Table of Contents


This tutorial is a follow up to a previous one where we setup a django project boilerplate focused on security and separation of environments (i.e., local development versus production), as well as other best practices (link to that tutorial: Setting up a django project boilerplate).

On this tutorial we will learn how to get the boilerplate up and running on We will learn about:

  1. Cloning a repository from github into pythonanywhere (PAW)
  2. Creating virtual environments
  3. Setting environment variables
  4. Installing requirements / dependencies to run our application
  5. Setting up and running the web application

Conventions throughout this tutorial

Review the conventions page, which will help you understand how I communicate with you through this blog.

Opening an account at

If you don't have one, opening an account at PAW is easy, and you can start with a beginner account, which is free. I have opened one to host the django project boilerplate app, and was lucky enough to find out that the username djangoboilerplate wasn't taken, so I took it.

Tip! | For a beginner account, your username will also be the subdomain where your app will live. In my case, for example, the app can be reached at

So far my experience with PAW has been great. Their customer support really shines, and their giving back to the community is great.

If you haven't done that, go ahead and sign up for a beginner account

Getting your project files to PAW

To accomplish this, let's go ahead and open a bash console. We do that by looking for the PAW dashboard, and then by clicking on the link shown below.

tumbling programmer's deploying the boilerplate app to pythonanywhere - PAW dashboard - opening a bash console

By default, your bash console will start your session on your home directory (you will see something like 04:22 ~ $ on the terminal. If you run pwd (the print working directory command) at the terminal, it will output something like /home/[your_username]. In my case, it outputs /home/djangoboilerplate. If I run ls (the list files command), I only get README.txt, which is a file that PAW installs there by default.

The source code for the django project boilerplate lives at While at our home directory on our terminal (i.e., /home/[your_username]), let's run...

git clone

Your terminal will output a listing similar to the one shown below:

Cloning into 'djangoboilerplate'...
remote: Counting objects: 182, done.
remote: Compressing objects: 100% (110/110), done.
remote: Total 182 (delta 56), reused 170 (delta 48), pack-reused 0
Receiving objects: 100% (182/182), 25.32 KiB | 0 bytes/s, done.
Resolving deltas: 100% (56/56), done.
Checking connectivity... done.
04:47 ~ $

If we run ls, we should see the following output:

README.txt  djangoboilerplate

Notice the new djangoboilerplate folder, which is the root folder of the boilerplate app.

Creating our virtual environment

PAW is already setup with virtual environment wrapper, which is great as we don't have to deal with getting it installed. We'll use djangoboilerplate as the name of our virtual environment. Let's go ahead and run the following command:

mkvirtualenv djangoboilerplate --python=/usr/bin/python3.5

After a little while, our terminal prompt should display the name of our virtual environment, like so:

(djangoboilerplate) 05:11 ~ $

Which means that our virtual environment is active.

Setting our environment variables

As part of making our application more secure, and to programmatically tell django that we are in a production environment, we will need to setup two variables: DJANGO_SECRET_KEY, which will be limited to the scope of our djangoboilerplate virtual environment, and DJANGO_EXECUTION_ENVIRONMENT, which can be set system-wide so all our django apps running on PAW know that they are operating in production and that they need to use production settings.

Read to learn more about why and how to set environment variables.

On your PAW dashboard, use the files tab to navigate to the postactivate file of your djangoboilerplate virtual environment, and go ahead and clik on it to edit it (PAW's default editor will open it up). The screenshot below shows how to get there.

tumbling programmer's deploying the boilerplate app to pythonanywhere - editing the postactivate file

Edit it so it reads as follows:

# This hook is sourced after this virtualenv is activated.

export DJANGO_SECRET_KEY="your_django_secret_key_goes_here"

To generate a value for your DJANGO_SECRET_KEY you can use this site or, better yet, program your own python script to do it.

Once you edit the file, click on the save button on the top right corner of the window, or press ctrl + l simultaneously.

Go back to the terminal and make sure to deactivate your djangoboilerplate virtual environment (if it is active) by running deactivate djangoboilerplate and re-activating it by running workon djangoboilerplate.

WARNING! | Make sure to use opening and closing quotes (" ") on line DJANGO_SECRET_KEY="your_django_secret_key_goes_here". Otherwise, bash will complain that it can't find a proper EOF closing.

TIP! | To make my life easier, I usually have a tab on my browser pointing to PAW's dashboard, and another one with an up-and-running bash terminal.

Once your djangoboilerplate virtual environment has been reactivated, run echo $DJANGO_SECRET_KEY, after which the terminal should output your secret key.

Go back to your PAW's dashboard. Navigate to your home directory until you find your .bashrc profile.

TIP! | You can also use PAW’s to get there, as shown below.

tumbling programmer's deploying the boilerplate app to pythonanywhere - getting to the bashrc file

Click to open it, and add the following at the bottom of the file.


Save the file and go back to the terminal. Once on it, run source ~/.bashrc, which will run commands in the .bashrc file and will load functions contained in the file into our bash shell script, including making our variable DJANGO_EXECUTION_ENVIRONMENT available for our django app to use. We can test this by running echo $DJANGO_EXECUTION_ENVIRONMENT on the terminal, which should output PRODUCTION.

TIP! | Once we run source ~/.bashrc, one of the things that it will do is deactivate our virtual environment. We will need to reactivate it if in the future we want to execute commands that are directly related to our relevant python environment.

Installing our requirements

On the terminal, navigate to the requirements folder of the application. The path for it should look like /home/[your_username]/djangoboilerplate/requirements.

TIP! | You can also use PAW's dashboard to get there, as shown below.

tumbling programmer's deploying the boilerplate app to pythonanywhere - opening a terminal session on the requirements folder

Once your terminal session is open, make sure to activate the djangoboilerplate virtual environment. Once that's done, let's execute pip install -r production.txt to install the packages required by the application. The process should run smoothly and should take a little while. Once it's done, if we run pip freeze we should get the following listing:


Setting up the web app

Go to the Web tab of your dashboard, click on the Add a new web app button, click next and select the Manual configuration (including virtualenvs) option on the next window. Select Python 3.5, then nexton the Manual Configuration... window. After a while, PAW should show the Web tab of your application. A partial screenshot of what mine looks like follows:

tumbling programmer's deploying the boilerplate app to pythonanywhere - djangoboilerplate's web tab

Once that's done, let's enter the name of our virtualenv in the Virtualenv section on the web tab and click OK. We would enter djangoboilerplate (or whatever name your virtual environment has), and it will automatically complete to its full path in /home/username/.virtualenvs.

After doing it, mine looks like so:

tumbling programmer's deploying the boilerplate app to pythonanywhere - specifying the name of our virtual environment

Now let's edit the WSGI file (found under the Code section of the Web tab).

TIP! | You can find the /var/www/ portion of the above command under the Code section of the Web tab of your application. Mine looks like so:

tumbling programmer's deploying the boilerplate app to pythonanywhere - editing the WSGI file

Let's open it and delete everything in it, and edit it so it reads as follows:

import os
import sys

path = '/home/[your_username_goes_here]/djangoboilerplate/apps/'
if path not in sys.path:

os.environ['DJANGO_SETTINGS_MODULE'] = 'config.settings.production'

from django.core.wsgi import get_wsgi_application
from django.contrib.staticfiles.handlers import StaticFilesHandler
application = StaticFilesHandler(get_wsgi_application())

Notice that even though we had already set the DJANGO_SECRET_KEY and DJANGO_EXECUTION_ENVIRONMENT variables, we also have to include them in our PAW's WSGI file. That's a PAW requirement (refer to their help page on the topic here).

In my case, I can test that my WSGI file works OK by running python -i /var/www/ on the terminal. You can do likewise, just make sure to use the proper path and to activate the virtual environment first. If this shows any errors or won't even load python (e.g., syntax errors), you'll need to fix them. Visit PAW's excellent help pages to troubleshoot any issues that you may encounter.

Enabling PAW as our django host

We now need to check that PAW is enabled as a host for our django app. We do that by opening our ../settings/ file and editing it appropriately.

On my end, I can access such file as shown below.

tumbling programmer's deploying the boilerplate app to pythonanywhere - editing the file

Let's make sure that the file reads as follows:

from .base import *

If you have your own domain, your domain would replace the portion (as in '').

Save your changes.

Setting our media files path

We now need to tell PAW about the path where our media files will be served from. We do that under the Static files section of the Web tab. Here is what mine looks like:

tumbling programmer's deploying the boilerplate app to pythonanywhere - setting the media path

Make sure to edit yours accordingly.

Running our app

We are now ready to run our app. We do that by clicking the button and link shown below, and in the order indicated.

tumbling programmer's deploying the boilerplate app to pythonanywhere - running the app

If everything goes well, your browser should look like the below.

tumbling programmer's deploying the boilerplate app to pythonanywhere - live app

You can see the live site here.

This completes our tutorial. Congratulations! You now know quite a bit about deploying django apps on PAW, including setting and retrieving environment variables!