Creating Your First Pecan Application

Let’s create a small sample project with Pecan.


This guide does not cover the installation of Pecan. If you need instructions for installing Pecan, refer to Installation.

Base Application Template

Pecan includes a basic template for starting a new project. From your shell, type:

$ pecan create test_project

This example uses test_project as your project name, but you can replace it with any valid Python package name you like.

Go ahead and change into your newly created project directory.:

$ cd test_project

You’ll want to deploy it in “development mode”, such that it’s available on sys.path, yet can still be edited directly from its source distribution:

$ python develop

Your new project contain these files:

$ ls

├── public
│   ├── css
│   │   └── style.css
│   └── images
├── setup.cfg
└── test_project
    ├── controllers
    │   ├──
    │   └──
    ├── model
    │   └──
    ├── templates
    │   ├── error.html
    │   ├── index.html
    │   └── layout.html
    └── tests

The number of files and directories may vary based on the version of Pecan, but the above structure should give you an idea of what to expect.

Let’s review the files created by the template.

All your static files (like CSS, Javascript, and images) live here. Pecan comes with a simple file server that serves these static files as you develop.

Pecan application structure generally follows the MVC pattern. The directories under test_project encompass your models, controllers and templates.

The container directory for your controller files.
All your templates go in here.
Container for your model files.

Finally, a directory to house unit and integration tests:

All of the tests for your application.

The test_project/ file controls how the Pecan application will be created. This file must contain a setup_app() function which returns the WSGI application object. Generally you will not need to modify the file provided by the base application template unless you need to customize your app in a way that cannot be accomplished using config. See Python-Based Configuration below.

To avoid unneeded dependencies and to remain as flexible as possible, Pecan doesn’t impose any database or ORM (Object Relational Mapper). If your project will interact with a database, you can add code to model/ to load database bindings from your configuration file and define tables and ORM definitions.

Running the Application

The base project template creates the configuration file with the basic settings you need to run your Pecan application in This file includes the host and port to run the server on, the location where your controllers and templates are stored on disk, and the name of the directory containing any static files.

If you just run pecan serve, passing as the configuration file, it will bring up the development server and serve the app:

$ pecan serve
Starting server in PID 000.
serving on, view at

The location for the configuration file and the argument itself are very flexible - you can pass an absolute or relative path to the file.

Python-Based Configuration

For ease of use, Pecan configuration files are pure Python–they’re even saved as .py files.

This is how your default (generated) configuration file should look:

# Server Specific Configurations
server = {
    'port': '8080',
    'host': ''

# Pecan Application Configurations
app = {
    'root': '${package}.controllers.root.RootController',
    'modules': ['${package}'],
    'static_root': '%(confdir)s/public',
    'template_path': '%(confdir)s/${package}/templates',
    'debug': True,
    'errors': {
        '404': '/error/404',
        '__force_dict__': True

logging = {
    'loggers': {
        'root' : {'level': 'INFO', 'handlers': ['console']},
        '${package}': {'level': 'DEBUG', 'handlers': ['console']}
    'handlers': {
        'console': {
            'level': 'DEBUG',
            'class': 'logging.StreamHandler',
            'formatter': 'simple'
    'formatters': {
        'simple': {
            'format': ('%(asctime)s %(levelname)-5.5s [%(name)s]'
                       '[%(threadName)s] %(message)s')

# Custom Configurations must be in Python dictionary format::
# foo = {'bar':'baz'}
# All configurations are accessible at::
# pecan.conf

You can also add your own configuration as Python dictionaries.

There’s a lot to cover here, so we’ll come back to configuration files in a later chapter (Configuring Pecan Applications).

The Application Root

The Root Controller is the entry point for your application. You can think of it as being analogous to your application’s root URL path (in our case, http://localhost:8080/).

This is how it looks in the project template (test_project.controllers.root.RootController):

from pecan import expose
from webob.exc import status_map

class RootController(object):

    @expose(generic=True, template='index.html')
    def index(self):
        return dict()

    def index_post(self, q):
        redirect('' % q)

    def error(self, status):
            status = int(status)
        except ValueError:
            status = 0
        message = getattr(status_map.get(status), 'explanation', '')
        return dict(status=status, message=message)

You can specify additional classes and methods if you need to do so, but for now, let’s examine the sample project, controller by controller:

@expose(generic=True, template='index.html')
def index(self):
    return dict()

The index() method is marked as publicly available via the expose() decorator (which in turn uses the index.html template) at the root of the application (, so any HTTP GET that hits the root of your application (/) will be routed to this method.

Notice that the index() method returns a Python dictionary. This dictionary is used as a namespace to render the specified template (index.html) into HTML, and is the primary mechanism by which data is passed from controller to template.

def index_post(self, q):
    redirect('' % q)

The index_post() method receives one HTTP POST argument (q). Because the argument method to @index.when() has been set to 'POST', any HTTP POST to the application root (in the example project, a form submission) will be routed to this method.

def error(self, status):
        status = int(status)
    except ValueError:
        status = 0
    message = getattr(status_map.get(status), 'explanation', '')
    return dict(status=status, message=message)

Finally, we have the error() method, which allows the application to display custom pages for certain HTTP errors (404, etc…).

Running the Tests For Your Application

Your application comes with a few example tests that you can run, replace, and add to. To run them:

$ python test -q
running test
running egg_info
writing requirements to sam.egg-info/requires.txt
writing sam.egg-info/PKG-INFO
writing top-level names to sam.egg-info/top_level.txt
writing dependency_links to sam.egg-info/dependency_links.txt
reading manifest file 'sam.egg-info/SOURCES.txt'
reading manifest template ''
writing manifest file 'sam.egg-info/SOURCES.txt'
running build_ext
Ran 4 tests in 0.009s


The tests themselves can be found in the tests module in your project.

Deploying to a Web Server

Ready to deploy your new Pecan app? Take a look at Deploying Pecan in Production.