The Django Book

Appendix B: Model Definition Reference

Chapter 5 explains the basics of defining models, and we use them throughout the rest of the book. There is, however, a huge range of model options available not covered elsewhere. This appendix explains each possible model definition option.

Note that although these APIs are considered very stable, the Django developers consistently add new shortcuts and conveniences to the model definition. It’s a good idea to always check the latest documentation online at


The most important part of a model — and the only required part of a model — is the list of database fields it defines.

Field Name Restrictions

Django places only two restrictions on model field names:

  1. A field name cannot be a Python reserved word, because that would result in a Python syntax error, for example:

    class Example(models.Model):
        pass = models.IntegerField() # 'pass' is a reserved word!
  2. A field name cannot contain more than one underscore in a row, due to the way Django’s query lookup syntax works, for example:

    class Example(models.Model):
        foo__bar = models.IntegerField() # 'foo__bar' has two underscores!

These limitations can be worked around, though, because your field name doesn’t necessarily have to match your database column name. See “db_column”, below. below.

SQL reserved words, such as join, where, or select, are allowed as model field names, because Django escapes all database table names and column names in every underlying SQL query. It uses the quoting syntax of your particular database engine.

Each field in your model should be an instance of the appropriate Field class. Django uses the field class types to determine a few things:

  • The database column type (e.g., INTEGER, VARCHAR).
  • The widget to use in Django’s admin interface, if you care to use it (e.g., <input type="text">, <select>).
  • The minimal validation requirements, which are used in Django’s admin interface.

A complete list of field classes follows, sorted alphabetically. Note that relationship fields (ForeignKey, etc.) are handled in the next section.


An IntegerField that automatically increments according to available IDs. You usually won’t need to use this directly; a primary key field will automatically be added to your model if you don’t specify otherwise.


A true/false field.


A string field, for small- to large-sized strings. For large amounts of text, use TextField.

CharField has an extra required argument, maxlength, which is the maximum length (in characters) of the field. This maximum length is enforced at the database level and in Django’s validation.


A field of integers separated by commas. As in CharField, the maxlength argument is required.


A date field. DateField has a few extra optional arguments, as shown in Table B-1.

Table B-1. Extra DateField Options
Argument Description
auto_now Automatically sets the field to now every time the object is saved. It’s useful for “last-modified” timestamps. Note that the current date is always used; it’s not just a default value that you can override.
auto_now_add Automatically sets the field to now when the object is first created. It’s useful for creation of timestamps. Note that the current date is always used; it’s not just a default value that you can override.


A date and time field. It takes the same extra options as DateField.


A CharField that checks that the value is a valid email address. This doesn’t accept maxlength; its maxlength is automatically set to 75.


A file-upload field. It has one required argument, as shown in Table B-3.

Table B-2. Extra FileField Option
Argument Description
upload_to A local filesystem path that will be appended to your MEDIA_ROOT setting to determine the output of the get_<fieldname>_url() helper function

This path may contain strftime formatting (see, which will be replaced by the date/time of the file upload (so that uploaded files don’t fill up the given directory).

Using a FileField or an ImageField in a model takes a few steps:

  1. In your settings file, you’ll need to define MEDIA_ROOT as the full path to a directory where you’d like Django to store uploaded files. (For performance, these files are not stored in the database.) Define MEDIA_URL as the base public URL of that directory. Make sure that this directory is writable by the Web server’s user account.
  2. Add the FileField or ImageField to your model, making sure to define the upload_to option to tell Django to which subdirectory of MEDIA_ROOT it should upload files.
  3. All that will be stored in your database is a path to the file (relative to MEDIA_ROOT). You’ll most likely want to use the convenience get_<fieldname>_url function provided by Django. For example, if your ImageField is called mug_shot, you can get the absolute URL to your image in a template with {{ object.get_mug_shot_url }}.

For example, say your MEDIA_ROOT is set to '/home/media', and upload_to is set to 'photos/%Y/%m/%d'. The '%Y/%m/%d' part of upload_to is strftime formatting; '%Y' is the four-digit year, '%m' is the two-digit month, and '%d' is the two-digit day. If you upload a file on January 15, 2007, it will be saved in the directory /home/media/photos/2007/01/15.

If you want to retrieve the upload file’s on-disk file name, or a URL that refers to that file, or the file’s size, you can use the get_FIELD_filename(), get_FIELD_url(), and get_FIELD_size() methods. See Appendix C for a complete explanation of these methods.


Whenever you deal with uploaded files, you should pay close attention to where you’re uploading them and what type of files they are, to avoid security holes. Validate all uploaded files so that you’re sure the files are what you think they are.

For example, if you blindly let somebody upload files, without validation, to a directory that’s within your Web server’s document root, then somebody could upload a CGI or PHP script and execute that script by visiting its URL on your site. Don’t let that happen!


A field whose choices are limited to the file names in a certain directory on the filesystem. It has three special arguments, as shown in Table B-4.

Table B-3. Extra FilePathField Options
Argument Description
path Required; the absolute filesystem path to a directory from which this FilePathField should get its choices (e.g., "/home/images").
match Optional; a regular expression, as a string, that FilePathField will use to filter file names. Note that the regex will be applied to the base file name, not the full path (e.g., "foo.*\.txt^", which will match a file called foo23.txt, but not bar.txt or foo23.gif).
recursive Optional; either True or False. The default is False. It specifies whether all subdirectories of path should be included.

