Todo List App Part I

We’ll start by making a simple todo list manager app and then adding some bells and whistles and finally, multi-user functionality.

For initial setup and configuration, please refer to the Official Django tutorial. To keep things short, I won’t repeat anything already explained in the tutorial.

Defining the Model

As always in Django apps, we’ll start by defining a model (in todo/

class Item(models.Model):
    name = models.CharField(max_length=60)
    created = models.DateTimeField(auto_now_add=True)
    priority = models.IntegerField(default=0)
    difficulty = models.IntegerField(default=0)
    done = models.BooleanField(default=False)

class ItemAdmin(admin.ModelAdmin):
    list_display = ["name", "priority", "difficulty", "created", "done"]
    search_fields = ["name"], ItemAdmin)

... and run: syncdb; runserver

If you browse to http://localhost:8000/admin/, you’ll be able to add todo items, sort them by name, priority, difficulty, created time, active/done status and search by name. That’s a pretty impressive amount of functionality for a few lines of code!

There is one small nit to pick here, and, if we want to go beyond a toy example app and into “useful in real world” territory, we must pick it. Often you might need to add more than a couple of items at a time; while you can do that with current UI using “save and add another” button, it’s really a hassle.

Adding Multiple Items

As you know from the Django Tutorial, it’s possible to use inline forms in order to add multiple items that will be associated with another set of objects. How does that help us? — we don’t have any other set of objects, just our todo items. We’ll have to resort to a slightly hack-y solution and create a separate model for date-time values; our todo items will be associated with them and we’ll be able to add a bunch at a time:

class DateTime(models.Model):
    datetime = models.DateTimeField(auto_now_add=True)
    def __unicode__(self):
        return unicode(self.datetime)

class Item(models.Model):
    name = models.CharField(max_length=60)
    created = models.ForeignKey(DateTime)
    priority = models.IntegerField(default=0)
    difficulty = models.IntegerField(default=0)
    done = models.BooleanField(default=False)

class ItemAdmin(admin.ModelAdmin):
    list_display = ["name", "priority", "difficulty", "created", "done"]
    search_fields = ["name"]

class ItemInline(admin.TabularInline):
    model = Item

class DateAdmin(admin.ModelAdmin):
    list_display = ["datetime"]
    inlines = [ItemInline], ItemAdmin), DateAdmin)

This changes our table layout and we’ll have to ask Django to reset and recreate tables: reset todo; syncdb

The inlines are explained in some detail in the Django Tutorial — I hope you did not miss that part. Now we can add a date-time and it will give us a neat, easy interface to add multiple todo items:


Generally, when you have a ForeignKey relationship that needs to be listed in a table in the Admin, the model class has to have a __unicode__() method as shown above in the DateTime class. Otherwise you’d just see a “DateTime object” in that field — not very helpful!

Now we need to take care of two small but important usability details: first, in our todo list view, we need to have a link for adding items using the new method; second, we need to automatically go back to our listing afterwards.

Customizing Model Template

You’ll first need to locate your Django root directory and copy default Admin templates:

cp -r django/contrib/admin/templates/admin/ dbe/templates/

You’ll need to modify the command depending on where your django installation is located; in a typical Ubuntu installation django will be in /usr/local/lib/python2.6/dist-packages/django/.

Django Admin allows us to specify a custom template for each model. The template is used to show a list of items. That’s exactly where we need our link.

cd templates
mkdir -p todo/item
cp change_list.html todo/item/

Edit the file you copied and add the link right after {% block content %}:

{% block content %}
<a href="{% url admin:todo_datetime_add %}">Add Todo items</a>

Make sure it’s not before {% block content %} — that’s a common mistake: in derived Django templates, anything outside of blocks simply won’t show up at all, which can lead to much confusion.

Changing Save Redirect

The next tweak is a bit more complicated — we’ll need to take a chunk of code from one of the Admin modules (contrib/admin/ and add it to DateAdmin in The actual modification is rather simple, though: we’ll change the “item was added” message, set our redirect at the end to point to /admin/dbe/item/ and import a few modules that are used in the function.

