This section presents core Ella features. It’s recommended to all of the user base. Some parts might be a little heavy for html coders though. It goes from the most basic aspects to the more and more specialized ones. It tries to show the concepts by examples and doesn’t go into the deep descriptions of the API. If you are looking for reference instead, go to the API reference.

As a rule of the thumb, all sections up to the Working with related objects are recommended for an every-day Ella user.

Template fallback mechanisms

Templates for rendering categories and publishable objects use fallback mechanism to provide you full control over what is rendered with minimum effort required.

When selecting template to use for given URL, Ella does several things based on what we are dealing with. However, in both cases there is final fallback to default templates which are:

  • category.html for a category template
  • object.html for an object template


Under some circumstances, category.html can be overriden, see Defining custom template for category for more details.

Selecting template for a category

When selecting templates for a rendering of category, Ella uses this set of rules:

  1. Look at the tree_path. Try to find a template in page/category/[TREE_PATH]/category.html.



    Ella would first try to find page/category/category/subcategory/category.html.

  2. If template was not found in previous step, try to find the template of an direct ancestor providing we have one and it’s not the root category.



    First, try page/category/category/subcategory/category.html, next try page/category/category/category.html and stop because the category "category" is the main one.


    Try page/category/category/category.html and stop.


    Would not try anything, we are already in main category.


    Would not try anything, we are in root.

  3. If template wasn’t found yet, use default template (which is page/category.html in most cases).

Selecting template for an object

Selecting template for an object adds even more possibilities for the developer. It also uses content_type in form of app_label.model_label (both lowercased). Example would be: articles.article, videos.video and so on.

  1. Try to find a template in page/category/[TREE_PATH]/content_type/[CONTENT_TYPE]/object.html.
  2. Try to find a template in page/content_type/[CONTENT_TYPE]/object.html.
  3. Continue in the same way as when selecting a category template except for using object.html instead of category.html.

Selecting template for a box

Lookup for boxes is done in "box" subdirectory. It then works exactly the same as for objects, except that the template name is the name of the box being rendered and last resort is template box/box.html.

Category detail page

Category detail is the very main page of most content websites. In Ella, we do not make any difference for homepages and other categories except for the different URLs. Ella uses categories in several ways:

  • For showing your homepage
  • For listing content that is published in the category
  • As a static page, e.g. for your contact page

Last use case scenario might be little awkward, but the design decision was made to make this as easy as possible. Because main focus of Ella is content-rich websites and online news, static pages are usually not the primary focus of an Ella project. It’s still quite simple to create personal websites though.

Working with category templates

When creating category templates, here are some basic rules you can count on:

The template used is by default category.html using the template fallback mechanism (for details on that, see Template fallback mechanisms). You can set the different template for your category using administration. For details and explanation of the whole concept, have a look at Defining custom template for category.

Context will always contain at least:

Key Value
category Category object itself.
is_homepage Flag telling you if this is a homepage, see Homepages.
is_title_page Boolean telling you if this is the first page of the listing/archive.
is_paginated Boolean which is True more pages are available.
results_per_page Number of objects per page.
page Current page shown.
listings Objects listed in the category for this page.
content_type If filtering by Content Type is active, this will hold the ContentType instance.
content_type_name Verbose name of content type if Content Type filtering takes place.

The basic scenario when building up site’s category templates is following:

  1. Create the base template page/category.html. Make this template as generic as possible to enable nice inheritance. Most often, this category will be created as generic, paginated, content listing as seen on most sites using articles.
  2. Create customized template for homepage since it has different layout in most cases. Use proper fallback to tell Ella that it should use a different template for HP. It’s as simple as putting the template to page/category/[YOUR_HP_SLUG]/category.html. Also, practice inheritance, make this template using {% extend "page/category.html" %}.
  3. Create other category templates that need customization. You will most likely end up building some static pages.


In Ella, a homepage is recognized as the category, that has no parent. Therefore, it is also the root category. Only one such page is allowed for each site that is contained in database.