Of course, these arguments can be used together.

The one potential gotcha is that match applies to the base file name, not the full path. So, this example:

FilePathField(path="/home/images", match="foo.*", recursive=True)

will match /home/images/foo.gif but not /home/images/foo/bar.gif because the match applies to the base file name (foo.gif and bar.gif).


A floating-pint number, represented in Python by a float instance. It has two required arguments, as shown in Table B-2.

Table B-4. Extra FloatField Options
Argument Description
max_digits The maximum number of digits allowed in the number
decimal_places The number of decimal places to store with the number

For example, to store numbers up to 999 with a resolution of two decimal places, you’d use the following:

models.FloatField(..., max_digits=5, decimal_places=2)

And to store numbers up to approximately 1 billion with a resolution of ten decimal places, you would use this:

models.FloatField(..., max_digits=19, decimal_places=10)


Like FileField, but validates that the uploaded object is a valid image. It has two extra optional arguments, height_field and width_field, which, if set, will be autopopulated with the height and width of the image each time a model instance is saved.

In addition to the special get_FIELD_* methods that are available for FileField, an ImageField also has get_FIELD_height() and get_FIELD_width() methods. These are documented in Appendix C.

ImageField requires the Python Imaging Library (


An integer.


An IP address, in string format (e.g., "").


Like a BooleanField, but allows None/NULL as one of the options. Use this instead of a BooleanField with null=True.


A CharField that checks that the value is a valid U.S.-style phone number (in the format XXX-XXX-XXXX).


If you need to represent a phone number from another country, check the django.contrib.localflavor package to see if field definitions for your country are included.


Like an IntegerField, but must be positive.


Like a PositiveIntegerField, but only allows values under a certain point. The maximum value allowed by these fields is database dependent, but since databases have a 2-byte small integer field, the maximum positive small integer is usually 65,535.


“Slug” is a newspaper term. A slug is a short label for something, containing only letters, numbers, underscores, or hyphens. They’re generally used in URLs.

Like a CharField, you can specify maxlength. If maxlength is not specified, Django will use a default length of 50.

A SlugField implies db_index=True since slugs are primarily used for database lookups.

SlugField accepts an extra option, prepopulate_from, which is a list of fields from which to autopopulate the slug, via JavaScript, in the object’s admin form:

models.SlugField(prepopulate_fpom=("pre_name", "name"))

prepopulate_from doesn’t accept DateTimeField names as arguments.


Like an IntegerField, but only allows values in a certain database-dependent range (usually -32,768 to +32,767).


An unlimited-length text field.


A time of day. It accepts the same autopopulation options as DateField and DateTimeField.


A field for a URL. If the verify_exists option is True (the default), the URL given will be checked for existence (i.e., the URL actually loads and doesn’t give a 404 response).

Like other character fields, URLField takes the maxlength argument. If you don’t specify maxlength, a default of 200 is used.


A two-letter U.S. state abbreviation.


If you need to represent other countries or states, look first in the django.contrib.localflavor package to see if Django already includes fields for your locale.


A TextField that checks that the value is valid XML that matches a given schema. It takes one required argument, schema_path, which is the filesystem path to a RELAX NG ( schema against which to validate the field.

Requires jing ( to validate the XML.

Universal Field Options

The following arguments are available to all field types. All are optional.


If True, Django will store empty values as NULL in the database. The default is False.

Note that empty string values will always get stored as empty strings, not as NULL. Only use null=True for nonstring fields such as integers, Booleans, and dates. For both types of fields, you will also need to set blank=True if you wish to permit empty values in forms, as the null parameter only affects database storage (see the following section, titled “blank”).

Avoid using null on string-based fields such as CharField and TextField unless you have an excellent reason. If a string-based field has null=True, that means it has two possible values for “no data”: NULL and the empty string. In most cases, it’s redundant to have two possible values for “no data”; Django’s convention is to use the empty string, not NULL.


If True, the field is allowed to be blank. The default is False.

Note that this is different from null. null is purely database related, whereas blank is validation related. If a field has blank=True, validation on Django’s admin site will allow entry of an empty value. If a field has blank=False, the field will be required.


An iterable (e.g., a list, tuple, or other iterable Python object) of two tuples to use as choices for this field.

If this is given, Django’s admin interface will use a select box instead of the standard text field and will limit choices to the choices given.

A choices list looks like this:

    ('FR', 'Freshman'),
    ('SO', 'Sophomore'),
    ('JR', 'Junior'),
    ('SR', 'Senior'),
    ('GR', 'Graduate'),

The first element in each tuple is the actual value to be stored. The second element is the human-readable name for the option.

The choices list can be defined either as part of your model class:

class Foo(models.Model):
        ('M', 'Male'),
        ('F', 'Female'),
    gender = models.CharField(maxlength=1, choices=GENDER_CHOICES)

or outside your model class altogether:

    ('M', 'Male'),
    ('F', 'Female'),
class Foo(models.Model):
    gender = models.CharField(maxlength=1, choices=GENDER_CHOICES)

For each model field that has choices set, Django will add a method to retrieve the human-readable name for the field’s current value. See Appendix C for more details.


The name of the database column to use for this field. If this isn’t given, Django will use the field’s name. This is useful when you’re defining a model around a database that already exists.

If your database column name is an SQL reserved word, or if it contains characters that aren’t allowed in Python variable names (notably the hyphen), that’s OK. Django quotes column and table names behind the scenes.


