Content to Template

How content reaches a Page Template.

There are three ways in which content from your content items can reach a page.

  • directly from a content item
  • from the catalog
  • via a view component (using Python)

Getting content directly from a content item

A page template can pull data directly from the content item it is displaying. Here’s a snippet of the RSS template, calling the description field of a Collection content item:

    <metal:block define-slot="description">
       <tal:block content="context/Description">
          Default rss description goes here
  • contextrefers to the current content item
  • Descriptionis the accessor of the description field


An accessor is simply the method by which data in a field is extracted. In most cases the name of an accessor is the field name with the first letter capitalized and prefaced by 'get' (e.g., getStartTime). There's an exception to this rule. The title and description field, common to most content types, have 'Title' and 'Description' as their accessors (i.e. no 'get', but the first letter is capitalized).


This snippet from the news item template does exactly the same thing but calls a specific display "widget" macro for the field rather than just the data.

<p class="documentDescription">
 <metal:field use-macro="python:here.widget('description',  mode='view')">

Getting content from the catalog

Every content item is catalogued on creation and editing. Some of its fields are indexed for quick searching and sorting, while the values of others are stored in what's called the "brains" or "metadata" for quick access.

Pages pulling together a number of content types - a folder or collection listing for instance - often get their content from a catalog query and the brains, rather than waking up every content item in turn. You'll normally find a variable defined somewhere which holds the results of a catalog query:

folderContents here.queryCatalog(contentFilter);

Then the template will loop through the results and call values from the brains/metadata:

item_url item/getURL;
item_id item/getId;

These look pretty much like normal accessors, in fact they are the names of fields in the catalog brains/metadata. This can get confusing - if you try to access a field which isn't in the brains/metadata you'll get an error.

You can see what fields are available to you via

  • Site Setup > Zope Management Interface > portal_catalog > metadata tab

If you want to understand more about the catalog, there is a useful, general overview in the Zope book, and a more Plone-specific runthrough in The Definitive Guide to Plone (this book is for Plone 2 only, but the catalog section is still relevant to Plone 3).

Getting content via Python (using a view component)

It is often more efficient to use a view to process the data from the content item (or a group of content items) and then drop it into the page template. In this case, by "view" we mean a specific component defined in ZCML.

Here’s a snippet calling a view to render the sitemap:

<ul id="portal-sitemap"
    class="navTreeLevel0 visualNoMarker"
    tal:define="view context/@@sitemap_view;">
     <tal:sitemap replace="structure view/createSiteMap" />
  • context/@@sitemap_view is assigned to a variable called (helpfully) 'view'
  • createSiteMap is a method of @@sitemap_view
  • @@ indicates that this is a view component

Here's the wiring in ZCML that creates @@sitemap_view:

(there’s no restriction on where I can be used)
(this is my name)
(this is where you can find the code to deliver my content)
(you can see me if you have the Public permission)

In summary

  • the content is processed by a Python class
  • ZCML wires this class up into a component
  • the template calls this component