Tangelo Plugins

Tangelo’s capabilities can be extended by creating plugins to serve custom content and services from a canonical URL, extend Tangelo’s Python runtime environment, and perform specialized setup and teardown actions to support new behaviors. Tangelo ships with several bundled plugins that implement useful features and provide examples of how the plugin system can add value to your Tangelo setup.

Structure and Content

A plugin is simply a directory containing a mix of content, documentation, and control directives. Together, these elements determine what services and features the plugin provides to a Tangelo server instance, and how those services and features are prepped and cleaned up. A configuration file supplied to Tangelo at startup time controls which plugins are loaded.

An example plugin’s file contents might be as follows:


We can examine the contents piece by piece.

Web Content

The directory foobar/web behaves much like any other static and dynamic content served by Tangelo. Content in this directory is served from a base URL of /plugin/foobar/ (where, foobar is the name of this plugin; however, see Configuration). For example, /plugin/foobar/foobar.js refers to the file of the same name in the web directory; this URL could be used by a web application to include this file in a <script> tag, etc. (see Serving Web Content for more information).

Dynamic web services also behave as elsewhere: the URL /plugin/foobar/foobar will cause Tangelo to run the code found in foobar.py and return it to the client, etc. (see Tangelo Web Services for more information).

Python Content

A plugin may also wish to export some Python code for use in web services. In the foobar plugin example, such content appears in foobar/python/__init__.py. This file, for example, might contain the following code:

import helper

def even(n):
    return n % 2 == 0

When the foobar plugin is loaded by Tangelo, the contents of python/__init__.py are placed in a virtual package named tangelo.plugin.foobar. This enables web services to use the even() functions as in the following example:

import tangelo
import tangelo.plugin.foobar

def run(n):
    return "even" if tangelo.plugin.foobar.even(n) else "odd"

To export “submodules” that will appear in the tangelo.plugin.foobar namespace, note that __init__.py uses the import statement to cause the helper module to appear within its scope; this module can now be addressed with tangelo.plugin.foobar.helper, and any functions and data exported by helper will become available for use in web services as well.

The bundled bokeh plugin contains an example of exporting a decorator function using this technique.

Setup and Teardown

The file foobar/control.py defines setup and teardown actions for each plugin. For example, the contents of that file might be as follows:

import tangelo

def setup(config, store):
    tangelo.log("FOOBAR", "Setting up foobar plugin!")

def teardown(config, store):
    tangelo.log("FOOBAR", "Tearing down foobar plugin!")

Whenever Tangelo loads (unloads) the foobar plugin, it will import control.py as a module and execute any setup() (teardown()) function it finds, passing the configuration and persistent storage (see Configuration) to it as arguments. If during setup the function raises any exception, the exception will be printed to the log, and Tangelo will abandon loading the plugin and move to the next one.

The setup() function can also cause arbitrary CherryPy applications to be mounted in the plugin’s URL namespace. setup() can optionally return a list of 3-tuples describing the applications to mount. Each 3-tuple should contain a CherryPy application object, an optional configuration object associated with the application, and a string describing where to mount the application. This string will automatically be prepended with the base URL of the plugin being set up. For instance:

import tangelo.plugin.foobar

def setup(config, store):
    app = tangelo.plugin.foobar.make_cherrypy_app()
    appconf = tangelo.plugin.foobar.make_config()

    return [(app, appconf, "/superapp")]

When the foobar plugin is loaded, the URL /plugin/foobar/superapp will serve the CherryPy application implemented in app. Any such applications are also unmounted when the plugin is unloaded.


Plugin configuration comes in two parts: specifying which plugins to load, and specifying particular behavior for each plugin.

Enabling Plugins

The Tangelo executable has an option --plugin-config that specifies a plugin configuration file. This defaults to /etc/tangelo/plugin.conf. The file is a YAML configuration file consisting of a list of objects, one for each plugin under consideration. The objects themselves are relatively simple:

- name: foobar
  enabled: true
  path: /path/to/foobar/plugin

- name: quux
  enabled: false
  path: path/to/quux

Each contains a required name property, an optional enabled boolean flag (which, if omitted, defaults to true), and a string path property describing where to find the plugin materials (i.e., the example directory shown above). Whenever this file changes and a client visits any plugin URL, Tangelo will compare the set of plugins enabled by the configuration file to the set of plugins currently enabled, and will load and unload plugins to bring the running plugins up to date. For example, if you edit the example file above to change quux‘s enabled flag to true, then visit /plugin, Tangelo will first load the quux plugin, then return a list of running plugins, which will now include quux. Conversely, if you also changed foobar‘s enabled flag to false (or comment out, or delete foobar‘s entire section), foobar will additionally be unloaded.

Plugin Setup

Some plugins may need to be set up before they can be properly used. Plugin setup consists of two steps: installing Python dependencies, if any, and consulting any informational messages supplied by the plugin.

In the example foobar plugin, note that the root directory includes a requirements.txt file. This is simply a pip requirements file declaring what Python packages the plugin needs to run. You can install these with a command similar to pip install -r foobar/requirements.txt.

Secondly, some plugins may require some other action to be taken before they work. The plugin authors can describe any such instructions in the info.txt file. After installing the requirements, you should read this file to see if anything else is required. For instance, a package may need to bootstrap after it’s installed by fetching further resources or updates from the web; in this case, info.txt would explain just how to accomplish this bootstrapping.

These steps constitute a standard procedure when retrieving a new plugin for use with your local Tangelo installation. For instance, if the foobar plugin resides in a GitHub repository, you would first find a suitable location on your local computer to clone that repository. Then you would invoke pip to install the required dependencies, then take any action specified by info.txt, and finally create an entry in the Tangelo plugin configuration file. When Tangelo is started (or when the plugin registry is refreshed), the new plugin will be running.

Configuring Plugins

The file foobar/config.yaml describes a YAML associative array representing the plugin’s configuration data. This is the same format as web service configurations (see Configuring Web Services), and can be read with the function tangelo.plugin_config().

Similarly, plugins also have a editable persistent store, accessed with the tangelo.plugin_store() function.

Both the configuration and the persistent store and passed as arguments to setup() and teardown() in the control module.

Loading and Unloading

When plugins are loaded or unloaded, Tangelo takes a sequence of particular steps to accomplish the effect.

Loading a Plugin

Loading a plugin consists of the following actions:

  1. The configuration is loaded from config.yaml.
  2. An empty persistent store is created.
  3. Any python content is set up by creating a virtual package called tangelo.plugin.<pluginname>, and exporting the contents of python/__init__.py to it.
  4. The control.py module is loaded, and control.setup() is invoked, passing the configuration and fresh persistent store to it.
  5. If setup() returns a result, the list of CherryPy apps expressed in the "apps" property of it are mounted.
  6. The plugin name is added to the list of active plugins.

Steps 3, 4, and 5 are not taken if the corresponding content is not present. If any of those steps raises an exception, the exception is logged to disk and step 6 will not be taken (i.e., the plugin will not be loaded).

Unloading a Plugin

Unloading a plugins consists of the follow actions (which serve to undo the corresponding setup actions):

  1. Any python content present in tangelo.plugin.<pluginname> is torn down by deleting the virtual package from the runtime.
  2. Any CherryPy applications are unmounted.
  3. If the control module contains a teardown() function, it is invoked, passing the configuration and persistent store to it.
  4. The plugin name is removed from the list of active plugins.

If an exception occurs during step 3, the teardown() function will not finish executing, but step 4 will still be taken.