Getting Started


Cheetah requires Python release 2.7 (there are plans to support 3.4+). It is known to run on Linux, Windows, FreeBSD and Solaris, and should run anywhere Python runs.

99% of Cheetah is written in Python. There is one small C module ({}) for speed, but Cheetah automatically falls back to a Python equivalent ({}) if the C module is not available.

Cheetah can use an additional module Markdown but it’s not strictly required.


To install Cheetah in your system-wide Python library:

  1. Login as a user with privileges to install system-wide Python packages. On POSIX systems (AIX, Solaris, Linux, IRIX, etc.), the command is normally ‘su root’. On non-POSIX systems such as Windows NT, login as an administrator.
  2. Run {pip install CT3} at the command prompt.
  3. Or download source code and run {python install}.
  4. The setup program will install the wrapper script { cheetah} to wherever it usually puts Python binaries (“/usr/bin/”, “bin/” in the Python install directory, etc.)
  5. If you cannot login as as an administrator install Cheetah as user to your own home directory: add option {–user} to commands: either {pip install –user CT3} or {python install –user}.

Cheetah’s installation is managed by Python’s Distribution Utilities (‘distutils’). There are many options for customization. Type {python help} for more information.

To install Cheetah in an alternate location - someplace outside Python’s {site-packages/} directory, use one of these options:

python install --home /home/tavis
python install --install-lib /home/tavis/lib/python

Either way installs to /home/tavis/lib/python/Cheetah/ . Of course, /home/tavis/lib/python must be in your Python path in order for Python to find Cheetah.


If you do the systemwide install, all Cheetah modules are installed in the { site-packages/Cheetah/} subdirectory of your standard library directory; e.g., /opt/Python2.2/lib/python2.2/site-packages/Cheetah.

Two commands are installed in Python’s {bin/} directory or a system bin directory: {cheetah} (section gettingStarted.cheetah) and {cheetah-compile} (section howWorks.cheetah-compile).


To uninstall Cheetah, merely delete the site-packages/Cheetah/ directory. Then delete the “cheetah” and “cheetah-compile” commands from whichever bin/ directory they were put in.

The ‘cheetah’ command

Cheetah comes with a utility {cheetah} that provides a command-line interface to various housekeeping tasks. The command’s first argument is the name of the task. The following commands are currently supported:

cheetah compile [options] [FILES ...]     : Compile template definitions
cheetah fill [options] [FILES ...]        : Fill template definitions
cheetah help                              : Print this help message
cheetah options                           : Print options help message
cheetah test                              : Run Cheetah's regression tests
cheetah version                           : Print Cheetah version number

You only have to type the first letter of the command: {cheetah c} is the same as {cheetah compile}.

The test suite is described in the next section. The {compile} command will be described in section howWorks.cheetah-compile, and the {fill} command in section howWorks.cheetah-fill.

The depreciated {cheetah-compile} program does the same thing as {cheetah compile}.

Testing your installation

After installing Cheetah, you can run its self-test routine to verify it’s working properly on your system. Change directory to any directory you have write permission in (the tests write temporary files). Do not run the tests in the directory you installed Cheetah from, or you’ll get unnecessary errors. Type the following at the command prompt:

cheetah test

The tests will run for about three minutes and print a success/failure message. If the tests pass, start Python in interactive mode and try the example in the next section.

Certain test failures are insignificant:

Certain tests run “cheetah” as a subcommand. The failure may mean the command wasn’t found in your system path. (What happens if you run “cheetah” on the command line?) The failure also happens on some Windows systems for unknown reasons. This failure has never been observed outside the test suite. Long term, we plan to rewrite the tests to do a function call rather than a subcommand, which will also make the tests run significantly faster.

The test tried to write a temporary module in the current directory and {import} it. Reread the first paragraph in this section about the current directory.

May be the same problem as SampleBaseClass; let us know if changing the current directory doesn’t work.

If any other tests fail, please send a message to the e-mail list with a copy of the test output and the following details about your installation:

  1. your version of Cheetah
  2. your version of Python
  3. your operating system
  4. whether you have changed anything in the Cheetah installation

Quickstart tutorial

This tutorial briefly introduces how to use Cheetah from the Python prompt. The following chapters will discuss other ways to use templates and more of Cheetah’s features.

The core of Cheetah is the {Template} class in the {Cheetah.Template} module. The following example shows how to use the {Template} class in an interactive Python session. {t} is the Template instance. Lines prefixed with {>>>} and {…} are user input. The remaining lines are Python output.

>>> from Cheetah.Template import Template
>>> templateDef = """
... <HTML>
... <HEAD><TITLE>$title</TITLE></HEAD>
... <BODY>
... $contents
... ## this is a single-line Cheetah comment and won't appear in the output
... #* This is a multi-line comment and won't appear in the output
...    blah, blah, blah
... *#
... </BODY>
... </HTML>"""
>>> nameSpace = {'title': 'Hello World Example', 'contents': 'Hello World!'}
>>> t = Template(templateDef, searchList=[nameSpace])
>>> print t

<HEAD><TITLE>Hello World Example</TITLE></HEAD>
Hello World!
>>> print t    # print it as many times as you want
      [ ... same output as above ... ]
>>> nameSpace['title'] = 'Example #2'
>>> nameSpace['contents'] = 'Hiya Planet Earth!'
>>> print t   # Now with different plug-in values.
<HEAD><TITLE>Example #2</TITLE></HEAD>
Hiya Planet Earth!

Since Cheetah is extremely flexible, you can achieve the same result this way:

>>> t2 = Template(templateDef)
>>> t2.title = 'Hello World Example!'
>>> t2.contents = 'Hello World'
>>> print t2
      [ ... same output as the first example above ... ]
>>> t2.title = 'Example #2'
>>> t2.contents = 'Hello World!'
>>> print t2
     [ ... same as Example #2 above ... ]

Or this way:

>>> class Template3(Template):
>>>     title = 'Hello World Example!'
>>>     contents = 'Hello World!'
>>> t3 = Template3(templateDef)
>>> print t3
     [ ... you get the picture ... ]

The template definition can also come from a file instead of a string, as we will see in section howWorks.constructing.

The above is all fine for short templates, but for long templates or for an application that depends on many templates in a hierarchy, it’s easier to store the templates in separate *.tmpl files and use the { cheetah compile} program to convert them into Python classes in their own modules. This will be covered in section howWorks.cheetah-compile.

As an appetizer, we’ll just briefly mention that you can store constant values { inside} the template definition, and they will be converted to attributes in the generated class. You can also create methods the same way. You can even use inheritance to arrange your templates in a hierarchy, with more specific templates overriding certain parts of more general templates (e.g., a “page” template overriding a sidebar in a “section” template).

For the minimalists out there, here’s a template definition, instantiation and filling all in one Python statement:

>>> print Template("Templates are pretty useless without placeholders.")
Templates are pretty useless without placeholders.

You use a precompiled template the same way, except you don’t provide a template definition since it was already established:

from MyPrecompiledTemplate import MyPrecompiledTemplate
t = MyPrecompiledTemplate() = "Fred Flintstone" = "Bedrock City"
print t