ZopeSkel - The past, present and future (Cris Ewing)

Cris is the maintainer of ZopeSkel for three years now. This is a historical, non technical talk about ZopeSkel: where did it start and where it is going.


We used to have ArchGenXML to generate code for us. But it only created (Archetype) content types. This may have been the reason for content type centric development. Later we needed eggs and other scaffolding and this another tool.

On May 25th 2006, the first commit to ZopeSkel was made by Daniel Nouri. From there it grew organically. Then local commands happened so developers could enhance already created packages (for instance to include portlets, content types). But most templates asked too many questions. And the descriptions around the question were not always clear. Many templates looked similar so which one should your choose? There was way too much (repeated!) code. That code was not updated consistently so for example one template generated a tests directory while another created a tests.py file.

To have local commands, your package has to depend on Paste. As a result, the Paste, PasteDeploy and PasteScript eggs end up inside your product. Even worse: if you are not careful, you can accidentally add these packages to your version control system. This is a big problem.


On the No-Fun ZopeSkel BBQ Sprint in 2009 the question “Who is ZopeSkel for?” was answered. It was decided that is it primarily a tool to help newcomers. For experienced developers it’s easier to start with empty structure and fill the bits and pieces in themselves.

The outcome of the BBQ sprint was the “bin/zopeskel” script which:

  • hides the “paste create -t” command,
  • provides inline validation,
  • help for questions,
  • provides ‘classes’ of questions (easy, expert, all), and
  • gives good feedback while and after running.

However, the existing documentation was not cleaned up. As a result people still use the “paste create -t” command and don’t even know what the “zopeskel” command is for.

Another outcome was that Cris became the official maintainer. And the plan was formed to break up ZopeSkel (see the GitHub repository which still contains a document with the reasoning behind this).


Work to break up started in early 2010. Templer provides templates in packages of related functionality: a buildout package, Zope related things, Plone related things, etc. But the commands for the user should remain the same because there’s so many documentation already available.

Main difference between the old ZopeSkel and Templer: you cannot create a shared structure in ZopeSkel. Templer provides structures, which are similar to templates but they cannot be run individually and only exist to be included in templates. For instance you can pull the structure for the requested licence when creating a package.

The new ZopeSkel version of is a Templer application which bundles stuff so you can use it as you were used to. You can just use easy_install or pip to install ZopeSkel (your version of pip needs to be new enough though).

Or put it in your development buildout by including a part which includes PasteScript and ZopeSkel, for example:

parts =

recipe = zc.recipe.egg
eggs =

What’s next

  • Dexterity templates (underway)
  • Buildouts (unified with installers)
  • Theme templates (Diazo, traditional?)
  • Local commands for
    • viewlet
    • utility
    • z3c form
    • dexterity schema builder

The next talk teaches how to create templates, in the sprint following the conference you can actually create templates.

Note that Templer currently still depends on Paster and uses Cheeta templates. Crushinator wants to solve these problems. The only dependency would be a package for the templating language you want to use for your templates.

View the slides or watch the video.