GEPS 013: Gramps Webapp

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Many Gramps users would like to collaborate or share their genealogy data on the web. This GEP describes a webapp, a web-based application that runs in your browser, and requires a server.

A prototype is on-line at http://gramps-connect.org/ which is running trunk on a sample database. You can log into the site, as a:

  • superuser (id=admin, password=gramps) or a
  • regular user (id=admin1, password=gramps)

or just view as an anonymous user.

There are two additional pages on this project:

Motivation

The main focus of a Gramps-based webapp is collaboration. The Gramps webapp will allow users to easily move their genealogy data to the web to be seen, and edited with proper login and permissions, in a live, collaborative environment.

Here is a small list of goals:

  1. Create a fullscale Gramps web framework
  2. Allow multiple users via the standard web browser
    1. Users will log in and have various levels of permissions
  3. Build on Gramps codebase and wealth of resources
    1. Reports
    2. Tools
    3. Visualizations
    4. Date and calendar functions
    5. Translations
    6. Manual and documentation
  4. Use standards and well-known, well-tested frameworks where possible
    1. WSGI protocol for running code
    2. Django framework
    3. Underlying powerful database engines

FAQ

1. Aren't there already many fine, web-based genealogy programs? Why don't you just use one of those? Aren't you re-inventing the wheel?

There are indeed many fine, web-based genealogy programs, and some are even free software/open source. However, there are a few good reasons to develop a Gramps-based webapp:

  1. Gramps has hundreds of thousands of lines of code, some of which could be re-used directly in a webapp. For example, the reports could be run and downloaded directly from the webapp.
  2. Gramps has a very well-defined set of tables and relationships that could be re-implemented for on-line use.
  3. Users have grown to appreciate the design of Gramps, and we want to continue to build on this design.
  4. Many users want to collaborate. Currently, they would either have to move their data in and out of Gramps, or give up Gramps completely.
  5. We want to keep the developers and users that we have, and so not splinter our groups. By building the webapp on top of core gramps code, we continue to refine and make better our current code, and keep our current developers working on the parts that they know and love.

2. Why do you need a web framework like Django? Can't you just use the same Python code, and same database that Gramps already uses?

We can't use the same database (what is called a "backend") directly. Currently Gramps uses BSDDB, and it is not configured for use in a multiuser, client/server environment. But even if we could use the same backend, we would still want some type of web development framework. Django is one of the best in any language, and it just happens to be in Python.

3. How easy will this be for me to use on my website?

We have designed it to be as easy as it can be, given that we are using Python. Many web sites allow Python programs, and Django allows many different variations in running. We picked the protocol with the most availability (WSGI). Don't worry if you haven't heard of it. Your webserver can probably run it.

4. When is this going to be available?

We are hoping to have a fully functioning webapp ready for testing July 2010.

5. How can I help?

You can start by reading the rest of this page and sending ideas and comments to the Gramps-developers mailing list, and running the code if you can.

Overview

The Gramps webapp is written in Django. Django is a sophisticated, modern web development framework. Django is written in Python, albeit in a very different style from Gramps. However, part of the motivation of using Django is that it breaks up web development into very clearly defined parts following the Model-View-Controller paradigm. Two of these parts require no special programming knowledge, and thus will allow more people to be able to possibly customize and participate in the Gramps project.

The Gramps webapp (and Django in general) is broken into three well-defined parts:

  1. models/views
  2. templates
  3. CSS (Cascading Style Sheets)

The models define the tables and relationships, but this is done in Python (not SQL). The models also define the API to read/writing/editing the data. The views are also written in Python, and are closely tied to the models. The templates are written in HTML and a template language that is very easy for non-programmers to use and understand. Finally, CSS is just Cascading Style Sheets, where all of the graphical definitions are made. The webapp uses pre-existing CSS created for the "Narrated Web" report of Gramps which was used for created static web pages. Let's take a look at specific examples of each of these parts.