If True, Django will create a database index on this column when creating the table (i.e., when running syncdb). ta default ––-

The default value for the field.


If False, the field will not be editable in the admin interface or via form processing. The default is True.


Extra “help” text to be displayed under the field on the object’s admin form. It’s useful for documentation even if your object doesn’t have an admin form.


If True, this field is the primary key for the model.

If you don’t specify primary_key=True for any fields in your model, Django will automatically add this field:

id = models.AutoField('ID', primary_key=True)

Thus, you don’t need to set primary_key=True on any of your fields unless you want to override the default primary-key behavior.

primary_key=True implies blank=False, null=False, and unique=True. Only one primary key is allowed on an object.


By default, Django’s admin uses a select-box interface (<select>) for fields that are ForeignKey or have choices set. If radio_admin is set to True, Django will use a radio-button interface instead.

Don’t use this for a field unless it’s a ForeignKey or has choices set.


If True, the value for this field must be unique throughout the table.


Set to the name of a DateField or DateTimeField to require that this field be unique for the value of the date field, for example:

class Story(models.Model):
    pub_date = models.DateTimeField()
    slug = models.SlugField(unique_for_date="pub_date")

In the preceding code, Django won’t allow the creation of two stories with the same slug published on the same date. This differs from using a unique_together constraint in that only the date of the pub_date field is taken into account; the time doesn’t matter.


Like unique_for_date, but requires the field to be unique with respect to the month of the given field.


Like unique_for_date and unique_for_month, but for an entire year.


Each field type, except for ForeignKey, ManyToManyField, and OneToOneField, takes an optional first positional argument — a verbose name. If the verbose name isn’t given, Django will automatically create it using the field’s attribute name, converting underscores to spaces.

In this example, the verbose name is "Person's first name":

first_name = models.CharField("Person's first name", maxlength=30)

In this example, the verbose name is "first name":

first_name = models.CharField(maxlength=30)

ForeignKey, ManyToManyField, and OneToOneField require the first argument to be a model class, so use the verbose_name keyword argument:

poll = models.ForeignKey(Poll, verbose_name="the related poll")
sites = models.ManyToManyField(Site, verbose_name="list of sites")
place = models.OneToOneField(Place, verbose_name="related place")

The convention is not to capitalize the first letter of the verbose_name. Django will automatically capitalize the first letter where it needs to.


Clearly, the power of relational databases lies in relating tables to each other. Django offers ways to define the three most common types of database relationships: many-to-one, many-to-many, and one-to-one.

However, the semantics of one-to-one relationships are being revisited as this book goes to print, so they’re not covered in this section. Check the online documentation for the latest information.

Many-to-One Relationships

To define a many-to-one relationship, use ForeignKey. You use it just like any other Field type: by including it as a class attribute of your model.

ForeignKey requires a positional argument: the class to which the model is related.

For example, if a Car model has a Manufacturer — that is, a Manufacturer makes multiple cars but each Car only has one Manufacturer — use the following definitions:

class Manufacturer(models.Model):

class Car(models.Model):
    manufacturer = models.ForeignKey(Manufacturer)

To create a recursive relationship — an object that has a many-to-one relationship with itself — use models.ForeignKey('self'):

class Employee(models.Model):
    manager = models.ForeignKey('self')

If you need to create a relationship on a model that has not yet been defined, you can use the name of the model, rather than the model object itself:

class Car(models.Model):
    manufacturer = models.ForeignKey('Manufacturer')

class Manufacturer(models.Model):

Note, however, that you can only use strings to refer to models in the same file — you cannot use a string to reference a model in a different application, or to reference a model that has been imported from elsewhere.

Behind the scenes, Django appends "_id" to the field name to create its database column name. In the preceding example, the database table for the Car model will have a manufacturer_id column. (You can change this explicitly by specifying db_column; see the earlier “db_column” section.) However, your code should never have to deal with the database column name, unless you write custom SQL. You’ll always deal with the field names of your model object.

It’s suggested, but not required, that the name of a ForeignKey field (manufacturer in the example) be the name of the model, in lowercase letters. You can, of course, call the field whatever you want, for example:

class Car(models.Model):
    company_that_makes_it = models.ForeignKey(Manufacturer)
    # ...

ForeignKey fields take a number of extra arguments for defining how the relationship should work (see Table B-5). All are optional.

Table B-5. ForeignKey Options
Argument Description
edit_inline If not False, this related object is edited “inline” on the related object’s page. This means that the object will not have its own admin interface. Use either models.TABULAR or models.STACKED, which, respectively, designate whether the inline-editable objects are displayed as a table or as a “stack” of fieldsets.

A dictionary of lookup arguments and values (see Appendix C) that limit the available admin choices for this object. Use this with functions from the Python datetime module to limit choices of objects by date. For example, the following:

limit_choices_to = {'pub_date__lte':}

only allows the choice of related objects with a pub_date before the current date/time to be chosen.

Instead of a dictionary, this can be a Q object (see Appendix C) for more complex queries.

This is not compatible with edit_inline.


For inline-edited objects, this is the maximum number of related objects to display in the admin interface. Thus, if a pizza could have only up to ten toppings, max_num_in_admin=10 would ensure that a user never enters more than ten toppings.

