Fitting a Django Application in One File

7 min read · Posted on: Dec 9, 2020 · Print this page

Earlier this week, Anthony a french economics university student wanted to talk to me over Zoom about my ray tracer tutorials. He and his friend were new to Python but were excited to implement their own ray tracer after following my videos. One of the questions that popped up in the conversation was - “Can we put all the classes in one file instead of breaking it into individual files per class?”. I said, “Of course” and noticed a wave of relief in their faces. In fact, I explained, my earlier implementation was all in one file and later broken up for better pedagogy.

But the charm of an entire project in a single file is compelling. I remember seeing a Sinatra web application a few years ago containing the entire application and assets like HTML templates and CSS in a single file. Presenting all the components in the same file gave a complete high-level overview of the project by simply scrolling up and down.

Normally, at this point, someone would suggest a microframework. But it is not that easy.

Microframeworks

Microframeworks take a minimalistic approach by omitting certain components or directing you to a few recommended components. For instance, Bottle contains basic form handling capabilities but has no protection against CSRF or clickjacking.

So the approach is generally to use another library like bottle-utils-csrf. This leaves the task of integration to the developer. This is not to pooh-pooh tiny web frameworks. I love the idea (especially Bottle which I think is really cute). But for public facing sites, I prefer the safety and convenience of Django.

So I am tempted to try this one-file trick in Django. Let’s try to make a non-trivial web application with forms, templates and images. How does one go about doing something like that?

Note: if you prefer to watch the video version, click on the video below:

Django Applications in One File

Minimal

Let’s start small by creating a minimal Hello World application in Django. It might be amusing to some Django developers that we will not start with the startproject command. In fact, it is not necessary for Django to work at all. All that initial directory structure and files like settings.py are for your convenience.

First, create a simple file called app.py with the following:

import sys

from django.conf import settings
from django.urls import path
from django.http import HttpResponse

settings.configure(
	DEBUG=True,  # For debugging
	SECRET_KEY="a-bad-secret",  # Insecure! change this
	ROOT_URLCONF=__name__,
)


def home(request):
	return HttpResponse("Welcome!")


urlpatterns = [
	path("", home),
]

if __name__ == "__main__":
	from django.core.management import execute_from_command_line

	execute_from_command_line(sys.argv)

Yes, that’s all you need. There are some bad practices like hard coding the secret key (easily fixed). But the sheer elegance of everything being in hardly a screenful is quite rewarding.

The command to run this file is: python app.py runserver 8080

Now we will skip a couple of steps (they are in the video) and move on to a simple “Coming Soon” landing page.

Coming Soon Application

The idea of a coming-soon page is to gauge interest in a product before it is released. Such pages must have a clear call to action (CTA) like asking for your email. Ideally it should have minimum friction and yet collect all the relevant information.

Let’s look at my updated app.py:

import os
import sys

from django.conf import settings
from django.urls import path
from django.http import HttpResponse, HttpResponseRedirect
from django.core.wsgi import get_wsgi_application
from django.template import RequestContext, Template
from django import forms

CSV_LIST = "thelist.csv"

settings.configure(
	DEBUG=(os.environ.get("DEBUG", "") == "1"),
	ALLOWED_HOSTS=["*"],  # Disable host header validation
	ROOT_URLCONF=__name__,
	SECRET_KEY=os.environ.get("SECRET_KEY", "a-bad-secret"),
	TEMPLATES=[{"BACKEND": "django.template.backends.django.DjangoTemplates"}],
	MIDDLEWARE_CLASSES=(
    	"django.middleware.common.CommonMiddleware",
    	"django.middleware.csrf.CsrfViewMiddleware",
    	"django.middleware.clickjacking.XFrameOptionsMiddleware",
	),
)


class EnlistForm(forms.Form):
	email = forms.EmailField(
    	required=True,
    	label=False,
    	widget=forms.EmailInput(attrs={"placeholder": "Email"}),
	)
	referrer = forms.CharField(required=False, widget=forms.HiddenInput())


