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Google App Engine: Setting Up

Developing with Google App Engine is an exercise in simplicity. All you have to do is create the application, test the application, and deploy it. Security, storing data, and scaling is managed by Google Cloud Platform. You don't have to worry about the details. Just add code and release your product into the wild. As simple as can be.

At least, this is simple in theory. In order to create web applications that are worthwhile, you'll need to be well acquainted with Google Cloud Platform, Google APIs, vendoring third party applications, and creating custom code atop a pre-built infrastructure.

In this guide, we'll go over the very basics of creating, testing, and deploying your very first web application through Google App Engine.

First things first. You'll need to make sure you have access to Google Cloud Platform. In order to do this, you'll need to register an account with GCP if you haven't already. Using their services are free up to a certain point, but you'll need to enter in your credit card information to proceed. So, queue up your card and register your email account to GCP.

After that, we'll need to set up a development environment. Let's assume you're using Python to develop on for simplicity. Make sure you've got version 2.7 of Python downloaded on your computer as the App Engine runs on this earlier version. You can check which version of Python is installed on your computer by entering the command python -V into the command prompt (or Terminal in Mac OS X).

Then download the Google Cloud SDK so you can begin developing in your local environment. To download the latest version of Google Cloud SDK simply click the download button and read the installation instruction.

For Mac, run curl | bash. Then run installation by entering ./google-cloud-sdk/

You'll be asked if you want to install the App Engine SDK, which you should most definitely agree to. Make sure to update your components with the command gcloud components update.

You're ready to begin developing with Google App Engine. With your local environment ready to go, all you need to do is add your custom code and help your app with configuration.

An App Engine app will have a couple of basic files. You'll have some static files and some files that help you deal with requests, and a configuration file or two that help structure everything.

One of the most important App Engine files is the app.yaml file. This file is located in the root directory and helps handle requests. In this file you'll specify application name, version, runtime environment, API version, and handlers and libraries. It uses the YAML format, which is just a markup language.

App.yaml Example

application: myapp

version: 1

runtime: python27

api_version: 1

threadsafe: yes


- url: .*

  script: main.application


- name: webapp2

  version: "2.5.2"

The other very important file in the root directory is This is the main part of the app. If the app.yaml file is the bones, then is the meat. It's a simple web application written in Python for our example.

To run the program with App Engine, you simply type the command followed by the name of your web app. So, <project-name>.


Setting up your development environment is a very important step toward application development. To really get moving, try various app quickstart guides and read Google Cloud Platform documentation.

Your idea for a quality web application may still be in its infant stages, but you don't have to do all the grueling work of developing and building an infrastructure yourself. Using a Platform as a Service (PaaS) like App Engine can help you make your web app a reality -- and guarantee some great performance too. Take the time to set up, pal around with your project files, and start coding your first test application or two.


About the Author

Ellie Martin is co-founder of Startup Change group. Her works have been featured on Yahoo!, Wisebread, AOL, among others. She currently splits her time between her home office in New York and Israel. You may connect with her on Twitter.

Published Monday, June 04, 2018 7:40 AM by David Marshall
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