Note that this doesn’t ensure more than ten related toppings ever get created. It simply controls the admin interface; it doesn’t enforce things at the Python API level or database level.

min_num_in_admin The minimum number of related objects displayed in the admin interface. Normally, at the creation stage, num_in_admin inline objects are shown, and at the edit stage, num_extra_on_change blank objects are shown in addition to all pre-existing related objects. However, no fewer than min_num_in_admin related objects will ever be displayed.
num_extra_on_change The number of extra blank related-object fields to show at the change stage.
num_in_admin The default number of inline objects to display on the object page at the add stage.

Only display a field for the integer to be entered instead of a drop-down menu. This is useful when related to an object type that will have too many rows to make a select box practical.

This is not used with edit_inline.

related_name The name to use for the relation from the related object back to this one. See Appendix C for more information.
to_field The field on the related object that the relation is to. By default, Django uses the primary key of the related object.

Many-to-Many Relationships

To define a many-to-many relationship, use ManyToManyField. Like ForeignKey, ManyToManyField requires a positional argument: the class to which the model is related.

For example, if a Pizza has multiple Topping objects — that is, a Topping can be on multiple pizzas and each Pizza has multiple toppings — here’s how you’d represent that:

class Topping(models.Model):

class Pizza(models.Model):
    toppings = models.ManyToManyField(Topping)

As with ForeignKey, a relationship to self can be defined by using the string 'self' instead of the model name, and you can refer to as-yet undefined models by using a string containing the model name. However, you can only use strings to refer to models in the same file — you cannot use a string to reference a model in a different application, or to reference a model that has been imported from elsewhere.

It’s suggested, but not required, that the name of a ManyToManyField (toppings in the example) be a plural term describing the set of related model objects.

Behind the scenes, Django creates an intermediary join table to represent the many-to-many relationship.

It doesn’t matter which model gets the ManyToManyField, but you need it in only one of the models — not in both.

If you’re using the admin interface, ManyToManyField instances should go in the object that’s going to be edited in the admin interface. In the preceding example, toppings is in Pizza (rather than Topping having a pizzas ManyToManyField ) because it’s more natural to think about a Pizza having toppings than a topping being on multiple pizzas. The way it’s set up in the example, the Pizza admin form would let users select the toppings.

ManyToManyField objects take a number of extra arguments for defining how the relationship should work (see Table B-6). All are optional.

Table B-6. ManyToManyField Options
Argument Description
related_name The name to use for the relation from the related object back to this one. See Appendix C for more information.
filter_interface Use a nifty, unobtrusive JavaScript “filter” interface instead of the usability-challenged <select multiple> in the admin form for this object. The value should be models.HORIZONTAL or models.VERTICAL (i.e., should the interface be stacked horizontally or vertically).
limit_choices_to See the description under ForeignKey.

Only used in the definition of ManyToManyField on self. Consider the following model:

class Person(models.Model):
    friends = models.ManyToManyField("self")

When Django processes this model, it identifies that it has a ManyToManyField on itself, and as a result, it doesn’t add a person_set attribute to the Person class. Instead, the ManyToManyField is assumed to be symmetrical — that is, if I am your friend, then you are my friend.

If you do not want symmetry in ManyToMany relationships with self, set symmetrical to False. This will force Django to add the descriptor for the reverse relationship, allowing ManyToMany relationships to be nonsymmetrical.

db_table The name of the table to create for storing the many-to-many data. If this is not provided, Django will assume a default name based upon the names of the two tables being joined.

Model Metadata Options

Model-specific metadata lives in a class Meta defined in the body of your model class:

class Book(models.Model):
    title = models.CharField(maxlength=100)

    class Meta:
        # model metadata options go here

Model metadata is “anything that’s not a field,” such as ordering options and so forth.

The sections that follow present a list of all possible Meta options. No options are required. Adding class Meta to a model is completely optional.


The name of the database table to use for the model.

To save you time, Django automatically derives the name of the database table from the name of your model class and the application that contains it. A model’s database table name is constructed by joining the model’s “app label” — the name you used in startapp — to the model’s class name, with an underscore between them.

For example, if you have an application books (as created by startapp books), a model defined as class Book will have a database table named books.

To override the database table name, use the db_table parameter in class Meta:

class Book(models.Model):

    class Meta:
        db_table = 'things_to_read'

If this isn’t given, Django will use app_label + '_' + model_class_name. See the section “Table Names” for more information.

If your database table name is an SQL reserved word, or it contains characters that aren’t allowed in Python variable names (notably the hyphen), that’s OK. Django quotes column and table names behind the scenes.


The name of a DateField or DateTimeField in the model. This specifies the default field to use in your model Manager‘s latest() method.

Here’s an example:

class CustomerOrder(models.Model):
    order_date = models.DateTimeField()

    class Meta:
        get_latest_by = "order_date"

See Appendix C for more information on the latest() method.


Marks this object as “orderable” with respect to the given field. This is almost always used with related objects to allow them to be ordered with respect to a parent object. For example, if an Answer relates to a Question object, and a question has more than one answer, and the order of answers matters, you’d do this:

class Answer(models.Model):
    question = models.ForeignKey(Question)
    # ...

    class Meta:
        order_with_respect_to = 'question'


The default ordering for the object, for use when obtaining lists of objects:

class Book(models.Model):
    title = models.CharField(maxlength=100)

    class Meta:
        ordering = ['title']

This is a tuple or list of strings. Each string is a field name with an optional - prefix, which indicates descending order. Fields without a leading - will be ordered ascending. Use the string "?" to order randomly.