def home(request):
	if request.method == "POST":
    	form = EnlistForm(request.POST)
    	if form.is_valid():
        	email = form.cleaned_data["email"]
        	referrer = form.cleaned_data["referrer"]
        	ip = request.META.get("REMOTE_ADDR")
        	print(f"Got email of {email}")
        	with open(CSV_LIST, "a") as csv:
            	csv.write(f"{email},{referrer},{ip}\n")
        	return HttpResponseRedirect("/thanks/")
	else:
    	form = EnlistForm(initial={"referrer": request.META.get("HTTP_REFERER")})
	context = RequestContext(
    	request, {"content": "Sign up for early access", "form": form}
	)
	return HttpResponse(MAIN_HTML.render(context))


def thanks(request):
	context = RequestContext(
    	request,
    	{"content": "Thank you for signing up. We will contact you!", "form": None},
	)
	return HttpResponse(MAIN_HTML.render(context))


urlpatterns = [
	path("", home),
	path("thanks/", thanks),
]

app = get_wsgi_application()


MAIN_HTML = Template(
	"""
<html>
  <head>
	<title>Coming Soon | Flying Cars</title>
	<meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width, initial-scale=1.0">
	<style>
 	@import url('https://fonts.googleapis.com/css2?family=Exo:wght@400;500;600;700;800;900&display=swap');
 	*{
   	margin: 0;
   	padding: 0;
   	box-sizing: border-box;
   	font-family: 'Exo', sans-serif;
 	}
 	html,body{
   	display: grid;
   	height: 100%;
   	width: 100%;
   	place-items: center;
   	background-color: #343434;
   	/* Thanks to Hero Patterns for the background */
   	background-image: url("data:image/svg+xml,%3Csvg xmlns='http://www.w3.org/2000/svg' viewBox='0 0 56 28' width='56' height='28'%3E%3Cpath fill='%23000000' fill-opacity='0.4' d='M56 26v2h-7.75c2.3-1.27 4.94-2 7.75-2zm-26 2a2 2 0 1 0-4 0h-4.09A25.98 25.98 0 0 0 0 16v-2c.67 0 1.34.02 2 .07V14a2 2 0 0 0-2-2v-2a4 4 0 0 1 3.98 3.6 28.09 28.09 0 0 1 2.8-3.86A8 8 0 0 0 0 6V4a9.99 9.99 0 0 1 8.17 4.23c.94-.95 1.96-1.83 3.03-2.63A13.98 13.98 0 0 0 0 0h7.75c2 1.1 3.73 2.63 5.1 4.45 1.12-.72 2.3-1.37 3.53-1.93A20.1 20.1 0 0 0 14.28 0h2.7c.45.56.88 1.14 1.29 1.74 1.3-.48 2.63-.87 4-1.15-.11-.2-.23-.4-.36-.59H26v.07a28.4 28.4 0 0 1 4 0V0h4.09l-.37.59c1.38.28 2.72.67 4.01 1.15.4-.6.84-1.18 1.3-1.74h2.69a20.1 20.1 0 0 0-2.1 2.52c1.23.56 2.41 1.2 3.54 1.93A16.08 16.08 0 0 1 48.25 0H56c-4.58 0-8.65 2.2-11.2 5.6 1.07.8 2.09 1.68 3.03 2.63A9.99 9.99 0 0 1 56 4v2a8 8 0 0 0-6.77 3.74c1.03 1.2 1.97 2.5 2.79 3.86A4 4 0 0 1 56 10v2a2 2 0 0 0-2 2.07 28.4 28.4 0 0 1 2-.07v2c-9.2 0-17.3 4.78-21.91 12H30zM7.75 28H0v-2c2.81 0 5.46.73 7.75 2zM56 20v2c-5.6 0-10.65 2.3-14.28 6h-2.7c4.04-4.89 10.15-8 16.98-8zm-39.03 8h-2.69C10.65 24.3 5.6 22 0 22v-2c6.83 0 12.94 3.11 16.97 8zm15.01-.4a28.09 28.09 0 0 1 2.8-3.86 8 8 0 0 0-13.55 0c1.03 1.2 1.97 2.5 2.79 3.86a4 4 0 0 1 7.96 0zm14.29-11.86c1.3-.48 2.63-.87 4-1.15a25.99 25.99 0 0 0-44.55 0c1.38.28 2.72.67 4.01 1.15a21.98 21.98 0 0 1 36.54 0zm-5.43 2.71c1.13-.72 2.3-1.37 3.54-1.93a19.98 19.98 0 0 0-32.76 0c1.23.56 2.41 1.2 3.54 1.93a15.98 15.98 0 0 1 25.68 0zm-4.67 3.78c.94-.95 1.96-1.83 3.03-2.63a13.98 13.98 0 0 0-22.4 0c1.07.8 2.09 1.68 3.03 2.63a9.99 9.99 0 0 1 16.34 0z'%3E%3C/path%3E%3C/svg%3E");
