cgi, reusing html. common problem?

Steve Holden steve at
Fri Sep 2 03:57:56 CEST 2005

John M. Gabriele wrote:
> I'm putting together a small site using Python and cgi.
> (I'm pretty new to this, but I've worked a little with
> JSP/servlets/Java before.)
> Almost all pages on the site will share some common (and
> static) html, however, they'll also have dynamic aspects.
> I'm guessing that the common way to build sites like this
> is to have every page (which contains active content) be
> generated by a cgi script, but also have some text files
> hanging around containing incomplete html fragments which
> you read and paste-in as-needed (I'm thinking:
> header.html.txt, footer.html.txt, and so on).
> Is that how it's usually done? If not, what *is* the
> usual way of handling this?
There are a million ways to solve this particular problem, despite 
Python's "TSBOAPOOOWTDI" (see "import this") philosophy (because the 
philosophy is addressing primitive programming rather than application 

You could do something as simple as writing a module "webPage" that 
defines a function page(path, content) that does something along the 
lines of:

def page(path, content):
     return """\
<title>If you want titles, add another argument</title>
<this would be code to build a nav bar, omitting a hypertext link for
the path given as an argument - I'm just ignoring it in this example>
""" % content

Then in your generation routines you can build up content in the 
traditional way by generating individual fragments of HTML and appending 
them to a list. So you start with

content = []

then for every fragment you generate you do


and finally your content is generated with something like

content ="siteroot/subdir/page1.html", "".join(content))

If you don't care that a page contains a navbar link to itself (a sign 
of web immaturity, but by no means inexcusable) then you don't even need 
to pass the page's path into the function.

Hope this gives you a few ideas. This problem has been considered by 
many people, but clearly no outstanding solution has yet been devised, 
otherwise we'd all be using it.

Steve Holden       +44 150 684 7255  +1 800 494 3119
Holden Web LLC   

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