Unicode and Page Templates under Zope 2.10

The goal of these notes is to understand how to come to a sane system, that does encoding/decoding only at the edges, and performs all internal treatment on unicode strings.

Zope3 style

In case it'd be different. These tests have been made with a view/template pair.

Unicode templates

In these notes, a template that is internally represented as unicode is called a "unicode template". For a Zope 3 view template, this boils down to having proper namespace declarations (so that parsing as XML does not fail). Example:

<html xmlns:tal="http://xml.zope.org/namespaces/tal"

Such namespaced template are always served by the publisher as text/xml, even with a full DTD. The browser happens to be able to recognize xhtml namespace and/or DTD. This is to be avoided for master templates, if possible.

Adding or removing a namespace to a template requires a Zope restart, even with debug-mode on.

Of course what really matters is whether the template is xml valid or not. It seems that templates read for the view system are always treated as xml if possible, i.e., if valid.

Broken cases

  1. A non unicode template contains non ascii chars and is fed some unicode.
  2. A non unicode template is being fed both non ascii chars and unicode.
  3. An unicode template is being fed a non ascii char

In all cases the traceback is the same:

Module zope.pagetemplate.pagetemplate, line 118, in pt_render
 - Warning: Macro expansion failed
 - Warning: exceptions.UnicodeDecodeError: 'ascii' codec can't decode byte 0xc3 in position 56: ordinal not in range(128)


All templates must have proper namespaces except those that are meant to be directly served with an automatic MIME type other than text/xml.

A non namespaced template must entirely be written in ASCII.

Details for non unicode templates

The template includes some content like this:

<p tal:content="python: u'\xe9'" />

If the content is unicode or encoded with the right codec, it'll work. But it won't if encoded with the wrong codec and there's a bit of unicode in the system:

<p tal:content="python: '\xe9'" />
<p tal:content="python: u'\xe9'" />

At the final rendering stage, all we have is a StringIO holding fragments. Those from the template are simple strings, even fragments that are utf8-encoded in the template source:


The presence of a unicode string will force upgrade to unicode of all the others. And that will trigger unicode errors.

Classic Zope2/CMF style

This section is subject to change with the CMF version.

This currently applies to most of CPS intermediate renderings (layouts, widgets). It works the same except for the internal storing as unicode.

Namespaced templates

The difference with Zope3 views is that the namespace isn't enough to trigger internal representation of the template as unicode. One must also add the xml header:

<?xml version="1.0"?>

Which incidentally also allows to specify the encoding for the template himself. A DTD is usually inappropriate and does not trigger internal representation as unicode.

The problem is that the XML header goes through in the final rendering.

Returned value

It is always unicode, even if the template isn't namespaced and has only ASCII chars


For now, intermediate page templates relying on the skins system must be entirely written in ascii. They can be fed unicode and return unicode.

In the future, we may force conversion of the template source to unicode. This can be done in CMFCore's FSPageTemplate.py and seems to provide good results on CMF 2.1.1