For example, to order by a title field in ascending order (i.e., A-Z), use this:

ordering = ['title']

To order by title in descending order (i.e., Z-A), use this:

ordering = ['-title']

To order by title in descending order, and then by title in ascending order, use this:

ordering = ['-title', 'author']

Note that, regardless of how many fields are in ordering, the admin site uses only the first field.


Extra permissions to enter into the permissions table when creating this object. Add, delete, and change permissions are automatically created for each object that has admin set. This example specifies an extra permission, can_deliver_pizzas:

class Employee(models.Model):

    class Meta:
        permissions = (
            ("can_deliver_pizzas", "Can deliver pizzas"),

This is a list or tuple of two tuples in the format (permission_code, human_readable_permission_name).

See Chapter 12 for more on permissions.


Sets of field names that, taken together, must be unique:

class Employee(models.Model):
    department = models.ForeignKey(Department)
    extension = models.CharField(maxlength=10)

    class Meta:
        unique_together = [("department", "extension")]

This is a list of lists of fields that must be unique when considered together. It’s used in the Django admin interface and is enforced at the database level (i.e., the appropriate UNIQUE statements are included in the CREATE TABLE statement).


A human-readable name for the object, singular:

class CustomerOrder(models.Model):
    order_date = models.DateTimeField()

    class Meta:
        verbose_name = "order"

If this isn’t given, Django will use a adapted version of the class name in which CamelCase becomes camel case.


The plural name for the object:

class Sphynx(models.Model):

    class Meta:
        verbose_name_plural = "sphynges"

If this isn’t given, Django will add an “s” to the verbose_name.


A Manager is the interface through which database query operations are provided to Django models. At least one Manager exists for every model in a Django application.

The way Manager classes work is documented in Appendix C. This section specifically touches on model options that customize Manager behavior.

Manager Names

By default, Django adds a Manager with the name objects to every Django model class. However, if you want to use objects as a field name, or if you want to use a name other than objects for the Manager, you can rename it on a per-model basis. To rename the Manager for a given class, define a class attribute of type models.Manager() on that model, for example:

from django.db import models

class Person(models.Model):

    people = models.Manager()

Using this example model, Person.objects will generate an AttributeError exception (since Person doesn’t have a objects attribute), but Person.people.all() will provide a list of all Person objects.

Custom Managers

You can use a custom Manager in a particular model by extending the base Manager class and instantiating your custom Manager in your model.

There are two reasons you might want to customize a Manager: to add extra Manager methods, and/or to modify the initial QuerySet the Manager returns.

Adding Extra Manager Methods

Adding extra Manager methods is the preferred way to add “table-level” functionality to your models. (For “row-level” functionality — that is, functions that act on a single instance of a model object — use model methods (see below), not custom Manager methods.)

A custom Manager method can return anything you want. It doesn’t have to return a QuerySet.

For example, this custom Manager offers a method with_counts(), which returns a list of all OpinionPoll objects, each with an extra num_responses attribute that is the result of an aggregate query:

from django.db import connection

class PollManager(models.Manager):

    def with_counts(self):
        cursor = connection.cursor()
            SELECT, p.question, p.poll_date, COUNT(*)
            FROM polls_opinionpoll p, polls_response r
            WHERE = r.poll_id
            GROUP BY 1, 2, 3
            ORDER BY 3 DESC""")
        result_list = []
        for row in cursor.fetchall():
            p = self.model(id=row[0], question=row[1], poll_date=row[2])
            p.num_responses = row[3]
        return result_list

class OpinionPoll(models.Model):
    question = models.CharField(maxlength=200)
    poll_date = models.DateField()
    objects = PollManager()

class Response(models.Model):
    poll = models.ForeignKey(Poll)
    person_name = models.CharField(maxlength=50)
    response = models.TextField()

With this example, you’d use OpinionPoll.objects.with_counts() to return that list of OpinionPoll objects with num_responses attributes.

Another thing to note about this example is that Manager methods can access self.model to get the model class to which they’re attached.

Modifying Initial Manager QuerySets

A Manager‘s base QuerySet returns all objects in the system. For example, using this model:

class Book(models.Model):
    title = models.CharField(maxlength=100)
    author = models.CharField(maxlength=50)

the statement Book.objects.all() will return all books in the database.

You can override the base QuerySet by overriding the Manager.get_query_set() method. get_query_set() should return a QuerySet with the properties you require.

For example, the following model has two managers — one that returns all objects, and one that returns only the books by Roald Dahl:

# First, define the Manager subclass.
class DahlBookManager(models.Manager):
    def get_query_set(self):
        return super(DahlBookManager, self).get_query_set().filter(author='Roald Dahl')

# Then hook it into the Book model explicitly.
class Book(models.Model):
    title = models.CharField(maxlength=100)
    author = models.CharField(maxlength=50)

    objects = models.Manager() # The default manager.
    dahl_objects = DahlBookManager() # The Dahl-specific manager.

With this sample model, Book.objects.all() will return all books in the database, but Book.dahl_objects.all() will return only the ones written by Roald Dahl.

