django / docs / contenttypes.txt

The contenttypes framework

Django includes a "contenttypes" application that can track all of
the models installed in your Django-powered project, providing a
high-level, generic interface for working with your models.


At the heart of the contenttypes application is the ``ContentType``
model, which lives at
``django.contrib.contenttypes.models.ContentType``. Instances of
``ContentType`` represent and store information about the models
installed in your project, and new instances of ``ContentType`` are
automatically created whenever new models are installed.

Instances of ``ContentType`` have methods for returning the model
classes they represent and for querying objects from those models.
``ContentType`` also has a `custom manager`_ that adds methods for
working with ``ContentType`` and for obtaining instances of
``ContentType`` for a particular model.

Relations between your models and ``ContentType`` can also be used to
enable "generic" relationships between an instance of one of your
models and instances of any model you have installed.

.. _custom manager: ../model-api/#custom-managers

Installing the contenttypes framework

The contenttypes framework is included in the default
``INSTALLED_APPS`` list created by `` startproject``,
but if you've removed it or if you manually set up your
``INSTALLED_APPS`` list, you can enable it by adding
``'django.contrib.contenttypes'`` to your ``INSTALLED_APPS`` setting.

It's generally a good idea to have the contenttypes framework
installed; several of Django's other bundled applications require it:

    * The admin application uses it to log the history of each object
      added or changed through the admin interface.

    * Django's `authentication framework`_ uses it to tie user permissions
      to specific models.

    * Django's comments system (``django.contrib.comments``) uses it to
      "attach" comments to any installed model.

.. _authentication framework: ../authentication/

The ``ContentType`` model

Each instance of ``ContentType`` has three fields which, taken
together, uniquely describe an installed model:

        The name of the application the model is part of. This is taken from
        the ``app_label`` attribute of the model, and includes only the *last*
        part of the application's Python import path;
        "django.contrib.contenttypes", for example, becomes an ``app_label``
        of "contenttypes".

        The name of the model class.

        The human-readable name of the model. This is taken from
        `the verbose_name attribute`_ of the model.

Let's look at an example to see how this works. If you already have
the contenttypes application installed, and then add `the sites
application`_ to your ``INSTALLED_APPS`` setting and run ``
syncdb`` to install it, the model ``django.contrib.sites.models.Site``
will be installed into your database. Along with it a new instance
of ``ContentType`` will be created with the following values:

    * ``app_label`` will be set to ``'sites'`` (the last part of the Python
      path "django.contrib.sites").

    * ``model`` will be set to ``'site'``.

    * ``name`` will be set to ``'site'``.

.. _the verbose_name attribute: ../model-api/#verbose_name
.. _the sites application: ../sites/

Methods on ``ContentType`` instances

Each ``ContentType`` instance has methods that allow you to get from a
``ContentType`` instance to the model it represents, or to retrieve objects
from that model:

        Takes a set of valid `lookup arguments`_ for the model the
        ``ContentType`` represents, and does `a get() lookup`_ on that
        model, returning the corresponding object.

        Returns the model class represented by this ``ContentType``

For example, we could look up the ``ContentType`` for the ``User`` model::

    >>> from django.contrib.contenttypes.models import ContentType
    >>> user_type = ContentType.objects.get(app_label="auth", model="user")
    >>> user_type
    <ContentType: user>

And then use it to query for a particular ``User``, or to get access
to the ``User`` model class::

    >>> user_type.model_class()
    <class 'django.contrib.auth.models.User'>
    >>> user_type.get_object_for_this_type(username='Guido')
    <User: Guido>

Together, ``get_object_for_this_type`` and ``model_class`` enable two
extremely important use cases:

    1. Using these methods, you can write high-level generic code that
       performs queries on any installed model -- instead of importing and
       using a single specific model class, you can pass an ``app_label``
       and ``model`` into a ``ContentType`` lookup at runtime, and then
       work with the model class or retrieve objects from it.

    2. You can relate another model to ``ContentType`` as a way of tying
       instances of it to particular model classes, and use these methods
       to get access to those model classes.

Several of Django's bundled applications make use of the latter
technique. For example, `the permissions system`_ in Django's
authentication framework uses a ``Permission`` model with a foreign
key to ``ContentType``; this lets ``Permission`` represent concepts
like "can add blog entry" or "can delete news story".

