Molly as an API

Molly’s approach to views lends itself to a large amount of flexibility. One such flexibility is the ability to vary the format of the rendered view based on the Accept headers of the client, or a manual override of the data format based on an additional GET parameter: format.

To disable this functionality on a particular view (e.g., if the context contains data that should not be exposed), you can set exposes_user_data to True in the context thus implying that the data is private and should not be exposed in the API.

The data formats supported are:

  • XML
  • YAML

And in each of these, a serialised form of the context is presented.

The JSON API also provides a field called view_name which can be used to uniquely identify the format of the response. This is discussed further below.

An additional format, ‘fragment’ is also available. This provides the body and title HTML of a template encoded using JSON. It’s used for the AJAX functionality introduced in Molly 1.1.

Adding serialisation to your apps

Molly will attempt to serialise many standard Python and Django objects, however in some cases, this is too simplistic for many uses. Classes can therefore define a simplify_for_render method which can be used to manually specify how the object can be simplified.

View names and page names

A view name is a unique identifier for the page which rendered the view. It should uniquely identify the format of the response. It is in the format of application:view_id. The details of what are available for each view

Page names uniquely identify a particular instance of a page. Molly can handle multiple instantiations of an app, so this refers to the specific instance of the app. This is best illustrated with an example.

Let’s assume that we have two different phonebooks, one for people and another for departments. We may want to instantiate this as two different instances of the contact search app with the configuration below:

Application('', 'people', 'People search',
    provider = '',

Application('', 'departments', 'Department Phonebook',
    provider = '',

The page at will therefore have a page name of people:index and the page at will have a page name of departments:index, however both pages when rendered will be rendered by the view in the Molly app contact so will have a view name of contact:index.

Page names are therefore used in breadcrumbs and on the home page apps listing as these refer to particular instances of apps, and these should be passed to the reverse API in order to get the URL of those particular instances. View name only exists as a convenience to help API users determine how to handle the response.

The reverse API

Django includes functionality to “reverse” a URL, that is, take a page or view name and arguments to it and then return the URL on that Molly instance. This endpoint exists at the /reverse/ URL at the highest level of the instance (e.g., and takes two arguments: name and arg, which can be specified multiple times. These correspond to the Django URL resolver definition in the app’s

This page returns a simple string containing the URL. It is recommended that you cache these somewhere to avoid lookups.

For example, to resolve the URL for Doncaster rail station, we can simply call the URL which will return the fully qualified URL for that page.

This functionality allows for applications to be written against Molly as a generic API, rather than one tied to the (URL configuration) of a particular Molly instance.