Of course, because get_query_set() returns a QuerySet object, you can use filter(), exclude(), and all the other QuerySet methods on it. So these statements are all legal:


This example also points out another interesting technique: using multiple managers on the same model. You can attach as many Manager() instances to a model as you’d like. This is an easy way to define common “filters” for your models. Here’s an example:

class MaleManager(models.Manager):
    def get_query_set(self):
        return super(MaleManager, self).get_query_set().filter(sex='M')

class FemaleManager(models.Manager):
    def get_query_set(self):
        return super(FemaleManager, self).get_query_set().filter(sex='F')

class Person(models.Model):
    first_name = models.CharField(maxlength=50)
    last_name = models.CharField(maxlength=50)
    sex = models.CharField(maxlength=1, choices=(('M', 'Male'), ('F', 'Female')))
    people = models.Manager()
    men = MaleManager()
    women = FemaleManager()

This example allows you to request, Person.women.all(), and Person.people.all(), yielding predictable results.

If you use custom Manager objects, take note that the first Manager Django encounters (in order by which they’re defined in the model) has a special status. Django interprets the first Manager defined in a class as the “default” Manager. Certain operations — such as Django’s admin site — use the default Manager to obtain lists of objects, so it’s generally a good idea for the first Manager to be relatively unfiltered. In the last example, the people Manager is defined first — so it’s the default Manager.

Model Methods

Define custom methods on a model to add custom “row-level” functionality to your objects. Whereas Manager methods are intended to do “tablewide” things, model methods should act on a particular model instance.

This is a valuable technique for keeping business logic in one place: the model. For example, this model has a few custom methods:

class Person(models.Model):
    first_name = models.CharField(maxlength=50)
    last_name = models.CharField(maxlength=50)
    birth_date = models.DateField()
    address = models.CharField(maxlength=100)
    city = models.CharField(maxlength=50)
    state = models.USStateField() # Yes, this is America-centric...

    def baby_boomer_status(self):
        """Returns the person's baby-boomer status."""
        import datetime
        if, 8, 1) <= self.birth_date <=, 12, 31):
            return "Baby boomer"
        if self.birth_date <, 8, 1):
            return "Pre-boomer"
        return "Post-boomer"

    def is_midwestern(self):
        """Returns True if this person is from the Midwest."""
        return self.state in ('IL', 'WI', 'MI', 'IN', 'OH', 'IA', 'MO')

    def full_name(self):
        """Returns the person's full name."""
        return '%s %s' % (self.first_name, self.last_name)

The last method in this example is a property — an attribute implemented by custom getter/setter user code. Properties are a nifty trick added to Python 2.2; you can read more about them at

There are also a handful of model methods that have “special” meaning to Python or Django. These methods are described in the sections that follow.


__str__() is a Python “magic method” that defines what should be returned if you call str() on the object. Django uses str(obj) (or the related function, unicode(obj), described shortly) in a number of places, most notably as the value displayed to render an object in the Django admin site and as the value inserted into a template when it displays an object. Thus, you should always return a nice, human-readable string for the object’s __str__. Although this isn’t required, it’s strongly encouraged.

Here’s an example:

class Person(models.Model):
    first_name = models.CharField(maxlength=50)
    last_name = models.CharField(maxlength=50)

    def __str__(self):
        return '%s %s' % (self.first_name, self.last_name)


Define a get_absolute_url() method to tell Django how to calculate the URL for an object, for example:

def get_absolute_url(self):
    return "/people/%i/" %

Django uses this in its admin interface. If an object defines get_absolute_url(), the object-editing page will have a “View on site” link that will take you directly to the object’s public view, according to get_absolute_url().

Also, a couple of other bits of Django, such as the syndication-feed framework, use get_absolute_url() as a convenience to reward people who’ve defined the method.

It’s good practice to use get_absolute_url() in templates, instead of hard-coding your objects’ URLs. For example, this template code is bad:

<a href="/people/{{ }}/">{{ }}</a>

But this template code is good:

<a href="{{ object.get_absolute_url }}">{{ }}</a>

The problem with the way we just wrote get_absolute_url() is that it slightly violates the DRY principle: the URL for this object is defined both in the URLconf file and in the model.

You can further decouple your models from the URLconf using the permalink decorator. This decorator is passed the view function, a list of positional parameters, and (optionally) a dictionary of named parameters. Django then works out the correct full URL path using the URLconf, substituting the parameters you have given into the URL. For example, if your URLconf contained a line such as the following:

(r'^people/(\d+)/$', 'people.views.details'),

your model could have a get_absolute_url method that looked like this:

def get_absolute_url(self):
    return ('people.views.details', [str(])

Similarly, if you had a URLconf entry that looked like this:

(r'/archive/(?P<year>\d{4})/(?P<month>\d{1,2})/(?P<day>\d{1,2})/$', archive_view)

you could reference this using permalink() as follows:

def get_absolute_url(self):
    return ('archive_view', (), {
        'year': self.created.year,
        'month': self.created.month,

Notice that we specify an empty sequence for the second argument in this case, because we want to pass only keyword arguments, not named arguments.

In this way, you’re tying the model’s absolute URL to the view that is used to display it, without repeating the URL information anywhere. You can still use the get_absolute_url method in templates, as before.

