When trying to port Robaccia to App Engine the hard part has been finding anything to do. If you remember from my previous write-up I started with choosing the components to build on, but in the case of App Engine the model classes are already provided and the development kit already provides Django templates, which have become a favorite of mine, so there's little to choose except for a library to dispatch incoming requests. In the intervening years since I first wrote about Robaccia I've written my own library to do URL dispatching (WSGIDispatcher) and I'll use that.

There are other pieces we don't need to construct, for example, the SDK comes with a development server so we don't need to write that ourselves. We don't need dbconfig.py either.

There were two bits of functionality in manage.py, the first was to create the tables in the database and the second was to run a development server, but neither of those are needed if we are running under App Engine; the datastore doesn't require you to create tables before operating, and the SDK has it's own development server.

That doesn't leave us with a lot. We have our convention of models in model.py, views in view.py, url dispatching via WSGIDispatcher in urls.py, and finally all of the templates in a templates subdirectory. The little bit of glue we need to add is the same as in the original Robaccia which is render(), a convenience function for rendering templates.

import os
import mimetypes
from google.appengine.ext.webapp import template

def render(start_response, template_file, template_values):
  contenttype, encoding = mimetypes.guess_type(template_file)
  if not contenttype:
    contenttype = "text/html"
  template_file = os.path.join(os.path.dirname(__file__), "templates", template_file)
  body = template.render(template_file, template_values)
  start_response("200 OK", [('Content-Type', contenttype)])
  return [body]

One of the differences in robaccia.render() under App Engine is that we can't access files with a relative path name like was done in the original Robaccia, so we will have to make them absolute using this technique:

template_file = os.path.join(os.path.dirname(__file__), "templates", template_file)

The app.yaml is very simple since we will do all of our dispatching through main.py:

application: robaccia-test-app
version: 1
runtime: python
api_version: 1
- url: .*
  script: main.py

You would still need to edit app.yaml if you wanted to include static files, or use HTTPS on some URIs.

Here is toy blog app to show how things hang together:


from google.appengine.ext import db

class BlogEntry(db.Model):
  title = db.StringProperty()
  content = db.TextProperty()
  created = db.DateTimeProperty(auto_now_add=True)
  updated = db.DateTimeProperty(auto_now_add=True)  


#!/usr/bin/env python

from wsgiref.handlers import CGIHandler
from urls import urls

def main():

if __name__ == '__main__':


import view
from wsgidispatcher import Dispatcher

urls = Dispatcher()
urls.add('/blog/', GET=view.index, POST=view.create)
urls.add('/blog/{id}/', view.member_get)
urls.add('/blog/{id}/edit_form', GET=view.member_edit_form, POST=view.member_update)


import robaccia
import model
import cgi

def index(environ, start_response):
  entries = model.BlogEntry.all().order("-created").fetch(20)
  return robaccia.render(start_response, 'index.html', locals())

def member_get(environ, start_response):
  id = int(environ['wsgiorg.routing_args'][1]['id'])
  entry = model.BlogEntry.get_by_id(id)
  return robaccia.render(start_response, 'entry.html', locals())

def create(environ, start_response):
  req = dict(cgi.parse_qsl(environ['wsgi.input'].read()))
  model.BlogEntry(title=req['title'], content=req['content']).put()
  start_response("303 See Other", [('Location', '/blog/')])
  return []
def member_edit_form(environ, start_response):
  id = int(environ['wsgiorg.routing_args'][1]['id'])
  entry = model.BlogEntry.get_by_id(id)
  return robaccia.render(start_response, 'entry_form.html', locals())
def member_update(environ, start_response):
  id = int(environ['wsgiorg.routing_args'][1]['id'])
  entry = model.BlogEntry.get_by_id(id)
  req = dict(cgi.parse_qsl(environ['wsgi.input'].read()))
  entry.title = req['title']
  entry.content = req['content']
  start_response("303 See Other", [('Location', '/blog/' + str(id) + "/edit_form")])
  return []  

From here you have the core of a framework and can grow it in any direction you like. For example, you may not find the WSGI interface for pulling out values from the request URI to be very intuitive. We can create a decorator that adds the wsgiorg.routing_args as calling parameters:

def wsgirouting(f):
  Decorator to turn WGSI call into a call the contains
  environ and start_response then all of 
  the 'wsgiorg.routing_args' as *args and **kwargs.
  def wrapper(environ, start_response):
    args, kwargs = environ['wsgiorg.routing_args']
    return f(environ, start_response, *args, **kwargs)
  return wrapper

Now our views are a little simpler:

def member_edit_form(environ, start_response, id):
  entry = model.BlogEntry.get_by_id(int(id))
  return robaccia.render(start_response, 'entry_form.html', locals())

The point of this isn't to create yet another Python web framework, just like the original article that introduced Robaccia, but to give an overview of the pieces that go into a web framework, and in this case, how those pieces interact with App Engine.

If you want to experiment with this code I've added it as a branch to the Robaccia project. To get the code:

svn checkout http://robaccia.googlecode.com/svn/branches/robaccia-app-engine-demo robaccia-app-engine-demo
Great stuff -- thanks much for this!

Posted by peter keane on 2009-01-09

Awesome. I built TiddlyWeb on top of a sort of modified robaccia and once I had the basics working, one of the first things I did was make it run in App Engine. It was brilliantly easy. Go WSGI! I don't know if you mean this or not, but your WSGIDispatcher link is going back to the original why so many frameworks post, not to anything about WSGIDispatcher itself.

Posted by Chris Dent on 2009-01-09


Thanks, and I fixed the link.

Posted by Joe on 2009-01-09