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Mako 1.0.0 Documentation

Release: 1.0.0

Inheritance

Note

Most of the inheritance examples here take advantage of a feature that’s new in Mako as of version 0.4.1 called the “block”. This tag is very similar to the “def” tag but is more streamlined for usage with inheritance. Note that all of the examples here which use blocks can also use defs instead. Contrasting usages will be illustrated.

Using template inheritance, two or more templates can organize themselves into an inheritance chain, where content and functions from all involved templates can be intermixed. The general paradigm of template inheritance is this: if a template A inherits from template B, then template A agrees to send the executional control to template B at runtime (A is called the inheriting template). Template B, the inherited template, then makes decisions as to what resources from A shall be executed.

In practice, it looks like this. Here’s a hypothetical inheriting template, index.html:

## index.html
<%inherit file="base.html"/>

<%block name="header">
    this is some header content
</%block>

this is the body content.

And base.html, the inherited template:

## base.html
<html>
    <body>
        <div class="header">
            <%block name="header"/>
        </div>

        ${self.body()}

        <div class="footer">
            <%block name="footer">
                this is the footer
            </%block>
        </div>
    </body>
</html>

Here is a breakdown of the execution:

  1. When index.html is rendered, control immediately passes to base.html.

  2. base.html then renders the top part of an HTML document, then invokes the <%block name="header"> block. It invokes the underlying header() function off of a built-in namespace called self (this namespace was first introduced in the Namespaces chapter in self). Since index.html is the topmost template and also defines a block called header, it’s this header block that ultimately gets executed – instead of the one that’s present in base.html.

  3. Control comes back to base.html. Some more HTML is rendered.

  4. base.html executes self.body(). The body() function on all template-based namespaces refers to the main body of the template, therefore the main body of index.html is rendered.

  5. When <%block name="header"> is encountered in index.html during the self.body() call, a conditional is checked – does the current inherited template, i.e. base.html, also define this block? If yes, the <%block> is not executed here – the inheritance mechanism knows that the parent template is responsible for rendering this block (and in fact it already has). In other words a block only renders in its basemost scope.

  6. Control comes back to base.html. More HTML is rendered, then the <%block name="footer"> expression is invoked.

  7. The footer block is only defined in base.html, so being the topmost definition of footer, it’s the one that executes. If index.html also specified footer, then its version would override that of the base.

  8. base.html finishes up rendering its HTML and the template is complete, producing:

    <html>
        <body>
            <div class="header">
                this is some header content
            </div>
    
            this is the body content.
    
            <div class="footer">
                this is the footer
            </div>
        </body>
    </html>
    

...and that is template inheritance in a nutshell. The main idea is that the methods that you call upon self always correspond to the topmost definition of that method. Very much the way self works in a Python class, even though Mako is not actually using Python class inheritance to implement this functionality. (Mako doesn’t take the “inheritance” metaphor too seriously; while useful to setup some commonly recognized semantics, a textual template is not very much like an object-oriented class construct in practice).

Nesting Blocks

The named blocks defined in an inherited template can also be nested within other blocks. The name given to each block is globally accessible via any inheriting template. We can add a new block title to our header block:

## base.html
<html>
    <body>
        <div class="header">
            <%block name="header">
                <h2>
                    <%block name="title"/>
                </h2>
            </%block>
        </div>

        ${self.body()}

        <div class="footer">
            <%block name="footer">
                this is the footer
            </%block>
        </div>
    </body>
</html>

The inheriting template can name either or both of header and title, separately or nested themselves:

## index.html
<%inherit file="base.html"/>

<%block name="header">
    this is some header content
    ${parent.header()}
</%block>

<%block name="title">
    this is the title
</%block>

this is the body content.

Note when we overrode header, we added an extra call ${parent.header()} in order to invoke the parent’s header block in addition to our own. That’s described in more detail below, in Using the parent Namespace to Augment Defs.

Rendering a Named Block Multiple Times

Recall from the section Using Blocks that a named block is just like a <%def>, with some different usage rules. We can call one of our named sections distinctly, for example a section that is used more than once, such as the title of a page:

<html>
    <head>
        <title>${self.title()}</title>
    </head>
    <body>
    <%block name="header">
        <h2><%block name="title"/></h2>
    </%block>
    ${self.body()}
    </body>
</html>

Where above an inheriting template can define <%block name="title"> just once, and it will be used in the base template both in the <title> section as well as the <h2>.

But what about Defs?

