Decoupled Django Apps and the Beauty of Generic Relations

Like just about everyone else, we've written our own suite of tools to help with building complex content management systems in Django here at Caktus. We reviewed a number of the existing CMSes out there, but in almost every case the navigation and page structure were so tightly coupled the system broke down when it came time to add additional, non-CMS pages.

We wrote a few little apps, django-pagelets, django-treenav, and django-crumbs, each of which manages different pieces of content (little snippets of content, full CMS pages, navigation, and breadcrumbs). All of the apps are available for free under an open source license on Google Code.

Decoupling was a great move for us, and the ability to plug and play any single part of the system is a huge benefit. Sometimes, however, the completely decoupled architecture was a bit of a pain: If we didn't provide a link from the pagelets app to the treenav app, how would it be possible to edit a page's corresponding navigation item on its change form in the Django admin interface?

Enter Generic Relations. Using Django's content types framework, it's possible to create admin inlines for generic relations with just a few simple lines of code.

In this case, I'll show how we allowed users to edit a page's corresponding navigation item in django-pagelets without requiring everyone (i.e., those who don't need it) to install django-treenav. First, define the generic inline in the file of the app that contains the model you want to link to:

from django.contrib.contenttypes import generic
class GenericMenuItemInline(generic.GenericStackedInline):
    Add this inline to your admin class to support editing related menu items
    from that model's admin page.
    max_num = 1
    model = treenav.MenuItem

Then, inside the Admin class for the related model in question, dynamically import and add GenericMenuItemInline to the admin's list of inlines based on whether or not it's in the project's INSTALLED_APPS:

from django.conf import settings
class PageAdmin(admin.ModelAdmin):
    # ...
    inlines = [MyOtherInline]
    if 'treenav' in settings.INSTALLED_APPS:
        from treenav.admin import GenericMenuItemInline
        inlines.insert(0, GenericMenuItemInline)

For more information, see the corresponding pagelets and treenav Thanks for reading and don't hesitate to post comments if you have any questions!

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