Better Defaults

Use ModelAdmin

When a model is registered with admin, it just shows the string representation of the model object in changelist page.

from book.models import Book

Django provides ModelAdmin 1 class which represents a model in admin. We can use the following options to make the admin interface informative and easy to use.

  • list_display to display required fields and add custom fields.

  • list_filter to add filters data based on a column value.

  • list_per_page to set how many items to be shown on paginated page.

  • search_fields to search for records based on a field value.

  • date_hierarchy to provide date-based drilldown navigation for a field.

  • readonly_fields to make seleted fields readonly in edit view.

  • prepopulated_fields to auto generate a value for a column based on another column.

  • save_as to enable save as new in admin change forms.

from book.models import Book
from django.contrib import admin

class BookAdmin(admin.ModelAdmin):
    list_display = ('id', 'name', 'author', 'published_date', 'cover', 'is_available')
    list_filter = ('is_available',)
    list_per_page = 10
    search_fields = ('name',)
    date_hierarchy = 'published_date'
    readonly_fields = ('created_at', 'updated_at')

In list_display in addition to columns, we can add custom methods which can be used to show calculated fields. For example, we can change book color based on its availability.

class BookAdmin(admin.ModelAdmin):
    list_display = ('id', 'name_colored', 'author', 'published_date', 'cover', 'is_available')

    def name_colored(self, obj):
        if obj.is_available:
            color_code = '00FF00'
            color_code = 'FF0000'
        html = '<span style="color: #{};">{}</span>'.format(color_code,
        return format_html(html)

    name_colored.admin_order_field = 'name'
    name_colored.short_description = 'name'

Use Better Widgets

Sometimes widgets provided by Django are not handy to the users. In such cases it is better to add tailored widgets based on the data.

For images, instead of showing a link, we can show thumbnails of images so that users can see the picture in the list view itself.

class BookAdmin(admin.ModelAdmin):
  list_display = ('id', 'name_colored', 'thumbnail', 'author', 'published_date', 'is_available')

  def thumbnail(self, obj):
    width, height = 100, 200
    html = '<img src="/{url}" width="{width}" height={height} />'
    return format_html(
        html.format(url=obj.cover.url, width=width, height=height)

This will show thumbnail for book cover images.


Viewing and editing JSON field in admin interface will be very difficult in the textbox. Instead, we can use JSON Editor widget provided any third-party packages like django-json-widget, with which viewing and editing JSON data becomes much intuitive.

CSV and Excel imports and exports

from django.contrib.postgres import fields
from django_json_widget.widgets import JSONEditorWidget

class BookAdmin(admin.ModelAdmin):
    formfield_overrides = {
        fields.JSONField: {
            'widget': JSONEditorWidget

With this, all JSONFields will use JSONEditorWidget, which makes it easy to view and edit json content.


There are a wide variety of third-party packages like django-map-widgets, django-ckeditor, django-widget-tweaks etc which provide additional widgets as well as tweaks to existing widgets.

Better Defaults For Models

We can set user friendly names instead of default names for django models in admin. We can override this in model meta options.

class Category(models.Model):
    class Meta:
        verbose_name = "Book Category"
        verbose_name_plural = "Book Categories"

Model fields has an option to enter help_text which is useful documentation as well as help text for forms.

class Book(TimeAuditModel):
    is_available = models.BooleanField(
        help_text='Is the book available to buy?'
    published_date = models.DateField(
        help_text='help_text="Please enter the date in <em>YYYY-MM-DD</em> format.'

This will be shown in admin as shown below.