language :: Python :: 3 :: Only Programming Language :: Python :: 3.6 Programming Language :: Python :: 3.7 Programming Language :: Python :: 3.8 Topic :: Internet :: WWW/HTTP Topic :: Internet :: WWW/HTTP :: Dynamic Content [options] include_package_data = true packages = find: python_requires = >=3.6 install_requires = Django >= X.Y # Replace "X.Y" as appropriate
from setuptools import setup setup()
Only Python modules and packages are included in the package by default. To include additional files, we’ll need to create a
MANIFEST.infile. The setuptools docs referred to in the previous step discuss this file in more detail. To include the templates, the
LICENSEfile, create a file
django-polls/MANIFEST.inwith the following contents:
include LICENSE include README.rst recursive-include polls/static * recursive-include polls/templates *
It’s optional, but recommended, to include detailed documentation with your app. Create an empty directory
django-polls/docsfor future documentation. Add an additional line to
recursive-include docs *
Note that the
docsdirectory won’t be included in your package unless you add some files to it. Many Django apps also provide their documentation online through sites like readthedocs.org.
Try building your package with
python setup.py sdist(run from inside
django-polls). This creates a directory called
distand builds your new package,
For more information on packaging, see Python’s Tutorial on Packaging and Distributing Projects.
Using your own package¶
Since we moved the
polls directory out of the project, it’s no longer
working. We’ll now fix this by installing our new
Installing as a user library
The following steps install
django-polls as a user library. Per-user
installs have a lot of advantages over installing the package system-wide,
such as being usable on systems where you don’t have administrator access
as well as preventing the package from affecting system services and other
users of the machine.
Note that per-user installations can still affect the behavior of system tools that run as that user, so using a virtual environment is a more robust solution (see below).
To install the package, use pip (you already installed it, right?):
python -m pip install --user django-polls/dist/django-polls-0.1.tar.gz
With luck, your Django project should now work correctly again. Run the server again to confirm this.
To uninstall the package, use pip:
python -m pip uninstall django-polls
Publishing your app¶
Now that we’ve packaged and tested
django-polls, it’s ready to share with
the world! If this wasn’t just an example, you could now:
Installing Python packages with a virtual environment¶
Earlier, we installed the polls app as a user library. This has some disadvantages:
- Modifying the user libraries can affect other Python software on your system.
- You won’t be able to run multiple versions of this package (or others with the same name).
Typically, these situations only arise once you’re maintaining several Django projects. When they do, the best solution is to use venv. This tool allows you to maintain multiple isolated Python environments, each with its own copy of the libraries and package namespace.