Serializer relations

Relational fields are used to represent model relationships. They can be applied to foreign key, many-to-many and one-to-one relationships, as well as to reverse relationships, and custom relationships such as GenericForeignKey of Django.

Note: The relational fields are declared in relations.py, but by convention you should import them from the serializers module, using from aiorest-ws.db.orm.django import serializers or aiorest-ws.db.orm.sqlalchemy import serializers and refer to fields as serializers.<FieldName>.

Inspecting relationships

When using the ModelSerializer class, serializer fields and relationships will be automatically generated for you. Inspecting these automatically generated fields can be a useful tool for determining how to customize the relationship style.

To do so, open the shell, then import the serializer class, instantiate it, and print the object representation…

>>> from myapp.serializers import AccountSerializer
>>> serializer = AccountSerializer()
>>> print(repr(serializer))
AccountSerializer():
    id = IntegerField(label='ID', read_only=True)
    name = CharField(allow_blank=True, max_length=100, required=False)
    owner = PrimaryKeyRelatedField(queryset=User.objects.all())

Serializer relation fields

In order to explain the various types of relational fields, we’ll use a couple of simple models for our examples. Our models will be for music albums, and the tracks listed on each album, based on the Django models.

class Album(models.Model):
    album_name = models.CharField(max_length=100)
    artist = models.CharField(max_length=100)

class Track(models.Model):
    album = models.ForeignKey(Album, related_name='tracks', on_delete=models.CASCADE)
    order = models.IntegerField()
    title = models.CharField(max_length=100)
    duration = models.IntegerField()

    class Meta:
        unique_together = ('album', 'order')
        ordering = ['order']

    def __unicode__(self):
        return '%d: %s' % (self.order, self.title)

StringRelatedField

StringRelatedField may be used to represent the target of the relationship using its __unicode__ method.

For example, the following serializer.

class AlbumSerializer(serializers.ModelSerializer):
    tracks = serializers.StringRelatedField(many=True)

    class Meta:
        model = Album
        fields = ('album_name', 'artist', 'tracks')

Would serialize to the following representation.

{
    'album_name': 'Things We Lost In The Fire',
    'artist': 'Low',
    'tracks': [
        '1: Sunflower',
        '2: Whitetail',
        '3: Dinosaur Act',
        ...
    ]
}

This field is read only.

Arguments:

  • many - If applied to a to-many relationship, you should set this argument to True.

PrimaryKeyRelatedField

PrimaryKeyRelatedField may be used to represent the target of the relationship using its primary key.

For example, the following serializer:

class AlbumSerializer(serializers.ModelSerializer):
    tracks = serializers.PrimaryKeyRelatedField(many=True, read_only=True)

    class Meta:
        model = Album
        fields = ('album_name', 'artist', 'tracks')

Would serialize to a representation like this:

{
    'album_name': 'Undun',
    'artist': 'The Roots',
    'tracks': [
        89,
        90,
        91,
        ...
    ]
}

By default this field is read-write, although you can change this behavior using the read_only flag.

Arguments:

  • queryset - The queryset used for model instance lookups when validating the field input. Relationships must either set a queryset explicitly, or set read_only=True.
  • many - If applied to a to-many relationship, you should set this argument to True.
  • allow_null - If set to True, the field will accept values of None or the empty string for nullable relationships. Defaults to False.
  • pk_field - Set to a field to control serialization/deserialization of the primary key’s value. For example, pk_field=UUIDField(format='hex') would serialize a UUID primary key into its compact hex representation.

HyperlinkedRelatedField

HyperlinkedRelatedField may be used to represent the target of the relationship using a hyperlink.

For example, the following serializer:

class AlbumSerializer(serializers.ModelSerializer):
    tracks = serializers.HyperlinkedRelatedField(
        many=True,
        read_only=True,
        view_name='track-detail'
    )

    class Meta:
        model = Album
        fields = ('album_name', 'artist', 'tracks')

Would serialize to a representation like this:

{
    'album_name': 'Graceland',
    'artist': 'Paul Simon',
    'tracks': [
        'http://www.example.com/api/tracks/45/',
        'http://www.example.com/api/tracks/46/',
        'http://www.example.com/api/tracks/47/',
        ...
    ]
}

By default this field is read-write, although you can change this behavior using the read_only flag.

Note: This field is designed for objects that map to a URL that accepts a single URL keyword argument, as set using the lookup_field and lookup_url_kwarg arguments.

This is suitable for URLs that contain a single primary key or slug argument as part of the URL.

Arguments:

  • view_name - The view name that should be used as the target of the relationship. If you’re using the standard router classes this will be a string with the format <modelname>-detail. required.
  • queryset - The queryset used for model instance lookups when validating the field input. Relationships must either set a queryset explicitly, or set read_only=True.
  • many - If applied to a to-many relationship, you should set this argument to True.
  • allow_null - If set to True, the field will accept values of None or the empty string for nullable relationships. Defaults to False.
  • lookup_field - The field on the target that should be used for the lookup. Should correspond to a URL keyword argument on the referenced view. Default is 'pk' for Django or id for SQLAlchemy.
  • lookup_url_kwarg - The name of the keyword argument defined in the URL conf that corresponds to the lookup field. Defaults to using the same value as lookup_field.
  • format - If using format suffixes, hyperlinked fields will use the same format suffix for the target unless overridden by using the format argument.

