The Python HTMLgen Module

Mr. Hamilton tells us how to use HTMLgen, a Python-class library, for generating HTML.
Multiple Documents

In my next example, I'll show you how a data stream can be processed to produce a series of documents that are interlinked. The script in Listing 3 creates a set of two documents summarizing all the Red Hat packages installed on a Linux system. The resulting HTML page is shown in Figure 3. An index document summarizes the RPM major groups, and a second main document summarizes the RPMs in each group. A link for each group in the index document jumps directly to each group's entries in the main document.

The HTML is generated from the output of the following rpm command:

rpm -q -a --queryformat \
   '%{group} %{name} %{summary}\n'

The output typically looks like this:

System/Base sh-utils GNU shell utilities.
Browser/WWW lynx tty WWW browser
Programming/Tools make GNU Make.
System/Library xpm X11 Pixmap Library
System/Shell pdksh Public Domain Korn Shell
I read this output into a Python list and pre-process it by sorting it into alphabetic order.

I produce two documents, an index document (idoc), and a main document (mdoc), using HTMLgen's SeriesDocument to give both documents the same look-and-feel. By using a SeriesDocument, I can configure standard document headers, footers and navigation buttons via an rcfile and other optional arguments.

The index document (idoc) has only one HTMLgen component: an HTML list of RPM groups. I've used the HTMLgen.List columns option to create a multi-column list:

ilist = HTMLgen.List(style="compact", columns=3)

The for loop processes each line from the rpm command and generates both idoc and mdoc text. Each time the group name changes, I add a new list entry to the ilist:

if group != lastgroup:
 lastgroup = group
 title = HTMLgen.Text(group)
 href = HTMLgen.Href(mainfile+"#"+ group,
I've wrapped the list text in an HTML-named HREF, linking it back into mdoc. I've used the name of the main file and group title to form the HREF link. For example, in the case of the “Browser/FTP” RPM group, my code would generate the following HREF link:
<A HREF="rpmlist.html#Browser/FTP">Browser/FTP</A>
The main document (mdoc) has a more complex structure. It consists of a series of HTML definition lists, one per RPM group. Each time the group name changes, I generate the named anchor that is the target for the reference generated above:
anchor = HTMLgen.Name(group, title)
I append the anchor to mdoc as a new group heading:
mdoc.append(HTMLgen.Heading(2, anchor))
For the “Browser/FTP” group, this would generate the following HTML:
<H2><A NAME="Browser/FTP">Browser/FTP</A></H2>
Once the group heading has been appended, I start a list of RPMs in the group:
grplist = HTMLgen.DefinitionList()
Once a new group list has been started, my for loop will keep appending RPM summaries to the mdoc until the next change in group name occurs:
When the entire rpmlist has been processed, I generate the two documents you see in Figure 3.

In this example, I simultaneously generated two simple documents and linked one to the other. This example could easily be extended to provide further links to individual documents for each RPM, and from each RPM to the RPMs it depends on.

Where To From Here

I've only scratched the surface of what's possible with HTMLgen and Python. I haven't covered the HTMLgen objects for HTML Forms, Image Maps, Nested Tables, Frames, or Netscape Scripts. I also haven't made use of Python's object-oriented nature. For example, I could have sub-classed some of the HTMLgen objects to customize them for specifics of each application. I haven't discussed the Python module for CGI handling. You can read more about these topics by pointing your browser at some of the references accompanying the article (see Resources).

If you're trying to get started with HTMLgen, the file distributed with HTMLgen provides some good examples. The HTMLgen documentation is quite good, although in some cases, more examples would help. I don't think my examples require any particular distribution of Linux, libc or Python. All of them were written using HTMLgen 2.0 with Python 1.4 on Caldera OpenLinux Standard version 1.2.


Michael Hamilton is a freelance UNIX C/C++ developer. Recently he's been working on Web and Java projects, as well as C++ fault-tolerant UNIX applications. Michael tripped over one of Linus's postings back at the beginning of 1992 and has been hooked ever since. Michael currently runs two Linux hosts, a main workstation and an old 386 used as an Xterminal. Both of these systems have been put to use on projects to be delivered on Linux and other UNIX platforms. He can be reached at



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Re: The Python HTMLgen Module

Anonymous's picture

Hello Michael

I read your article on "" regarding making barchart using HTMLgen , i was in need of that thing and your article has helped me a lot , but the bar chart also displays the AVERAGE of the data supplied to it and also display average graphically. Is there any way that i can remove the average part and my bar chart will not display the average bar.

Waiting for your reply.... at

Thanks and Regards
Nitin Parikh
Pune , India

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