 	}
 	::selection{
   	color: #fff;
   	background: #FC4782;
 	}
 	.wrapper{
   	color: #eee;
   	max-width: 900px;
   	text-align: center;
   	padding: 0 50px;
 	}
 	.signup {
   	margin-top: 30px;
   	margin-bottom: 10px;
 	}
 	.content {
   	margin-top: 40px;
   	margin-bottom: 10px;
 	}
	</style>
  </head>
  <body>
	<div class="wrapper">
  	<svg width="600" height="300" version="1.1" viewBox="0 0 600 300" xmlns="http://www.w3.org/2000/svg"><g transform="translate(0,312)"><path d="m218.36-289.66h163.29c29.039 0 52.417 23.378 52.417 52.417v45.564c0 29.039-23.378 52.417-52.417 52.417h-163.29c-29.039 0-52.417-23.378-52.417-52.417v-45.564c0-29.039 23.378-52.417 52.417-52.417z" fill="#204a87" stop-color="#000000" stroke="#eeeeec" stroke-linecap="round" stroke-linejoin="round" stroke-width="4"/><g fill="#729fcf" stroke="#eeeeec" stroke-linejoin="round" stroke-width="4"><path d="m240.88-162.15c21.473-37.192 42.946-74.385 64.419-111.58" stop-color="#000000"/><g stroke-linecap="round"><path d="m276.15-249.32h-72.081" stop-color="#000000"/><path d="m259.9-221.32h-56.025" stop-color="#000000"/><path d="m267.69-235.32h-63.714" stop-color="#000000"/><path d="m370.37-162.15c-21.473-37.192-42.946-74.385-64.419-111.58" stop-color="#000000"/><path d="m332-249.93h72.081" stop-color="#000000"/><path d="m348.25-221.93h56.025" stop-color="#000000"/><path d="m340.46-235.93h63.714" stop-color="#000000"/><path d="m240.88-162.15c21.473-26.526 42.946-53.051 64.419-79.577" stop-color="#000000"/></g><path d="m370.37-162.15c-21.473-26.526-42.946-53.051-64.419-79.577" stop-color="#000000"/></g><g fill="#eeeeec"><path d="m183.74-116.06-6.3858 17.316h12.795zm-2.6568-4.6378h5.337l13.261 34.795h-4.8942l-3.1696-8.9261h-15.685l-3.1696 8.9261h-4.9641z" style="text-decoration-color:#000000;text-decoration-line:none"/><path d="m222.66-120.7h4.7078v34.795h-4.7078z" style="text-decoration-color:#000000;text-decoration-line:none"/><path d="m271.14-102.22q1.5149.51273 2.9365 2.1907 1.445 1.678 2.8899 4.6145l4.7777 9.5087h-5.0573l-4.4514-8.9261q-1.7246-3.4959-3.356-4.6378-1.6081-1.142-4.4048-1.142h-5.1273v14.706h-4.7078v-34.795h10.627q5.9663 0 8.9028 2.4937t2.9365 7.5278q0 3.2861-1.5382 5.4535-1.5149 2.1674-4.4281 3.0064zm-11.793-14.613v12.352h5.9196q3.4026 0 5.1273-1.5615 1.7479-1.5848 1.7479-4.6378t-1.7479-4.5912q-1.7246-1.5615-5.1273-1.5615z" style="text-decoration-color:#000000;text-decoration-line:none"/><path