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Simple Python's Tornado wrapper which provides helpers for creationa new project, writing management commands, service processes, ...

Project description

Shelter is a Python’s Tornado wrapper which provides classes and helpers for creation new application skeleton, writing management commands (like a Django), service processes and request handlers. It was tested with Python 2.7 and Python 3.4 or higher and Tornado 3.2 or higher.


cd shelter/
python install

After instalation shelter-admin command is available. For help type:

shelter-admin -h

The most important argument is -s/--settings, which joins Shelter library and your application. Format is Python’s module path, eg. myapp.settings. Second option how to handle settings module is SHELTER_SETTINGS_MODULE environment variable. If both are handled, command line argument has higher priority than environment variable.

shelter-admin -s myapp.settings


SHELTER_SETTINGS_MODULE=myapp.settings shelter-admin


shelter-admin startproject myproject

Skeleton of the new application will be created in current working directory. Project name has the same rules as Python’s module name. Entry point into new application is a script

cd myproject/
./ -h
./ devserver is included in the new skeleton. See comments in file how to define interfaces, management commands, service processes, …

List of the management commands which provides Shelter library:

  • runserver runs production HTTP, multi-process server. Number of the processes are detected according to INTERFACES setting in the settings module. Service processes are run in separated processes. Parent process checks child processes and when child process exits (due to crash or signal), it is run again. Crashes are counted, maximum amount of the crashes are 100, after it whole application will be exited. If child stops with exit code 0, crash counter is not incremented, so you can exit the worker deliberately and it will be run again.
  • devserver runs development HTTP server, which autoreloads application when source files are changes. Server is run only in one process.
  • shell runs interactive Python’s shell. First it tries to run IPython, then standard Python shell.
  • showconfig shows effective configuration.
  • startproject will generate new apllication skeleton.

Pay attention, service processes are run only in runserver command!

Config class

Library provides base configuration class shelter.core.config.Config which holds all configuration. Public attributes are settings which is settings module of the application and args_parser which is instance of the argparse.ArgumentParser from Python’s standard library.

You can override this class in the settings module:

CONFIG_CLASS = 'myapp.core.config.AppConfig'

Your own AppConfig class can contain additional properties with application’s settings, e.g. database connection arguments. Way how the value is found is only on you - either only in settings or args_parser or in both. You can define additional arguments of the command line.

import time

from shelter.core.config import Config, argument

class AppConfig(Config):

    arguments = (
            '-k', '--secret-key',
            dest='secret_key', action='store',
            type=str, default='',
            help='configuration file'

    Database = collections.namedtuple('Database', ['host', 'db'])

    def initialize(self):
        # initialize() is called after instance is created. If you want
        # add some instance attributes, use this method instead of
        # override __init__().
        self._server_started_time = time.time()

    def get_config_items(self):
        # Override get_config_items() method if you want to add
        # your options into showconfig management command.
        base_items = super(AppConfig, self).get_config_items()
        app_items = (
            ('secret_key', self.secret_key),
            ('database', self.database),
        return base_items + app_items

    def secret_key(self):
        # If command-line argument -k/--secret-key exists, it will
        # override settings.SECRET_KEY value.
        return self.args_parser.secret_key or self.settings.SECRET_KEY

    def database(self):
        return self.Database(
            passwd=getattr(self.settings, DATABASE_PASSWORD, '')

Context class

In all handlers, management commands and service processes is available instance of the shelter.core.context.Context which holds resources for your appllication. Bundled class Context contains only one property config with Config instance (see previous chapter).

You can define own class in settings module:

CONTEXT_CLASS = 'myapp.core.context.Context'

Overrided Context can contain additional properties, e.g. database connection pool.

It is necesary to initialize shared resources (sockets, open files, …) lazy! The reason is that subprocesses (Tornado HTTP workers, service processes) have to get uninitialized Context, because forked resources can cause a lot of nights without dreams… Also it is necessary to known that Context is shared among coroutines! So you are responsible for locking shared resources (be careful, it is blocking operation) or use another mechanism, e.g. database connection pool.

Context class contains two methods, initialize() and initialize_child().

initialize() is called from constructor during instance is initialized. So it is the best place where you can initialize attributes which can be shared among processes.

initialize_child() is called when service processes or Tornado workers are initialized. So it is the best place where you can safely initialize shared resources like a database connection. process_type argument contains type of the child – shelter.core.constants.SERVICE_PROCESS or shelter.core.constants.TORNADO_WORKER. kwargs contains additional data according to process_type:

  • for SERVICE_PROCESS contains process key which is instance of the service process.
  • for TORNADO_WORKER contains process key which is instance of the HTTP worker.
class Context(shelter.core.context.Context):

    def initialize(self):
        self._database = None

    def initialize_child(self, process_type, **kwargs):
        # Initialize database in the subprocesses when child is created

    def _init_database(self, max_connections):
        self._database = ConnectionPool(

    def database(self):
        # Lazy property if you need database connection in
        # the main process (e.g. management command)
        if self._database is None:
        return self._database


You can define several hooks in the settings module - when application is launched, on SIGUSR1 and SIGUSR2 signals and when instance of the Tornado application is created.


INIT_HANDLER is allowed to contain multiple values.

    '', '']

Handler is common Python’s function which takes only one argument context with Context instance (see previous chapter).

def init_handler(context):
  • INIT_HANDLER is called during the application starts, before workers or service processes are run.
  • SIGUSR1_HANDLER is called on SIGUSR1 signal. When signal receives worker/child process, it is processed only in this process. When signal receives main/parent process, signal is propagated into all workers.
  • SIGUSR2_HANDLER is called on SIGUSR2 signal. Signal is processed only in process which received signal. It is not propagated anywhere.
  • APP_SETTINGS_HANDLER is called on when instance of the Tornado application is created. Function have to return dict, which is passed as **settings argument into tornado.web.Application constructor. Do not pass debug, context and interface keys.

