This is an in-progress draft, enjoy.

Model migrations

Database schema migrations are a way of tracking and automatically making changes to the database schema to match changes in app models, such as adding new models, new fields, or changing field parameters.

It's important to keep these updated in your standalone app. Prior to Django 1.7 the accepted way of doing this was by using a third party standalone app called South. Without South installed a user could install an app and set up the database tables using Django's syncdb command but would have no control over later changes to the database.

You're probably already familiar with model migrations but in the context of your own project.

Django 1.7 introduced native database migrations, obviating the need for a third-party tool like South and at the same time making database schema or migration files a core part of Django apps.

Using a sample project

In your existing Django projects you can easily make a change to a model and then run the makemigrations to automatically generate a schema migration file.

python makemigrations myapp

With a standalone app we're in a similar position as we were with testing: finding a project substitute. As with testing, we'll need to substitute a way of using these commands.

The first way to do this is to add a stripped down example project to your app's package folder from which you can include your app and build migrations. This is far superior since there's no copying and pasting like a dummy.

You do this by starting a project, called "example" right in the root of your package directory. You can strip down the settings file to just the bare minimum, including the INSTALLED_APPS.

This turns out to be something of a pain in the tucchus too.

The first way of going about this is including and installing the app in another project somewhere, creating the migrations, and copying them over to your app. I'm not telling you this because you should do it. Don't do this. But I have, and if you have, then you're not alone. If you haven't, good for you.

A significant downside to this method, aside from being boneheaded and requiring lots of extra work that's not repeatable by anyone else, is that it requires you to ensure you're always running the other project on the same Python PATH (i.e. virtualenv).

Using a helper script

A yet better way of doing this is inspired by the test script so beloved in standalone apps. We create a single script in the root of the project - I'll call it here since its going to function in the same way - and before running the command it will configure Django's settings. Now we can run Django commands like makemigrations right from the package root.

import sys
import django
from django.conf import settings


        "default": {
            "ENGINE": "django.db.backends.sqlite3",


if __name__ == '__main__':
    from import execute_from_command_line

This is part of release management (chapter X), but aim to include only the migrations necessary for each change. For your first app, this would ideally be one initial migration. There shouldn't be a need for anyone to create the table initially and then make successive changes, if it's never been out in the wild before. Obvious exceptions to this are if you're already making extensive use of this app and it's got to be drop in into your own projects.

For your first release, we'll just make an initial migration and call it a day.

python makemigrations myapp