The URL of homepage is always “/”, so for a domain example.com, full URL of root category would be of course the root of the whole site:


When working with category templates, homepage will set the variable is_homepage in the template’s context to True. Thanks to it, something like this is possible:

<!-- in page/category.html -->
{% if is_homepage %}
   This is homepage category.
{% else %}
   This is not a homepage.
{% endif %}

This makes it very easy to have only one template which covers most of the category pages including homepage. However, you should always consider splitting the HP-specific code to it’s own template when the HP layout is completely different from other categories. This would make your templates much more readable which is always a good thing.

Other categories

In most Ella sites, categories other than HP usually serve for content listings or static pages. We’ll demonstrate the basic code for content listing for the sake of completness.

{% extends "page/base.html" %}

{% block content %}
    {% block object_listing %}
        {% listing 10 for category as category_listing %}
        {% for l in category_listing %}
            {% box listing for l.publishable %}{% endbox %}
        {% endfor %}
    {% endblock %}
    {% block pagination %}
       {% if is_paginated %}{% paginator 5 %}{% endif %}
    {% endblock %}
{% endblock %}

Defining custom template for category

By default, template used for rendering category is category.html. You can override this behavior to use your custom template. This can be useful when you need to implement several different layouts for your categories. Suppose we have following layouts:

  • Top 4 articles, then listing of 6 more
  • Listing of 10 articles without top ones
  • Listing of 10 articles without perexes, only big images

If it wasn’t possible to select a template for category, you would need to override the template for each category diferrent from the base one (let it be the first one). Using different templates, you can avoid doing so. First, define the templates in your settings.py:

# in settings.py
    ('category.html', 'default (top 4 + listing 6)'),
    ('category_10.html', 'top 10'),
    ('category_10_no_perex.html', 'top 10 w/o perexes'),


To be consistent with the Ella guidelines, please always use category.html as your base category template.

Next, create the base template. That would be category.html. It would be used, when not set otherwise in your Ella administration:

<!-- in page/category.html -->
{% extends "page/base.html" %}

{% block object_listing %}
    <!-- show 4 boxes with big images -->
    {% listing 4 for category as category_listing %}
    {% for l in category_listing %}
        {% box listing_big_image for l.publishable %}{% endbox %}
    {% endfor %}

    <!-- show 6 more regular boxes -->
    {% listing 6 from 4 for category as category_listing %}
    {% for l in category_listing %}
        {% box listing for l.publishable %}{% endbox %}
    {% endfor %}
{% endblock %}

Then, you would create category_10.html template to show only ten same boxes for listing:

<!-- in page/category_10.html -->
{% extends "page/category.html" %}

{% block object_listing %}
    <!-- show 10 same boxes -->
    {% listing 10 for category as category_listing %}
    {% for l in category_listing %}
        {% box listing for l.publishable %}{% endbox %}
    {% endfor %}
{% endblock %}

Finally, create the last category_10_no_perex.html template, that would define the last layout:

<!-- in page/category_10_no_perex.html -->
{% extends "page/category.html" %}

{% block object_listing %}
    <!-- show 10 boxes without perexes -->
    {% listing 10 for category as category_listing %}
    {% for l in category_listing %}
        {% box listing_no_perex for l.publishable %}{% endbox %}
    {% endfor %}
{% endblock %}

This way, you don’t need to override template for each of different categories, you just set the layout in your administration. Also, this is widely used when it comes to creating Static pages that don’t ever change.

Object detail page

The object detail in Ella terminology is a detail of a publishable object. This can be the article itself, a page showing gallery or a page with a video player we used as example in Plugins section. This would be a main interest for your users, the main source of information on your site.

Similarly to categories, object details use object.html template. Same fallback rules apply (see Template fallback mechanisms).

When dealing with object detail, you can be sure the context will provide you with following data:

Key Value
object Publishable subclass instance we are dealing with.
category Related Category object for this page.
content_type ContentType instance of the object.
content_type_name Verbose name of content type if Content Type.

Defining templates follows a same pattern as when working with categories:

  1. Define a generic template that will be used when rendering objects without some special behavior. In this template, try to use only attributes defined by Publishable model, so it will work for all subclasses correctly.
  2. Define custom templates for objects of different kinds. There would mostly likely be different templates for articles, galleries etc. These templates go to page/content_type/[APP_LABEL].[MODEL_NAME]/object.html, e.g. page/content_type/articles.article/object.html.
  3. Define templates for custom layout of object in specific categories. These might be sometimes required. Imagine a situation when you need an article detail to look differently in some special category. For example, you can have normal articles and site news, both of which are internally implemented as Article instances. It makes sense for site news to keep a little different layout than normal articles do, you probably won’t show the news source and so on.