The previous example used the <%block> tag to produce areas of content to be overridden. Before Mako 0.4.1, there wasn’t any such tag – instead there was only the <%def> tag. As it turns out, named blocks and defs are largely interchangeable. The def simply doesn’t call itself automatically, and has more open-ended naming and scoping rules that are more flexible and similar to Python itself, but less suited towards layout. The first example from this chapter using defs would look like:

## index.html
<%inherit file="base.html"/>

<%def name="header()">
    this is some header content
</%def>

this is the body content.

And base.html, the inherited template:

## base.html
<html>
    <body>
        <div class="header">
            ${self.header()}
        </div>

        ${self.body()}

        <div class="footer">
            ${self.footer()}
        </div>
    </body>
</html>

<%def name="header()"/>
<%def name="footer()">
    this is the footer
</%def>

Above, we illustrate that defs differ from blocks in that their definition and invocation are defined in two separate places, instead of at once. You can almost do exactly what a block does if you put the two together:

<div class="header">
    <%def name="header()"></%def>${self.header()}
</div>

The <%block> is obviously more streamlined than the <%def> for this kind of usage. In addition, the above “inline” approach with <%def> does not work with nesting:

<head>
    <%def name="header()">
        <title>
        ## this won't work !
        <%def name="title()">default title</%def>${self.title()}
        </title>
    </%def>${self.header()}
</head>

Where above, the title() def, because it’s a def within a def, is not part of the template’s exported namespace and will not be part of self. If the inherited template did define its own title def at the top level, it would be called, but the “default title” above is not present at all on self no matter what. For this to work as expected you’d instead need to say:

<head>
    <%def name="header()">
        <title>
        ${self.title()}
        </title>
    </%def>${self.header()}

    <%def name="title()"/>
</head>

That is, title is defined outside of any other defs so that it is in the self namespace. It works, but the definition needs to be potentially far away from the point of render.

A named block is always placed in the self namespace, regardless of nesting, so this restriction is lifted:

## base.html
<head>
    <%block name="header">
        <title>
        <%block name="title"/>
        </title>
    </%block>
</head>

The above template defines title inside of header, and an inheriting template can define one or both in any configuration, nested inside each other or not, in order for them to be used:

## index.html
<%inherit file="base.html"/>
<%block name="title">
    the title
</%block>
<%block name="header">
    the header
</%block>

So while the <%block> tag lifts the restriction of nested blocks not being available externally, in order to achieve this it adds the restriction that all block names in a single template need to be globally unique within the template, and additionally that a <%block> can’t be defined inside of a <%def>. It’s a more restricted tag suited towards a more specific use case than <%def>.

Using the next Namespace to Produce Content Wrapping

Sometimes you have an inheritance chain that spans more than two templates. Or maybe you don’t, but you’d like to build your system such that extra inherited templates can be inserted in the middle of a chain where they would be smoothly integrated. If each template wants to define its layout just within its main body, you can’t just call self.body() to get at the inheriting template’s body, since that is only the topmost body. To get at the body of the next template, you call upon the namespace next, which is the namespace of the template immediately following the current template.

Lets change the line in base.html which calls upon self.body() to instead call upon next.body():

## base.html
<html>
    <body>
        <div class="header">
            <%block name="header"/>
        </div>

        ${next.body()}

        <div class="footer">
            <%block name="footer">
                this is the footer
            </%block>
        </div>
    </body>
</html>

Lets also add an intermediate template called layout.html, which inherits from base.html:

## layout.html
<%inherit file="base.html"/>
<ul>
    <%block name="toolbar">
        <li>selection 1</li>
        <li>selection 2</li>
        <li>selection 3</li>
    </%block>
</ul>
<div class="mainlayout">
    ${next.body()}
</div>

And finally change index.html to inherit from layout.html instead:

## index.html
<%inherit file="layout.html"/>

## .. rest of template

In this setup, each call to next.body() will render the body of the next template in the inheritance chain (which can be written as base.html -> layout.html -> index.html). Control is still first passed to the bottommost template base.html, and self still references the topmost definition of any particular def.

The output we get would be:

<html>
    <body>
        <div class="header">
            this is some header content
        </div>

        <ul>
            <li>selection 1</li>
            <li>selection 2</li>
            <li>selection 3</li>
        </ul>

        <div class="mainlayout">
        this is the body content.
        </div>

        <div class="footer">
            this is the footer
        </div>
    </body>
</html>

So above, we have the <html>, <body> and header/footer layout of base.html, we have the <ul> and mainlayout section of layout.html, and the main body of index.html as well as its overridden header def. The layout.html template is inserted into the middle of the chain without base.html having to change anything. Without the next namespace, only the main body of index.html could be used; there would be no way to call layout.html‘s body content.

