Command-line interaction and scripting


How to run command-line Python scripts, timed jobs (cron) and batch jobs against Plone sites and Zope application server.



Plone code is somewhat ugly and expects you to have real HTTP request lifecycle to do many things. For command line scripts, you need to mock up this and mocking up ofter fails. Instead of trying to create a pure command-line script, just create a browser view and call that browser view usings wget or lynx or similar command line HTTP tool.

Zope provides facilities to run command-line scripts. or maintenance work, like migration script.

  • The output to terminal is instance (Plone buffers HTML output)
  • You can stop processing using CTRL+C
  • You can integrate scripts with standard UNIX tools, like cron


If the site runs in a single process Zope mode (no ZEO), the actual site instance must be stopped to run a command line script as the one process locks the database (Data.fs).

Command line scripts are also useful for long-running transaction processing

  • A web site runs in multi-client ZEO mode. One client is always offline, reserved for running command-line scripts.
  • Asynchronous long-running transactions are run from this ZEO client, without disturbing the normal site functionality

See also

Starting interactive interpreter

The bin/instance debug command starts an interactive interpreter with the Zope application server and database loaded. To have persistent utilities loaded, you should also provide the id of your Plone site. The following example assumes you have a plone site named "Plone"


bin/instance -OPlone debug


The instance must be stopped in order to run this.

Running scripts

Use bin/instance run command to run scripts which can interact with the opened database.


bin/instance run src/namespace.mypackage/namespace/mypackage/bin/

The script will have global app variable assigned to the Zope application server root. You can use this as a starting point and traverse into your Plone site(s).

Script could look like:


    Instance script for testing a researcher creation


        bin/instance run src/x.y/x/y/


from ora.objects.content.oraresearcher import createResearcherById

def main(app):
    folder = app.unrestrictedTraverse("x/y/z/cancer")

    # Create a researcher
    createResearcherById(folder, "http://localhost/people/9947603276956765")

    # This script does not commit

# If this script lives in your source tree, then we need to use this trick so that
# five.grok, which scans all modules, does not try to execute the script while
# modules are being loaded on the start-up
if "app" in locals():

You probably need to spoof your security credentials.


Instance must be stopped in order to run this.

Cron and timed jobs

Cron is UNIX clock daemon for timed tasks.

If you have a ZEO cluster you can have one ZEO client reserved for command line processing. Cron job will run scripts through this ZEO client.

Alternatively, you can use

  • cron to call localhost URL using curl or wget UNIX commands
  • Use Zope clock daemon


For long running batch processes it is must that you run your site in ZEO mode. Otherwise the batch job will block the site access for the duration of the batch job transaction. If the batch job takes long to process the site might be unavailable for the visitors for a long period.

Scripting context

The command line interpreter and scripts gets following global context variables

  • app global variable which holds the root of Zope application server.

  • sys.argv contains command-line parameters after python script name

    • argv[0] = script name
    • arvg[1] = first command line argument

To access your site object, you can traverse down from app:

app.yoursiteid # This is your Plone site object

# Perform some stuff here...
for brain in app.yoursiteid.portal_catalog(portal_type="Document"): print brain["Title"]

Committing transactions

You need to manually commit transactions if you change ZODB data from the command line.

Example how to commit:

# Commit transaction
import transaction; transaction.commit()
# Perform ZEO client synchronization (if running in clustered mode)

More info


zopepy buildout recipe creating bin/zopepy command which you can use to run Python scripts in Zope environment set-up (PYTHONPATH, database connection, etc.)

buildout.cfg example:

# For more information on this step and configuration options see:
recipe = zc.recipe.egg
eggs = ${client1:eggs}
interpreter = zopepy
extra-paths = ${zope2:location}/lib/python
scripts = zopepy

Then running:

bin/zopepy path/to/

...or if you want to run a script outside buildout folder:

cd /tmp

Setting up ZEO for command line-processing

Plone site HTTP requests are processed by one process per requests. One process cannot handle more than one request once. If you need to have long-running transactions you need to at least two front end processes, ZEO clients, so that long-running transactions won't block your site.

Your code might want to call transaction.commit() now and then to commit the current transaction.

Posing as user

Zope functionality often assumes you have logged in as certain user or you are anonymous user. Command-line scripts do not have user information set by default.

How to set the effective Zope user to admin:

from AccessControl.SecurityManagement import newSecurityManager

# Use Zope application server user database (not plone site)
newSecurityManager(None, admin)

Spoofing HTTP request

When running from command-line, HTTP request object is not available. Some Zope code might expect this and you need to spoof the request.

Below is an example command line script which set-ups faux HTTP request and portal_skins skin layers:


    Command-line script to be run from a ZEO client:

    bin/command-line-client src/yourcode/


import os
from os import environ
from StringIO import StringIO
import logging

from AccessControl.SecurityManagement import newSecurityManager
from AccessControl.SecurityManager import setSecurityPolicy
from Testing.makerequest import makerequest
from import PermissiveSecurityPolicy, OmnipotentUser

# Force application logging level to DEBUG and log output to stdout for all loggers
import sys, logging

root_logger = logging.getLogger()

handler = logging.StreamHandler(sys.stdout)
formatter = logging.Formatter("%(asctime)s - %(name)s - %(levelname)s - %(message)s")

def spoofRequest(app):
    Make REQUEST variable to be available on the Zope application server.

    This allows acquisition to work properly
    newSecurityManager(None, OmnipotentUser().__of__(app.acl_users))
    return makerequest(app)

# Enable Faux HTTP request object
app = spoofRequest(app)

# Get Plone site object from Zope application server root
site = app.unrestrictedTraverse("yoursiteid")

# Call External Method defined in the skins layers
# Note that native python __getattr__ traversing does not work... you must access things using unrestrictedTraverse()
# You could also use @@viewname for browserviews
script = site.unrestrictedTraverse("someScriptName")

More info


screen is an UNIX command to start a virtual terminal. Screen lets processes run even if your physical terminal becomes disconnected. This effectively allows you to run long-running command line jobs over a crappy Internet connection.

Start new screen

Type command:


If you have sudo'ed to another user you first need to run:

script /dev/null

Attach to an existing screen

Type command:

screen -x