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pypm install products.externaleditor

How to install Products.ExternalEditor

  1. Download and install ActivePython
  2. Open Command Prompt
  3. Type pypm install products.externaleditor
 Python 2.7Python 3.2Python 3.3
Windows (32-bit)
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Windows (64-bit)
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Mac OS X (10.5+)
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Linux (32-bit)
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Linux (64-bit)
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ZPL 2.1
Lastest release
version 1.1.0 on Jan 5th, 2011

The Zope External Editor is a new way to integrate Zope more seamlessly with client-side tools. It has the following features:

  • Edit objects locally, directly from the ZMI.
  • Works with any graphical editor application that can open a file from the command line, including: emacs, gvim, xemacs, nedit, gimp, etc.
  • Automatically saves changes back to Zope without ending the editing session.
  • Associate any client-side editor application with any Zope object by meta-type or content-type. Both text and binary object content can be edited.
  • Locks objects while they are being edited. Automatically unlocks them when the editing session ends.
  • Can add file extensions automatically to improve syntax highlighting or file type detection.
  • Works with basic auth, cookie auth and Zope versions. Credentials are automatically passed down to the helper application. No need to reauthenticate.
  • https support (Openssl required)

Using It

Use of the application is about as easy as using the ZMI once your browser is configured (see the installation instructions). To edit an object externally, just click on the pencil icon next to the object in the ZMI. The object will be downloaded and opened using the editor application you have chosen (you will be prompted the first time to choose an editor).

You edit the object just like any other file. When you save the changes in your editor, they are automatically uploaded back to Zope in the background. While the object is open in your editor, it is locked in Zope to prevent concurrent editing. When you end your editing session (ie you close your editor) the object is unlocked.

How it Works

Ok, so this all sounds a bit too good to be true, no? So how the heck does it work anyway? First I'll give you a block diagram:

+------------+     +------------+     +---------+        +------+
| Editor App | <-- | Helper App | <-- | Browser | <-/ /- | Zope |
+------------+     +------------+     +---------+        +------+
            ^       ^     ^                                ^
             \     /       \                              /
              v   v         -----------------------/ /----
            / Local \
            \  File /

Now the key to getting this to work is solving the problem that the editor cannot know about Zope, and must only deal with local files. Also, there is no standard way to communication with editors, so the only communication channel can be the local file which contains the object's content or code.

It is trivial to get the browser to fire up your editor when you download a particular type of data with your browser. But that does you little good, since the browser no longer involves itself once the data is downloaded. It just creates a temp file and fires off the registered application, passing it the file path. Once the editor is running, it is only aware of the local file, and has no concept of where it originated from.

To solve this problem, I have developed a helper application whose job is essentially two-fold:

  • Determine the correct editor to launch for a given Zope object
  • Get the data back into Zope when the changes are saved

So, let's take a step by step look at how it works:

  1. You click on the external editor link (the pencil icon) in the Zope management interface.
  2. The product code on the server creates a response that encapsulates the necessary meta-data (URL, meta-type, content-type, cookies, etc) and the content of the Zope object, which can be text or binary data. The response has the contrived content-type "application/x-zope-edit".
  3. The browser receives the request, and finds our helper application registered for "application/x-zope-edit". It saves the response data locally to disk and spawns the helper app to process it.
  4. The helper app, reads its config file and the response data file. The meta-data from the file is parsed and the content is copied to a new temporary file. The appropriate editor program is determined based on the data file and the configuration.
  5. The editor is launched as a sub-process of the helper app, passing it the file containing the content data.
  6. If so configured, the helper app sends a WebDAV lock request back to Zope to lock the object.
  7. Every so often (if so configured), the helper app stats the content file to see if it has been changed. If so, it sends an HTTP PUT request back to Zope containing the new data.
  8. When the editor is closed, the content file is checked one more time and uploaded if it has changed. Then a WebDAV unlock request is sent to Zope.
  9. The helper application exits.


The helper application supports several configuration options, each of which can be triggered in any combination of object meta-type, content-type or domain. This allows you to create appropriate behavior for different types of Zope objects and content or even different servers. The configuration file is stored in the file "~/.zope-external-edit" (Unix) or "~ZopeEdit.ini" (Windows). If no configuration file is found when the helper application starts, a default config file is created in your home directory.

