16. Deploying Your Project

This chapter provides a step-by-step guide on how to deploy your Django applications. We’ll be looking at deploying applications on PythonAnywhere, an online IDE and web hosting service. The service provides in-browser access to the server-based Python and Bash command line interfaces, meaning you can interact with PythonAnywhere’s servers just like you would with a regular terminal instance on your own computer. Currently, PythonAnywhere are offering a free account which sets you up with an adequate amount of storage space and CPU time to get a Django application up and running.

16.1. Creating a PythonAnywhere Account

First sign up for a Beginner PythonAnywhere account. If your application takes off and becomes popular, you can always upgrade your account at a later stage to gain more storage space and CPU time along with a number of other benefits (like hosting specific domains and ssh abilities).

Once your account has been created, you will have your own little slice of the World Wide Web at http://<username>.pythonanywhere.com, where <username> is your PythonAnywhere username. It is from this URL that your hosted application will be available from.

16.2. The PythonAnywhere Web Interface

The PythonAnywhere web interface contains a dashboard which in turn provides a series of tabs allowing you to manage your application. The tabs as illustrated in Figure 1 include:

  • a consoles tab, allowing you to create and interact with Python and Bash console instances;
  • a files tab, which allows you to upload to and organise files within your disk quota;
  • a web tab, allowing you to configure settings for your hosted web application;
  • a schedule tab, allowing you to setup tasks to be executed at particular times; and
  • a databases tab, which allows you to configure a MySQL instance for your applications should you require it.

Of the the five tabs provided, we’ll be working primarily with the consoles and web tabs. The PythonAnywhere help pages provide a series of detailed explanations on how to use the other tabs.


Figure 1: The PythonAnywhere dashboard, showing the Consoles tab.

16.3. Creating a Virtual Environment

As part of a its standard installation, PythonAnywhere comes with a number of packages pre-installed (i.e Python 2.7.4 and Django 1.3). However, since we are using a different setup, we need to setup a virtual environment and run our application inside that. Since our code base is compatible with Python 2.7.4 we can continue use that, but we will have to set up our virtual environment to use Django 1.5.4.

First, open a Bash console from the PythonAnywhere Consoles tab by clicking the Bash link. When the terminal is ready for you to interact, enter the following command.

$ source virtualenvwrapper.sh
$ mkvirtualenv rango

By default, PythonAnywhere includes a system called the virtual environment wrapper. The wrapper provides a series of extensions by Doug Hellman to the original virtualenv tool, making it easier for us to create, delete and use virtual environments. The command uses one of these to create a new virtual environment called rango. This process should take a short while to create, after which you will be presented with a slightly different prompt.

(rango)16:38 ~ $

Note the inclusion of (rango) compared to your previous command prompt. This signifies that we have activated the rango virtual environment, so any package installations will be done within that environment, leaving the wider system setup alone. If you then issue the command ls -la, you will see that a directory called .virtualenvs has been created. This is the directory in which all of your virtual environments and associated packages will be stored. To confirm the setup, issue the command which pip. This will print the location in which the active pip binary is located - hopefully within .virtualenvs and rango, as shown in the example below.


Now we can customise our virtual environment by installing the required packages for our Rango application. Installing may take a considerable amount of time to install as your CPU time is limited - so have some patience. Issue the following two commands within your console:

$ pip install -U django==1.5.4
$ pip install pil

After these have executed, check if Django has been installed with the command which django-admin.py. You should receive output similar to the following example. We’ll be using this virtual environment to work on the Rango application - whether we’re synchronising the database or running population scripts.



PythonAnywhere also provides instructions on how to setup virtual environments, see https://www.pythonanywhere.com/wiki/VirtualEnvForNewerDjango.

16.3.1. Virtual Environment Switching

Moving between virtual environments can be done pretty easily. When you start a new bash shell, it will not be using a virtual environment, but you can launch into a pre-existing one with the workon command. To load up the rango environment, enter:

16:48 ~ $ workon rango

where rango can be replaced with the name of the virtual environment you wish to use. Your prompt should then change to indicate you are working within a virtual environment.

