Django Models.



Django Models.


In my last article, I continued looking at the Django Web framework, showing how you can create and modify models. As you saw, Django expects you to describe your models using Python code. The model description is then transformed into SQL and compared with any previous version of the model that might have existed. Django then creates a "migration", a file that describes how you can move from one version of the model definition to the next. A migration is a fantastic tool, one that allows developers to move their database forward (and backward) in defined chunks. Migrations make it easier to collaborate with others and upgrade existing applications.
The thing is, migrations have little or nothing to do with the day-to-day application that you want to run. They are useful for the creation and maintenance of your application's models, but in your application, you're going to want to use the models themselves.
So in this article, I look at Django's ORM (object-relational mapper). You'll see how how Django allows you to perform all the traditional CRUD (create-read-update-delete) actions you need and expect within your application, so that you can use a database to power your Web application.
For the purposes of this article, I'll be using the "atfapp" application within the "atfapp" project that I created in last month's article. The model, of an appointment calendar, is defined as follows in atfapp/models.py:

class Appointment(models.Model):
    starts_at = models.DateTimeField()
    ends_at = models.DateTimeField()
    meeting_with = models.TextField()
    notes = models.TextField()
    minutes = models.TextField()
    def __str__(self):
        return "{} - {}: Meeting with {} 
           ↪({})".format(self.starts_at,
                                self.ends_at,
                                self.meeting_with,
                                self.notes)
As you can see, the above model has four fields, indicating when the meeting starts, ends, with whom you are meeting and notes for before the meeting starts. The first two fields are defined to be DateTime fields in Django, which is translated into an SQL TIMESTAMP time in the database.

Creating a New Appointment

The easiest and best way to get your hands dirty with Django models is to use the Django interactive shell—meaning, the Python interactive shell within the Django environment. Within your project, just type:

django-admin shell
and you'll be placed in the interactive Python interpreter—or if you have it installed, in IPython. At this point, you can start to interact with your project and its various applications. In order to work with your Appointment object, you need to import it. Thus, the first thing I do is write:

from atfapp.models import Appointment
This tells Django that I want to go into the "atfapp" package—and since Django applications are Python packages, this means the "atfapp" subdirectory—and then import the "Appointment" class from the models.py module.
The important thing to remember is that a Django model is just a Python class. The ORM magic occurs because your class inherits from models.Model and because of the class attributes that you use to define the columns in the database. The better you understand Python objects, the more comfortable you'll feel with Django models.
If you want to create a new appointment object, you can do what you normally would do with a Python object:

>>> a = Appointment()
Sure enough, if you ask "a" about itself, it'll tell you:

>>> type(a)
atfapp.models.Appointment
The first thing you might try to do is save your new appointment to the database. You can do this with the "save" method:

>>> a.save()
However, as you'll quickly discover if you try to do this, you get an exception—anIntegrityError, as the exception is named, which looks like this:

    IntegrityError: NOT NULL constraint failed:
atfapp_appointment.starts_at
Here, Django is mixing Python and SQL to tell you what went wrong. You defined your model such that it requires a starts_at column, which is translated into a NOT NULLconstraint within the database. Because you have not defined a starts_at value for your appointment object, your data cannot be stored in the database.
Indeed, if you simply get the printed representation of your object, you'll see that this is the case:

>>> a
<Appointment: None - None: Meeting with  ()>
The above output comes from the __str__ instance method, which you can see was defined above. The new object has None values for starts_atends_at and meeting_with. Note that you don't have None values for meeting_with and notes. That's because the former are defined as DateTimeField, whereas the latter are defined as TextField.
By default, Django models are defined such that their columns in the database are NOT NULL. This is a good thing, I think. NULL values cause all sorts of problems, and it's better to have to name them explicitly. If you want a field to allow NULL values, you need to pass thenull=True option, as in:

starts_at = models.DateTimeField(null=True)
However, I'm not interested in NULL values for starting and ending times. Thus, if you want to store your appointment, you'll need to supply some values. You can do that by assigning to the fields in question:

>>> from datetime import datetime
>>> a.starts_at = datetime.now()
>>> a.ends_at = datetime(2015, 4, 28, 6,43)
Once you've done that, you can save it:

>>> a.save()
Another way to create your model would be to pass the parameters at creation time:

>>> b = Appointment(starts_at=datetime.now(),
        ends_at=datetime.now(),
        meeting_with='VIP', notes='Do not be late')

Reading Your Appointment Back

Now that you have two appointments, let's try to read them back and see what you can do with them. Access to the objects you have created in the database is done through the "objects" attribute, known as a "manager" in Django. The "all" method on objects gives you all of your objects back:

>>> len(Appointment.objects.all())
2
You can use your column names as attributes on each object:

>>> for a in Appointment.objects.all():
    print "{}: {}".format(a.starts_at, a.notes)

2015-04-28 05:59:21.316011+00:00:
2015-04-28 07:14:07.872681+00:00: Do not be late
Appointment.objects.all() returns an object known in Django as a QuerySet. A QuerySet, as you can see above, is iterable. And, if you call len() on it, or even if you ask for its representation (for example, in the Python shell), you'll see it displayed as a list. So you might think that you're talking about a list here, which potentially means using a great deal of memory.


But, the Django development folks have been quite clever about things, and a QuerySet is actually an iterator—meaning that it tries as hard as possible not to retrieve a large number of records into memory at once, but to use "lazy loading" to wait until the information is truly needed. Indeed, just creating a QuerySet has no effect on the database; only when you actually try to use the QuerySet's objects does the query run.

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