The configuration file follows the standard Python ConfigParser format, which is pretty much like the old .ini file format from windows. The file consists of sections and options in the following format:

[section 1]
option1 = value
option2 = value

[section 2]


The available options for all sections of the config file are:

editor -- Command line or plugin name used to invoke the editor application. On Windows, if no editor setting is found for an object you edit, the helper app will search the file type registry for an appropriate editor based on the content-type or file extension of the object (which can be specified using the extension option below). By default, the file path of the local file being edited is appended to this command line. To insert the file path in the middle of your command, use "$1" for Unix and "%1" for Windows respectively.

save_interval -- (float) The interval in seconds that the helper application checks the edited file for changes.

use_locks -- (1 or 0) Whether to use WebDAV locking. The user editing must have the proper WebDAV related permissions for this to work.

always_borrow_locks -- (1 or 0) When use_locks is enabled this features suppresses warnings when trying to edit an object you have already locked. When enabled, external editor will always "borrow" the existing lock token instead of doing the locking itself. This is useful when using CMFStaging for instance. If omitted, this option defaults to 0.

cleanup_files -- (1 or 0) Whether to delete the temp files created. WARNING the temp file coming from the browser contains authentication information and therefore setting this to 0 is a security risk, especially on shared machines. If set to 1, that file is deleted at the earliest opportunity, before the editor is even spawned. Set to 0 for debugging only.

extension -- (text) The file extension to add to the content file. Allows better handling of images and can improve syntax highlighting.

temp_dir -- (path) Path to store local copies of object data being edited. Defaults to operating system temp directory. Note: this setting has no apparent effect on Windows 8^(

long_file_name -- (1 or 0) Whether to include the whole path to the object including the hostname in the file name (the default) or just the id of the object being edited. Turn this option off for shorter file names in your editors, and for editors that don't like long names.

file_name_separator -- (string) Character or characters used to separate path elements in long files names used by external editor. Defaults to a comma (,). This must be a legal character for use in file names on your platorm (i.e., don't use a path separator character!). This option is ignored if 'long_file_name' is set to 0.


The sections of the configuration file specify the types of objects and content that the options beneath them apply to.

There is only one mandatory section '[general]', which should define all of the above options that do not have a default value. If no other section defines an option for a given object, the general settings are used.

Additional sections can apply to a particular domain, content-type or meta-type. Since objects can have all these properties, the options are applied in this order of precedence.

  • [content-type:text/html] -- Options by whole content-type come first.
  • [content-type:text/*] -- Options by major content-type come second.
  • [meta-type:File] -- Options by Zope meta-type are third.
  • [domain:www.mydomain.com] -- Options by domain follow. Several sections can be added for each domain level if desired.
  • [general] -- General options are last.

This scheme allows you to specify an extension by content-type, the editor by meta-type, the locking settings by domain and the remaining options under general for a given object.

Editor Plugins

For tighter client-side integration, external editor has a plugin system that allows it to interact directly with supported applications.

On Windows this generally means using COM to invoke the application, open the content file and wait for the user to save and close the file. Because each application has different remote scripting capabilities and APIs, editor specific plugins must be written tailored to each supported application and platform.

This system allows external editor to efficiently connect to running applications without relaunching them and therefore fully support MDI environments. The following applications currently have plugin support:

Application       Platform    Plugin Module Name(s)
HomeSite          Windows     homesite5, homesite
Dreamweaver       Windows     dreamweaver
Photoshop         Windows     photoshp, photoshop
MS Word           Windows     winword, word
MS Excel          Windows     excel
MS Powerpoint     Windows     powerpnt, powerpoint

External editor will attempt to load a plugin for any application before using the general editor control method. It does this by matching the name of the application executable file (sans extension) in the editor command line with the available plugins.

Because plugins do not require the path of the editor application to work, you can simply specify the plugin module name for your editor in the configuration file if desired. For example, to specify Photoshop for all image files, use add the following section to your config file (ZopeEdit.ini on Windows):


This is only a shortcut and specifying the full application path will still use the plugin where possible.

Plugin Notes

Photoshop -- Photoshop's COM API is quite limited, and external editor cannot detect that you have closed a file until you exit the entire application (it can still detect saves). Therefore you may want to turn off DAV locking (use_locks=0) or borrow locks (always_borrow_locks=1) when using it.

