Component Wiring and ZCML

About components and how they are wired together

diagram of a componentComponents are powerful and flexible tools in Plone 3, but a little more abstract than page templates or Python scripts. As the diagram on the right attempts to show, they are normally combinations of Python classes and page templates wired together in Zope Configuration Language (ZCML) and given a name.

There are two important things to remember about components

Components are compounds of classes, templates, interfaces, permissions etc.
To track components down you need to look in .zcml files first, locate their names, and that will lead you to the classes and templates that contribute to them.
Components come into existence when your Zope Instance is started up
Provided Zope has read the .zcml file, a component will be available to use. You can't overwrite existing components, better to create your own, reusing some of the parts.

Parts of a Component

A component comes into being via a ZCML "directive" (there's an example of one of these below). The directive will have a series of "attributes" which will point to the various parts that go into its creation. These parts have four main functions.

  1. To identify the component (in the case of a viewlet this will usually be done with a "name" attribute).
  2. To computethe information the component is supposed to display (this is usually done with a Python class, and pointed to with a "class" attribute). For example, in the case of the navigation tree, this would be working out which part of the tree should be displayed for each page.
  3. To display the information the component's class has computed (this is usually done with a page template).
  4. To restrict the display of the component. In the case of a viewlet, this could be restricting it to display only to certain logged-in users (by using the "permission" attribute) or restricting it to display only with specific content types (by using the "for" attribute).

There's more about this in the Components section.

Zope Configuration Language (ZCML)

The Five Tutorial on will walk you through ZCML, and there are plenty of examples in tutorials on the plone documentation site.

Here's a sample ZCML directive conjuring up the presentation viewlet (which simply provides a link to a presentation version of a page):

<configure    xmlns=""

There are three things to note:

  • Like any kind of XML, ZCML uses namespaces - watch out for these if you're writing your own ZCML file. For theme components, you'll mostly use the browser namespace.
  • ZCML attributes often refer to interfaces rather than actual content types, classes or components (see the for and manager attributes in the example above). You'll find more about interfaces in a later section.
  • Look at the class attribute and you'll see it begins with a leading dot. This means you can find it in the same directory as the ZCML file itself. If it isn't within the same directory you'll need to give the full name.

You can get detailed information about ZCML directives in the ZCML Reference section of the Zope 3 API - If you want to be very disciplined and tidy, consult the ZCMLStyleGuide