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About database models

Lino applications fully use Django's ORM. Every database table is described by a subclass of django.db.models.Model. Every row of a database table is represented in your Python code as an instance of that class.

The database models of an application are grouped into plugins (Django calls them "applications", but we prefer the word "plugin"), and they are always defined in a file named models.py. Here is the models.py file we are going to use in this tutorial:

from lino.api import dd
from django.db import models
from django.core.exceptions import ValidationError

class Author(dd.Model):
    first_name = models.CharField("First name", max_length=50)
    last_name = models.CharField("Last name", max_length=50)
    country = models.CharField("Country", max_length=50, blank=True)

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

class Book(dd.Model):
    author = dd.ForeignKey(Author, blank=True, null=True)
    title = models.CharField("Title", max_length=200)
    published = models.IntegerField(
        help_text="The year of publication")
    price = models.DecimalField("Price", decimal_places=2, max_digits=10)

    def full_clean(self):
        super(Book, self).full_clean()
        if self.published > 2000 and self.price < 5:
            price = dd.format_currency(self.price)
            msg = "A book from {} for only {}!".format(
                self.published, price)
            raise ValidationError(msg)

from .ui import *

This file is defined in the lino_book.projects.tables demo project. You can try the code snippets on this page from within a Django shell in that project:

$ go tables
$ python manage.py shell

This is a tested document. The following instructions are used for initialization:

>>> from lino import startup
>>> startup('lino_book.projects.tables.settings')
>>> from django.conf import settings

Accessing the database

We import our two models:

>>> from lino_book.projects.tables.models import Author, Book

Every Model has a class attribute objects which is used for operations that access the database.

For example you can count how many authors are stored in our database.

>>> Author.objects.count()

Or you can loop over them:

>>> for a in Author.objects.all():
...     print(a)
Adams, Douglas
Camus, Albert
Huttner, Hannes

You can create a new author by saying:

>>> obj = Author(first_name="Joe", last_name="Doe")

That row is not yet stored in the database, but you can already use it. For example you can access the individual fields:

>>> print(obj.first_name)
>>> print(obj.last_name)

For example it has a __str__() method:

>>> print(obj)
Doe, Joe

You can change the value of a field:

>>> obj.last_name = "Woe"
>>> print(obj)
Woe, Joe

In order to store our object to the database, we call its save() method:

>>> obj.full_clean()  # see later
>>> obj.save()

Our database now knows a new author, Joe Woe:

>>> Author.objects.count()
>>> for a in Author.objects.all():
...     print(a)
Adams, Douglas
Camus, Albert
Huttner, Hannes
Woe, Joe

The all() method of the objects of a Model returns what Django calls a queryset.


A volatile Python object that describes an SQL SELECT statement.

When you have a queryset object, you can see the SQL that it would generate in order to retrieve data from the database server:

>>> qs = Author.objects.all()
>>> print(qs.query)
SELECT "tables_author"."id", "tables_author"."first_name", "tables_author"."last_name", "tables_author"."country" FROM "tables_author"
>>> qs = Author.objects.filter(first_name="Joe")
>>> print(qs.query)
SELECT "tables_author"."id", "tables_author"."first_name", "tables_author"."last_name", "tables_author"."country" FROM "tables_author" WHERE "tables_author"."first_name" = Joe
>>> qs.count()
>>> qs
<QuerySet [Author #4 ('Woe, Joe')]>

Before going on we tidy up by removing Joe Woe from our demo database:

>>> obj.delete()
>>> Author.objects.count()

Validating data

You should always call the full_clean() method of an object before actually calling its save() method. Django does not do this automatically because they wanted to leave this decision to the developer.

For example, we did not specify that the last_name of an author may be empty. So Django will complain if we try to create an author without last_name:

>>> author = Author(first_name="Joe")
>>> author.full_clean() 
Traceback (most recent call last):
ValidationError: {'last_name': [u'This field cannot be blank.']}

Note that Django complains only when we call full_clean() (not already when instantiating the model).

Note that the country field is declared with blank=True, so this field is optional.