Dreamweaver -- External editor cannot detect when you have finished editing a single file. Objects edited with Dreamweaver will remain locked on the server until you exit the application. As with Photoshop above, you may want to turn off locking for Dreamweaver.

If your favorite editor needs a plugin because the general support is not good enough, please let me know. Keep in mind that I must be able to run a copy of the application in order to develop a plugin for it. So, unless the application is free, or a full demo is available for download I won't be able to help much. Plugins are not difficult to write, and I encourage you to write one for your favorite editor, start by reading one of the existing ones. I am happy to include third-party plugins with the distribution.


External editing is governed by the permission "Use external editor". Users with this permission can launch external editor from editable objects. In order to save changes, users will need additional permissions appropriate for the objects they are editing.

If users wish to use the built-in locking support, they must have the "WebDAV access", "WebDAV Lock items" and "WebDAV Unlock items" permissions for the objects they are editing.

If these permissions are not set in Zope, then the helper application will receive unauthorized errors from Zope which it will present to the user.

Integrating with External Editor

The external editor product in zope installs a globally available object that can format objects accessible through FTP/DAV for use by the helper application. You can take advantage of this functionality easily in your own content management applications.

Say you have an FTP editable object, "document", in a Zope folder named "my_stuff". The URL to view the object would be:


The URL to kick off the external editor on this document would be:


Now, this may look a bit odd to you if you are used to tacking views on to the end of the URL. Because externalEdit_ is required to work on Python Scripts and Page Templates, which swallow the remaining path segments on the URL following themselves, you must put the call to externalEdit_ directly before the object to be edited. You could do this in ZPT using some TAL in a Page Template like:

<a href='edit'
   Edit Locally

As an alternative, you can also pass the path the object you want to edit directly to the externalEdit_ object when you call its index_html method. It can be called either directly by URL or from a python script. externalEdit_ will return the proper response data for the object to edit. Here are some examples:


return context.externalEdit_.index_html(
    context.REQUEST, context.RESPONSE, path='/my_stuff/document')

When integrating External Editor with a CMS that already uses DAV locks, it will, by default allow users to borrow locks made on the server after displaying a confirmation dialog box. Although you can make this automatic by specifying 'always_borrow_locks = 1' in the External Editor config file, it may be desireable to make this the default behavior when using that server. To facilitate this, you can specify that locks should be automatically borrowed in the URL (New in 0.7):


External Editor also defines a global method that you can call to insert pencil icon links for appropriate objects. The method automatically checks if the object supports external editing and whether the user has the "Use external editor" permission for that object. If both are true, it returns the HTML code to insert the external editor icon link. Otherwise it returns an empty string.

The method is 'externalEditLink_(object)'. The object argument is the object to create the link for if appropriate. Here is some example page template code that inserts links to objects in the current folder and the external editor icon where appropriate:

<div tal:repeat="object here/objectValues">
  <a href="#"
     tal:attributes="href object/absolute_url"
     tal:content="object/title_or_id">Object Title</a>
  <span tal:replace="structure python:here.externalEditLink_(object)" />


I hope you enjoy using this software. If you have any comments, suggestions or would like to report a bug, send an email to the author:

Casey Duncan Changelog =========

1.1.0 - 2010-12-01

  • Added support for unaware mimetype browser - we now add the .zem extension no matter what the user-agent
  • Modified the cache's parameters - special case for MSIE
  • Corrected and added tests
  • Moved the sources of the client to another package : collective.zopeedit

1.0 - 2010-07-01

  • Update manage_main, manage_tabs, and findResult monkey patches to include fixes from Zope 2.12.

1.0a2 - 2009-11-13

  • Removed imports from Globals.
  • Purged old Zope 2 Interface interfaces for Zope 2.12 compatibility.

1.0a1 - 2008-03-05

  • Updated package metadata to be usable as a package.

01/03/2007 - 0.9.3

  • Fixed issue with 'manage_FTPget' overriding the 'Content-Type' header.
  • Only run ExpandEnvironmentStrings on win32 systems.

