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jinja2-render – A CLI tool to render Jinja2 templates

Project description


A Python Tool to Render Jinja2 Templates on the Command Line with Different Contexts

jinja2-render hugely simplifies creating different versions of a text file. It takes a jinja2 Template file as input and renders it to a final document using a context loaded from a Python script. It was invented for use with Dockerfiles but its use case goes far beyond.

This is useful for example in the following cases:

  • The desired document (eg. Dockerfile) contains a lot of repeated statements. In a Jinja2 Template they can be replaced by a [For Loop][].
  • The configuration space for the desired document is large and the differences would be small, so maintaining a single template file is much easier.



Jinja2 Template File            Rendered File
(eg. Dockerfile.jinja2)   🡆    (eg. Dockerfile)


$ jinja2-render -h

usage: jinja2-render [-h] [-c CONTEXTS] [-f TEMPLATE]
                     [-o OUTPUT]

Render a Jinja2 template from the command line.

positional arguments:
  which        Context to choose. Omit for a list of contexts
               available in the contexts file (-c).
               (default: None)

optional arguments:
  -h, --help   show this help message and exit
  -c CONTEXTS  The Python file defining the contexts to
               render the template. (default: ./
  -f TEMPLATE  The Jinja2 template to use. (default:
  -o OUTPUT    The output file to write to. (default:

Minimal Example

Content of Dockerfile.jinja2:

FROM {{ base_img }}

RUN apt-get update \
 && apt-get install -yq {{ packages | join(' ') }}

RUN echo "Done!"

Content of

    "v1.0": {
        "base_img": "debian:10-slim",
        "packages": ["glibc-devel", "turboshutdown"],

Call to jinja2-render:

jinja2-render v1.0

Resulting in the following rendered Dockerfile:

FROM debian:10-slim

RUN apt-get update \
 && apt-get install -yq glibc-devel turboshutdown

RUN echo "Done!"

The Contexts File

The contexts file (defaults to ./ contains one ore multiple context definitions to render the template. This includes variables to be substituted, lists to render for loops, etc.

  • The contexts file must contain a global CONTEXTS = {} with keys corresponding to different contexts that can be selected. (Pro Tip™: Instead of a dictionary, this CONTEXTS object could also be a class that derives from dict.)
  • The items in CONTEXTS are the actual context handed over to jinja2.Template.render(). Usually this would also be a dictionary.

Original Use Case

The script was originally developed to automate building different configurations of the control system software EPICS and it's various modules. Traditionally, those modules were installed by a single shell script with fixed versions (i.e. synApps), which is bad in the Docker world as a build failure at the end if it would require rebuilding everything before.

How it compares to other templating tools

By using a Python file to provide the context for the template, much more flexibility is possible than with a simple solution such as jinja2-cli or j2cli. They allow to use files such as YAML, INI or JSON as input for variables.

A Python script can - however - in addition to defining static information ease additional tasks tasks such as dependency management. As an elaborate example of such a use case, have a look at this, where I use a custom class in the along with additional code to validate the resulting context.


  • Philipp Klaus, University Frankfurt
    initial author
  • Florian Feldbauer, University Bochum
    further improvements

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