.. _lookup arguments: ../db-api/#field-lookups
.. _a get() lookup: ../db-api/#get-kwargs
.. _the permissions system: ../authentication/#permissions

The ``ContentTypeManager``

``ContentType`` also has a custom manager, ``ContentTypeManager``,
which adds the following methods:

        Clears an internal cache used by ``ContentType`` to keep track of which
        models for which it has created ``ContentType`` instances. You probably
        won't ever need to call this method yourself; Django will call it
        automatically when it's needed.

        Takes either a model class or an instance of a model, and returns the
        ``ContentType`` instance representing that model.

The ``get_for_model`` method is especially useful when you know you
need to work with a ``ContentType`` but don't want to go to the
trouble of obtaining the model's metadata to perform a manual lookup::

    >>> from django.contrib.auth.models import User
    >>> user_type = ContentType.objects.get_for_model(User)
    >>> user_type
    <ContentType: user>

Generic relations

Adding a foreign key from one of your own models to ``ContentType``
allows your model to effectively tie itself to another model class, as
in the example of the ``Permission`` model above. But it's possible to
go one step further and use ``ContentType`` to enable truly generic
(sometimes called "polymorphic") relationships between models.

A simple example is a tagging system, which might look like this::

    from django.db import models
    from django.contrib.contenttypes.models import ContentType
    from django.contrib.contenttypes import generic

    class TaggedItem(models.Model):
        tag = models.SlugField()
        content_type = models.ForeignKey(ContentType)
        object_id = models.PositiveIntegerField()
        content_object = generic.GenericForeignKey('content_type', 'object_id')

        def __unicode__(self):
            return self.tag

A normal ``ForeignKey`` can only "point to" one other model, which
means that if the ``TaggedItem`` model used a ``ForeignKey`` it would have to
choose one and only one model to store tags for. The contenttypes
application provides a special field type --
``django.contrib.contenttypes.generic.GenericForeignKey`` -- which
works around this and allows the relationship to be with any
model. There are three parts to setting up a ``GenericForeignKey``:

    1. Give your model a ``ForeignKey`` to ``ContentType``.

    2. Give your model a field that can store a primary-key value from the
       models you'll be relating to. (For most models, this means an
       ``IntegerField`` or ``PositiveIntegerField``.)

       This field must be of the same type as the primary key of the models
       that will be involved in the generic relation. For example, if you use
       ``IntegerField``, you won't be able to form a generic relation with a
       model that uses a ``CharField`` as a primary key.

    3. Give your model a ``GenericForeignKey``, and pass it the names of
       the two fields described above. If these fields are named
       "content_type" and "object_id", you can omit this -- those are the
       default field names ``GenericForeignKey`` will look for.

This will enable an API similar to the one used for a normal ``ForeignKey``;
each ``TaggedItem`` will have a ``content_object`` field that returns the
object it's related to, and you can also assign to that field or use it when
creating a ``TaggedItem``::

    >>> from django.contrib.auth.models import User
    >>> guido = User.objects.get(username='Guido')
    >>> t = TaggedItem(content_object=guido, tag='bdfl')
    >>> t.content_object
    <User: Guido>

Reverse generic relations

If you know which models you'll be using most often, you can also add
a "reverse" generic relationship to enable an additional API. For example::

    class Bookmark(models.Model):
        url = models.URLField()
        tags = generic.GenericRelation(TaggedItem)

``Bookmark`` instances will each have a ``tags`` attribute, which can
be used to retrieve their associated ``TaggedItems``::

    >>> b = Bookmark(url='')
    >>> t1 = TaggedItem(content_object=b, tag='django')
    >>> t2 = TaggedItem(content_object=b, tag='python')
    >>> b.tags.all()
    [<TaggedItem: django>, <TaggedItem: python>]

If you don't add the reverse relationship, you can do the lookup manually::

    >>> b = Bookmark.objects.get(url='
    >>> bookmark_type = ContentType.objects.get_for_model(b)
    >>> TaggedItem.objects.filter(,
    [<TaggedItem: django>, <TaggedItem: python>]

Note that if you delete an object that has a ``GenericRelation``, any objects
which have a ``GenericForeignKey`` pointing at it will be deleted as well. In
the example above, this means that if a ``Bookmark`` object were deleted, any
``TaggedItem`` objects pointing at it would be deleted at the same time.