Introduction to CTK

CTK, the Cherokee ToolKit, is a toolkit originally implemented to develop Cherokee-admin in Python. It aims to deliver all the fanciness of modern web right to the hands of Python developers.

CTK was developed to allow a fast development pace for Cherokee-Admin, while providing a modern & feature-rich web interface that fulfilled two essential requirements:

  1. Having a maintainable code-base

  2. Lowering the entry barrier to encourage participation in the development of Cherokee.

CTK was developed with Cherokee-Admin in mind, but it is not confined to Cherokee, and in fact some of its widgets aren’t even used in Cherokee-Admin. It is currently used in every Cherokee release since 1.0, and is also used by some other third party applications.


The design of CTK makes developing rich web-applications easy and fun once you’ve understood the rationale behind it. Of course, some complex tasks might require a bit of extra effort, but overall you’ll be gladly surprised by the ease of development.

Everything is a widget in CTK. Everything, from the web page itself to any web element you might want to use, is a widget. You just have to instantiate a top-level widget (a container), add widgets to it, and let CTK take care of the rest. This includes asynchronous transfers, submitting and validating forms in the background, event binding to refresh the render of specific sections, and many other goodies you would expect in a modern web application. Just pick a widget from the extensive Widget Hierearchy provided by CTK, and append it to your container.

Some of the things provided by CTK:

  1. URL driven render

  2. URLs mapped to functions or classes

  3. Render as response (a page, or content)

  4. Complete requests as results of a render, no partial results support (sent as render)

  5. Widget Hierarchy inspired in desktop-app toolkits like GTK+ or QT.

What make CTK particularly interesting is that everything can be written and maintained in Python.


CTK will communicate your application with the web server through the well known SCGI protocol, so you’ll just have to setup an information source in Cherokee and access it through the SCGI handler to get started.


You can quickly try out your CTK applications by using the provided CTK-run command. It will launch an instance of Cherokee listening to port 9091, and it will be set to communicate with any SCGI application running on port 8000.

The syntax of CTK-run is pretty straight forward:

 python CTK-run [-d /path/to/CTK] <>

Basic CTK app

The skeleton of a CTK application is also fairly simple:

  1. Import CTK into your app.

  2. Publish some URLs and define what functions or classes should take care of rendering such URLs, handle submissions, etc.

  3. Add widgets

  4. Define a custom commit function if needed

  5. Specify a port in which CTK must be launched and let it run.

Simple examples

The examples listed here will set port 8000 for SCGI, so all of them can be run quickly using CTK-run. Just copy and paste the scripts, and launch them with CTK-run. You will be able to check the output by accessing http://localhost:9091 on your web-browser.

Besides the basic examples listed here, you can take a look at CTK/tests to see some very basic examples using CTK. Those have been written as quick tests for some of the basic widgets. Any of them can be run using the provided CTK-run command.

Hello World

The one example that can never be missing: Hello World!

import CTK

class default:
    def __call__ (self):
        page = CTK.Page()
        page += CTK.RawHTML('Hello World!')
        return page.Render()

CTK.publish ('', default) (port=8000)

As you can see, CTK is mapping the URL '' to the default class. Ordinarily you would map a specific URL, but since this application is so simple we are using an empty URL. CTK processes these mappings by matching the incoming requests against a list of published paths. Those can be specified as regular expressions, so the mechanism is very flexible. If a specific match is not found, every request will fall through to the entry for ''. In this case it means that any request to http://localhost:9091 will yield a “Hello World” as response.

Hello Button

This one goes a little further, and binds click events to actions.

import CTK

class default:
    def __call__ (self):
        text = CTK.RawHTML ('Hello World!')
        box  = CTK.Box (text)

        hide = CTK.Button ('Hide')
        hide.bind('click', box.JS_to_hide())

        show = CTK.Button ('Show')
        show.bind('click', box.JS_to_show())

        page = CTK.Page()
        page += box
        page += hide
        page += show

        return page.Render()

CTK.publish ('', default) (port=8000)

It is embedding the HTML contents into a CTK.Box, which is in reality nothing more than the container that we will be showing and hiding on demand. All CTK Widgets provide some basic methods, such as:

  1. bind: used to bind events and actions

  2. JS_to_hide: that renders Javascript code tohide the element

  3. JS_to_show: that renders Javascript code to show the element

  4. JS_to_trigger: that renders Javascript code to trigger a specific event (it accepts parameters and selectors other than the default one -the unique ID of the widget-).

