This document explains JuliaBase for the programmer who wants to adapt it to their institute, research department, or scientific group. It contains an overview of the process as a whole, and refers to other pages with the details. We hope that it serves as a gentle tutorial which makes the adaption process as easy as possible. Feedback is welcomed!

For the adaption process, you should be familiar with several technologies:

  1. Python. You should have advanced experience in this language. This includes the standard library; you should at least know what it can do and how to find information about it.
  2. Django. You must have mastered the tutorial of the Django web framework.
  3. HTML. Basic knowledge should be enough.

Furthermode, some admin skills are necessary to get everything running.

Organizing your source code

It would be a bad idea to download JuliaBase’s source code and modify it directly to your needs because then, any JuliaBase update would destroy your changes. Instead, you make a structure according to this:

        {the original JuliaBase release}

Thus, follow these steps:

  1. Create the directory myproject/. (Don’t use Django’s startproject command here or in the following.)
  2. Copy a JuliaBase release to myproject/juliabase
  3. Copy the file myproject/juliabase/ to myproject/.
  4. Create myproject/mysite/
  5. Copy the files,, and from myproject/juliabase/ to myproject/mysite/
  6. Create an empty file myproject/mysite/
  7. Copy recursively the directory myproject/juliabase/institute to myproject/.


Adjust myproject/mysite/ to your needs. In particular, you probably have to change the default database username and password to what you used in the database setup (look for DATABASES). In addition, you might want to change the values of STATIC_ROOT and MEDIA_ROOT. For further information, take a look at the Settings reference.

Git subtree

If you’re using Git, you may consider using the subtree command to get JuliaBase in your repo: You structure your repository like above but without the juliabase subdirectory. Then, you say:

username@server:~/myproject$ git subtree add --prefix juliabase --squash \ v1.0

A new version is pulled into your repo with:

username@server:~/myproject$ git subtree pull --prefix juliabase --squash \ v2.0

Creating a new Django app

Okay, now let’s dive into the serious stuff.

You created your Django project, you added JuliaBase to it as explained in Organizing your source code. Furthermore, you set up everything as explained in Installation (Apache is not yet needed). Let’s try to get it running with

username@server:~/myproject$ ./ migrate
username@server:~/myproject$ ./ loaddata demo_accounts
username@server:~/myproject$ ./ collectstatic
username@server:~/myproject$ ./ runserver

This should make the site accessible locally at the URL

The institute app that is used is myproject/institute. For far, it is a 1:1 copy of the JuliaBase app of the same name. The plan is to transform it into what you need by pruning and modifying it. The primary tasks when adapting the app to your group or institution are:

  1. Branding.
  2. Adapting the “add new samples” page.
  3. Manage the physical processes.


For the time being, we will stay with the app name “institute” to keep the number of changes small. Remember that it is only the app name; you may re-brand the webpages to whatever you like. The central point of doing so is institute/templates/jb_base.html. There, you may change the name of the institution as well as its logo. The logo file should be placed in institute/static/institute/.

Moreover, every JuliaBase installation must have at least one department. It needs to be created only once and should be named appropriately.

The “add new samples” view

JuliaBase respects that creating new samples is a rather institute-specific procedure and therefore does not include a view for this. Instead, you must create one, but you may use the INM’s view in institute/views/samples/ as a comprehensive starting point (in particular, the function institute.views.samples.sample.add()).

In the INM, every sample starts its life with a substrate. This is a physical process that is always the very first one in the sample’s history. Therefore, the web page where you can add new samples also asks for the substrate data, and creates the samples together with their substrates. You may or may not wish to have substrates, too.

The second big issue is sample names. Most institutions have quite idiosyncratic ideas about the sample naming policy. But JuliaBase is very flexible regarding this, see Sample names. In the “add new samples” view, you may let the user input (a pattern for) the new samples right away, or you may give the names totally automatically. Or, you may do it similarly to the INM: Let the user decide between some options, and possibly redirect to a bulk-rename view after having added the samples with provisional names.

Physical processes

Physical processes are the thing that a JuliaBase programmer will spend most of its time on. They represent everything physically available in your institution: Measurement setups, deposition setups, clean room processes, chemical treatment, etc.

The INM app “institute” ships with some examples. You may convert them to what you need, but you can also remove them. For the latter, visit institute/ and have a look at the following part (at the bottom):

pattern_generator = PatternGenerator(urlpatterns, "institute.views.samples")
pattern_generator.deposition("ClusterToolDeposition", views={"add", "edit"})
pattern_generator.deposition("FiveChamberDeposition", "5-chamber_depositions")
pattern_generator.physical_process("PDSMeasurement", "number")
pattern_generator.physical_process("Substrate", views={"edit"})
pattern_generator.physical_process("Structuring", views={"edit"})

Here, you can simply remove a line and the process is gone. Well, not entirely: You still need to remove its views module, templates, and models in order to have everything neat and clean. But removing the URL is enough for the moment.