The ValidationError is a special kind of exception, which contains a dictionary that can contain one error message for every field. In the Book model we have three mandatory fields: the title, the price and the year of publication (published). Giving only a title is not enough:

>>> book = Book(title="Foo")
>>> book.full_clean() 
Traceback (most recent call last):
ValidationError: {'price': [u'This field cannot be null.'], 'published': [u'This field cannot be null.']}

The Book model also shows how you can define custom validation rules that may depend on complex conditions which involve more than one field.

>>> book = Book(title="Foo", published=2001, price='4.2')
>>> book.full_clean() 
Traceback (most recent call last):
ValidationError: [u'A book from 2001 for only $4.20!']

More about Django models

Tim Kholod wrote a nice introduction for beginners: The simple way to understand Django models

If you want to know more about Django's way to access the database using models, read the Django documentation about Models and databases.

Lino extends the Django model

Lino adds a series of features to Django's Model class. In a Lino application you will define your models as subclasses of lino.core.model.Model (usually referred as dd.Model), which is a subclass of Django's django.db.models.Model class.

When a Lino application imports plain Django Model classes, Lino will "extend" these by adding the attributes and methods defined here to these classes.

Standard virtual fields

Lino adds some virtual fields that you can use in your layouts:

class lino.core.model.Model

A multi-paragraph representation of this database row.

in a customizable series of paragraphs.

Customizable using get_overview_elems().

A simple text representation of this database row as a clickable link that opens the detail window.

This is a htmlbox. We don't recommend to override this field directly.


A virtual field that displays the current workflow state and a list of available workflow actions for this row.


A virtual field that displays the navigation panel for this row. This may be included in a detail layout, usually either on the left or the right side with full height.

Field-specific customization hooks

You can optionally define some field-specific customization hooks. FOO in this section is the name of a database field defined on the same model (or on a parent).

class lino.core.model.Model

Called when field FOO of an instance of this model has been modified through the user interface.


def city_changed(self, ar):
    print("User {} changed city of {} to {}!".format(
        ar.get_user(), self, self.city))

Note: If you want to know the old value when reacting to a change, consider writing Model.after_ui_save() instead.


Return a queryset or list of allowed choices for field FOO.

For every field named "FOO", if the model has a method called "FOO_choices" (which must be decorated by dd.chooser()), then this method will be installed as a chooser for this field.

Example of a context-sensitive chooser method:

country = dd.ForeignKey(
    'countries.Country', blank=True, null=True)
city = dd.ForeignKey(
    'countries.City', blank=True, null=True)

def city_choices(cls,country):
    if country is not None:
        return country.place_set.order_by('name')
    return cls.city.field.remote_field.model.objects.order_by('name')

For every field named "FOO" for which a chooser exists, if the model also has a method called "create_FOO_choice", then this chooser will be a learning chooser. That is, users can enter text into the combobox, and Lino will create a new database object from it.

This works only if FOO is (1) a foreign key and (2) has a chooser. See also learning foreign key.

get_choices_text(self, request, actor, field)

Return the text to be displayed when an instance of this model is being used as a choice in a combobox of a ForeignKey field pointing to this model. request is the web request, actor is the requesting actor.

The default behaviour is to simply return str(self).

A usage example is lino_xl.lib.countries.Place.

disable_delete(self, ar=None)

Decide whether this database object may be deleted. Return None when there is no veto against deleting this database row, otherwise a translatable message that explains to the user why they can't delete this row.

The argument ar contains the action request that is trying to delete. ar is possibly None when this is being called from a script or batch process.

The default behaviour checks whether there are any related objects which would not get cascade-deleted and thus produce a database integrity error.

You can override this method e.g. for defining additional conditions. Example:

def disable_delete(self, ar=None):
    msg = super(MyModel, self).disable_delete(ar)
    if msg is not None:
        return msg
    if self.is_imported:
        return _("Cannot delete imported records.")

When overriding, be careful to not skip the super method unless you know what you want.

Note that lino.mixins.polymorphic.Polymorphic overrides this.

How your model behaves in regard to other models:

Customize what happens when an instance is created:

Some methods you will use but not override: