Djangae Model Fields

ListField / SetField

These allows you to store a list/set of values (strings, floats, integers dates) in a single field. This is often useful when structuring data for a non-relational database. See example usage.

ListField(item_field, **kwargs)

  • item_field: An instance of a Django model field which defines the data type and validation for each item in the list.
  • ordering: A callable which allows the items in the list to be automatically sorted.

SetField(item_field, **kwargs)

  • item_field: An instance of a Django model field which defines the data type and validation for each item in the list.

Both fields also accept the following standard Django model field kwargs:

  • default: works as normal.
  • blank: works as normal.
  • null: this cannot be set to True. The App Engine Datastore does not allow us to differentiate between [] and None, so we stick with the former.
  • validators: works as normal, but note that it's important where you pass this argument; if you pass it to the ListField or SetField then the validators operate on the list/set as a whole, but if you pass it to the nested model field then the validators operate on each individual value.
  • choices: this works as normal, but should be passed to the nested model field, not to the ListField/SetField itself. In a form this results in a multiple select field.
  • unique: works as normal, but note that this relates to the uniqueness across different instances, not uniqueness within the list of values. If you just want to remove duplicates from the list of values in the field then use SetField; setting unique=True will check that no 2 objects contain any of the same values for this field.
  • editable: works as normal.
  • help_text: works as normal.
  • verbose_name: works as normal.
  • max_length: limits the number of items allowed in the list/set. Note that this is separate to any max_length that you might have on the nested item_field.

Both fields also accept the following additional kwargs:

  • min_length: Set the minimum number of items allowed in the list/set.

Djangae makes some effort to provide a sensible form field for ListField/SetField, but you may find that in some cases you need to customise or change this behaviour to suit your usage.

Querying ListField and SetField

Querying ListField and SetField is very similar to querying the PostgreSQL ArrayField which exists in recent Django versions.

There are a few custom lookups for ListField and SetField

Note: Before Djangae 0.9.7 the syntax of these lookups was different (isnull vs isempty, exact vs contains, in vs overlap)


The contains lookup is used when you want to return instances where the specified field contains a particular value:

>>> Post.objects.create(name="First", tags=["one", "two"])
>>> Post.objects.create(name="Second", tags=["two", "three"])

>>> Post.objects.filter(tags__contains="one")
>>> [<Post: First>]


The isempty lookup returns instances where the specified field has no entries:

>>> Post.objects.create(name="First", tags=["one", "two"])
>>> Post.objects.create(name="Second", tags=[])

>>> Post.objects.filter(tags__isempty=True)
>>> [<Post: Second>]


The overlap lookup returns instances where the specified field contains one or more of the passed values:

>>> Post.objects.create(name="First", tags=["one", "two"])
>>> Post.objects.create(name="Second", tags=["two", "three"])

>>> Post.objects.filter(tags__overlap=["one", "two"])
>>> [<Post: First>, <Post: Second>]
>>> Post.objects.filter(tags__overlap=["one"])
>>> [<Post: First>]


This is essentially a substitue for ManyToManyField, but which works on the non-relational App Engine Datastore. It works by storing a list of primary keys of the related objects. Think of it as a SetField with a layer of manager/query magic on top which allow you to create it much like a ManyToManyField. See example usage.

RelatedSetField(related_model, **kwargs)

  • model: the model of the related items.
  • limit_choices_to: a dictionary of query kwargs for limiting the possible related items.
  • related_name - the name of the reverse lookup attribute which is added to the model class of the related items.

The RelatedSetField also accepts most of the same kwargs as SetField.

The value of a RelatedSetField is a hybrid of a QuerySet and a set, and has the following methods:

  • add(obj) - takes a Django model instance and adds it to the set. The instance must be of the same type as the model argument of the RelatedSetField and must be saved.
  • remove(obj) - takes a Django model instances and removes it from the set. The instance must be of the same type as the model argument of the RelatedSetField and must be saved.
  • clear() - removes all values from the set.

Note that (unlike a ManyToManyField) you must call save() on the object for the effects of the above method calls to be saved to the database.

The value of a RelatedSetField also has all of the methods of a normal QuerySet such as .filter(), .get(), .update(), .delete() etc.

