Creating AJAX programming logic in Plone.


´AJAX <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ajax_%28programming%29>`_ (an acronym for Asynchronous JavaScript and XML) is a group of interrelated web development techniques used on the client-side to create asynchronous web applications.

JSON views and loading data via AJAX

The best way to output JSON for AJAX call endpoints is to use Python’s dict structure and convert it to JSON using Python json.dumps() call.

You should pass the AJAX target URLs to your JavaScript using the settings passing pattern explained above.



AJAX loader

Cross-Origin Resource Sharing (CORS) proxy view

Old web browsers do not support Allow-acces-origin HTTP header needed to do cross-domain AJAX requests (IE6, IE7).

Below is an example how to work around this for jQuery getJSON() calls by

  • Detecting browsers which do not support this using jQuery.support API
  • Doing an alternative code path through a local website proxy view which uses Python urllib to make server-to-server call and return it as it would be a local call, thus working around cross-domain restriction

This example is for Plone, but the code is portable to other web frameworks.


This is not a full example code. Basic Python and JavaScript skills are needed to interpret and adapt the code for your use case.

JavaScript example

 * Call a RESTful service vie AJAX
 * The final URL is constructed by REST function name, based
 * on a base URL from the global settings.
 * If the browser does not support cross domain AJAX calls
 * we'll use a proxy function on the local server. For
 * performance reasons we do this only when absolutely needed.
 * @param {String} functionName REST function name to a call
 * @param {Object} Arguments as a dictionary like object, passed to remote call
function callRESTful(functionName, args, callback) {

    var src = myoptions.restService + "/" +functionName;

    // set to true to do proxied request on every browser
    // useful if you want to use Firebug to debug your server-side proxy view
    var debug = false;

        console.log("Doing remote call to:" + src)

        // We use jQuery API to detect whether a browser supports cross domain AJAX calls
        // http://api.jquery.com/jQuery.support/
        if(!jQuery.support.cors || debug) {
                // http://alexn.org/blog/2011/03/24/cross-domain-requests.html
                // Opera 10 doesn't have this feature, neither do IExplorer < 8, Firefox < 3.5

                console.log("Mangling getJSON to go through a local proxy")

                // Change getJSON to go to our proxy view on a local server
                // and pass the orignal URL as a parameter
                // The proxy view location is given as a global JS variable
                args.url = src;
                src = myoptions.portalUrl + "/@@proxy";

        // Load data from the server
        $.getJSON(src, args, function(data) {
                // Parse incoming data and construct Table rows according to it
                console.log("Data successfully loaded");
                callback(data, args);



The server-side view:

import socket
import urllib
import urllib2
from urllib2 import HTTPError

from Products.Five import BrowserView
from mysite.app import options

class Proxy(BrowserView):
    Pass a AJAX call to a remote server. This view is mainly indended to be used
    with jQuery.getJSON() requests.

    This will work around problems when a browser does not support Allow-Access-Origin HTTP header (IE).

    Asssuming only HTTP GET requests are made.s

    def isAllowed(self, url):
        Check whether we are allowed to call the target URL.

        This prevents using your service as an malicious proxy
        (to call any internet service).

        allowed_prefix = options.REST_SERVICE_URL

        if url.startswith(allowed_prefix):
            return True

        return False

    def render(self):
        Use HTTP GET ``url`` query parameter for the target of the real request.

        # Make sure any theming layer won't think this is HTML
        # http://stackoverflow.com/questions/477816/the-right-json-content-type
        self.request.response.setHeader("Content-type", "application/json")

        url = self.request.get("url", None)
        if not url:
            self.request.response.setStatus(500, "url parameter missing")

        if not self.isAllowed(url):
            # The server understood the request, but is refusing to fulfill it. Authorization will not help and the request SHOULD NOT be repeate
            self.request.response.setStatus(403, "proxying to the target URL not allowed")

        # Pass other HTTP GET query parameters direclty to the target server
        params = {}
        for key, value in self.request.form.items():
            if key != "url":
                params[key] = value

        # http://www.voidspace.org.uk/python/articles/urllib2.shtml
        data = urllib.urlencode(params)

        full_url = url + "?" + data
        req = urllib2.Request(full_url)


            # Important or if the remote server is slow
            # all our web server threads get stuck here
            # But this is UGLY as Python does not provide per-thread
            # or per-socket timeouts thru urllib
            orignal_timeout = socket.getdefaulttimeout()

                response = urllib2.urlopen(req)
                # restore orignal timeoout

            # XXX: How to stream respone through Zope
            # AFAIK - we cannot do it currently

            return response.read()

        except HTTPError, e:
            # Have something more useful to log output as plain urllib exception
            # using Python logging interface
            # http://docs.python.org/library/logging.html
            logger.error("Server did not return HTTP 200 when calling remote proxy URL:" + url)
            for key, value in params.items():
                logger.error(key + ": "  + value)

            # Print the server-side stack trace / error page

            raise e

Registering the view in ZCML:


Speeding up AJAX loaded content HTML

By observing Plone’s main_template.pt, having a True value on the ajax_load request key means some parts of the page aren’t displayed, hence the speed:

  • No CSS or JavaScript from <head /> tag is loaded
  • Nothing from the plone.portaltop ViewletManager, such as the personal bar, searchbox, logo and main menu
  • Nothing from the plone.portalfooter ViewletManager, which contains footer and colophon information, site actions and the Analytics javascript calls if you have that configured in your site
  • Neither the left nor the right column, along with all the portlets there assigned