Making Django suck less

Or, “How to make Django even better then it already is”. Because it really isn’t as bad as the title implies :)

In my previous post Things I hate about Python and Django, I said that one of the things I “hate” about Django is its template language. While very easy to use and pretty extensible, it’s missing some important (and basic, to be honest) features like in-template creation of variables, a good if syntax and the ability to use variable variables (variable interpolating).

I have been looking for a template replacement and looked into Mako, Cheetah and Jinja2.

  • Mako is easily plugged into a Django project thanks to the django-mako project. I don’t really like its syntax though.
  • Cheetah has a very nice syntax (but completely different from the normal Django templates). Getting it to play nice with Django is a lot harder though. Simple things like direct_to_template are easy enough, but once you start extending templates with each other, it gets nasty.
  • Jinja2 uses almost exactly the same syntax as the normal Django template language, while adding extra features and (a lot of) extra power. It looks very easy to use as a drop-in replacement.

Based on this I chose Jinja2 as the winner, and started a small project to see how easy it is to plug into Django. The easiest way to use it, is by using the Coffin library, which adds Jinja2 versions of things like direct_to_template and render_to_response, and even ports the most useful Django filters like {% url %}.

First, install Jinja2, and then install Coffin with the following commands:

$ cd /tmp
$ git clone git://
$ cd coffin/
$ sudo python install

In your views, you can now simply change from django.views.generic.simple import direct_to_template to from coffin.views.generic.simple import direct_to_template. Really, that’s it, you are now using Jinja2.

If you want to render your 404 and 500 templates with Jinja2, change from django.conf.urls.defaults import * in your to from coffin.conf.urls.defaults import *.

Most existing Django templates should just work, however some things are a bit different. Read the How Compatible is Jinja2 with Django? chapter in the official Jinja2 documentation, and Convert Django Templates to Jinja2 for more information. Seeing as how similar the two systems are, it leaves me wondering why Django is developing and maintaining their own template language. It seems like a smart move to switch to Jinja2.

Are you using the default Django template language? Something else? If so, which one and why? Let me know in the comments.