Additional Notes

  • If you delete any of the objects in the set (whether by calling .delete() on the field or by calling .delete() on objects individually), the IDs of the objects will still be stored in the field, even though they will never be returned (because they don't exist). You should remove them from the field using remove(obj) or clear().
  • You can access the underlying set which contains the IDs of the related objects. Similar to how a ForeignKey field stores its ID in a <field_name>_id attribute, the RelatedSetField stores the IDs in a <field_name>_ids attribute. You can access and manipulate this value manually. For example, if you want to add an object to the set and you know its ID but don't have the actual instance and don't want to fetch it from the DB, you can do my_obj.my_related_set_field_ids.add(new_id).
  • Because the RelatedSetField stores the IDs of objects, its queryset is immediately consistent, i.e. is unaffected by the Datastore's eventual consistency. For example, my_obj.my_related_set_field.filter(colour="blue") will always return the latest versions of those objects.


RelatedListField shares the same behavior as RelatedSetField but has the qualities of a list; it maintains the ordering of related objects and allows duplicates.

The field value still has the same add, remove and clear methods as the RelatedSetField, but the add method acts like append (because it's a list rather than a set).

The underlying <field_name>_ids attribute is a list.


This field allows you to store a counter which can be incremented/decremented at an extremely high rate without causing database contention. Given that the Datastore is not performant at doing count() queries, this is an excellent way of counting large numbers on the Datastore. See example usage.

It works by creating a set of CounterShard objects, each of which stores a count, and each time you call .increment() or .decrement() on the field it randomly picks one of its CounterShard objects to increment or decrement. When you call .value() on the field it sums the counts of all the shards to give you the total. The more shards you specify the higher the rate at which it can handle .increment()/.decrement() calls.

ShardedCounterField(shard_count=24, related_name="+", **kwargs)

  • shard_count: the number of CounterShard objects to use. The default number is deliberately set to allow all of the shards to be created (and the object to which they belong updated) in a single transaction. See the .populate() method below.
  • related_name: the name of the reverse relation lookup which is added to the CounterShard model. This is deliberately set to "+" to avoid the reverse lookup being set, as in most cases you will never need it and setting it gives you the problem of avoiding clashes when you have multiple ShardedCounterFields on the same model.

When you access the attribute of your sharded counter field on your model, you get a RelatedShardManager object, which has the following API:

  • .value(): Gives you the value of counter. This is immediately consistent (i.e. is not affected by the Datastore's eventual consistency behaviour).
  • .increment(step=1): Transactionally increment the counter by the given step.
    • If you have not yet called .populate() then this might also cause your model object to be re-saved, depending on whether or not it needs to create a new shard.
  • .decrement(step=1): Transactionally decrement the counter by the given step.
    • If you have not yet called .populate() then this might also cause your model object to be re-saved, depending on whether or not it needs to create a new shard.
  • .populate(): Creates all the shards that the counter will need.
    • This is useful if you want to ensure that additional saves to your model object are avoided when calling .increment() or .decrement(), as these saves may cause issues if you're doing things inside a transaction or at such a rate that they cause DB contention on your model object.
    • Note that this causes your model instance to be re-saved.
  • .reset(): Resets the counter to 0.
    • This is done by changing the value of the shards, not by deleting them. So you can continue to use your counter afterwards without having to call populate() again first.
  • .shard_count(): Gives the number of CounterShard objects which are being used to store the counter.

Callback function

If you want to perform some actions after a sharded counter was changed you can provide on_change argument with a function to call.

your_field = ShardedCounterField(on_change=your_callback_function)

The callback function takes two arguments: instance, step and optional is_reset, where instance is the instance of the object with the ShardedCounterField, step informs us how much the counter was changed and is_reset lets us know if the counter was reset.

def your_callback_function(instance, step, is_reset=False):

The function will be called every time you run increment, decrement and reset.

Additional notes:

  • Counts can be negative.
  • ShardedCounterField is a subclass of RelatedSetField, so in addition to the above API you also have the manager methods from RelatedSetField such as .filter(), etc. These probably aren't very useful though!
  • For convenience (or more likely, disaster recovery), each CounterShard has a label field which contains a reference to the model and field for which it is used in the format "db_table.field_name". So should you ever need to go and actually look at/alter the CounterShard objects, you can see which ones are used for what.


This is a replacement for Django's GenericForeignKey field, which doesn't use Django's contenttypes, and consequently it allows querying by the related object even on the non-relational Datastore. (Django's GenericForeignKey would cause a JOIN if you tried to do do that.)

This field requires no special kwargs, and should accept all standard Django field kwargs as normal.


This is a replacement for Django's CharField field. It uses the MaxBytesValidator validator that makes sure the value does not exceed the hard datastore limit of 1500 bytes (see google.appengine.api.datastore_types _MAX_STRING_LENGTH). Use this field whenever you're planning to store large char values in the datastore, else your data may get silently trimmed.