from django.utils.translation import ugettext as _
from django.utils.encoding import force_unicode
from django.http import HttpResponse, HttpResponseRedirect
from django.core.urlresolvers import reverse

class DateAdmin(admin.ModelAdmin):
    list_display = ["datetime"]
    inlines = [ItemInline]

    def response_add(self, request, obj, post_url_continue='../%s/'):
        """ Determines the HttpResponse for the add_view stage.  """
        opts = obj._meta
        pk_value = obj._get_pk_val()

        msg = "Item(s) were added successfully."
        # Here, we distinguish between different save types by checking for
        # the presence of keys in request.POST.
        if request.POST.has_key("_continue"):
            self.message_user(request, msg + ' ' + _("You may edit it again below."))
            if request.POST.has_key("_popup"):
                post_url_continue += "?_popup=1"
            return HttpResponseRedirect(post_url_continue % pk_value)

        if request.POST.has_key("_popup"):
            return HttpResponse(
              '<script type="text/javascript">opener.dismissAddAnotherPopup(window, "%s", "%s");'
              '</script>' % (escape(pk_value), escape(obj)))
        elif request.POST.has_key("_addanother"):
            self.message_user(request, msg + ' ' + (_("You may add another %s below.") %
            return HttpResponseRedirect(request.path)
            self.message_user(request, msg)

            return HttpResponseRedirect(reverse("admin:todo_item_changelist"))

The above code looks like too much trouble for a simple change but the only part we really care about here is the last line and the “item was added” message, because stock message would tell us DateTime was added and give us too much information about DateTimes we don’t really need.

At this point we’re pushing outside the scope of Admin — at least, it’s obvious that Admin was not designed to make this sort of modification easy or obvious. The only way to know how to do this type of Admin tweaks is to google for it or, failing that, peruse Admin source code itself, which isn’t very large or intimidating once you spend a bit of time with it.

Still, with relatively little code written we have a pretty capable little todo manager.

Marking task as Done

Let’s not stop here — what else can we improve? How about marking a task as “Done” in change list?

We need to add a function to where we get the item object and set the done field:

from dbe.todo.models import *
from django.core.urlresolvers import reverse
from django.contrib.admin.views.decorators import staff_member_required

def mark_done(request, pk):
    item = Item.objects.get(pk=pk)
    item.done = True
    return HttpResponseRedirect(reverse("admin:todo_item_changelist"))

Corresponding url in

(r"^mark_done/(\d*)/$", "dbe.todo.views.mark_done"),

... aaaand finally the link in our change list:

class Item(models.Model):
    # [...]

    def mark_done(self):
        return "<a href='%s'>Done</a>" % reverse("dbe.todo.views.mark_done", args=[])
    mark_done.allow_tags = True

Make a note of how we set the allow_tags property — it’s documented in Django’s Admin docs, along with many other useful method properties. This property allows us to use html tags in returned strings.

Customizing DateTime

I just noticed that our DateTime insists on showing us microseconds.. we don’t care about that and it takes up too much screen space; once we’re at it, let’s also get rid of seconds:

def __unicode__(self):
    return unicode(self.datetime.strftime("%b %d, %Y, %I:%M %p"))

DateTime field will now have the following format: Jun 30, 2010, 05:05 PM.

To put two finishing touches, I’ll add filters and a link to delete an item quickly, just like we did with “mark done”.

A good exercise for you would be to add the OnHold property. It’ll work exactly like “Done” property except for link toggling On/Off hold. (Don’t forget that you’ll need to reset the tables and do syncdb after adding a model property as we did above!)

Here’s what your UI should look like:


Adding Users

Our last feature will be associating users with tasks. We’ll need to add the user property:

user = models.ForeignKey(User, blank=True, null=True)

We’re setting blank and null because we want to be able to save items without specifying any user. After DateTime object is saved, right before the redirect, we’ll check if user is blank and set it to the current user (the following code goes into response_add() in DateAdmin class):

for item in Item.objects.filter(created=obj):
    if not item.user:
        item.user = request.user
return HttpResponseRedirect(reverse("admin:todo_item_changelist"))

I know I’ve said users will be the last feature, but I can’t resist adding one last touch once I realized how easy it will be to add progress bars (this code is in Item class):

progress = models.IntegerField(default=0)

def progress_(self):
    return "<div style='width: 100px; border: 1px solid #ccc;'>" + \
      "<div style='height: 4px; width: %dpx; background: #555; '></div></div>" % self.progress
progress_.allow_tags = True

It would be a little cleaner to have a progress() function and use a different name for the property, but I have already reset tables and re-created data before I noticed. Here’s our finished UI:


Tada! We made it! (Actually, I made it.)

There is a tiny optimization I’ve added: noticing that our view functions are almost the same, I joined them together:

def item_action(request, action, pk):
    """Mark done, toggle onhold or delete a todo item."""
    if action == "done":
        item = Item.objects.get(pk=pk)
        item.done = True
    elif action == "onhold":
        item = Item.objects.get(pk=pk)
        if item.onhold: item.onhold = False
        else: item.onhold = True
    elif action == "delete":

    return HttpResponseRedirect(reverse("admin:todo_item_changelist"))

... and has to be updated as follows:

(r"^item_action/(done|delete|onhold)/(\d*)/$", "item_action"),

Continue to part II.