Monday, October 15, 2012

Rendering ReST with Klein and Twisted Templates

In a previous life, I spent about 25 hours a day worrying about content management systems written in Python. As a result of the battle scars built up during those days, I have developed a pretty strong aversion for a heavy CMS when a simple approach will do. Especially if the users are technologically proficient.

At MindPool, we're building out our infrastructure right now using Twisted so that we can take advantage of the super amazing numbers of protocols that Twisted supports to provide some pretty unique combined services for our customers (among the many other types of services we are providing). For our website, we're using the Bottle/Flask-inspired Klein as our micro web framework, and this uses the most excellent Twisted templating. (We are, of course, also using Twitter Bootstrap.)

Here's the rub, though: we want to manage our content in the git repo for our site with ReStructured Text files, and there's no way to tell the template rendering machinery (the flattener code) to allow raw HTML into the mix. As such, my first attempt at ReST support was rendering HTML tags all over the user-facing content.

This ended up being a blessing in disguise, though, as I was fairly unhappy with the third-party dependencies that had popped up as a result of getting this to work. After a couple false starts, I was hot on the trail of a good solution: convert the docutils-generated HTML (from the ReST source files) to Twisted Stan tags, and push those into the renderers.

This ended up working like a champ. Here's what I did:
  1. Created a couple of utility functions for easily getting HTML from ReST and Stan from ReST.
  2. Wrote a custom IRenderable for ReST content (not strictly necessary, but organizationally useful, given what else will be added in the future).
  3. Updated the base class for "content" page templates to dispatch, depending upon content type.
Afterwards I was rewarded with some nicely rendered content on the staging MindPool site :-) (once the content text has been completed, we'll be pushing it live).

Kudos to David Reid for Klein and (as usual) to the Twisted community for one hell of a framework that is the engine of my internet.

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