To provide some real world example of basic object page, have a look at this small snippet:

<!-- in page/object.html -->
{% extends "page/base.html" %}

{% block content %}
    <!-- show photo if available -->
    {% if object.photo %}
        {% box object_main for object.photo %}{% endbox %}
    {% endif %}

    <!-- show basic information, title, authors, publication date -->
    <h1>{% block object_title %}{{ object }}{% endblock %}</h1>

    <p>Published at: <span>{{ object.publish_from|date }}</span></p>
    {% if object.authors.exists %}
        <p>Authors: <strong>{{ object.authors.all|join:", " }}</strong></p>
    {% endif %}

    <!-- render perex/description -->
    {% block perex %}
        {% render object.description %}
    {% endblock %}

    <!-- body for publishable subclasses goes here -->
    {% block body %}{% endblock %}

    <!-- show related objects -->
    {% block related %}
        {% related 5 for object as related %}
        {% for r in related %}
            {% box related for r %}{% endbox %}
        {% endfor %}
    {% endblock %}
{% endblock %}

Most likely, you would also add following things to the base object template:

  • Facebook like button, Twitter tweet button, Google +1 button
  • Sharing handlers - send by email, ...
  • Tags for the object
  • Comments

Object detail URL

The URL of Publishable object detail depends on publication type. As we already mentioned in Quickstart, there are two:

  • time-based publication is limited by publish_from - publish_to period. Outside of these time boundaries, object won’t be reachable on the website. Most websites only use publish_from so that the object won’t disappear.
  • static publication is not limited by time and thus it is unlimited and permanent. Such object will be always reachable on the website.

With time-based publications, objects are given a date stamp in the URL so the namespaces clashes doesn’t happen very often. URL structure goes like:


So for an example, /about/2007/08/11/articles/ella-first-in-production/ could be proper result of time-based publication.

With static publication, no date stamp is used. Instead, object’s primary key is prepended before slug to avoid name conflicts. URL structure looks like this:


And a valid result could be /about/articles/1-ella-first-in-production/.

Archive pages

Rich-text fields: using WYSIWYG editors or a markup language

Integrating custom views

Ella doesn’t force you to make your views any prescribed way. You can easily create any Django application and add it to your project standard Django way and Ella won’t stand in way.

However, if you try to extend the functionality of the framework itself, you might want to have a look at Ella plugins which offer several simple interface for extending the Ella.

Defining positions on the page

Position is understood as placeholder on the page whose context is specific to the category in use. It allows designers to specify areas of the template to be overriden by the site writers, editors via the admin interface. Position is identified by it’s name. Main use case of positions is box embedding, but raw HTML can be used as well.

When called from the template tag, the application will first try and locate the active position for the given category, then, if such position is not available, it will locate active position in the closest ancestor of the category. This behavior can be overriden by the nofallback argument to the {% position %} templatetag.
tied to objects or raw HTML
You can either define a generic foreign key to any object whose box you wish to display instead of the templatetag or, if the generic foreign key is empty, raw HTML that you wish to insert.
{% ifposition %} templatetag
You can check if any position for a given set of names is active using the {% ifposition %} templatetag. It behaves in same way as common {% if %} templatetag.


This feature is part of ella.positions app and thus needs to be added to INSTALLED_APPS before use.

Using positions in your pages

Position is defined in the admin interface and used from the templates via two templatetags.

{% position %} template tag

Render a given position for category.


{% position POSITION_NAME for CATEGORY [using BOX_TYPE] [nofallback] %}
{% endposition %}


Name Description
POSITION_NAME Name of the position for lookup.
CATEGORY The category for which to render the position - either a Category instance or category’s slug.
BOX_TYPE Default type of the box to use, can be overriden from the admin.
nofallback If present, do not fall back to parent categories.

