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Posted 9 Jan 2018

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Django REST Framework Tutorial

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9 Jan 2018CPOL4 min read
Django REST Framework tutorial

If you are working on a single-page application and you want it to have some persistence, it’s a really good idea to have a REST API. This way, you’ll be able to store your domain’s entities in the database. In this article, you will learn how to create a basic application with Django and Django REST framework. You can use this as a starting point, and then it’s quite easy to extend this project with different pluggable Django applications.

You can find a repository here and demo here. The animation below shows the automatically generated HTML interface of the API created in this tutorial:

Make a Project from a Template

Use the code below to create an environment for further development.

$ mkdir drf-demo; cd drf-demo 
$ virtualenv .env 
$ pip install "Django >= 1.9, < 1.10" 
$ django-admin startproject project 
$ mkdir log $ mkdir project/db

Now your environment is fully functional.

Next, start your development server with the following:

$ python project/ runserver

Finally, go to http://localhost:8000/. You will see a “Welcome, Django” message.

Define Some Models

Here, we want to model students that go to a university. So, let’s first define entity classes and their attributes. Every university has a name; and every student has a first name, last name and attends a single university (many-to-one relationship). To see a list of available fields, you can go to the Django manual for model fields.

Listing of project/apps/core/

from django.db import models

class University(models.Model):
    name = models.CharField(max_length=50)

    class Meta:
        verbose_name = "University"
        verbose_name_plural = "Universities"

    def __unicode__(self):

class Student(models.Model):
    first_name = models.CharField(max_length=50)
    last_name = models.CharField(max_length=50)
    university = models.ForeignKey(University)

    class Meta:
        verbose_name = "Student"
        verbose_name_plural = "Students"

    def __unicode__(self):
        return '%s %s' % (self.first_name, self.last_name)

Each Model here is related to a table in the database. As we don’t have these tables in the database yet, let’s create a rule to make them (in Django, these rules are called migrations):

python project/ makemigrations core

Now to apply them, do this:

python project/ migrate core

You will see a lot of SQL queries logged to the console, and that’s absolutely fine. Now you have a database structure defined and we are ready to put some data in it.

Enable the Admin Interface and Populate the Database

Django’s admin interface offers a visually convenient way to discover and edit database data. To enable it, add this to the project/apps/core/

Listing of project/apps/core/

from django.contrib import admin
from .models import University, Student

Next, create an admin user (comand-line dialogue omitted, as it’s quite obvious):

python project/ createsuperuser

Go to the admin url (ensure your development server is up):

You can add universities here and students here.

Congratulations! Without writing much code at all, go take a look at your brilliant and free functionality.

Django REST framework-based API

Obviously, you cannot plug in anything unless you install it, so let’s install Django REST framework (or DRF) with pip:

$ pip install djangorestframework

Next, you should add ‘rest_framework’ to the INSTALLED_APPS at the project/conf/ so that it’s available for Django process.

Write Some Model-based Serializers

To perform HTTP-based interaction, we have to define rules to convert Django models (python objects) to the json strings and vice versa. This is a serialization/deserialization task. So, let’s define some model-based serializers:

Listing of project/apps/core/

from rest_framework import serializers
from .models import University, Student

class UniversitySerializer(serializers.ModelSerializer):
    class Meta:
        model = University

class StudentSerializer(serializers.ModelSerializer):
    class Meta:
        model = Student

Of course, you can manually define your own serializers. As a reference, you can use DRF’s documentation or even some performance-oriented serializers.

Make a Quick viewset

A viewset is a set of views (controllers in traditional MVC terminology). If you take a look at the ModelViewSet code, you’ll see that there’s a lot of functionality automatically added there. You are able to create, view, edit and delete objects in your system (and database). It’s a full CRUD set with http as the interface protocol. Let’s configure two viewsets for our classes:

Listing of project/apps/core/

from rest_framework import viewsets
from .models import University, Student
from .serializers import UniversitySerializer, StudentSerializer

class StudentViewSet(viewsets.ModelViewSet):
    queryset = Student.objects.all()
    serializer_class = StudentSerializer

class UniversityViewSet(viewsets.ModelViewSet):
    queryset = University.objects.all()
    serializer_class = UniversitySerializer

Now we need to expose this logic to the outer space, which is done via url routers: we have to define mappings from http request addresses to the views (controllers).

To attach app-level urls to the general workflow – edit project/

from django.conf import settings
from django.conf.urls import url, include
from django.contrib import admin

urlpatterns = [
    url(r'^api/', include('apps.core.urls', namespace='core')),

if settings.DEBUG:
    from django.conf.urls.static import static
    urlpatterns += static(settings.MEDIA_URL, document_root=settings.MEDIA_ROOT)
    urlpatterns += static(settings.STATIC_URL, document_root=settings.STATIC_ROOT)

Here, we are rerouting all requests that have ‘api’ in the url to the apps.core.urls. Here’s a “childurl router, where:

Listing of project/apps/core/

from django.conf.urls import url
from rest_framework import routers
from core.views import StudentViewSet, UniversityViewSet

router = routers.DefaultRouter()
router.register(r'students', StudentViewSet)
router.register(r'universities', UniversityViewSet)

urlpatterns = router.urls

At this moment, you’ve got a working API. Let’s check it out!

Look at the Browsable API

Go to the http://localhost:8000/api (demo url where you will see the browsable API:


Next, go to http://localhost:8000/api/universities/ (demo link where you will see it’s possible to create new universities via POST requests with a simple form submission.

In case you want to view raw JSON – you can go to http://localhost:8000/api/universities/?format=json (demo link For students, it’s the same: http://localhost:8000/api/students/ (demo link

Generate and Read Automatic Documentation with django-rest-swagger

We’ve already installed one Django application, via pip. Now install Django-rest-swagger and add it to the INSTALLED_APPS (‘rest_framework_swagger’). To expose it at the url routing level, edit core/ this way:

from django.conf.urls import url, include
from rest_framework import routers
from core.views import StudentViewSet, UniversityViewSet

router = routers.DefaultRouter()
router.register(r'students', StudentViewSet)
router.register(r'universities', UniversityViewSet)

urlpatterns = [
    url(r'^docs/', include('rest_framework_swagger.urls')),
urlpatterns += router.urls

As you can see here, we’ve used rest_framework_swagger to merge the API’s urls from the router and urls. You can check if it works at http://localhost:8000/api/docs/:


This way, you’re able to view the definitions of DELETE, PUT and PATCH commands differently from the default DRF browsable API. Also, you may find the “Try it” button convenient.


I hope this article helps you set up a REST API for your project. Remember, you can easily extend it, and if it’s hard for you – please, contact us.

Yuri Kriachko is head of a Python/Django company, 7WebPages.

The post appeared first on Tests4Geeks.


This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Code Project Open License (CPOL)


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