9/14/2006 - 0.9.2

  • Added 'skip_data' option to make External Editor send out only the metadata part and skip appending data to the 'body'.
  • Add a simple callback registry that can be used to add extra metadata headers or set special response headers when a file is edited through External Editor.
  • Use rfc822.Message for parsing the metadata of the file being edited.
  • Don't emit a warning about deprecated 'methods' in Zope >= 2.10.
  • Fixed acquisition issue in manage_main.dtml to sync up with the same fix applied to Zope.

6/23/2005 - 0.9.1

  • Older pyc files for plugins were included in the 0.9 release. This version has the most up to date plugins.

6/20/2005 - 0.9

  • When using the Excel plugin, errors were seen by users like "TypeError: This object does not support enumeration". We now make the user deal with these.
  • When using the Excel plugin, errors were intermittently raised to the user in the form "Fatal error: <unknown>.Path" and the user could subsequently not save the document back to Zope because the external editor process had quit.
  • Changes to documents intermittently may not have been saved back to Zope when using any plugin that involved COM (Word, Excel, Powerpoint, etc).
  • If Word was exited before a user actively saved, if there were outstanding changes in the document being edited, those changes would not be saved to the server despite the user answering "yes" to the "do you want to save before you exit" dialog presented by Word.
  • The "title" attribute of the object being externally edited is now available within the set of headers returned by EE to the zopeedit client.
  • Detecting whether the client has External Editor installed from within IE using JavaScript or VBScript is now possible, assuming that the client software is installed via the InnoSetup installer. See "win32/ocx.txt" for more info.
  • External Editor now compatible with objects that return a "filestream iterator" in Zope 2.7.1+. (if upgrading: this fix does not require an update to EE client, just the EE Zope product).
  • Properly escape hyphens in man page. Thanks to Federico Sevilla III.
  • Check if the editor was launched before locking the file in Zope. This prevents errors if the editor is closed before the lock request completes.
  • Do not ask the user what editor to use on Posix platforms. Instead just tell the user to edit the config file. The askstring() function does not work with a hidden root Tk window in Python 2.3.4. Thanks to Christopher Mann.

7/13/04 - 0.8

  • Add external editor icon to ZMI breadcrumbs for editable objects.
  • Compiled windows helper app binary using Python 2.3.4, Pythonwin build 163 and py2exe 0.5.
  • Add Dreamweaver plugin contributed by Manuel Aristarann. Thanks also to Anton Stonor.
  • Add ZMI support for Zope 2.7's ordered folder objects.
  • Fix bug detecting basic auth info from older versions of CookieCrumber. Thanks to David D. Smith and Federico Sevilla III.
  • Workaround IE browser error when running over SSL. Thanks to Marc-Aurele Darche.
  • Add ".zem" file extension support for MacOS X (especially Mac IE), to ease helper app integration where MIME support is lacking. Thanks to Zac Bir.
  • Added "long_file_name" and "file_name_separator" config options.
  • Fixed bug which happened under Win32 when editing an Excel file using the Excel plugin where the symptom was a "Call was rejected by callee" COM error. Thanks to Chris McDonough.

4/23/04 - 0.7.2

  • Change default configuration to use .txt extension for text/plain only. Add extensions for css and javascript files.
  • Fixed packaging bug in Windows binary which disabled several plugins. This fixes "Editor did not launch properly" errors for MSOffice among others.
  • Fixed a bug where very short editing sessions where no changes were made could make EE think the editor never launched. Thanks to Maik Ihde.

11/7/03 - 0.7.1

  • Fix encoding bug in windows binary. Thanks to Chris McDonough.
  • Added tip for configuring IE to save files over SSL. Thanks to Jonah Bossewitch.

4/1/03 - 0.7

  • Added working distutils setup for Unix.
  • You can now specify from the server that the helper app should borrow a lock by passing borrow_lock=1 via the request, thus suppressing the dialog box which appears by default. Thanks to Shane Hathaway.
  • Improved open file check in Word and Powerpoint plugins thanks to Yura Petrov.
  • Added plugins for Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint.
  • Added the man page from the Debian distro. Thanks go out to Federico Sevilla III and Andreas Tille

11/02/02 - 0.6

  • Built Windows helper app using Python 2.2.2 and PythonWin 148.
  • The externalEdit_ object now accepts a path argument to the object to edit, allowing URLs like: http://zope/externalEdit_?path=/some/object. This allows external editor to play better with applications making use of traversal magic of their own. Thanks to Tres Seaver.
  • Fixed NameError bug in unlock retry code. Thanks to Federico Sevilla III.
  • Added a workaround for non-compliant SSL servers. The software now silently ignores "EOF occurred in violation of protocol" errors coming from httplib. Thanks to Christopher Deckard.
  • Removed stderr writes to cure "Invalid File Descriptor" errors on Windows. Thanks to Martijn Peters.
  • Added Photoshop plugin (win32)
  • Added HomeSite plugin (win32)
  • Added win32 editor plugin support for the helper application.