(rango) 16:49 ~ $

You can then leave the virtual environment using the deactivate command. Your prompt should then be missing the (rango) prefix, with an example shown below.

(rango) 16:49 ~ $ deactivate
16:51 ~ $

16.4. Cloning your Git Repository

Now that your virtual environment for Rango is all setup, you can now clone your Git repository to obtain a copy of your project’s files. Clone your repository by issuing the following command from your home directory:

$ git clone https://<USERNAME>:<PASSWORD>@github.com/<OWNER>/<REPO_NAME>.git

where you replace - <USERNAME> with your GitHub username; - <PASSWORD> with your GitHub password; - <OWNER> with the username of the person who owns the repository; and - <REPO_NAME> with the name of your project’s repository.

If you haven’t put your code in a Git repository, you can clone the version we have made, by issuing the following command:

16:54 ~ $ git clone https://github.com/leifos/tango_with_django.git


It doesn’t matter if you clone your Git repository within your new virtual environment or not. You’re only creating files within your disk quota, which doesn’t require your special Python setup.

16.4.1. Setting Up the Database

With your files cloned, you must then prepare your database. We’ll be using the populate_rango.py module that we created earlier in the book. As we’ll be running the module, you must ensure that you are using the rango virtual environment (workon rango). From your home directory, move into the tango_with_django directory, and issue the following commands

(rango) 16:55 ~/tango_with_django $ python manage.py syncdb
(rango) 16:56 ~/tango_with_django $ python populate_rango.py

As discussed earlier in the book, the first command synchronises your database with your project’s installed models, and the second populates the database with some sample data.

16.5. Setting up your Web Application

Now that the database is setup, we need to configure the PythonAnywhere NGINX webserver to serve up your application . Within PythonAnywhere’s web interface, navigate to your dashboard and click on the Web tab. On the left of the page that appears, click Add a new web app.

A popup box will then appear. Follow the instructions on-screen, and when the time comes, select the manual configuration option. On the next page, select “Python 2.7”, and then complete the wizard.

Then, navigate to the PythonAnywhere subdomain at http://<username>.pythonanywhere.com in a new browser tab. You should be presented with the default Hello, World! webpage. This is because the WSGI script is currently serving up this page and not your Django application.

16.5.1. Configuring the WSGI Script and its virtual environment

The first step to get your web application working on PythonAnywhere is to specify which virtual environment it should use. Right now you only have one, but you could have any number, so the system needs to be told which one to use. To do this, navigate to the Web tab in PythonAnywhere’s dashboard and look for the “Virtualenv” section. It will say something like “Enter a path to a virtualenv, if desired”. Click there, and enter the full path to your virtual environment, eg. /home/<username>/.virtualenvs/rango/bin/activate_this.py.

The next step is to configure the WSGI file. The Web Server Gateway Interface, a.k.a. WSGI provides a simple and universal interface between web servers and web applications. PythonAnywhere uses WSGI to bridge the server-application link and map incoming requests to your subdomain to your web application.

To configure the WSGI script, navigate to the Web tab in PythonAnywhere’s dashboard. From there, click the WSGI link located at the top of the page. The link should be preceded with text similar to It is configured via a WSGI file stored at:. The good people at PythonAnywhere have set up a sample WSGI file for us with several possible configurations. For your web application, you’ll need to configure the Django section of the file. The example below demonstrates a possible configuration for you application.

import os
import sys

path = '/home/<username>/tango_with_django/tango_with_django_project'

if path not in sys.path:


os.environ['DJANGO_SETTINGS_MODULE'] = 'tango_with_django_project.settings'

import django.core.handlers.wsgi
application = django.core.handlers.wsgi.WSGIHandler()

Ensure that you replace <username> with your username, and update any other path settings to suit your application. You should also remove all other code from the WSGI configuration script to ensure no conflicts take place.

