A Close Look at Django Template System

Posted on with tags: django

Django has a built-in template system. It is relatively easy to understand, and the source code is not as complicated as other parts of Django. This article is a summary of the notes I took when studying the system.

Official Documentation

The online Django documentation has 5 pages dedicated to template.

  • Intro to template (link)
  • Template language reference (link)
  • Built-in tags and filters (link)
  • How to use template system (link)
  • Custom tags and filters (link)

A Django application developer probably does not need to know all of those details. But it is always a good thing for programmers to know how things work behind the scene.

Template Language Summary

Django Template Language (DTL) syntax mainly consists of three elements: variable, tag, and filter. Here are some examples:


{{ variable }}
{{ tag.name }}


{% expression %}
{% for startup in tag.startup_set.all %}
{% endfor %}

{% extends "base.html" %}
{% block title %}
  {{ block.super }} - Tag List
{% endblock title %}

{% if/else/endif %}
{% if not tag.startup_set all and not tag.blog_posts.all %}


{{ startup_date|date:"F jS, Y" }}  ▶ July 2nd, 2019
{{ startup.website|urlize }}
{{ startup.description|linebreaks }}

other filters: title, pluralize, truncatewords:20, default:"base.html"

How to Load Templates

Method 1

The django.template.loader module defines get_template and select_template functions. Both functions can load template files and render them agaist a dict. The difference is that get_template accepts a template name and select_template accepts a list of template names. Here is an example from Django official tutorial.

def index(request):
    latest_question_list = Question.objects.order_by('-pub_date')[:5]
    template = loader.get_template('polls/index.html')
    context = {
        'latest_question_list': latest_question_list,
    return HttpResponse(template.render(context, request))

Method 2

The more common code is to use the render function defined in django.shortcuts module in views.

from django.shortcuts import render
return render(request, 'template_name.html', {'tag': tag})

The render function itself (Django2.2.2 source code) is very simple and short. It calls render_to_string function in django.template.loader module, which in turn calls get_template or select_template depending on template_name.

# in django.shortcuts
def render(request, template_name, context=None, content_type=None, 
           status=None, using=None):
    Return a HttpResponse whose content is filled with the result of calling
    django.template.loader.render_to_string() with the passed arguments.
    content = loader.render_to_string(template_name, context, request, 
    return HttpResponse(content, content_type, status)

# in django.template.loader 
def render_to_string(template_name, context=None, request=None, using=None):
    Load a template and render it with a context. Return a string.
    template_name may be a string or a list of strings.
    if isinstance(template_name, (list, tuple)):
        template = select_template(template_name, using=using)
        template = get_template(template_name, using=using)
    return template.render(context, request)

Method 3

The django.template module has two classes Template and Context. Those are template system's lower level APIs. Here is an example:

from django.template import Template, Context
template = Template('Hi, my name is {{ name }}.')
context = Context({'name': 'Andrew'})
#  result is 'Hi, my name is Andrew.'

Template System Source Code

The source code for Django template system is in django/template directory, and consists of 26 python files.

Bash command wc outputs number of lines in a file. We know that total number of lines of Django template system code is 5,863 (Django 2.2.2). The output below also shows that two files base.py and defaulttags.py have over 1,000 lines of code each.

george@STK2M3:~/django-2.2.2/django/template$ wc -l *.py
  1044 base.py
    81 context_processors.py
   280 context.py
   907 defaultfilters.py
  1474 defaulttags.py
   180 engine.py
    42 exceptions.py
    68 __init__.py
   328 library.py
    66 loader.py
   317 loader_tags.py
   145 response.py
   208 smartif.py
   107 utils.py
  5247 total
george@STK2M3:~/django-2.2.2/django/template$ wc -l loaders/*.py
  14 loaders/app_directories.py
  49 loaders/base.py
  95 loaders/cached.py
  46 loaders/filesystem.py
   0 loaders/__init__.py
  27 loaders/locmem.py
 231 total
george@STK2M3:~/django-2.2.2/django/template$ wc -l backends/*.py
   81 backends/base.py
  129 backends/django.py
   53 backends/dummy.py
    0 backends/__init__.py
  108 backends/jinja2.py
   14 backends/utils.py
  385 total