Form submission

With CTK, validating, submitting, and processing forms is very simple. Take a look at the following script.

import CTK
import time

def validate_number (value):
        if int(value) in range(10):
            return value
        raise ValueError('Not valid')
    raise ValueError('Not in range')

    ('number', validate_number),

def apply():
    return {'ret': 'ok'}

class default:
    def __call__ (self):
        submit = CTK.Submitter ('/apply')
        table  = CTK.PropsTable()
        table.Add ('Delay 2secs',
                   CTK.Checkbox ({'name': 'show_delay', 'checked': 0}),
                   'Delay response for 2 seconds to notice the submitting status')
        table.Add ('Number',
                   CTK.TextField({'name': 'number'}),
                   'Pick a number [0-9]')
        submit += table

        page  = CTK.Page ()
        page += submit

        return page.Render()

CTK.publish ('', default)
CTK.publish ('^/apply$', apply, method='POST', validation=VALIDATIONS) (port=8000)

Notice the line where the ^/apply$ URL is published. As you can see, there is a difference when comapared to the others shown until now. Most remarkably, it specifies the method to be POST, since it will be mapping a custom commit function to that URL, and it also provides a list of validations to be applied when performing such POST.

If specified, the validations will be checked even before the data flow reaches the specified function, apply in this case. The logic behind this is to raise an exception if validation tests are not passed, and CTK will display the error right beneath the field that fails to pass the tests.

Also notice how the form is built. A Submitter object is instanced, that acts as a container for a variety of form elements (comboboxes, input fields, textareas, radio buttons, checkboxes, etc). Each of these is a widget itself. A submission button could have been added to the form, but we’ve left it out to keep it as simple as possible.

As soon as the form can be submitted, all the data is sent using POST. Notice that this does not necessarily imply that every field in the form has been given a value. In fact, in the previous example, altering the value of any of the widgets will trigger the submission of the whole form. Every widget can be instanced with a set of specific parameters, so it is not complicated to specify which fields require being filled, which ones are optional, etc. Among those parameters, class is undoubtedly the most important one, since it allows you to pass class attributes directly to the HTML elements. Some of these actually influence how the submission is performed.

Important class attributes


Every widget marked as required needs to be filled up before the submission can be performed


Altering the value for the widget does not trigger the submission of the form, as it would do by default.

Even when a SubmitterButton widget is present, all required fields must be present before any data is actually sent. Clicking on the button will do nothing unless all these are filled up.

Each widget has a specific syntax, so better the API in detail or dig into the code.


Using dialogs with CTK is also easy. In this example we will instance two dialogs, one of which is opened on-load, and the other one bound to the click event of a CTK.Button.

import CTK

class content_box (CTK.Box):
    def __init__ (self):
        self += CTK.RawHTML ('<h1>About</h1>')

        note  = CTK.Notice()
        note += CTK.RawHTML ('<p>CTK dialogs are highly customizable.</p>')

        self += CTK.RawHTML ('<p>By default, CTK dialogs are:</p>')
        defaults = CTK.List()
        defaults.Add (CTK.RawHTML('Modal'))
        defaults.Add (CTK.RawHTML('Not resizable'))
        defaults.Add (CTK.RawHTML('Not opened automatically'))
        defaults.Add (CTK.RawHTML('Not draggabale'))
        defaults.Add (CTK.RawHTML('Rendered on the center of the screen'))
        self += CTK.Indenter (defaults)

class default:
    def __call__ (self):
        opened  = CTK.Dialog ({'title': _('Automatically opened dialog'), 'width': 450, 'autoOpen': True})
        opened += content_box()
        opened.AddButton (_('Close'), "close")

        closed  = CTK.Dialog ({'title': _('Manually opened dialog'), 'width': 450})
        closed += content_box()
        closed.AddButton (_('Close'), "close")
        button = CTK.Button('Open dialog')
        button.bind('click', closed.JS_to_show())

        page  = CTK.Page ()
        page += opened
        page += closed
        page += button

        return page.Render()

CTK.publish ('', default) (port=8000)


As was mentioned before, you can add widgets to other widgets. Thanks to this approach, using tabs is also intuitive. Just instantiate a CTK.Tab object, and add as many tabs as you want. The contents of each tab has to be a widget: an Image, a Box, etc.

import CTK

IMAGES = ['on', 'off', 'loading', 'tick', 'del']

class default:
    def __call__ (self):
        page = CTK.Page()

        tabs = CTK.Tab()
        for img in IMAGES:
            tabs.Add (img.capitalize(), CTK.ImageStock(img))

        page += tabs
        return page.Render()

CTK.publish ('', default) (port=8000)

Refreshable elements

The CTK.Refreshable class allows the creation of objects that can be rendered asynchronously in response to a given event. Normally every CTK widget has a unique identifier that is generated automatically, but since the contents of a Refreshable have to be written into a specific container that you’ll need to know in advance, this class demands an explicit id be given on instantiation.

import CTK
import time

class Default:
    class Content (CTK.Box):
        def __init__ (self, refresh):
            CTK.Box.__init__ (self)
            button = CTK.Button ('Refresh')
            button.bind ('click', refresh.JS_to_refresh())

            self += CTK.RawHTML('<p>Rendered on %s.</p>' %(time.ctime()))
            self += button

    def __call__ (self):
        r1 = CTK.Refreshable ({'id': 'r1'})
        r1.register (lambda: self.Content(r1).Render())

        r2 = CTK.Refreshable ({'id': 'r2'})
        r2.register (lambda: self.Content(r2).Render())

        page  = CTK.Page ()
        page += r1
        page += r2

        return page.Render()

CTK.publish ('', Default) (port=8000)

So, what does it do? It instantiates two CTK.Refreshable elements, each with its unique identifier, and each one is refreshed when the button is clicked. Easy, right?