Service processes

Service process are tasks which are repeatedly launched in adjusted interval, e.g. warms cache data before they expire. Library provides base class shelter.core.process.BaseProcess. For new service process you must inherit BaseProcess, adjust interval attribute and override loop() method.

from shelter.core.processes import BaseProcess

class WarmCache(BaseProcess)

    interval = 30.0

    def initialize(self):
        self.db_conn = self.context.db.conn_pool
        self.cache = self.context.cache

    def loop(self):"Warn cached data")
        with self.db_conn.get() as db:
            self.cache.set('key', db.get_data(), timeout=60)
  • interval is a time in seconds. After this time loop() method is repeatedly called.

Service process has to be registered in the settings module.

    ('myapp.processes.WarmCache', True, 15.0),

Each service process definition is list/tuple in format ('', wait_unless_ready, timeout). If wait_unless_ready is True, wait maximum timeout seconds unless process is successfully started, otherwise raise shelter.core.exceptions.ProcessError exception.

Management commands

Class shelter.core.commands.BaseCommand is an ancestor for user defined managemend commands, e.g. export/import database data. For new management command you must inherit BaseCommand and override command() method and/or initialize() method.

import sys

from gettext import gettext as _

from shelter.core.commands import BaseCommand, argument

class Export(BaseCommand)

    name = 'export'
    help = 'export data from database'
    arguments = (
            '-o', dest=output_file, type=str, default='-',
            help=_('output filename')),

    def initialize(self):
        filename = self.conntext.config.args_parser.output_file
        if filename == '-':
            self.output_file = sys.stdout
            self.output_file = open(filename, 'wt')

    def command(self):"Exporting data")
        with self.context.db.get_connection_from_pool() as db:
            data = db.get_data()
  • name is a name of the management command. This name is used from command line, e.g. ./ export.
  • help is a short description of the management command. This help is printed onto console when you type ./ command -h.
  • arguments are arguments of the command line parser. argument() function has the same meaning as ArgumentParser.add_argument() from Python’s standard library.
  • settings_required If it is False, settings module will not be required for command. However, only internal shelter.core.config.Config and shelter.core.context.Context will be available, not your own defined in settings. For example, internal startprocest command sets this flag to False. It is not public API, do not use this attribute unless you really know what you are doing!

Management command has to be registered in the settings module.



Tornado’s HTTP server can be run in multiple instances. Interface are defined in settings module. Interfaces can be set as either TCP/IP sockets (LISTEN directive) or unix sockets (UNIX_SOCKET directive) or both.

    'default': {
        # IP/hostname (not required) and port where the interface
        # listens to requests
        'LISTEN': ':8000',

        # Path to desired unix socket
        'UNIX_SOCKET': '/run/myapp.sock',

        # Amount of the server processes if application is run
        # using runserver command. Positive integer, 0 will
        # detect amount of the CPUs
        'PROCESSES': 0,

        # Path in format '' where
        # urls patterns are defined
        'URLS': 'myapp.urls.default_urls',

        # Path in format '' to class
        # of the Tornado's application. If not specified, default
        # tornado.web.Application is used.
        'APP_CLASS': '',

URL path to HTTP handler routing

It is the same as in Python’s Tornado application.

from tornado.web import URLSpec

from myapp.handlers import HomepageHandler, AboutHandler

urls_default = (
    URLSpec(r'/', HomepageHandler),
    URLSpec(r'/about/', AboutHandler),

Tuple/list urls_default is handled into relevant interface in the settings module, see previous chapter.

HTTP handler is a subclass of the shelter.core.web.BaseRequestHandler which enhances tornado.web.RequestHandler. Provides additional instance attributes/properties logger, context and interface.

  • logger is an instance of the logging.Logger from Python’s standard library. Logger name is derived from handlers’s name, e.g myapp.handlers.HomepageHandler.
  • context is an instance of the Context, see Context paragraph.
  • interface is a namedtuple with informations about current interface. Named attributes are name, host, port, processes and urls.
from shelter.core.web import BaseRequestHandler

class DummyHandler(BaseRequestHandler):

    def get(self):
            "Interface '%s' works!\n" %
            "Content-Type", 'text/plain; charset=UTF-8')


Standard Python’s logging is used. Config.configure_logging() method is responsible for setting the logging. Default Config class reads logging’s configuration from settings module:

    'version': 1,
    'disable_existing_loggers': False,
    'handlers': {
        'console': {
            'class': 'logging.StreamHandler',
            'level': 'INFO',
            'formatter': 'default',
    'root': {
        'handlers': ['console'],
        'level': 'INFO',



Descendant of the shelter.core.config.Config, provides INI files configuration. Adds additional public attribute config_parser which is instance of the RawConfigParser from Python’s standard library. Interfaces and application’s name can be overrided in configuration file, Python’s logging must be defined.

Configuration file is specified either by SHELTER_CONFIG_FILENAME environment variable or -f/--config-file command line argument. First, main configuration file is read. Then all configuration files from file.conf.d subdirectory are read in alphabetical order. E.g. if -f conf/myapp.conf is handled, first conf/myapp.conf file is read and then all conf/myapp.conf.d/*.conf files. Value in later configuration file overrides previous defined value.

name = MyApp



format=%(asctime)s %(name)s %(levelname)s: %(message)s






3-clause BSD

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