Text inside the tag (between {% position %} and {% endposition %}) is passed to Box used for rendering the object. This can also be overriden from the database.

{% ifposition %} template tag

Render template according to the availability of given position names within given category.


{% ifposition POSITION_NAME ... for CATEGORY [nofallback] %}
{% else %}
{% endifposition %}

Renders ‘POSITION EXISTS!’ if any of the space separated position name is active for the given category, ‘NO POSITION DEFINED!‘ otherwise.

Real world examples

Positions are widely used for a lot of page parts that need to be edited by site staff from time to time, like:

  • Site menus (see Creating site navigation)
  • Page sidebars (see Category-specific sidebars)
  • Top articles on the hompage, which are under strict supervision of editors who need to control what exactly and in which order is being displayed.
  • Carousel-like content on the bottom of the pages.
<!-- in page/category.html -->
{% load positions %}

{% block right_column %}
    {% position rightcol_poll for category %}{% endposition %}
{% endblock %}


This simple example can be used to show a poll in the page right column in case the poll is defined. It will also switch the poll for the categories where the specific one is defined as stated before.

Working with photos

Ella’s core has an integrated photo module which is tightly coupled with the rest of the modules (articles, ...) and plugins, notably the Newman administration plugin.


  • Photo format definition with cross-site option.
  • Scaling, cropping.
  • Definition of important box for automatic cropping while keeping the important area on the photo intact (e.g.: keeping faces on cropped photo).
  • {% img %} template tag for template usage.

Photo module is composed from several important parts:

Photo model
Photo model stands for the actual photo uploaded by user.
Format model
Describes different formats that a sites is using. Think of format as a set of rules how to render: “a big photo aligned to right side”, “small photo to show authors face” and so on.
FormatedPhoto model
This model keeps track of photos that have already been formatted in a given format. It works like a cache so that the formatting only occurs once.
{% img %} template tag
{% img %} is used when placing the photos in the templates. It simplifies and abstracts the process of thumbnail creation.

Generating thumbnails in the tempalates

The {% img %} template tag is used to get a thumbnail for original Photo object. It is smart enough to use all the meta info defined on Photo, so the important box is taken into account.


{% img <FORMAT> for <VAR> as <VAR_NAME> %}
{% img <FORMAT> with <FIELD_VALUE> as <VAR_NAME> %}

Templatetag supports two approaches. First is very simple, you just give it a Photo instance and it will generate thumbnail for it. The second one tries to find a Photo you describe by FIELD_VALUE. See the examples:

{% img category_listing for object.photo as thumb %}
{% img category_listing with pk 1150 as thumb %}

The result (stored as thumb in the example above) then contains a FormatedPhoto instance. This means you can access it’s attributes, particularly url method and width and height.


The basic workflow when using photos goes like this:

  1. Define formats. This step is usually already done when you enter the stage as the designer is reponsible for it in most cases. We only need to enter the data to the Ella database.

  2. Store the formats in fixtures is quite important step, because it makes development much easier when a more than one developer is involved. It makes sense to add the fixture as initial data because it shouldn’t be altered in database without an intent.

  3. Use image boxes in your templates. For the thumbnails, use boxes. The snippet below shows how you can embed photos using boxes in an object box we used in Category detail page section.

    <!-- in box/listing.html -->
    <div class="article">
        <h2><a href="{{ object.get_absolute_url }}">{{ object }}</a></h2>
        {% if object.photo %}
            <a href="{{ object.get_absolute_url }}" title="{{ object.title }}">
                {% box category_listing for object.photo %}{% endbox %}
        {% endif %}
  4. Use image templatetag to generate thumbnails. When the photo is embedded, the last remaining step is to generate thumbnails so the photo will fit on the page nicely. To do this, use {% image %} template tag.

    <!-- in box/content_type/photos.photo/category_listing.html -->
    {% load photos %}
    {% block image_tag %}
        {% image object in "200x100" as image %}
        <img src="{{ image.url }}" alt="{% firstof title object.title %}" width="{{ image.width }}" height="{{ image.height }}" />
    {% endblock %}


It’s a good habit to use format naming convention which describes the used dimensions (like the “200x100” used in example above) and attributes because:

  • It will minimize the number of formats you use and eliminate duplicates.
  • It will eliminate the threat that the same image is formatted twice with same parameters.

