Rapid Application Development using Turbogears and Django
For the last 14 months we’ve been developing an application to replace 90000 lines of PHP code. Rewriting the application from scratch to support I18N and many of the enhancements it needed was deemed to be a better long term solution.
When that project was first started, I spent a month with Django and a month with Turbogears writing the same test application so that I could compare the development cycle. Both have matured and I needed to do a rapid turnaround on another project. I decided to give Django another look since it had hit version 1.0 and had added quite a few features that were missing in my preliminary evaluation. What follows is a discussion of the major points from both of the frameworks.
Turbogears has excellent form handling. Except for the Forms Wizard in Django, working with forms is much easier in Turbogears. Validation of the form and the resulting database update methods are much cleaner in Turbogears. Django, while slightly more complex in handling form input, does handle things with a single function which might enhance readability in a large project.
Database handling through SQL Alchemy in Turbogears is much better than the database methods in Django. Yes, you can use SQL Alchemy in Django now, but, their default ORM has plenty of room for improvement.
Turbogears is true MVC. Their terminology and methods are true to the paradigm set forth by Smalltalk. Django is MVC, but they call it MTV, Model, Template, View. The differences are slight and the developers of both have made good decisions. Adapting to either project’s methods is quick and not a hindrance.
Django’s definitely wins with Authentication/Authorization. Methods to handle registration, user creation, login and forgotten passwords are built in and wrapped with very nice templates that can be overridden. For Turbogears, repoze.who and repoze.what have been pulled from Plone and put into place. While Turbogears works with repoze, the decisions made and the lack of full support behind it make it difficult to implement.
Django feels faster. Comparing 14 months of development in Turbogears on an application to an application written in Django this week, the template engine, database access and pageload time seemed faster. Django is a lighter weight framework and you are closer to the data. Turbogears puts a little more insulation in which makes some coding easier at the expense of performance.
Maintainability of code would have to go to Turbogears. IBM once stated that the maximum number of bugfree lines of code that could be written was 23. With Turbogears, much of the heavy lifting is handled by widgets and decorators and your model resulting in a smaller codebase. Django requires more code to do the same task unless you utilize some of the snippets. Turbogears makes certain assumptions and has wrapped many of the libraries that make development easy in the default installation. Django’s default installation lacks those decisions, but, you are not prevented from establishing your own middleware. If you were developing a number of Django projects, you would pick and choose snippets that would replicate the decisions that Turbogears has already made.
URL Mapping is much easier to implement with Django. While routes support in Turbogears is present, Django’s regexp mapping is much easier to manipulate.
Community, hands down, Django wins. With a much larger installed base, bugs are found and fixed much more quickly. While Turbogears was founded on loftier principles, execution and follow through are lacking. Development is done when it is needed by a client project in the core group of developers. There is a definite air of condescension when the project developers handle questions from potential developers. With Django, there are people of all experience levels willing to help on groups.google, IRC, and thorough documentation that far exceeds most of the open source documentation out there.
Documentation, again, Django. Well organized, well thought out and well documented examples on Django’s part show dedication to having a framework that is well understood and well used. Turbogears recently moved to Sphinx, but, documentation generated from poorly documented code still means poor documentation. The tutorials and examples have been improving, but, they have a long way to go.
Genshi and Mako are supported fairly well with Turbogears and are both very good engines. Jinja is also supported which is a bit faster than Genshi and is powerful and very easy to work with. Django’s template language is also very flexible, powerful and easy to work with. Django had some definite advantages with a simpler language, but, neither Django or Turbogears stood out as a clear winner.
If you were looking to write an extremely heavy database or form involved site, I think Turbogears would be a good solution. If you choose Turbogears, be prepared to delve into the code when you are faced with problems. Bugs are not dealt with very promptly even though upgrades are pushed out. Be prepared to patch upgraded packages or hold certain packages once you move into production.
On the other hand, if you are writing a less complicated application, Django would be a good choice.
All told, the application developed this week in Django took about 12 hours and had I been working with Django for the last 14 months, I would estimate the project to have taken roughly 8 hours. Developed in Turbogears, I probably could have written it in 6 hours. PHP, to mimic all of the functionality would have taken 14-16 hours even using one of the numerous frameworks.
There is a definite advantage to using a framework and Python frameworks do appear to offer Rapid Application Development even over most of the PHP frameworks. For me, new development will probably be done in Django unless there is a strong case to use Turbogears.