Django recipe: Add an auto-count field to your model

Nothing fancy here. A common thing I want to do with Django is publish an "object_list" generic view drawn out of a ForeignKey table that includes each object's total number of occurances.

In English: A list with counts. Like this page reporting the occurrence of different ages in our California's War Dead database.

There are easy enough way to gets this done in your views.py, or with a custom manager. And it's getting increasingly easy thanks the aggregates support that's making it's way into Django 1.1. But, just for the hell of it, I thought I'd throw up my simple solution for these situations. It ain't the only way. But I think it's pretty easy.

So, without any further whatnot, here is Ben's approximation of an auto-count field. The code is a simplification of my freshly published pluggable app, django-correx, which you can now download from Google Code or github.

First, in your models.py make two models with a foreign key relationship. (I'm going to keep the example very bare bones, simply for the purpose of demonstration. If you want to see my full file, check it out here.)

from django.db import models

class ChangeType(models.Model):
  name = models.CharField(max_length=20)

class Change(models.Model):
  description = models.TextField()
  change_type = models.ForeignKey(ChangeType)
  pub_date = models.DateTimeField()
  is_public = models.BooleanField(default=False)

Okay. So that's a start. The goal here is to add the auto-count field to ChangeType and have it regularly update itself with the total number of associated changes that have been set for publication.

What I like to do is add a simple IntegerField that can't be futzed with from the admin, and then attach a method that make the join to the parent table and retrieves the current count. Like so:

class ChangeType(models.Model):
  name = models.CharField(max_length=20)
  change_count = models.IntegerField(default=0, editable=False)

  def count_changes(self):
    """
    Counts the total number of live changes of this type and saves the result to the `change_count` field.
    """
    count = self.change_set.filter(is_public=True).count()
    self.change_count = count
    self.save()

Now all you need to do is regularly schedule the counts. That's where Django's cool signal dispatcher comes in. With a small amount of code, you can instruct your project to loop through the ChangeType table and run our new count_changes method every time there's a change to the Change table. And here's how.

First make a new signals.py file in your app directory that looks something like this:

from django.db.models import signals
from django.dispatch import dispatcher

def count_changes(sender, instance, signal, *args, **kwargs):
  """
  Runs through all the change types and adds up their current numbers
  """
  from correx.models import ChangeType
  for change_type in ChangeType.objects.all():
    change_type.count_changes()

Then roll back to your models.py and rig up the signals to the post-save and post-delete hooks built into the system.

from django.db import models
from django.db.models import signals
from correx.signals import count_changes

class ChangeType(models.Model):
  name = models.CharField(max_length=20)
  change_count = models.IntegerField(default=0, editable=False)

  def count_changes(self):
    """
    Counts the total number of live changes of this type and saves the result to the `change_count` field.
    """
    count = self.change_set.filter(is_public=True).count()
    self.change_count = count
    self.save()

class Change(models.Model):
  description = models.TextField()
  change_type = models.ForeignKey(ChangeType)
  pub_date = models.DateTimeField()
  is_public = models.BooleanField(default=False)

# Rerun the totals for each ChangeType whenever a Change is saved or deleted.
signals.post_save.connect(count_changes, sender=Change)
signals.post_delete.connect(count_changes, sender=Change)

And that should do it. Go into your admin and add a couple changes and see if it works.

I love to use this sort of setup so that I can stick with a generic view snippet in my urls.py and avoid having to make joins across tables on simple list pages.

I've been cutting and pasting pretty loose here. So let me know if something doesn't add up. Hope this can be useful to somebody. And, per usual, let me know where I screwed up and we'll sort it out. Thanks.

This is a post made on , 8 years, 7 months ago.

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