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Django for a Rails Developer

By : Dheeraj Kumar Ketireddy

This is not yet another Django vs Rails blog post. It is a compilation of notes I made working with Django after having worked on Rails for years.

In this post I want to give a brief introduction to Django project layout from a Rails developer point of view, on what is there, what is not there and where to look for things. It should help a rails developer working on django be able to find the necessary files and underatnd the layout of the project files.

Once you have both the frameworks installed on your system you can create the projects using the commands

# creating a rails project
rails rails_project
# creating a Django project
django-admin.py startproject django_project

Lets look at the files and structure created by the respective frameworks

#rails_project
README
Rakefile
app/
    controllers/
        application_controller.rb
    helpers/
        application_helper.rb
    models/
    views/
        layouts/
config/
    boot.rb
    database.yml
    environment.rb
    environments/
        development.rb
        production.rb
        test.rb
    initializers/
        backtrace_silencers.rb
        inflections.rb
        mime_types.rb
        new_rails_defaults.rb
        session_store.rb
    locales/
        en.yml
    routes.rb
db/
    seeds.rb
doc/
    README_FOR_APP
lib/
    tasks/
log/
    development.log
    production.log
    server.log
    test.log
public/
    404.html
    422.html
    500.html
    favicon.ico
    images/
        rails.png
    index.html
    javascripts/
        application.js
        controls.js
        dragdrop.js
        effects.js
        prototype.js
    robots.txt
    stylesheets/
script/
    about
    console
    dbconsole
    destroy
    generate
    performance/
        benchmarker
        profiler
    plugin
    runner
    server
test/
    fixtures/
    functional/
    integration/
    performance/
        browsing_test.rb
    test_helper.rb
    unit/
tmp/
    cache/
    pids/
    sessions/
    sockets/
vendor/
    plugins/

that is huge....

lets look at the django project files

# django_project
__init__.py
manage.py
settings.py
urls.py

far lesser when compared to the rails project.

In fact a rails project comes with everything a web application needs. When I say everything I mean everything..... base application, routing, database configuration, development, test and production environment specific configurations and their respective log files, javascript, test, some standard html files and some helpful scripts for developing.

Why then does a Django project have so less number of files? It has got to do with the Django's philosophy and the concept of applications. The django project is not complete without the application, so lets create a application inside the project and have a look at the structure

django-admin.py startapp app

# django_project
__init__.py
app/
    __init__.py
    models.py
    tests.py
    views.py
manage.py
settings.py
urls.py

even after including this, the number of files is still less than the rails project.

Lets break it down and relate both the frameworks.

Rails Django
Configuration Files
  • config/database.yml for database settings
  • config/environments/
  • development.rb for development specific settings
  • production.rb for production specific settings
  • test.rb for test specific settings
  • settings.py, one file for everything, database configuration and any other configuaration or settings will be in this file
    URLs config/routes.rb urls.py
    Schema/Models
  • db/schema.rb for the ruby version of db schema
  • app/models/* for the models
  • complete schema is not stored any where
  • Under every application in your project, models.py file will contain the table specific schema stored as django models
  • Management Commands
  • ./script/server, start server
  • ./script/console, ruby console
  • ./script/dbconsole, database console
  • rake db:migrate, run database migrations
  • manage.py is the file for all your tasks
  • ./manage.py runserver, start server
  • ./manage.py shell, python console
  • ./manage.py dbshell, database console
  • ./manage.py syncdb
  • Application Code app/controllers/* will contain the application logic views.py file under each application folder is the place to write to your application logic, file can be named with any name, views.py is the general convention
    Application templates app/views//* is the place for the templates
  • default: looks inside 'templates' directory, under the application directory
  • looks in the directory specified by 'TEMPLATE_DIRS' in settings.py
  • and lets have a look at the other things in rails_project

    • Logging, unders the logs directory
    • Some default html files for some standard http errors, under the public directory
    • Rails has very good support for testing, for that bunch of files under tests
    • Vendor/Plugin, place for some third party plugins/applications.

    Missing pieces in Django (for a rails developer)

    • Scaffold magic
    • Generate commands
    • Migrations

    and what is Django is providing by default? Sorry no extra files in the project; but you will get an authentication system and Django's killer feature, admin, just by modifying your 'INSTALLED_APPS' in your settings. It is similar to the plugins feature in Rails, Django's philosophy of resusable apps helps you in getting any particular functionality into your project.

    Following is a list of what I like in Django (and associated apps):

  • Admin (almost everybodys favourite)
  • Generic Views, helps from writing a lot of repetetive code, James Bennett's blog on generic views
  • Django DB API & QuerySets, (chaining and the filters that are missing in ActiveRecord)
  • Forms and above all, my favorite yet: ModelForm.
  • You can get the migrations feature in Django using South. Being an external app, it a bit of pain in setting it up to work with South. Other than that it is more like rails migrations
  • django-command-extensions
  • Search the Django way
  • Following are the questions that I keep getting,

  • When a project will almost have a application why creating project & app has to be two different steps?
  • Why not create a 'templates' directoy and a 'base.html' either in project's directory or in the apps's directory, because creating the same templates directory and same base.html for every project is not DRY :) ?
  • Why serving static files in development has to be a additional setup, as no developer wants to setup a server for serving static files, I am aware of 'django.static.serve' but still that is an additional setup, why not create a sample media directory and a url for the same in urls.py ?
  • let me know via comments, if you have any answers

    program used for listing the files in a directory

    import os
    import sys
    
    try:
        directory = sys.argv[1]
    except IndexError:
        directory = os.path.dirname(os.path.abspath(__file__))
    
    def r_list_dir(directory, indent=0):
        dir_files = sorted([os.path.join(directory, file_name) for file_name in  os.listdir(directory)])
        for item in dir_files:
            if os.path.isdir(item):
                print " " * indent + os.path.split(item)[1] + '/'
                r_list_dir(item, indent+4)
            else:
                print " " * indent + os.path.split(item)[1]
    
    r_list_dir(directory)
    

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