This field is not specific to the App Engine Datastore (or any non-relational database), but is included in Djangae for convenience, especially as in a non-relational database it's often useful to be able to store structured data in a single table rather than in a complex structure of related tables.

JSONField(use_ordered_dict=False, default=dict, **kwargs)

  • use_ordered_dict: (default: False). Tells the field to maintain the order of keys in the object by using collections.OrderedDict for the Python representation, rather than dict.
  • default: (default: dict). A callable which returns or creates the default value. E.g. dict or list. Do not use {} or [].

Note that if you want to edit JSONField values in the Django admin, you must set formfield_overrides on your ModelAdmin class. Otherwise converting to/from JSON will not happen correctly. E.g.:

from djangae.forms.fields import JSONWidget

class MyModelAdmin(admin.ModelAdmin):
    formfield_overrides = {
        JSONField: {'widget': JSONWidget(attrs={'class': 'vLargeTextField'})},

If a JSONField is set to blank=False, then any form submitted value must be a valid JSON object which is not empty (e.g. not {} or []) if a JSONField is nullable and blank=True then a None will be saved in the empty case. An empty string is not a valid value for a JSONField.


You can query JSONField contents using a similar format to the that used by Django's PostgreSQL JSONField. Only direct path lookups are implemented, so no contains, contained_by, has_key etc.

There are some limitations:

  • The only possible lookups are 'exact' lookups, or isnull
  • If a path contains an integer, it's assumed to be an integer index into a list (you can't query a key of "1" for example)
  • You can't query paths where the final part of the path is "isnull"... for obvious reasons
  • Paths must be added to djangaeidx.yaml (automatic after first use) and your entities must be resaved for the queries to return values


This field is not specific to the App Engine Datastore (or any non-relational database), but is included in Djangae for convenience.

Its primary use case is for when you want a boolean field which can only be set to true for one object. This is done by making use of the fact that Django (and most databases) ignore None values in unique constraints, so by having a field which can only store values of True or None and by setting the field to unique, you get a field which can only be True on one object.

Computed Fields

These fields allow you to have a value which is computed from other fields values when an instance is saved. This can be particularly useful with the Datastore where there are limitations to queries. For example, you can't do .filter(a__gte=x, b__gte=y), but if x and y are constant then you could add a computed field which stores a boolean value to indicate whether or not an object meets these criteria. So you could then do .filter(a_is_gte_x_and_b_is_gte_y=True).

Each computed field takes a single argument of a "computer" function. This function is called each time the model instance is saved with the model instance passed as a single argument. The value which the function returns is what is stored in the computed field.

Computed fields are:

  • ComputedCharField
  • ComputedTextField
  • ComputedIntegerField
  • ComputedPositiveIntegerField
  • ComputedBooleanField

Example Usages

from django.db import models
from djangae import fields

class KittenSanctuary(models.Model):

    is_best = fields.TrueOrNullField(unique=True)
    kittens = fields.RelatedSetField('Kitten')
    kitten_rota = fields.RelatedListField('Kitten')
    inspection_dates = fields.SetField(models.DateField())
    historic_weekly_kitten_count = fields.ListField(models.PositiveIntegerField())
    number_of_meows = fields.ShardedCounterField()
    current_staff_rota = fields.JSONField()
    number_of_meows_is_greater_than_sum_of_weekly_kitten_counts = ComputedBooleanField(
        lambda self: self.number_of_meows > sum(self.historic_weekly_kitten_count)

def new_kitten_arrival(sanctuary, kitten):

def log_inspection(sanctuary):

def log_meow(sanctuary):
    # Note that we don't need to save the object
    print sanctuary.number_of_meows.value()


This is a specialized computed field which is used so you can have correct alphabetical ordering of non-ASCII strings.

Note: use of this field requires the 'pyuca' package be installed


SQL databases (such as MySQL) use various 'collations' for determining how one string is ordered relative to another. The Datastore does not have this functionality. On the Datastore all strings are ordered by their unicode code point, which means that non-ASCII characters are always ordered after ASCII ones, and the ordering of unicode chars is not alphabetical.

This means that if you (for example) want to order users by their first name this would give the wrong result:


ComputedCollationField fixes this by calculating a suitable 'sort key' from the source value, you would then use the ComputedCollationField when specifying the order. For example:

from djangae.fields import CharField, ComputedCollationField

class User(models.Model):
    first_name = CharField() # This is the field you work with
    first_name_order = ComputedCollationField('first_name') # This is what you order by

User.objects.order_by("first_name_order") # Now correctly orders alphabetically