Announcing Django Crawler and django-test-utils

Today I’m going to be releasing a new project, called django-test-utils. It’s rather empty at the moment, but it does have one cool feature. That is my Django Crawler. I have some big plans for this little guy, but for the moment it has enough functionality to make it pretty useful.


The crawler at the moment has 4 options implemented on it. I will outline them below and show example of the output. It is implemented as a management command, named crawlurls. You simply add test_utils to your INSTALLED_APPS and you are good to go. So to run it you simply do ./ crawlurls. It crawls your site using the Django Test Client (so no network traffic is required!) This allows the crawler to have intimate knowledge of your Django Code. This allows it to have features that other crawlers can’t have.

Core features

The Crawler at the beginning loops through all of your URLConfs. It then loads up all of the regular expressions from these URLConfs to examine later. Once the crawler is done crawling your site, it will tell you what URLConf entries are not being hit.

-v –verbosity [0,1,2]

Same as most django apps. Set it to 2 to get a lot of output. 1 is the default, which will only output errors.

-t –time

The -t option, as the help says: Pass -t to time your requests. This outputs the time it takes to run each request on your site. This option also tells the crawler to output the top 10 URLs that took the most time at the end of it’s run. Here is an example output from running it on my site with -t -v 2:

Getting /blog/2007/oct/17/umw-blog-ring/ ({}) from (/blog/2007/oct/17/umw-blog-ring/)
Time Elapsed: 0.256254911423
Getting /blog/2007/dec/20/logo-lovers/ ({}) from (/blog/2007/dec/20/logo-lovers/)
Time Elapsed: 0.06906914711
Getting /blog/2007/dec/18/getting-real/ ({}) from (/blog/2007/dec/18/getting-real/)
Time Elapsed: 0.211296081543
Getting /blog/ ({u'page': u'5'}) from (/blog/?page=4)
Time Elapsed: 0.165636062622
NOT MATCHED: account/email/
NOT MATCHED: account/register/
NOT MATCHED: admin/doc/bookmarklets/
NOT MATCHED: admin/doc/tags/
NOT MATCHED: admin/(.*)
NOT MATCHED: admin/doc/views/
NOT MATCHED: account/signin/complete/
NOT MATCHED: account/password/
NOT MATCHED: resume/
/blog/2008/feb/9/another-neat-ad/ took 0.743204
/blog/2007/dec/20/browser-tabs/#comments took 0.637164
/blog/2008/nov/1/blog-post-day-keeps-doctor-away/ took 0.522269

-p –pdb

This option allows you to drop into pdb on an error in your site. This lets you look around the response, context, and other things to see what happened to cause the error. I don’t know how useful this will be, but it seems like a neat feature to be able to have. I stole this idea from nose tests.

-s –safe

This option alerts you when you have escaped HTML fragments in your templates. This is useful for tracking down places where you aren’t applying safe correctly, and other HTML related failures. This isn’t implemented well, and might be buggy because I didn’t have any broken pages on my site to test on :)

-r –response

This tells the crawler to store the response object for each site. This used to be the default behavior, but doing this bloats up memory. There isn’t anything useful implemented on top of this feature, but with this feature you get a dictionary of request URLs with responses as their values. You can then go through and do whatever you want (including examine the Templates rendered and Contexts.


At the moment, this crawler doesn’t have a lot of end-user functionality. However, you can go in and edit the script at the end of the crawl to do almost anything. You are left with a dictionary of URLs crawled, and the time it took, and response (if you use the -r option).

Future improvements

There are a lot of future improvements that I have planned. I want to enable the test client to login as a user, passed in from the command line. This should be pretty simple, I just haven’t implemented it yet.

Another thing that I want to do but isn’t implemented is fixtures. I want to be able to output a copy of the data returned from the crawler run. This will allow for future runs of the crawler to diff against previous runs, creating a kind of regression test.

A third thing I want to implement is an option to only evaluate each URLConf entry X times. Where you could say “only hit /blog/[year]/[month]/ 10 times”. This goes on the assumption that you are looking for errors in your views or templates, and you only need to hit each URL a couple of times. This also shouldn’t be hard, but isn’t implemented yet.

The big pony that I want to make is to use multiprocessing on the crawler. The crawler doesn’t hit a network, so it is CPU-bound. However, running with CPUs with multiple cores, multiprocessing will speed this up. A problem with it is that some of the timing stuff and pdb things won’t be as useful.

I would love to hear some people’s feedback and thoughts on this. I think that this could be made into a really awesome tool. At the moment it works well for smaller sites, but it would be nice to be able to test only certain URLs in an app. There are lots of neat things I have planned, but I like following the release early, release often mantra.

Hey there! I'm Eric and I work on communities in the world of software documentation. Feel free to email me if you have comments on this post!