Models/Views

Here is the model that defines the Person table from gramps/webapp/grampsdb/models.py:

class Person(PrimaryObject):
    gender_type = models.ForeignKey('GenderType')
    families = models.ManyToManyField('Family', blank=True, null=True)
    parent_families = models.ManyToManyField('Family', 
                                             related_name="parent_families",
                                             blank=True, null=True)
    references = generic.GenericRelation('PersonRef', related_name="refs",
                                         content_type_field="object_type",
                                         object_id_field="object_id")

Here, you can see that Person only has 4 parts: gender_type, families, parent_families, and references. There are additional properties, but they are defined in the PrimaryObject class which is shared with other tables. Here is PrimaryObject:

class PrimaryObject(models.Model):
    class Meta: abstract = True
    id = models.AutoField(primary_key=True)
    handle = models.CharField(max_length=19, unique=True)
    gramps_id =  models.CharField('gramps id', max_length=25, blank=True)
    last_saved = models.DateTimeField('last changed', auto_now=True) 
    last_changed = models.DateTimeField('last changed', null=True,
                                        blank=True) # user edits
    private = models.BooleanField('private')
    marker_type = models.ForeignKey('MarkerType')

The big difference here between typical Python programming is that the Person class defines the Person table, and the interface to it. Most Python code would probably have Person be an instance of a class, but Django uses classes to represent many things.

Here are three examples using the Person class:

   % cd trunk
   % PYTHONPATH=src DJANGO_SETTINGS_MODEL=webapp.settings python 
   >>> from webapp.grampsdb.models import Person
   >>> Person.objects.all()
   [<Person>, <Person>, ...]
   >>> Person.objects.get(id=1)
   <Person>
   >>> Person.objects.get(handle='gh71234dhf3746347734')
   <Person>

The first retrieves all of the rows for the Person table; the second retrieves just the one record that has the unique, primary key 1, and the third retrieves the single record that has the unique handle of 'gh71234dhf3746347734'. Note that we never connected onto a database... Django is (currently) define to connect on to one database, and it does it on import. The database is set in src/webapp/settings.py.

An alternative method of interactively talking to the database is to use manage.py:

   % cd trunk/src/webapp 
   % PYTHONPATH=../../src python manage.py shell
   >>>

That will give you an ipython shell, if you have it installed. Very nice environment!

You can also use the Person interface to select a subset of people:

   >>> from webapp.grampsdb.models import *
   >>> Person.objects.filter(gender_type=1)
   [<Person>, <Person>, ...]

or even more clearly:

   >>> Person.objects.filter(gender_type__name="Male")
   [<Person>, <Person>, ...]

The double-underscore in the keyword "gender_type__name" of the filter method is a Django convention. It means "replace wth the correct syntax". If Python allowed it, it would be written as Person.objects.filter(gender_type.name="Male") but that is not legal syntax.

Here is an overview of all of the models and how they are related:

All-tables.gif

To see more graphical representations of the data, run "make docs" in the src/webapp/ directory, and then look in src/webapp/docs/.

Templates

Templates are used to describe what to display. Here is a template from data/templates/main_page.html:

{% extends "gramps-base.html" %}

{% block title %}GRAMPS Connect - main page {% endblock %}
{% block heading %}GRAMPS - main page {% endblock %}

{% block content %} 

<p id="description">Welcome to GRAMPS Connect, a new web-based collaboration tool.

{% if user.is_authenticated %}
  You are now logged in
  as <a href="/user/{{user.username}}">{{user.username}}</a>.
{% endif %}
</p>

<p id="description">
Database information:
<ul>
{% for view in views %}
   <li><a href="/{{view|lower}}">{{view}}</a></li>
{% endfor %}
</ul>
</p>
{% endblock %}

CSS

Finally, here is a screen shot of the main_page.html (above) showing some initial testing of Gramps in Django using the Mainz CSS from the NarrWeb report:

Gramps in django.gif

Getting Started with Gramps in Django

A prototype of a Gramps Django webapp is now in trunk and gramps32. To run it, do the following:

  1. Download Django. You'll need version 1.3 or greater
    1. On yum-based systems, try "yum install Django"
    2. On apt-based systems, try "sudo apt-get install python-django"
    3. Other systems: get the sources from http://www.djangoproject.com/download/
  2. clone the Git repository and checkout either the gramps32 or master branch
  3. cd src/web/
  4. Build the database, and load with default data:
    1. make clean
    2. make
    3. This will ask for an id, email, and password for a superuser. You can add one later if you don't do it now.
  5. Run the test webserver:
    1. make run
  6. Point your webbrowser to:
    1. http://127.0.0.1:8000/

At this point, you can now export your Gramps data to Django (and back). In another terminal window:

  1. Start up gramps:
    1. cd ../..
    2. python src/gramps.py
  2. Download the Django Import/Export Addon from 3.3_Addons
  3. Run the Django Exporter
    1. Select Family Tree -> Export
    2. Select Django

This will export your regular Gramps BSDDB data into whatever Django database you have defined in settings.py above. You now have your data in a sqlite SQL database, and can access it via the webbrowser.

To import data back from Django's SQL table back into Gramps from the website:

  1. Create a file named "import.django" somewhere (just needs to end in ".django").
  2. Start up this version of Gramps
    1. python src/gramps.py
  3. Run the Django Importer
    1. Select Family Tree -> Import
    2. Select the "import.django" (from above) as the file to import

To add a superuser (after the initialization):

  1. cd src/web
  2. PYTHONPATH=../../src python manage.py createsuperuser

For more on Django, try their tutorial:

Webapp Files

There are two subdirectories and two files of interest to the Gramps webapp:

  1. http://sourceforge.net/p/gramps/source/ci/master/tree/data/templates/ - HTML templates
  2. http://sourceforge.net/p/gramps/source/ci/master/tree/gramps/webapp/ - Webapp main directory
    1. http://sourceforge.net/p/gramps/source/ci/master/tree/gramps/webapp/libdjango.py - library interface
    2. http://sourceforge.net/p/gramps/source/ci/master/tree/gramps/webapp/grampsdb - gramps table models
  3. http://gramps-addons.svn.sourceforge.net/viewvc/gramps-addons/trunk/contrib/Django/ExportDjango.py?view=markup - Exporter
  4. http://gramps-addons.svn.sourceforge.net/viewvc/gramps-addons/trunk/contrib/Django/ImportDjango.py?view=markup - Importer

Roadmap

Phase 1: get the basic Django skeleton in place, including the core HTML templates, models, views, and templatetags. Should be able to browse the 8 primary tables. Get translations in place. Goal for version 0.1 to be announced with Gramps 3.2 in March 2010.

Phase 2: Be able to run all of the reports directly from the web with an option interface. Be able to import/export from the web. This will largely depend on a gen/db/dbdjango library. Goal for version 0.5beta, May 2010.

Phase 3: add and edit data from the web. This would complete the functionality of the web interface. Goal July 2010.

Phase 4: Refine and polish. Release with Gramps 3.3.

If you would like to work on an area, please note it here:

  1. Kathy - edits and adding new data
  2. Doug - Integration with gramps core; browsing data
  3. - Translation system
  4. - Proxy interface to show Private data
  5. - concurrent edits
  6. - date widget
  7. - running reports interface
  8. - media files... where do they go?
  9. - options interface, for editing options to run report
  10. - import GEDCOM from web
  11. - full djangodb.py to replicate all functions of bsddb
  12. - user support (email, mailing lists, permissions, etc)

Issues

Concurrent Edits

Concurrent access for write and read imply several problems when people by accident change the same objects at the same time. Gramps itself has an elaborate signal handling for cases when dialogs are open with no longer current information. In a web environment, this becomes more difficult however. This is not built into Django.

For discussion on this issue in Django, see:

Example GMS Web Sites

We now have a example gramps webapp on the web:

Genealogy Management Systems on the web:

Note here: the intro page is a collection of gadgets/controls, which then link into the real data.

Collaborative database (user/wizard/password):

Source oriented:

See also