8/19/02 - 0.5

  • Added patch for Zope find template so that you can use external editor directly from find results in the ZMI. Thanks to Jim Washington.
  • Factored out external editor link generator. Product now registers a global method externalEditLink_ which can be called to generate the external editor icon link for any object.
  • External editing is now governed by the "Use external editor" permission to allow non-managers to use it. Users must also have the permissions to edit/modify the objects they edit, plus do WebDAV locking if desired. Thanks to Reineke and others.
  • Unix editor command line parsing is much more robust now and properly handles quoted arguments. You can also specify the "$1" placeholder in the editor command to denote where the content file name is inserted. If omitted it is appended to the end of the command line. "%1" continues to work similarly for Windows. Thanks to Marc St-Jean.
  • Fixed bug editing large (chunked) files and images. External editor now streams their data properly to the client. Thanks to all the users who reported various symptoms of this bug.
  • Fixed bug editing objects inside a Squishdot site. Thanks to Kevin Salt.
  • Added the capability to borrow exising DAV locks. This allows external editor to play well with other systems using locks, such as CMFStaging. A new configuration flag, always_borrow_locks can be set to suppress the borrow lock warning dialog when editing.
  • Fixed auth bug when product was used with mysqlUserFolder. Thanks to ViNiL.

6/30/02 - 0.4.2

  • Added SSL support to Windows binary package. Thanks to Federico Sevilla III

6/29/02 - 0.4.1

  • Fixed dangling dav lock bug on fatal errors. Thanks to Marc St-Jean.
  • Fixed content_type bug, now checks if it is callable. Thanks to Arnaud Bienvenu.
  • Fixed bug with editing binary data on Windows. Thanks to Eric Kamm.
  • Fixed bug setting the editor on Posix platforms.

6/24/02 - 0.4

  • Added --version command line argument
  • Made manage_FTPget the default source for the editable content, instead of document_src which was broken for CMF Wiki Pages.
  • Fixed Windows "body_file" bug.
  • Added binary build support for Windows using py2exe and Inno setup.
  • Fixed Windows config file locator. It now looks in the program directory and then the user's home directory (if specified)
  • Fixed bug in Windows registry editor lookup.

6/16/02 - 0.3

  • Improved behavior when saving after lock attempts fail.
  • Now works on Windows (applause) using Pythonwin. Much overall refactoring to abstract process control. Thanks to Oliver Deckmyn, Gabriel Genellina and Arno Gross for testing, patches and suggestions.
  • Added "temp_dir" configuration option for specifying a different temp file directory then the OS default. Also further improved temp file name generation.
  • Added support for domain specific configuration options.
  • Fixed trailing newline bug in encoded auth data coming from CookieCrumbler. Thanks to Harald Koschinski.
  • You can now pass command line arguments to the editor in the config file, or wrap the editor in an xterm without using a shell script.
  • Rewrote "Editor did not launch" error message so it makes more sense.
  • Fixed https detection bug. External editor is now tested and working with https. Many thanks to Hans-Dieter Stich and Martin Groenemeyer for their assistance and ideas.
  • Made it possible to edit objects that are methods of ZClasses. Thanks to Jim Washington
  • Refactored link generation code in manage_main so that it uses the parent's absolute_url rather than URL1. Thanks to Jim Washington
  • Removed implicit save in Configuration class destructor
  • Added caching headers to prevent client-side caching of edit data. Thanks to Gabriel Genellina for pointing this out.
  • Added improved support for editing CMF documents
  • Eliminated spurious "Editor did not launch" errors on short sessions or when other errors occurred.

5/16/02 - 0.2

  • Fixed product uninstallation bug

5/15/02 - 0.1

  • Initial release

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Last updated Jan 5th, 2011

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