Using the parent Namespace to Augment Defs

Lets now look at the other inheritance-specific namespace, the opposite of next called parent. parent is the namespace of the template immediately preceding the current template. What’s useful about this namespace is that defs or blocks can call upon their overridden versions. This is not as hard as it sounds and is very much like using the super keyword in Python. Lets modify index.html to augment the list of selections provided by the toolbar function in layout.html:

## index.html
<%inherit file="layout.html"/>

<%block name="header">
    this is some header content
</%block>

<%block name="toolbar">
    ## call the parent's toolbar first
    ${parent.toolbar()}
    <li>selection 4</li>
    <li>selection 5</li>
</%block>

this is the body content.

Above, we implemented a toolbar() function, which is meant to override the definition of toolbar within the inherited template layout.html. However, since we want the content from that of layout.html as well, we call it via the parent namespace whenever we want it’s content, in this case before we add our own selections. So the output for the whole thing is now:

<html>
    <body>
        <div class="header">
            this is some header content
        </div>

        <ul>
            <li>selection 1</li>
            <li>selection 2</li>
            <li>selection 3</li>
            <li>selection 4</li>
            <li>selection 5</li>
        </ul>

        <div class="mainlayout">
        this is the body content.
        </div>

        <div class="footer">
            this is the footer
        </div>
    </body>
</html>

and you’re now a template inheritance ninja!

Using <%include> with Template Inheritance

A common source of confusion is the behavior of the <%include> tag, often in conjunction with its interaction within template inheritance. Key to understanding the <%include> tag is that it is a dynamic, e.g. runtime, include, and not a static include. The <%include> is only processed as the template renders, and not at inheritance setup time. When encountered, the referenced template is run fully as an entirely separate template with no linkage to any current inheritance structure.

If the tag were on the other hand a static include, this would allow source within the included template to interact within the same inheritance context as the calling template, but currently Mako has no static include facility.

In practice, this means that <%block> elements defined in an <%include> file will not interact with corresponding <%block> elements in the calling template.

A common mistake is along these lines:

## partials.mako
<%block name="header">
    Global Header
</%block>

## parent.mako
<%include file="partials.mako">

## child.mako
<%inherit file="parent.mako">
<%block name="header">
    Custom Header
</%block>

Above, one might expect that the "header" block declared in child.mako might be invoked, as a result of it overriding the same block present in parent.mako via the include for partials.mako. But this is not the case. Instead, parent.mako will invoke partials.mako, which then invokes "header" in partials.mako, and then is finished rendering. Nothing from child.mako will render; there is no interaction between the "header" block in child.mako and the "header" block in partials.mako.

Instead, parent.mako must explicitly state the inheritance structure. In order to call upon specific elements of partials.mako, we will call upon it as a namespace:

## partials.mako
<%block name="header">
    Global Header
</%block>

## parent.mako
<%namespace name="partials" file="partials.mako"/>
<%block name="header">
    ${partials.header()}
</%block>

## child.mako
<%inherit file="parent.mako">
<%block name="header">
    Custom Header
</%block>

Where above, parent.mako states the inheritance structure that child.mako is to participate within. partials.mako only defines defs/blocks that can be used on a per-name basis.

Another scenario is below, which results in both "SectionA" blocks being rendered for the child.mako document:

## base.mako
${self.body()}
<%block name="SectionA">
    base.mako
</%block>

## parent.mako
<%inherit file="base.mako">
<%include file="child.mako">

## child.mako
<%block name="SectionA">
    child.mako
</%block>

The resolution is similar; instead of using <%include>, we call upon the blocks of child.mako using a namespace:

## parent.mako
<%inherit file="base.mako">
<%namespace name="child" file="child.mako">

<%block name="SectionA">
    ${child.SectionA()}
</%block>

Inheritable Attributes

The attr accessor of the Namespace object allows access to module level variables declared in a template. By accessing self.attr, you can access regular attributes from the inheritance chain as declared in <%! %> sections. Such as:

<%!
    class_ = "grey"
%>

<div class="${self.attr.class_}">
    ${self.body()}
</div>

If an inheriting template overrides class_ to be "white", as in:

<%!
    class_ = "white"
%>
<%inherit file="parent.html"/>

This is the body

you’ll get output like:

<div class="white">
    This is the body
</div>

See also

Version One - Use Namespace.attr - a more sophisticated example using Namespace.attr.