Python Create HTML Element Dynamically on Server Side

For web application, sometimes we need to create HTML element on the server side (for example, on Google App Engine Python) and serve the webpage to the client side (user browser). There are two different ways to create HTML elements in Python script on server side:

  1. Write HTML code directly: This means you write the HTML code directly, and serve the code directly to user client browser.
  2. Use Python xml.dom.minidom library: Create DOM elements using Python xml.dom.minidom library, and serve the HTML code by the use of toxml() function in the minidom library. This method is similar to JavaScript DOM manipulation and gives programmers consistent programming style on both server side and client side development.

The following example will give demonstration on how to create HTML elements in both ways.

In this example, we will try to create a div element, and append an anchor element to the div element.

1. Write HTML code directly

It's very easy and requires no explaination. Just write the HTML code as you did while editing a HTML document file, put the code in the python string and serve it to user client browser:

HTMLcode = '<div><a href="">Google Search</a></div>'
# serve the HTML code to client on Google App Engine Python using webapp2

2. Use Python xml.dom.minidom library

If you have no idea of what Python minidom is, please refer to series of introduction to minidom library in this blog [1]. The result of following code snippet is exactly the same as that of the above code snippet, i.e., HTMLcode above is the same as div.toxml() below.

import xml.dom.minidom

impl = xml.dom.minidom.getDOMImplementation()
dom = impl.createDocument(None, 'div', None)
div = dom.documentElement
a = dom.createElement('a')
a.setAttribute('href', '')
a.appendChild(dom.createTextNode('Google Search'))

# serve th DOM to client on Google App Engine Python using webapp2

Personally I think generating HTML code with mindom library is somewhat tedious, and I will write the HTML code directly if I want to make the code more concise and readable. Generating HTML code with minidom, however, can make you feel you are coding with JavaScript and makes your code style consistent either on server side or client side scripting.

I hope this post would be helpful for those who want to develop web application with Python on server side. For readers who want to know how to create elements on client side (user browser) by JavaScript, please refer to [2].


[1]Python Library xml.dom.minidom Howto
[2]JavaScript Create DOM Element Dynamically