Setting up PyXWF

PyXWF currently requires a dedicated webserver with WSGI support. Many widely-used webservers (at least Apache and lighttpd) support WSGI using a module.

In addition to the python code, you’ll have a repository with content, which is where you put all the data which belongs to the site. We call this the data directory, while the directory where PyXWF resides is the PyXWF directory.

Creating the sitemap and initial data

All those files referenced in this section are available in an example form in the PyXWF repository, in the subdirectory misc/example. You may use these as a reference to build your own customized website.

PyXWF requires at least one file, the so called sitemap.xml (although you can choose a different name). This is an XML file where the whole configuration for PyXWF goes. It usually resides in the root of the data directory.

This is how a bare sitemap.xml looks (it won’t work):

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8" ?>
<site   xmlns=""
        <title>My fancy PyXWF site</title>
    <tweaks />
    <crumbs />

We’ll use this as a basement for our walk through the configuration process. Before we go on, I’ll leave a few words on how we at PyXWF think about XML namespaces, as what we’re doing here may seem a bit weird to you if you know XML (if you don’t, you probably should read up on XML anyways, cause most of PyXWF happens in XML and Python).

PyXWF is really modular, as you might guess from the snippet above, even the most basic elements like a directory in a site structure are plugins. To keep the plugins separated from each other in the sitemap XML, each plugin has to use its own XML namespace.

This brings you to a dilemma when it comes to find the root of the tree in the sitemap XML: because you _cannot_ know its namespace. Someone could decide to put a Transform node at the root or just a single page or a remote redirect.

So we have to scan through the whole <site /> node and find a child with the XML local-name tree. This is the only place in PyXWF itself where the local-name of a node matters.

The @template attribute on the <dir:tree /> node by the way states the default template used to render web pages. We’ll talk about templates later, namely when we create the file referenced there.

Adding a home page

As mentioned previously, this sitemap will not work in PyXWF. You’ll recieve an error message which tells you that the dir:tree node needs an index node.

So let’s add one:

    <page:node  name="" id="home"
        type="application/x-pywebxml" />

This won’t work on it’s own, we have to add two other things. First, the page namespace prefix needs to be resolved. We do that by adding the declaration to the <site /> node:

<site   xmlns=""

And we also need to load the plugin by adding another <p /> tag:


Now let’s add source file for the home page. As you might guess, the @src attribute of a <page:node /> references the file in which the node looks for the source of the document to display. All paths are relative to the data directory. So we create a home.xml file, which has to look like this to satisfy the application/x-pywebxml content type set in @type:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8" ?>
<page   xmlns=""
        <title>Home page</title>
    <body xmlns="">
            <!-- note that hX tags automatically get transformed to hX+1 tags
                 according to the environment where they're used. -->
            <h1>Welcome to my website!</h1>
        <p>I just set up PyXWF and want to play around.</p>

The root element of a PyWebXML document must be a <py:page /> node in the namespace given above. We usually choose the py: prefix to reference this namespace (for more elements and attributes which can be used in that namespace have a look at the respective documentation). For more information about PyWebXML documents see <py-namespace>. The only thing you need to know now is that you can use arbitary XHTML (and anything you can use in XHTML) inside the <h:body /> element. It will be displayed on page, a correct template presumed.

Adding a template

Templates in PyXWF are XSL transformations. If you don’t know anything about these, you’re probably lost. We cannot help you there, you maybe should get some resources on these.

I won’t paste a whole default template here. Instead, i’ll describe in short what the outermost template must do to create a proper website.

  • The input of the transformation is always a valid py:page tree.
  • The output of the transformation must be a valid py:page tree.
  • The h:body of the py:page tree should contain the whole body which should appear in the HTML output.
  • The py:meta element should contain a py:title element which will map to the HTML title.
  • The py:meta element can also contain as many py:link and h:meta elements neccessary to describe your page. Please see the py:link documentation on how to include javascript files.

Setting up WSGI

As mentioned before, PyXWF connects to the Web using WSGI. Here are the neccessary configuration steps to get it to work.

Create the WSGI script

You may want to have a look at examples/start/ from the PyXWF repository to see how a WSGI script might look. Most important is to set up the path to the data directory properly, and make sure that PyXWF is in your python path.

We’ll go through it here anyways. It’s basically a normal python script, which is set up for use with WSGI (see the PEP-3333 for more info about WSGI itself). A very simplistic approach might look like this and we’ll call this file

# encoding=utf-8
from __future__ import unicode_literals, print_function

import sys
import os
import logging

# you can configure logging here as you wish. This is the recommended
# configuration for testing (disable DEBUG-logging on the cache, it's rather
# verbose and not particularily helpful at the start)

conf = {
    "pythonpath": ["/path/to/pyxwf"],
    "datapath": "/path/to/site"

except KeyError:

import PyXWF.WebBackends.WSGI as WSGI

sitemapFile = os.path.join(conf["datapath"], "sitemap.xml")

application = WSGI.WSGISite(

The datapath in the conf dictionary refers to the directory in which PyXWF will look for all files. In fact, all references to files inside the sitemap.xml are relative to that path. Later on in the snippet above, we also look for the sitemap.xml itself in that location. Note that you have to add the path to the PyXWF package to your pythonpath (if you have not already done this globally).

Test it quickly (without dedicated webserver)

For this, PyXWF comes with a script called It’ll help you to run test your website as soon as you have a WSGI script running. This will break though as soon as you have static content which is served from outside of PyXWF. But for the start, it’s fine. It’s basic use is pretty simple (and ./ -h will tell you more). Just navigate to the PyXWF directory and do:

./ /path/to/

(you created the file in the previous step!) This will spam some log messages. After it quiets down, you’ll be able to access your site using the URL http://localhost:8080/.

As soon as you need static files (images, CSS, …), you’ll want to use a dedicated webserver for that, as PyXWF does not deliver such files by default. The next section deals with setting up PyXWF with Apache, but you’re free to skip this in favour of finding out how awesome PyXWF really is.

You can in fact also run the examples delivered with PyXWF using, for example:

./ examples/start/

mod_wsgi with Apache

We are using a configuration similar to this one for

WSGIApplicationGroup %{GLOBAL}
WSGIScriptAlias / /path/to/zombofant/data/

# access to static files via Apache, PyXWF won't do that
Alias /css /path/to/zombofant/data/css
Alias /img /path/to/zombofant/data/img

Actually, thats all you need. Read up on WSGI configuration to see how to adapt this to your needs if it doesn’t work out of the box.

Before you cheer in happiness, a word of warning. The directive WSGIApplicationGroup is required for PyXWF to work properly with lxml, but may also break having multiple PyXWF sites on one server. The solution is to use one WSGIProcessGroup for each site. I might write another section about this, but for the basic setup the above snippet is okay, so I’ll leave that for later.