4 min read

Activating the Administration Interface

The administration interface comes as a Django application. To activate it, we will follow a simple procedure that is similar to how we enabled the user authentication system.

The admininistration application is located in the django.contrib.admin package. So the first step is adding the path of this package to the INSTALLED_APPS variable. Open settings.py, locate INSTALLED_APPS and edit it as follows:

INSTALLED_APPS = (
'django.contrib.auth',
'django.contrib.contenttypes',
'django.contrib.sessions',
'django.contrib.sites',
'django.contrib.admin',
'django.contrib.comments',
'django_bookmarks.bookmarks',
)

Next, run the following command to create the necessary tables for the administration application:

$ python manage.py syncdb

Now we need to make the administration interface accessible from within our site by adding URL entries for it. The administration application defines many views, so manually adding a separate entry for each view can become a tedious task. Therefore, Django provides a shortcut for this. The administration interface defines all of its URL entries in a module located at django.contrib.admin.urls, and we can include these entries in our project under a particular path by using a function called include(). Open urls.py and add the following URL entry to it:

urlpatterns = (
# Admin interface
(r'^admin/', include('django.contrib.admin.urls')),
)

This looks different from how we usually define URL entries. We are basically telling Django to retrieve all of the URL entries in the django.contrib.admin.urls module, and to include them in our application under the path ^admin/. This will make the views of the administration interface accessible from within our project.

One last thing remains before we see the administration page in action. We need to tell Django what models can be managed in the administration interface. This is done by defining a class called Admin inside each model. Open bookmarks/models.py and add the highlighted section to the Link model:

class Link(models.Model):
url = models.URLField(unique=True)
def __str__(self):
return self.url
class Admin:
pass

The Admin class defined inside the model effectively tells Django to enable the Link model in the administration interface. The keyword pass means that the class is empty. Later, we will use this class to customize the administration page, so it won’t remain empty.

Do the same to the Bookmark, Tag and SharedBookmark models; append an empty class called Admin to each of them. The User model is provided by Django and therefore we don’t have control over it. Fortunately however, it already contains an Admin class so it’s available in the administration interface by default.

Next, launch the development server and direct your browser to http://127.0.0.1:8000/admin/. You will be greeted by a login page. Remember we need to create a superuser account after writing the database model. This is the account that you have to use in order to log in:

Creating an Administration Interface in Django

Next, you will see a list of the models that are available to the administration interface. As discussed earlier, only models with a class named Admin inside them will appear on this page:

Creating an Administration Interface in Django

If you click on a model name, you will get a list of the objects that are stored in the database under this model. You can use this page to view or edit a particular object, or to add a new one. The figure below shows the listing page for the Link model.

Creating an Administration Interface in Django

The edit form is generated according to the fields that exist in the model. The Link form, for example, contains a single text field called Url. You can use this form to view and change the URL of a Link object. In addition, the form performs proper validation of fields before saving the object. So if you try to save a Link object with an invalid URL, you will receive an error message asking you to correct the field. The figure below shows a validation error when trying to save an invalid link:

Creating an Administration Interface in Django

Fields are mapped to form widgets according to their type. Date fields are edited using a calendar widget for example, whereas foreign key fields are edited using a list widget, and so on. The figure below shows a calendar widget from the user edit page. Django uses it for date and time fields:

Creating an Administration Interface in Django

As you may have noticed, the administration interface represents models by using the string returned by the __str__ method. It was indeed a good idea to replace the generic strings returned by the default __str__ method with more helpful ones. This greatly helps when working with the administration page, as well as with debugging.

Experiment with the administration pages; try to create, edit and delete objects. Notice how changes made in the administration interface are immediately reflected on the live site. Also, the administration interface keeps track of the actions that you make, and lets you review the history of changes for each object.

This section has covered most of what you need to know in order to use the administration interface provided by Django. This feature is actually one of the main advantages of using Django; you get a fully featured administration interface from writing only a few lines of code!

Next, we will see how to tweak and customize the administration pages. And as a bonus, we will learn more about the permissions system offered by Django.


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