Using placeholder images during development

It is quite common that during development of the Ella application, one doesn’t always have all the photos stated in database on his HDD. This can happen when you share one database dump with co-workers and someone adds new articles etc.

In order to show at least something, Ella provides debugging setting which will replace the missing image files by placeholder images. You can enable this by setting PHOTOS_DEBUG = True in your project settings. By default, Ella will use web service http://placehold.it to generate the images. Optionally, you can use your custom placeholder service by changing the PHOTOS_DEBUG_PLACEHOLDER_PROVIDER_TEMPLATE to your own. Use something like this:

DEBUG_PLACEHOLDER_PROVIDER_TEMPLATE = 'http://placehold.it/%(width)sx%(height)s'

Syndication - ATOM and his RSS friend

Ella has automatic syndication support out of the box. For each category, there are RSS a ATOM feeds automatically available on:





Ella uses Django syndication feed framework internally to render the feeds. Default number of objects in feed is set to 10 by RSS_NUM_IN_FEED setting. You can override this setting it to different value in your settings.py. Also, you can define an enclosure format by setting RSS_ENCLOSURE_PHOTO_FORMAT which defaults to None. The value is expected as Format instance name. If you set this to None (or don’t set it at all), no enclosures will be used.

The feed title and description defaults to category title attribute. If you need to override this, use app_data and make sure you set following:

category.app_data['syndication'] = {
    'title': 'My feed title',
    'description': 'My feed description'

You can do this through Django administration.

Incorporating plugins

Ella design is as lightweight as possible. Prefered way of extending it’s functions is via plugins. Ella provides great flexibility when it comes to plugin possibilities. You can for example:

  • Add your custom Publishable subclasses.
  • Create custom Box classes for the new publishables.
  • Add new actions over the Publishable objects.
  • Customize bundled workflow when rendering the content.

We’ve dedicated whole section for plugins, because it’s an important topic and almost every project has it’s specific needs. So, for details, go to Plugins.

Extending category/publishable metadata

Since Ella has quite a long history behind it, we’ve gathered lot of experience from previous fails. One such experience is that almost every project needs to add aditional data on the bundled models. This can be done in lot of various ways because of Python’s great possibilities, but more or less, it’s a dark magic or monkey patching. This is not nice and violates the Django core principle: explicit is better then implicit. To fix this up, we’ve added possibility to add arbitrary data on Publishable, Category and Photo models programatically.

Each of the mentioned models has one JSONField subclass AppDataField called app_data which can hold any information you need. It has some limitations though:

  • It’s not possible to perform efficent queries over the defined fiels. If you needed it, add OneToOne relation to your custom model instead.
  • You are responsible of setting the fields correctly, no validation measures are placed on that field so that the data might be corrupted if not used properly.

AppDataField acts the same way as regular Python dict object. You can store any data structure you like provided it’s serializable by Django’s JSON encoder.


AppDataField recognizes namespaces for different applications. The access is not limited though so that any application can access any namespace. The namespace is a simple first-level dict key (e.g. ‘emailing’ or ‘my_articles’ in the following examples).

To avoid name clashes, we encourage you to follow this convention so that all your custom data is stored by using a key which coresponds to the app label of aplication storing the data, such as:

# in app "emailing"
p = Publishable()
p.app_data['emailing'] = {'sent': False}

# in app "my_articles"
p = Publishable()
p.app_data['my_articles'] = {'custom_title': 'Foobar'}

Custom container classes

By default, Ella returns an AppDataContainer class when you access a namespace. This is simply a dict subclass with no additional data except for the information about the model class it is bound to. However, you can provide your own classess for the namespaces. This allows you to create methods working with the your custom data. For example, you can have CommentsDataContainer for your comments application which can provide methods like comment_count.

Registering your custom container class is very simple. The formula is:

from app_data import app_registry
app_registry.register('comments', CommentsDataContainer, Publishable)

Unregistration works the same way:

app_registry.unregister('comments', Publishable)
app_registry.register('comments', SomeOtherDataContainer, Publishable)


Double rendering