Executing Custom SQL

Feel free to write custom SQL statements in custom model methods and module-level methods. The object django.db.connection represents the current database connection. To use it, call connection.cursor() to get a cursor object. Then, call cursor.execute(sql, [params]) to execute the SQL, and cursor.fetchone() or cursor.fetchall() to return the resulting rows:

def my_custom_sql(self):
    from django.db import connection
    cursor = connection.cursor()
    cursor.execute("SELECT foo FROM bar WHERE baz = %s", [self.baz])
    row = cursor.fetchone()
    return row

connection and cursor mostly implement the standard Python DB-API ( If you’re not familiar with the Python DB-API, note that the SQL statement in cursor.execute() uses placeholders, "%s", rather than adding parameters directly within the SQL. If you use this technique, the underlying database library will automatically add quotes and escaping to your parameter(s) as necessary. (Also note that Django expects the "%s" placeholder, not the "?" placeholder, which is used by the SQLite Python bindings. This is for the sake of consistency and sanity.)

A final note: If all you want to do is use a custom WHERE clause, you can just use the where, tables, and params arguments to the standard lookup API. See Appendix C.

Overriding Default Model Methods

As explained in Appendix C, each model gets a few methods automatically — most notably, save() and delete(). You can override these methods to alter behavior.

A classic use-case for overriding the built-in methods is if you want something to happen whenever you save an object, for example:

class Blog(models.Model):
    name = models.CharField(maxlength=100)
    tagline = models.TextField()

    def save(self):
        super(Blog, self).save() # Call the "real" save() method.

You can also prevent saving:

class Blog(models.Model):
    name = models.CharField(maxlength=100)
    tagline = models.TextField()

    def save(self):
        if == "Yoko Ono's blog":
            return # Yoko shall never have her own blog!
            super(Blog, self).save() # Call the "real" save() method

Admin Options

The Admin class tells Django how to display the model in the admin site.

The following sections present a list of all possible Admin options. None of these options is required. To use an admin interface without specifying any options, use pass, like so:

class Admin:

Adding class Admin to a model is completely optional.


Set date_hierarchy to the name of a DateField or DateTimeField in your model, and the change list page will include a date-based navigation using that field.

Here’s an example:

class CustomerOrder(models.Model):
    order_date = models.DateTimeField()

    class Admin:
        date_hierarchy = "order_date"


Set fields to control the layout of admin interface “add” and “change” pages.

fields is a pretty complex nested data structure best demonstrated with an example. The following is taken from the FlatPage model that’s part of django.contrib.flatpages:

class FlatPage(models.Model):

    class Admin:
        fields = (
            (None, {
                'fields': ('url', 'title', 'content', 'sites')
            ('Advanced options', {
                'classes': 'collapse',
                'fields' : ('enable_comments', 'registration_required', 'template_name')

Formally, fields is a list of two tuples, in which each two-tuple represents a <fieldset> on the admin form page. (A <fieldset> is a “section” of the form.)

The two-tuples are in the format (name, field_options), where name is a string representing the title of the fieldset and field_options is a dictionary of information about the fieldset, including a list of fields to be displayed in it.

If fields isn’t given, Django will default to displaying each field that isn’t an AutoField and has editable=True, in a single fieldset, in the same order as the fields are defined in the model.

The field_options dictionary can have the keys described in the sections that follow.


A tuple of field names to display in this fieldset. This key is required.

To display multiple fields on the same line, wrap those fields in their own tuple. In this example, the first_name and last_name fields will display on the same line:

'fields': (('first_name', 'last_name'), 'address', 'city', 'state'),

A string containing extra CSS classes to apply to the fieldset.

Apply multiple classes by separating them with spaces:

'classes': 'wide extrapretty',

Two useful classes defined by the default admin site stylesheet are collapse and wide. Fieldsets with the collapse style will be initially collapsed in the admin site and replaced with a small “click to expand” link. Fieldsets with the wide style will be given extra horizontal space.


A string of optional extra text to be displayed at the top of each fieldset, under the heading of the fieldset. It’s used verbatim, so you can use any HTML and you must escape any special HTML characters (such as ampersands) yourself.


A list of strings representing URLs of JavaScript files to link into the admin screen via <script src=""> tags. This can be used to tweak a given type of admin page in JavaScript or to provide “quick links” to fill in default values for certain fields.

If you use relative URLs — that is, URLs that don’t start with http:// or / — then the admin site will automatically prefix these links with settings.ADMIN_MEDIA_PREFIX.


Set list_display to control which fields are displayed on the change list page of the admin.

If you don’t set list_display, the admin site will display a single column that displays the __str__() representation of each object.

Here are a few special cases to note about list_display:

  • If the field is a ForeignKey, Django will display the __str__() of the related object.

  • ManyToManyField fields aren’t supported, because that would entail executing a separate SQL statement for each row in the table. If you want to do this nonetheless, give your model a custom method, and add that method’s name to list_display. (More information on custom methods in list_display shortly.)

  • If the field is a BooleanField or NullBooleanField, Django will display a pretty “on” or “off” icon instead of True or False.

  • If the string given is a method of the model, Django will call it and display the output. This method should have a short_description function attribute, for use as the header for the field.

    Here’s a full example model:

    class Person(models.Model):
        name = models.CharField(maxlength=50)
        birthday = models.DateField()
        class Admin:
            list_display = ('name', 'decade_born_in')
        def decade_born_in(self):
            return self.birthday.strftime('%Y')[:3] + "0's"
        decade_born_in.short_description = 'Birth decade'
  • If the string given is a method of the model, Django will HTML-escape the output by default. If you’d rather not escape the output of the method, give the method an allow_tags attribute whose value is True.