Remember that identifiers must be unique for every DOM element/node. Should you mistakenly provide the same identifier for both Refreshable objects, clicking on anyone of the buttons would probably update the same element (and only one of them).

Advanced examples

If the basic examples don’t seem enough for you, there are lots of more complex examples at your disposal. The best way to dive into CTK is reading the code of Cherokee-Admin, and checking the CTK code itself from time to time. Most of CTK has been written to provide the specific needs of Cherokee Admin, so most likely you’ll find examples as complex as you want that will help you fully understand how things are working.

Some considerations

So far you’ve seen some very basic examples. Before you begin hacking on Cherokee-Admin, you’ll probably need to know some more about other CTK elements.

This is used to access every element submitted using the POST method. You’ve seen how it works on some of the previous examples. The most useful methods in this class involve accessing reading and popping values and keys. Elements can also be accessed using dictionary-like notation. In the examples above, both:['show_delay']



Would return the same value, although the second appearance lets you specify a default value as optional argument.


The class CTK.Config seamlessly handles the Cherokee configuration tree. With it you can read and write a configuration file, parse and serialize the configuration tree, clone configuration elements, and manipulate branches ands leaves at will.

The class is instanced as soon as Cherokee-Admin loads, and it can be accessed as CTK.cfg. Just like before, it can be accessed and manipulated using its many methods, and dictionary-like syntax can also be used. With little doubt, this is the most manipulated object throughout the whole code-base. Study CTK.Config if you are interested in the full details.

The most used methods are the ones involving setting and gettings entry values. This is done just like in a dictionary. Among the other methods available, probably the most used are:

  1. pop: to pop elements from the configuration tree.

  2. keys: access the list of subnodes of any given node

  3. get_val: retrieve the value of a configuration key. CTK.cfg.get_val(server!timeout) would be equivalent to CTK.cfg[server!timeout]

  4. apply_chunk: to apply a configuration chunk directly to the configuration tree. This is a lifesaver when dealing with wizards, for examples, where you have tamplates as large chunks that only require some customization.

  5. normalize: also very useful when dealing with wizards, since it can be used to renumber configuration entries. It is recommended to always normalize the configuration after playing around with it.

  6. get_next_entry_prefix: provided a path, it will yield the next entry in the sequence of currenlty existing elements.This is very used when having to add any new element to the configuration, such as a new rule, a new virtual server, a new information source, and so on.

The tmp configuration node

Whenever the configuration three is altered, a flag is set indicating the configuration tree has been changed. In turn, the Save button on the admin interface becomes clickable, and using it will dump the configuration tree to the configuration file that is being used at the moment. There is one exception to this rule: the tmp configuration node. Everything hanging from that branch is ignored when loading and saving the configuration tree. It is used extensively as a temporary repository. For example, on multi-stage wizards, it is used to store the intermediate values gathered along all the different stages.

Every configuration entry hanging from this node can be set and retrieved exactly like the rest, but nothing will be saved to disk.

You have been some Widgets being used in the example about form submission. What you haven’t yet seen are all the variants specially conceived to interact with CTK.Config. Many widgets have a variant with a name ending in Cfg.

Normally, you would process form submissions in custom commit functions that would extract the required data from and inject it into CTK.cfg. The Cfg widgets are bound to the configuration tree itself, so the rest of the code can be simplified by avoiding the need of duplicating logic for such repetitive tasks.

These widgets are instantiated with a configuration entry, and their values are retrieved from the configuration tree itself. Once submitted, one call to the method CTK.cfg_apply_post will set the new values in the configuration tree as well.

HTTP responses

Complex things can be achieved through the use of custom HTTP responses. Of course, CTK provides a convenient way to do this.

For example, a custom commit function could decide that the user has to be redirected to another location. Making it return a CTK.HTTP_Redir response would redirect to whatever location was specified.

Any response can be issued, just dig into the class and try it out if needed.


Sometimes passing parameters through the URL migh come in handy. Just access the CTK.url_request property and you’ll be able to parse to your heart’s contempt.

Basic cookie support is provided through this object. Cookies can be set an read using the well known bracket-syntax:

CTK.cookie['user'] = 'my_user'


user = CTK.cookie['user']

Final notes

Although CTK was conceived as a tool to help in the development of Cherokee-Admin, it has grown in complexity and flexibility to the point that it is an Open Source project all by itself. Detailing every last piece of it is far beyond the scope of this introductory tutorial.

You can easily achieve relatively complex tasks using CTK with very little effort. Review the API, check the provided examples, and dig into Cherokee-Admin. As you can see, once you get the hang of it it is really not complicated, and you can always turn to our development mailing list for help.