Adding a new process module

So you want to add a new measurement device or manufacturing process to your JuliaBase installation. You do so by adding new models, views, URLs, and possibly an electronic lab notebook to your app “institute”.

I will show how to do that step-by-step. In this example case, we write the code for layer thickness measurements.


The following steps are necessary for creating a physical process:

  1. Create a database model in institute/
  2. Create links in
  3. Create a view module in samples/views/. Fill the view module with an “EditView” class.
  4. Create an “edit” and a “show” template in templates/.
  5. (Optional) Create an electronic lab notebook.
  6. (Optional) Create support for the new process in the Remote Client.
  7. (Optional) Import legacy data.

In general, you will not do all of this from scratch. Instead, you will copy-and-paste from an already existing process which is as similar to the new one as possible.

Creating the database models

A “database model” or simply a “model” is a class in the Python code which represents a table in the database. It defines which things need to be stored for every thickness measurement. Since a model is a very Django-specific construction, see the Django model documentation for the details.

Let us assume that your thickness measurements need two fields: The measured thickness and the method that was used to measure the thickness. For the method, you want to give the user the choice between five pre-set methods.

Thus, add the following code to your

class ThicknessMeasurement(PhysicalProcess):

    class Method(models.TextChoices):
        PROFILERS_EDGE = "profilers&edge", _("profilers + edge")
        ELLIPSOMETER = "ellipsometer", _("ellipsometer")
        CALCULATED = "calculated", _("calculated from deposition parameters")
        ESTIMATE = "estimate", _("estimate")
        OTHER = "other", _("other")

    thickness = models.DecimalField(_("layer thickness"), max_digits=6,
                                    decimal_places=2, help_text=_("in nm"))
    method = models.CharField(_("measurement method"), max_length=30,
                              choices=Method.choices, default=Method.PROFILERS_EDGE)

The first part defines the five choices – note that it defines pairs of strings, namely the internal name, which will be written to the hard disk, and the descriptive name, which will be shown to the user. The descriptive name is enclosed by _(...) to make it translatable to various languages.

Try to be as restrictive as is sensible when defining your models. In particular, mark only those fields as optional that are really optional, set minimal and maximal values for numeric fields where applicable, and restrict the number of digits for decimal fields. This not only forces users to enter plausible values, it also helps debugging.

Schema migration

After you add (or change) database models, you must to a so-called schema migration. This means that the tables in the database PostgreSQL are actually changed, so that Django can use this new structure (a.k.a. schema).

It is a good idea to test a schema migration first on a test server.

The schema migration is created and applied by saying:

./ makemigrations institute
./ migrate institute

The first line will create a new file in institute/migrations/. It should be added to your repository.

Creating the URLs

This work is done in institute/, and it is fairly simple. For the thickness measurement, you add:


See the methods of the class PatternGenerator for further details.

Take care that the namespace of the URL patterns has the same name as your institute app! One way to do that is to say

app_name = "institute"

at the beginning of institute/

Creating the view

Typically, the view is the most complex task when creating a new kind of process. The Python file containing it must be called, thus in the current example, It contains two parts:

  1. The form(s).
  2. The class EditView function. This is mandatory.

The form

For such a simple process class, this is simple:

class LayerThicknessForm(samples.utils.views.ProcessForm):
    class Meta:
        model = LayerThicknessMeasurement
        fields = "__all__"

View class

You only need to create a view class for editing, which can also be used to adding. (The display of an existing process is handled by JuliaBase.) This view function must be defined like this:

class EditView(ProcessView):
    form_class = LayerThicknessForm

For such a simple process like layer thickness measurement, that’s it! For more complex processes, you may have to define further form classes, or do additional validation in an is_referentially_valid() method in the view class. For the full API reference, see Class-based views. For more examples, see the view modules of the institute app in JuliaBase’s source distribution.

Creating the templates

You need two templates per process, one that is called edit_process_name.html and the other that is called show_process_name.html. Copy them from the process which is most closely related to the one you’re editing and apply the necessary modifications. Put them into the directory institute/templates/samples/.

A more complex example: Writing a deposition module

I will show how to write a module for a deposition system by creating an example module step-by-step. The crucial difference to the simple measurement process from above is that depositions consist of layers, and there can be arbitrarily many of them. Every process class that needs some sort of sub-model is more complicated, as explained in the following.

The models

A deposition system typically needs two models: One for the deposition data and one for the layer data. The layer data will carry much more fields than the deposition, and it will contain a pointer to the deposition it belongs to. This way, deposition and layers are kept together. This pointer is represented by a “foreign key” field.

