Edgewall Software


Version 1 (modified by cmlenz, 8 years ago)


Genshi Templating Basics

Genshi provides a template engine that can be used for generating either markup (such as HTML or XML) or plain text. While both share some of the syntax (and much of the underlying implementation) they are essentially separate languages.

This document describes the common parts of the template engine and will be most useful as reference to those developing Genshi templates. Templates are XML or plain text files that include processing directives that affect how the template is rendered, and template expressions that are dynamically substituted by variable data.

1   Synopsis

A Genshi markup template is a well-formed XML document with embedded Python used for control flow and variable substitution. Markup templates should be used to generate any kind of HTML or XML output, as they provide many advantages over simple text-based templates (such as automatic escaping of strings).

The following illustrates a very basic Genshi markup template:

  title = "A Genshi Template"
  fruits = ["apple", "orange", "kiwi"]
<html xmlns:py="http://genshi.edgewall.org/">
    <title py:content="title">This is replaced.</title>
    <p>These are some of my favorite fruits:</p>
      <li py:for="fruit in fruits">
        I like ${fruit}s

This example shows:

  1. a Python code block, using a processing instruction
  2. the Genshi namespace declaration
  3. usage of templates directives (py:content and py:for)
  4. an inline Python expression (${fruit}).

The template would generate output similar to this:

    <title>A Genshi Template</title>
    <p>These are some of my favorite fruits:</p>
      <li>I like apples</li>
      <li>I like oranges</li>
      <li>I like kiwis</li>

A text template is a simple plain text document that can also contain embedded Python code. Text templates can be used to generate simple non-markup text formats, such as the body of an plain text email. For example:

Dear $name,
These are some of my favorite fruits:
#for fruit in fruits
 * $fruit

2   Python API

The Python code required for templating with Genshi is generally based on the following pattern:

  • Attain a MarkupTemplate or TextTemplate object from a string or file-like object containing the template source. This can either be done directly, or through a TemplateLoader instance.
  • Call the generate() method of the template, passing any data that should be made available to the template as keyword arguments.
  • Serialize the resulting stream using its render() method.

For example:

>>> from genshi.template import MarkupTemplate
>>> tmpl = MarkupTemplate('<h1>Hello, $name!</h1>')
>>> stream = tmpl.generate(name='world')
>>> print stream.render()
<h1>Hello, world!</h1>

Using a text template is similar:

>>> from genshi.template import TextTemplate
>>> tmpl = TextTemplate('Hello, $name!')
>>> stream = tmpl.generate(name='world')
>>> print stream.render()
Hello, world!


See the Serialization section of the Markup Streams page for information on configuring template output options.

Using a template loader provides the advantage that “compiled” templates are automatically cached, and only parsed again when the template file changes. In addition, it enables the use of a template search path, allowing template directories to be spread across different file-system locations. Using a template loader would generally look as follows:

from genshi.template import TemplateLoader
loader = TemplateLoader([templates_dir1, templates_dir2])
tmpl = loader.load('test.html')
stream = tmpl.generate(title='Hello, world!')
print stream.render()

See the API documentation for details on using Genshi via the Python API.

3   Template Expressions and Code Blocks

Python expressions can be used in text and directive arguments. An expression is substituted with the result of its evaluation against the template data. Expressions in text (which includes the values of non-directive attributes) need to prefixed with a dollar sign ($) and usually enclosed in curly braces ({…}).

If the expression starts with a letter and contains only letters, digits, dots, and underscores, the curly braces may be omitted. In all other cases, the braces are required so that the template processor knows where the expression ends:

>>> from genshi.template import MarkupTemplate
>>> tmpl = MarkupTemplate('<em>${items[0].capitalize()} item</em>')
>>> print tmpl.generate(items=['first', 'second'])
<em>First item</em>

Expressions support the full power of Python. In addition, it is possible to access items in a dictionary using “dotted notation” (i.e. as if they were attributes), and vice-versa (i.e. access attributes as if they were items in a dictionary):

>>> from genshi.template import MarkupTemplate
>>> tmpl = MarkupTemplate('<em>${dict.foo}</em>')
>>> print tmpl.generate(dict={'foo': 'bar'})

Because there are two ways to access either attributes or items, expressions do not raise the standard AttributeError or IndexError exceptions, but rather an exception of the type UndefinedError. The same kind of error is raised when you try to use a top-level variable that is not in the context data. See Error Handling below for details on how such errors are handled.

