Custom Fields in Django

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I was helping someone today in the Django IRC channel and the question came across about storing a denormalized data set in a single field. Typically I do such things by either serializing the data, or by separating the values with a token (comma for example).

Django has a built-in field type for CommaSeparatedIntegerField, but most of the time I’m storing strings, as I already have the integers available elsewhere. As I began to answer the person’s question by giving him an example of usage of serialization + custom properties, until I realized that it would be much easier to just write this as a Field subclass.

So I quickly did, and replaced a few lines of repetitive code with two new field classes in our source:

Update: There were some issues with my understanding of how the metaclass was working. I’ve corrected the code and it should function properly now.


This field is typically used to store raw data, such as a dictionary, or a list of items, or could even be used for more complex objects.

from django.db import models
    import cPickle as pickle
    import pickle
import base64

class SerializedDataField(models.TextField):
    """Because Django for some reason feels its needed to repeatedly call
    to_python even after it's been converted this does not support strings."""
    __metaclass__ = models.SubfieldBase

    def to_python(self, value):
        if value is None: return
        if not isinstance(value, basestring): return value
        value = pickle.loads(base64.b64decode(value))
        return value

    def get_db_prep_save(self, value):
        if value is None: return
        return base64.b64encode(pickle.dumps(value))


An alternative to the CommaSeparatedIntegerField, it allows you to store any separated values. You can also optionally specify a token parameter.

from django.db import models

class SeparatedValuesField(models.TextField):
    __metaclass__ = models.SubfieldBase

    def __init__(self, *args, **kwargs):
        self.token = kwargs.pop('token', ',')
        super(SeparatedValuesField, self).__init__(*args, **kwargs)

    def to_python(self, value):
        if not value: return
        if isinstance(value, list):
            return value
        return value.split(self.token)

    def get_db_prep_value(self, value):
        if not value: return
        assert(isinstance(value, list) or isinstance(value, tuple))
        return self.token.join([unicode(s) for s in value])

    def value_to_string(self, obj):
        value = self._get_val_from_obj(obj)
        return self.get_db_prep_value(value)