1. Branko Vukelic
  2. zoro



Before we introduce you to zoro, please do not confuse it with Zorro which is a networking library that has nothing to do with this one.

The name 'zoro' comes from a Japanese onomatopoeic phrase 'zoro zoro' which signifies a sound a horde makes as it goes somewhere.

Having to deal with a build process that involves both backend and frontend code, transpiled languages like CoffeScript, LiveScript, LESS or Compass, exotic configuration files or settings that need to be swapped before going into production... The horde of tasks that need to be completed before a project can be served to the masses can be hard to deal with without software to help us. On the other hand, learning a complex build system may seem like a chore.

Zoro tries to fill the gap between writing small (shell) scripts, and mastering a full build system like Buildout. I chose Python for this task, not only because I develop Python software, but also because of its vast standard library that can simplify many tasks without pulling in dozens of third-party libraries. Zoro is also a simple and pure Python module, so you do not need anything other than the Python interpreter installed on your system. This makes it not only easy to install, but also portable across platforms.

In fact, the zoro module itself does not hide any of the modules and functions it imports from the standard library, so you can from zoro import * to access them witout having to add many lines of imports. Further more, though its API, zoro tries to stay as close to bare Python as possible. After all, why invent a new language if there is already a good one (or ten).


Zoro is released under MIT license. See the source code for copyright and license.


You can install zoro frim PyPI as usual:

easy_install zoro


pip install zoro

Basic concept

Somewhat similar to GNU Make, zoro allows you to easily define build targets, and run various commands within them. This is achieved through the use of zoro.Make class. Let's take a look at a real-life example of such a class and discuss its usage.

#!/usr/bin/env python

from zoro import *

class Targets(Make):
    Build my project.

    def __init__(self):
        super(Targets, self).__init__()
        self._parser.add_options('-k', '--key', help='API key',

    def dev(self):
        """ start test runners, servers and compilers """
            run(node_local('lsc -cwbo static/js src/ls')),
            run('compass watch -c tools/compass.rb'),
            run(python('app/main'), env={'APPENV': 'development'}),

    def test(self, args, options):
        """ run unit tests """
            watch(python('tools/run_tests'), '.', '*.py'),

    def build(self):
        """ prepares the project for deployment """
        copytree('app', 'build/app')
        copytree('static', 'build/static')
        patch('build/app/conf.py', lambda s: self._patch_key(s))
        cleanup('build', '*.pyc')
        run(python('tools/cachebust build/app/templates'), wait=True)

    def _patch_key(self, s):
        key = self._options.k.api_key
        if key is None:
            err('No API key specified', 1)
        return re.sub(r"API_KEY='[^']+'", "API_KEY='%s'" % key, s)

if __name__ == '__main__':

This file is usually saved as 'zorofile' in the project's root directory. The shebang line at the top of the file allows us to run this file without explicitly naming the interpreter (on Linux and UNIX systems at least). On Windows we also include a 'zorofile.cmd' file to go with it. The contents of the file may look like this:

@echo off
python zorofile %*

Now we can start calling the zorofile directly.

Importing zoro functions

Normally, when using zoro, we import everything from zoro module with:

from zoro import *

This pulls in not only the functions and classes defined by zoro itself, but also anything and evertyhing zoro itself imports. This includes (among other things, the os module, sys, time, platform, shlex, datetime, etc). For a full listing of what's imported, you should look at the source code.

Targets class

The next thing we notice is the Targets class. It's a subclass of the zoro.Make class, and we use it to house all our build targets, as well as any utility methods we might need.

The constructor

The constructor of the zoro.Make class builds a parser object (created by optparse module). The parser is used to define and parse command line arguments passed to our zorofile. In our subclass, we augment the default parser with a new option '-k', which we will use to pass a production API key during the build process.

Parsed positional arguments and options are stored as _args and _options instance attributes respectively and can be access by all instance methods.

Targets and utilities

Let's cover the utility methods first. In our example, we have one utility method which replaces the API key in our configuration module. The reason we made it an instance method instead of a function defined outside the class is that this way we have access to all properties on the class, including the _options attribute mentioned in the previous section.

The reason utility methods are prefixed with an underscore is that methods without a leading underscore will be treated as build targets.

You will also note that we are using the re module without explicitly importing it. We can do that because it is already imported in the zoro module.

Apart from the constructor and the utility method, there are also three build targets: 'dev', 'test', and 'build'. All three targets are normal Python methods. They have docstrings of which the first lines are used in help message when the zorofile is run with the '-l' switch.

The 'dev' target is used when we want to develop the application. It facilitates live compilation of LiveScript and Compass code and runs our application's built-in development server. This is achieved by using the zoro.run() function.

The zoro.run() function executes commands asyncrhonously by default. This means that the function itself returns before the command exits. This is convenient because the commands in the 'dev' target will run indefinitely until they receive a keyboard interrupt.

The first command is passed to zoro.node_local() function. This function constructs the correct path for the locally installed NodeJS_ dependencies. The actual command to run is dependent on the platform we are on, and this function also takes care of ironing out the differences.

Third command is a python script, so we are passing it to zoro.python() function, which prepends 'python' and appends the '.py' extension. You will also notice that the third command uses an env keyword argument to the zoro.run() function. This allows us to override or add envionrment variables specifically for that command.

All three commands in the 'dev' target are wrapped in zoro.wait_for_interrupt() call. This function takes child process objects or watchdog observers as positional arguments, and terminates them all when the zorofile receives a keyboard interrupt. Because zoro.run() returns a child process object for the command it executes, we can pass its return value directly to zoro.wait_for_interrupt().

The second target, 'test', looks very similar to the 'dev' target, but it runs its command using zoro.watch() instead of zoro.run(). The zoro.watch() function takes three arguments. The first one is the same as zoro.run(). The second argument is a path that should be monitored for changes and the last argument is a glob pattern to use as a filter. Whenever a file or directory under the monitored path, matching the specified glob pattern, is modified, the command is executed. This allows us to rerun our tests whenever we modify a Python module.

Finally, the 'build' target creates a 'build' directory and prepares the code for deployment. It uses the shutil.copytree() function to copy the directories into the target directory, calls zoro.patch() to patch the configuration file with the help from the utility method, and uses zoro.cleanup() to remove unneeded files.

Running the targets

To run the targets, we need to call the instance of our Targets class. This is done in an if block so that it is only run when the zorofile is called directly.

API documentation

There is no separate API documentation, but you will find the source code to be well-documented. The code is less than 700 lines with inline documentation, so you should just dig in. You will find examples for each function in the docstrings.

Reporting bugs

Please report any bugs to the project's BitBucket bugtracker.