3.1   Code Blocks

XML templates also support full Python code blocks using the <?python ?> processing instruction:

      from genshi.builder import tag
      def greeting(name):
          return tag.b('Hello, %s!' % name') ?>

This will produce the following output:

  <b>Hello, world!</b>

Code blocks can import modules, define classes and functions, and basically do anything you can do in normal Python code. What code blocks can not do is to produce content that is included directly in the generated page.


Using the print statement will print to the standard output stream, just as it does for other Python code in your application.

Unlike expressions, Python code in <?python ?> processing instructions can not use item and attribute access in an interchangeable manner. That means that “dotted notation” is always attribute access, and vice-versa.

The support for Python code blocks in templates is not supposed to encourage mixing application code into templates, which is generally considered bad design. If you're using many code blocks, that may be a sign that you should move such code into separate Python modules.


Code blocks are not currently supported in text templates.

3.2   Error Handling

By default, Genshi allows you to access variables that are not defined, without raising a NameError exception as regular Python code would:

>>> from genshi.template import MarkupTemplate
>>> tmpl = MarkupTemplate('<p>${doh}</p>')
>>> print tmpl.generate().render('xhtml')

You will however get an exception if you try to call an undefined variable, or do anything else with it, such as accessing its attributes:

>>> from genshi.template import MarkupTemplate
>>> tmpl = MarkupTemplate('<p>${doh.oops}</p>')
>>> print tmpl.generate().render('xhtml')
Traceback (most recent call last):
UndefinedError: "doh" not defined

If you need to know whether a variable is defined, you can check its type against the Undefined class, for example in a conditional directive:

>>> from genshi.template import MarkupTemplate
>>> tmpl = MarkupTemplate('<p>${type(doh) is not Undefined}</p>')
>>> print tmpl.generate().render('xhtml')

Alternatively, the built-in functions defined or value_of can be used in this case.

3.2.1   Strict Mode

In addition to the default "lenient" error handling, Genshi lets you use a less forgiving mode if you prefer errors blowing up loudly instead of being ignored silently.

This mode can be chosen by passing the lookup='strict' keyword argument to the template initializer, or by passing the variable_lookup='strict' keyword argument to the TemplateLoader initializer:

>>> from genshi.template import MarkupTemplate
>>> tmpl = MarkupTemplate('<p>${doh}</p>', lookup='strict')
>>> print tmpl.generate().render('xhtml')
Traceback (most recent call last):
UndefinedError: "doh" not defined

When using strict mode, any reference to an undefined variable, as well as trying to access an non-existing item or attribute of an object, will cause an UndefinedError to be raised immediately.


While this mode is currently not the default, it may be promoted to the default in future versions of Genshi. In general, the default lenient error handling mode can be considered dangerous as it silently ignores typos.

3.2.2   Custom Modes

In addition to the built-in "lenient" and "strict" modes, it is also possible to use a custom error handling mode. For example, you could use lenient error handling in a production environment, while also logging a warning when an undefined variable is referenced.

See the API documentation of the genshi.template.eval module for details.

3.3   Built-in Functions & Types

The following functions and types are available by default in template code, in addition to the standard built-ins that are available to all Python code.

3.3.1   defined(name)

This function determines whether a variable of the specified name exists in the context data, and returns True if it does.

3.3.2   value_of(name, default=None)

This function returns the value of the variable with the specified name if such a variable is defined, and returns the value of the default parameter if no such variable is defined.

3.3.3   Markup(text)

The Markup type marks a given string as being safe for inclusion in markup, meaning it will not be escaped in the serialization stage. Use this with care, as not escaping a user-provided string may allow malicious users to open your web site to cross-site scripting attacks.

3.3.4   Undefined

The Undefined type can be used to check whether a reference variable is defined, as explained in error handling.

4   Template Directives

Directives provide control flow functionality for templates, such as conditions or iteration. As the syntax for directives depends on whether you're using markup or text templates, refer to the XML Template Language or Text Template Language pages for information.

See also: genshi.template, Genshi XML Template Language, Genshi Text Template Language, Documentation, GenshiRecipes