Working Through the Django Tutorial: Outline & Takeaways Part 1

CodingWeb DevelopmentDjangoPythonSoftwareDocumentation Breakdown

In order to better familiarize myself with Django I decided to work through the Django simple app tutorial which allows you to create a “polls” app. The walkthrough can be found on Django docs here.

Starting Off

Initiate a django project by cd into the directory where you will store your project:

$ startproject [DIR_NAME]

This directory name doesn’t matter and you can rename it to anything you want. But inside of this directory you’ll see a layout like this:


Breaking Down the Framework structure

These different files have the following functions:

  • [DIR_NAME] is the name of the root directory which contains your project. Django doesn’t care about this, so name it whatever you want, but make sure not to use django or test in your naming as this could create conflicts with the actual app.

  • lets you interact with the Django project. It is a thin wrapper around that does the following:
    • Places project’s packages on sys.pth.
    • Sets DJANGO_SETTINGS_MODULE environment variable so that it points to your project’s file.
    • Calls django.setup() to initialize internals for Django.
    • Full documentation here.
    • Command options found here.
  • mysite/ is the Python package for the project. Anytime we import anything inside of the project we will use this package name (e.g.mysite.urls).

  • is just an empty file that indicates that the mysite/ directory should be considered a python package.

  • in its simplest form is just a Python module with module-level variables. Since it is a Python module it won’t allow Python syntax errors, it can import values from other settings files, and it can assign settings dynamically using normal python syntax (such as using a for loop).
    • Settings can be used in your Django app by importing the object django.conf.settings. Since it’s an object, however, you can’t import individual settings. EX: from django.conf import settings
    • Full documentation on settings and configurations can be found here.

    • There are a RIDICULOUS number of settings. I spent an hour and my brain hurt just going through them all. You should do the same.
  • contains the URL declarations for the Django project. You can think of it like routes.rb in Rails. URLs are controlled by the URL Dispatcher.
    • So, what exactly is the URL Dispatcher? It is the URL scheme that lets you design URLs without framework limitations commonly found in php and cgi.
    • One of the founders of the World Wide Web (yeah, that title is for real) Tim Berners-Lee discusses why URIs have to be clean and usable. This is a must read.
    • URLconf is the Python module made up of pure Python code that maps between URL patterns (simple expressions) and Python functions (your app views).
    • Django proccesses a requestFor the sake of not totally regurgitating django docs, just read here.
    • functions as an entry point for WSGI-compatible web servers to serve up your project.

Rolling into Databases, Apps vs. Projects and much, much more…

From here, you are pretty much set up and ready to start the hard part (or fun part), which entails the actual coding. That’s one beautiful aspect of Django – it handles the grunt work of laying out your project and apps in a way that gives you more time to focus on building your actual content.

Key Insights

Beyond all the learning curve that comes with pouring over documentation and grappling with new commands, I found there were some interesting points that stuck in my mind…

  • Django is filled with instances of pure Python code, which means modules and other app features can be constructed dynamically.

  • One major difference between Django and a frameowkr like Ruby on Rails is that the data model is totally defined in one place and everything is derived from it. This means that things like migrations are entirely derived from your file. This just acts as a history that Django can roll through to update database schema to match the most current model.

  • Taken straight from documentation…“Django apps are ‘pluggable’: You can use an app in multiple projects, and you can distribute apps, because they don’t have to be tied to a given Django installation.” SO Awesome!!!

  • A point of clarity around migrations: As Django docs explains migrations are simply how Django stores changes made to the models you’ve created in your apps (ie …and so it also stores and tracks the changes made to your database schema, since these are derived from your models). These are stored as files on disk and you can read and manipulate them at will.

Beginner Essential Commands

Throughout the tutorial I took note of the most essential commands that would help me build a Django app and navigate it afterwards. The straight commands are listed below. If you’re confused on one of them, google it!

  1. $ startproject [DIR_NAME]

  2. python startapp [APP_NAME]

  3. python runserver [port or IP address] For example:

    python runserver []

    This could be used to listen on all ports and show off your work on other local machines.

  4. python makemigrations [APP_NAME]
    • Creates migrations for changes made to the models.
  5. python migrate
    • Actually applies the changes made to models to the database.
  6. python sqlmigrate [APP_NAME] [MIGRATION_NUMBER]

  7. python check

  8. python shell

  9. python shell