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Django and Google App Engine Tutorial

Posted by PAS on 17 February 2009

Hi have been playing around with Google App Engine for a while now, and wanted to learn Django on a new application I am building. The two articles I started with are:

Both Django and GAE are being developed as I write this, so although these instructions are kind of recent, they are already out of date, or rely on you having knowledge of Django. Since there are a lot of others with no Python or Django experince wanting to learn, I thought I would make a tutorial that works as of today, but who knows a month from now or even tomorrow.

Note: This tutorial is written for Linux. Mac/Windows users will have to translate :-)


Django comes as a .tar.gz file, but we want a zip file to take advantage of the Zipimport library, so some conversion is needed.

  1. Download the latest Django and untar the file (in this case, it is 1.0.2)
  2. cd Django-1.0.2-final
  3. Create the zip file, but without the admin section since App Enging supplies it’s own
    zip -r ~/ django -x ‘django/contrib/admin*’

Get the Helper

The App Engine Helper or Django is an open source bootstrapper for getting Django started on App Engine. Downloading it from the website will currently give you quite an old version (r52) which will not work in this tutorial. Instead, use subversion to get the latest (r74).

  1. cd ~
  2. svn export gae-django-tutorial
  3. cd gae-django-tutorial
  4. mv ~/ .

Setup App Engine

As you would with any GAE application, edit the app.yaml file to refer to your application ID. The Helper also needs to know where your Google App Engine SDK is, since it is going to change how you start the development server, so create a link to it:

  1. cd gae-django-tutorial
  2. ln -s /path/to/google_appengine .google_appengine

Start the development server

Django has a different way of running the development server. Instead of using to start the dev server, do the following:

  1. python runserver

If everything is running correctly, you should see something like:

INFO:root:Checking for updates to the SDK.
INFO:root:The SDK is up to date.
INFO:root:Running application google-app-engine-django on port 8000: http://localhost:8000

However, if you are like me and saw an error like the following:

ImportError: No module named antlr3

Then you will need to install the antlr3 python module. Luckily this is easy.

  1. Go to and download the latest zip
  2. unzip
  3. cd antlr_python_runtime-3.1
  4. sudo python install

Lets see the site! When you go to http://localhost:8000/ you should see a page saying “It worked! Congratulations on your first Django-powered page.”
Pretty (un)impressive huh?

Ok, now lets start doing something. Kill the server by pressing Ctrl-C. The Django tutorial is the next stop, which involves creating the Polls Django app. You can read through there to get a full understanding. For simplicity, I am only what I did to get it working.

  1. python startapp polls
  2. cd polls
  3. Edit
    from appengine_django.models import BaseModel
    from google.appengine.ext import db
    class Poll(BaseModel):
      question = db.StringProperty()
      pub_date = db.DateTimeProperty('date published')
    class Choice(BaseModel):
      poll = db.ReferenceProperty(Poll)
      choice = db.StringProperty()
      votes = db.IntegerProperty()
  4. Edit (notice that order_by() from the Django tutorial is just order() here)
    from django.template import Context, loader
    from polls.models import Poll
    from django.http import HttpResponse
    def index(request):
      latest_poll_list = Poll.objects.all().order('-pub_date')[:5]
      t = loader.get_template('polls/index.html')
      c = Context({
        'latest_poll_list': latest_poll_list,
      return HttpResponse(t.render(c))
  5. cd ..
  6. Edit and add to urlpatterns
    (r’^polls/’, ‘polls.views.index’),
  7. mkdir -p templates/polls
  8. cd templates/polls
  9. Create index.html
    {% if latest_poll_list %}
    {% for poll in latest_poll_list %}
      <li>{{ poll.question }}</li>
    {% endfor %}
    {% else %}
      <p>No polls are available.</p>
    {% endif %}
  10. cd ../..
  11. Edit and add to INSTALLED_APPS
  12. Now you can run the dev server again:
    python runserver
  13. And go to:
  14. You should see the message “No polls are available.”

Adding some data

You can go through the rest of the Django Tutorial to fill out the rest of the views. One last thing to know is the admin site. To view it, go to:

  1. http://localhost:8000/_ah/admin

Notice that the Datastore Viewer is empty – it doesn’t even know about our Poll or Choice Models. Don’t panic. Go back to your terminal, and terminate the dev server. Now run:

  1. python shell

This brings up a special python shell with the Django environment set up for you. Now you can run:
>>> from polls.models import Poll, Choice
>>> import datetime
>>> p = Poll(question=”What’s up?”,

You have just created a new Poll. To end the shell, press Ctrl-D.

If you start the dev server again (or if you never stopped it in the first place), you should be able to go to:
to see you new Poll, and go to the admin site:
to see and create new Polls

Easy huh? :-)

4 Responses to “Django and Google App Engine Tutorial”

  1. Nice clear write up, just what I was looking for, thanks! Now to see if I can put this into practice.

  2. Sean said

    For those people on Windows, who get an AttributeError when they visit http://localhost:8000 , take a look at for a fix.

  3. Eric C. said

    Thank you so much for writing this!

    A note to super newbies – if you’re developing on Windows, add/edit an environmental variable called “PYTHONPATH” and give it a list of necessary directories as the value surrounded and separated by semicolons, e.g.:


    You may need to restart or log off/log on to see changes. Then you can skip the part about creating a link to google_appengine (step 3.2).

    To get it onto the server, just do a “path/to/ update gae-django-tutorial/” where is in the google_appengine directory.

  4. Konrad said

    Deploying Django on AppEngine you should have a look on the appEnginePatch project.

    It has zip, auth, registration, admin and more features already integrated. There is a ready made sample with django registration you can download and try.

    Detailed questions how to deploy native Django on appEngine are discussed in app engine patch group.


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