    Here’s a full example model:

    class Person(models.Model):
        first_name = models.CharField(maxlength=50)
        last_name = models.CharField(maxlength=50)
        color_code = models.CharField(maxlength=6)
        class Admin:
            list_display = ('first_name', 'last_name', 'colored_name')
        def colored_name(self):
            return '<span style="color: #%s;">%s %s</span>' % (self.color_code, self.first_name, self.last_name)
        colored_name.allow_tags = True
  • If the string given is a method of the model that returns True or False, Django will display a pretty “on” or “off” icon if you give the method a boolean attribute whose value is True.

    Here’s a full example model:

    class Person(models.Model):
        first_name = models.CharField(maxlength=50)
        birthday = models.DateField()
        class Admin:
            list_display = ('name', 'born_in_fifties')
        def born_in_fifties(self):
            return self.birthday.strftime('%Y')[:3] == 5
        born_in_fifties.boolean = True
  • The __str__() methods are just as valid in list_display as any other model method, so it’s perfectly OK to do this:

    list_display = ('__str__', 'some_other_field')
  • Usually, elements of list_display that aren’t actual database fields can’t be used in sorting (because Django does all the sorting at the database level).

    However, if an element of list_display represents a certain database field, you can indicate this fact by setting the admin_order_field attribute of the item, for example:

    class Person(models.Model):
        first_name = models.CharField(maxlength=50)
        color_code = models.CharField(maxlength=6)
        class Admin:
            list_display = ('first_name', 'colored_first_name')
        def colored_first_name(self):
            return '<span style="color: #%s;">%s</span>' % (self.color_code, self.first_name)
        colored_first_name.allow_tags = True
        colored_first_name.admin_order_field = 'first_name'

    The preceding code will tell Django to order by the first_name field when trying to sort by colored_first_name in the admin site.


Set list_filter to activate filters in the right sidebar of the change list page of the admin interface. This should be a list of field names, and each specified field should be either a BooleanField, DateField, DateTimeField, or ForeignKey.

This example, taken from the django.contrib.auth.models.User model, shows how both list_display and list_filter work:

class User(models.Model):

    class Admin:
        list_display = ('username', 'email', 'first_name', 'last_name', 'is_staff')
        list_filter = ('is_staff', 'is_superuser')


Set list_per_page to control how many items appear on each paginated admin change list page. By default, this is set to 100.


Set ordering to specify how objects on the admin change list page should be ordered. This should be a list or tuple in the same format as a model’s ordering parameter.

If this isn’t provided, the Django admin interface will use the model’s default ordering.


Set save_as to True to enable a “save as” feature on admin change forms.

Normally, objects have three save options: “Save,” “Save and continue editing,” and “Save and add another.” If save_as is True, “Save and add another” will be replaced by a “Save as” button.

“Save as” means the object will be saved as a new object (with a new ID), rather than the old object.

By default, save_as is set to False.


Set save_on_top to add save buttons across the top of your admin change forms.

Normally, the save buttons appear only at the bottom of the forms. If you set save_on_top, the buttons will appear both on the top and the bottom.

By default, save_on_top is set to False.


Set search_fields to enable a search box on the admin change list page. This should be set to a list of field names that will be searched whenever somebody submits a search query in that text box.

These fields should be some kind of text field, such as CharField or TextField. You can also perform a related lookup on a ForeignKey with the lookup API “follow” notation:

class Employee(models.Model):
    department = models.ForeignKey(Department)

    class Admin:
        search_fields = ['department__name']

When somebody does a search in the admin search box, Django splits the search query into words and returns all objects that contain each of the words, case insensitive, where each word must be in at least one of search_fields. For example, if search_fields is set to ['first_name', 'last_name'] and a user searches for john lennon, Django will do the equivalent of this SQL WHERE clause:

WHERE (first_name ILIKE '%john%' OR last_name ILIKE '%john%')
AND (first_name ILIKE '%lennon%' OR last_name ILIKE '%lennon%')

For faster and/or more restrictive searches, prefix the field name with an operator, as shown in Table B-7.

Table B-7. Operators Allowed in search_fields
Operator Meaning

Matches the beginning of the field. For example, if search_fields is set to ['^first_name', '^last_name'], and a user searches for john lennon, Django will do the equivalent of this SQL WHERE clause:

WHERE (first_name ILIKE 'john%' OR last_name ILIKE 'john%')
AND (first_name ILIKE 'lennon%' OR last_name ILIKE 'lennon%')

This query is more efficient than the normal '%john%' query, because the database only needs to check the beginning of a column’s data, rather than seeking through the entire column’s data. Plus, if the column has an index on it, some databases may be able to use the index for this query, even though it’s a LIKE query.


Matches exactly, case-insensitive. For example, if search_fields is set to ['=first_name', '=last_name'] and a user searches for john lennon, Django will do the equivalent of this SQL WHERE clause:

WHERE (first_name ILIKE 'john' OR last_name ILIKE 'john')
AND (first_name ILIKE 'lennon' OR last_name ILIKE 'lennon')

Note that the query input is split by spaces, so, following this example, it’s currently not possible to search for all records in which first_name is exactly 'john winston' (containing a space).

@ Performs a full-text match. This is like the default search method, but it uses an index. Currently this is available only for MySQL.
Copyright 2006 Adrian Holovaty and Jacob Kaplan-Moss.
This work is licensed under the GNU Free Document License.
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