The code sample above begins adding your project’s directory to the PYTHONPATH for the Python instance that runs your web application. This allows Python to access your project’s modules. If you have additional paths to add, you can easily insert them here. You can then specify the location of your project’s settings.py module. The final step is to include the Django WSGI handler and invoke it for your application.

When you have completed the WSGI configuration, click the Save button at the top-right of the webpage. Navigate back to the Web tab within the PythonAnywhere dashboard, and click the Reload button at the top of the page. When the application is reloaded, visiting http://<username>.pythonanywhere.com should present you with your Django application, all ready to go!


During testing, we noted that you can sometimes receive HTTP 502 - Bad Gateway errors instead of your application. Try reloading your application again, and then waiting a longer. If the problem persists, try reloading again. If the problem still persists, check out your log files to see if any accesses/errors are occurring, before contacting the PythonAnywhere support.

16.5.2. Assigning Static Paths

We’re almost there. One issue which we still have to address is to sort out paths for our application. Doing so will allow PythonAnywhere’s servers to serve your static content, for example From the PythonAnywhere dashboard, click the Web tab and choose the subdomain hosting your application from the list on the left.

Underneath the Static files header, perform the following.

  1. Click Enter URL and enter /static/admin, followed by return.
  2. Click the corresponding Enter path text. Set this to /home/<username>/.virtualenvs/rango/lib/python2.7/site-packages/django/contrib/admin/static/admin, where <username> should be replaced with your PythonAnywhere username. You may also need to change rango if this is not the name of your application’s virtual environment. Remember to hit return to confirm the path.
  3. Repeat the two steps above for the URL /static/ and path /home/<username>/tango_with_django/tango_with_django_project/static, with the path setting pointing to the static directory of your web application.

With these changes saved, reload your web application by clicking the Reload button at the top of the page. Don’t forget about potential HTTP 502 - Bad Gateway errors!

16.5.3. Bing API Key

Update bing_search.py with your own BING API Key to use the search functionality in Rango. Again, you will have to hit the Reload button for the changes to take effect.

16.5.4. Turning off DEBUG Mode

When you application is ready to go, it’s a good idea to instruct Django that your application is now hosted on a production server. To do this, open your project’s settings.py file and change DEBUG = True to DEBUG = False. This disables Django’s debug mode, and removes explicit error messages.

Changing the value of DEBUG also means you should set the ALLOWED_HOSTS property. Failing to perform this step will make Django return HTTP 400 Bad Request errors. Alter ALLOWED_HOSTS so that it includes your PythonAnywhere subdomain like in the example below.

ALLOWED_HOSTS = ['<username>.pythonanywhere.com']

Again, ensure <username> is changed to your PythonAnywhere username. Once complete, save the file and reload the application via the PythonAnywhere web interface.

16.6. Log Files

Deploying your web application to another environment introduces another layer of complexity to your setup. Unfortunately, it most likely won’t be all plain sailing and will possibly result in new errors or unsuspecting problems. In order for you to diagnose and rectify the issues you may encounter, PythonAnywhere provides you with three log files that can help provide vital clues.

Log files can be viewed via the PythonAnywhere web interface by clicking on the Web tab, or by viewing the files in /var/log/ within a Bash console instance. The files provided are:

  • access.log, which provides a log of requests made to your subdomain;
  • error.log, which logs any error messages produced by your web application; and
  • server.log, providing log details for the UNIX processes running your application.

Note that the names for each log file are prepended with your subdomain. For example, access.log will have the name <username.pythonanywhere.com.access.log.

When debugging, you may find it useful to delete or move the log files so that you don’t have to scroll through a huge list of previous attempts. If the files are moved or deleted, they will be recreated automatically when a new request or error arises.

16.7. Exercises

Congratulations, you’ve successfully deployed Rango! Why not tweet a link of your application to @tangowithdjango. We’d love to know you’ve succeeded!