The deposition model is derived from Deposition, which in turn is a Process:

class FiveChamberDeposition(samples.models.Deposition):
    class Meta(samples.models.PhysicalProcess.Meta):
        permissions = generate_permissions(
            {"add", "change", "view_every", "edit_permissions"}, "FiveChamberDeposition")

It contains a full set of permissions to limit “add” and “edit” access to certain users. Moreover the view_every makes a lab notebook possible. See Model permissions for further information.

In contrast, the layer model is derived from Layer, which in turn is an ordinary Django model (not a Process):

class FiveChamberLayer(samples.models.Layer):

    class Layer(models.TextChoices):

    class Chamber(models.TextChoices):

    deposition = models.ForeignKey(FiveChamberDeposition, models.CASCADE,
        related_name="layers", verbose_name=_("deposition"))
    layer_type = models.CharField(
        _("layer type"), max_length=2, choices=Layer.choices, blank=True)
    chamber = models.CharField(_("chamber"), max_length=2, choices=Chamber.choices)
    sih4 = model_fields.DecimalQuantityField(
        "SiH4", max_digits=7, decimal_places=3, unit="sccm", null=True, blank=True)
    h2 = model_fields.DecimalQuantityField(
        "H₂", max_digits=7, decimal_places=3, unit="sccm", null=True, blank=True)
    temperature_1 = model_fields.DecimalQuantityField(
        _("temperature 1"), max_digits=7, decimal_places=3, unit="℃", null=True, blank=True)
    temperature_2 = model_fields.DecimalQuantityField(
        _("temperature 2"), max_digits=7, decimal_places=3, unit="℃", null=True, blank=True)

    class Meta(samples.models.Layer.Meta):
        unique_together = ("deposition", "number")

The most important thing here is the deposition field which points to the deposition this layer belongs to. It forms part of a unique_together declaration. The other fields are ordinary data fields.

Populating user context

In order to enable users to duplicate existing depositions, you should override get_context_for_user() method in the deposition model:

def get_context_for_user(self, user, old_context):
    context = old_context.copy()
    if permissions.has_permission_to_add_physical_process(user, self.__class__):
        context["duplicate_url"] = "{0}?copy_from={1}".format(
        context["duplicate_url"] = None
    return super().get_context_for_user(user, context)

This method is used when the HTML for a process (in this case a deposition) is created. Its return value is a dictionary which is combined with the dictionary sent to the show_process_class.html template. This way, additional program logic can be used to generate the HTML. In case of depositions, a “duplicate” button can be added, depending on the user’s permissions.

The view

In the view module which must be called, the main form gets additional cleaning methods:

class DepositionForm(samples.utils.views.DepositionForm):

    class Meta:
        model = institute.models.FiveChamberDeposition
        fields = "__all__"

    def clean_number(self):
        number = super().clean_number()
        return form_utils.clean_deposition_number_field(number, "S")

    def clean(self):
        cleaned_data = super().clean()
        if "number" in cleaned_data and "timestamp" in cleaned_data:
            if cleaned_data["number"][:2] != cleaned_data["timestamp"].strftime("%y"):
                self.add_error("number", ValidationError(
                    _("The first two digits must match the year of the deposition."),
        return cleaned_data

The view class must override get_next_id() because the ID of a deposition (its number) is non-numberical in the INM:

class EditView(RemoveFromMySamplesMixin, DepositionView):
    form_class = DepositionForm
    layer_form_class = LayerForm

    def get_next_id(self):
        return institute.utils.base.get_next_deposition_number("S")

The lab notebook

There are two things to set up for electronic lab notebooks: The URL and the template.

Adding the URL for depositions is trivial as the method samples.utils.urls.PatternGenerator.deposition() by default also creates a lab notebook URL:

pattern_generator.deposition("FiveChamberDeposition", "5-chamber_depositions")

For normal processes, you need to request the lab notebook URL explicitly:

                                   views={"add", "edit", "lab_notebook"})

Finally, you need to create a template called lab_notebook_process_class.html. It contains the processes to be displayed in a lab notebook table in the context variable processes.

Process glossary


Anything that contains information about a sample. This can be a process in the literal meaning of the word, i.e. a deposition, an etching, a clean room process etc. It can also be a measurement or a result. However, even the substrate, sample split, and sample death are considered processes in JuliaBase.

It may have been better to call this “history item” or just “item” instead of “process”. The name “process” is due to merely historical reasons, but there we go.

A special kind of process which contains a single measurement. It belongs to the class of physical processes.
physical process
A deposition or a measurement process. Its speciality is that only people with the right permission for a certain physical process are allowed to add and edit physical processes.
A result – or result process, as it is sometimes called in the source code – is a special process which contains only a remark, a picture, or a table with result values.