d="m329.38-118.02v4.9641q-2.3772-2.214-5.0806-3.3094-2.6802-1.0954-5.7099-1.0954-5.9663 0-9.1358 3.659-3.1696 3.6357-3.1696 10.534 0 6.8752 3.1696 10.534 3.1696 3.6357 9.1358 3.6357 3.0297 0 5.7099-1.0954 2.7035-1.0954 5.0806-3.3094v4.9175q-2.4704 1.678-5.2438 2.517-2.7501.83901-5.8264.83901-7.9006 0-12.445-4.8243-4.5446-4.8476-4.5446-13.214 0-8.39 4.5446-13.214 4.5446-4.8476 12.445-4.8476 3.123 0 5.873.839 2.7734.8157 5.1972 2.4704z" style="text-decoration-color:#000000;text-decoration-line:none"/><path d="m366.18-116.06-6.3858 17.316h12.795zm-2.6568-4.6378h5.337l13.261 34.795h-4.8942l-3.1696-8.9261h-15.685l-3.1696 8.9261h-4.9641z" style="text-decoration-color:#000000;text-decoration-line:none"/><path d="m421.6-102.22q1.5149.51273 2.9365 2.1907 1.445 1.678 2.8899 4.6145l4.7777 9.5087h-5.0573l-4.4514-8.9261q-1.7246-3.4959-3.356-4.6378-1.6081-1.142-4.4048-1.142h-5.1272v14.706h-4.7078v-34.795h10.627q5.9663 0 8.9028 2.4937t2.9365 7.5278q0 3.2861-1.5382 5.4535-1.5149 2.1674-4.4281 3.0064zm-11.793-14.613v12.352h5.9196q3.4026 0 5.1272-1.5615 1.7479-1.5848 1.7479-4.6378t-1.7479-4.5912q-1.7246-1.5615-5.1272-1.5615z" style="text-decoration-color:#000000;text-decoration-line:none"/></g></g></svg>
  	<h1>All Your Traffic Problems Solved!</h1>
  	<h2>Feel the future with affordable levitating cars.</h2>
  	<div class="content">
    	{{ content }}
    	{% if form %}
      	<form action="." method="post" class="enlist_form">
        	{% csrf_token %}
        	{{ form.non_field_errors }}
        	{{ form.email.errors }}
        	{{ form.referrer }}
        	{{ form.referrer.errors }}
        	{{ form.email }}
        	<button type="submit">Add Me</button>
      	</form>
    	{% endif %}
  	</div>
	</div>
  </body>
</html>
"""
)


if __name__ == "__main__":
	from django.core.management import execute_from_command_line

	execute_from_command_line(sys.argv)

Except for the absence of individual files, most of the code should be familiar to a Django developer. There is a large HTML template (including two SVG images) embedded as a string.

Note that I do not use the ORM here. Django does seem to need a directory structure for that (Unless any reader could show me how to do it in a single file).

Hopefully this shows how minimal Django could be. You might be able to use your favourite framework in places which you didn’t think were possible.


Arun Ravindran profile pic

Arun Ravindran

Arun is the author of "Django Design Patterns and Best Practices". Avid open source enthusiast. Keen on Python. Loves to help people learn technology. Works as a product manager at Unisys. Find out more about Arun on the about page.

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