TIL: Hotwire's Turbo with Python

What is a TIL?

Hotwire's Turbo Streams can use WebSockets to stream updates. How to do this is not well documented in the handbook. This post contains my notes on building a prototype to figure out how to do it. I used Tornado as webserver but the technique is completely backend agnostic.

What are Turbo Streams?

Turbo Streams allow you to send small fragments of HTML and replace parts of the page with that new HTML. An example of a fragment you can send:

<turbo-stream action="append" target="messages">
    <div id="message_1">
      This div will be appended to the element with the DOM ID "messages".

My setup

I wanted to build a web page that allows the user to submit a file for processing and then retrieve their processed file once it is ready. For this it would be nice to show a spinner or some kind of progress bar to the user while the file is being worked on.

The form itself is a standard HTML form. It sends the form contents to /convert using a POST request. The response is a HTTP status 303 redirect to /status/<job_id>.

The status page contains the following piece of JS in its <head> tag:

<script type="module">
  import { connectStreamSource } from 'https://cdn.skypack.dev/@hotwired/turbo';

  const wsUrl = ((window.location.protocol === "https:") ? "wss://" : "ws://") + window.location.host + "/status/{{ job_id }}"

  document.eventSource = new WebSocket(wsUrl);

This is a template that the server renders, which means the {{ job_id }} is replaced by the actual job ID.

Once the page loads a WebSocket is connected to /status/<job_id> over which the server can send Turbo Stream templates that update what is shown to the user.

The body of the status page contains a <div> element telling the user that the document is being processed:

<div id="status">
  <div class="spinner-border" role="status">
    <span class="visually-hidden">Processing...</span>

The WebSocket handler at /status/<job_id> then sends a message like the following once the file has been converted:

<turbo-stream action="replace" target="status">
    <div id="status">
      <p><a href="/documents/{{ job_id }}/output/document.pdf">Download your PDF</a></p>

which replaces the DOM element with the ID status.

That is all there is to using Turbo Streams via a long running WebSocket.

The project I used this for is https://github.com/betatim/pdf-it.

Copyright © 2014-2021 - Tim Head