SlugRelatedField

SlugRelatedField may be used to represent the target of the relationship using a field on the target.

For example, the following serializer:

class AlbumSerializer(serializers.ModelSerializer):
    tracks = serializers.SlugRelatedField(
        many=True,
        read_only=True,
        slug_field='title'
    )

    class Meta:
        model = Album
        fields = ('album_name', 'artist', 'tracks')

Would serialize to a representation like this:

{
    'album_name': 'Dear John',
    'artist': 'Loney Dear',
    'tracks': [
        'Airport Surroundings',
        'Everything Turns to You',
        'I Was Only Going Out',
        ...
    ]
}

By default this field is read-write, although you can change this behavior using the read_only flag.

When using SlugRelatedField as a read-write field, you will normally want to ensure that the slug field corresponds to a model field with unique=True.

Arguments:

  • slug_field - The field on the target that should be used to represent it. This should be a field that uniquely identifies any given instance. For example, username. required
  • queryset - The queryset used for model instance lookups when validating the field input. Relationships must either set a queryset explicitly, or set read_only=True.
  • many - If applied to a to-many relationship, you should set this argument to True.
  • allow_null - If set to True, the field will accept values of None or the empty string for nullable relationships. Defaults to False.

HyperlinkedIdentityField

This field can be applied as an identity relationship, such as the 'url' field on a HyperlinkedModelSerializer. It can also be used for an attribute on the object. For example, the following serializer:

class AlbumSerializer(serializers.HyperlinkedModelSerializer):
    track_listing = serializers.HyperlinkedIdentityField(view_name='track-list')

    class Meta:
        model = Album
        fields = ('album_name', 'artist', 'track_listing')

Would serialize to a representation like this:

{
    'album_name': 'The Eraser',
    'artist': 'Thom Yorke',
    'track_listing': 'http://www.example.com/api/track_list/12/',
}

This field is always read-only.

Arguments:

  • view_name - The view name that should be used as the target of the relationship. If you’re using the standard router classes this will be a string with the format <model_name>-detail. required.
  • lookup_field - The field on the target that should be used for the lookup. Should correspond to a URL keyword argument on the referenced view. Default is 'pk' for Django or id for SQLAlchemy.
  • lookup_url_kwarg - The name of the keyword argument defined in the URL conf that corresponds to the lookup field. Defaults to using the same value as lookup_field.
  • format - If using format suffixes, hyperlinked fields will use the same format suffix for the target unless overridden by using the format argument.

Nested relationships

Nested relationships can be expressed by using serializers as fields.

If the field is used to represent a to-many relationship, you should add the many=True flag to the serializer field.

Example

For example, the following serializer:

class TrackSerializer(serializers.ModelSerializer):
    class Meta:
        model = Track
        fields = ('order', 'title', 'duration')

class AlbumSerializer(serializers.ModelSerializer):
    tracks = TrackSerializer(many=True, read_only=True)

    class Meta:
        model = Album
        fields = ('album_name', 'artist', 'tracks')

Would serialize to a nested representation like this:

>>> album = Album.objects.create(album_name="The Grey Album", artist='Danger Mouse')
>>> Track.objects.create(album=album, order=1, title='Public Service Announcement', duration=245)
<Track: Track object>
>>> Track.objects.create(album=album, order=2, title='What More Can I Say', duration=264)
<Track: Track object>
>>> Track.objects.create(album=album, order=3, title='Encore', duration=159)
<Track: Track object>
>>> serializer = AlbumSerializer(instance=album)
>>> serializer.data
{
    'album_name': 'The Grey Album',
    'artist': 'Danger Mouse',
    'tracks': [
        {'order': 1, 'title': 'Public Service Announcement', 'duration': 245},
        {'order': 2, 'title': 'What More Can I Say', 'duration': 264},
        {'order': 3, 'title': 'Encore', 'duration': 159},
        ...
    ],
}

Writable nested serializers

By default nested serializers are read-only. If you want to support write-operations to a nested serializer field you’ll need to create create() and/or update() methods in order to explicitly specify how the child relationships should be saved.

class TrackSerializer(serializers.ModelSerializer):
class Meta:
    model = Track
    fields = ('order', 'title', 'duration')

class AlbumSerializer(serializers.ModelSerializer):
    tracks = TrackSerializer(many=True)

    class Meta:
        model = Album
        fields = ('album_name', 'artist', 'tracks')

    def create(self, validated_data):
        tracks_data = validated_data.pop('tracks')
        album = Album.objects.create(**validated_data)
        for track_data in tracks_data:
            Track.objects.create(album=album, **track_data)
        return album
>>> data = {
    'album_name': 'The Grey Album',
    'artist': 'Danger Mouse',
    'tracks': [
        {'order': 1, 'title': 'Public Service Announcement', 'duration': 245},
        {'order': 2, 'title': 'What More Can I Say', 'duration': 264},
        {'order': 3, 'title': 'Encore', 'duration': 159},
    ],
}
>>> serializer = AlbumSerializer(data=data)
>>> serializer.is_valid()
True
>>> serializer.save()
<Album: Album object>

Custom relational fields

In rare cases where none of the existing relational styles fit the representation you need, you can implement a completely custom relational field, that describes exactly how the output representation should be generated from the model instance.

To implement a custom relational field, you should override RelatedField, and implement the .to_representation(self, value) method. This method takes the target of the field as the value argument, and should return the representation that should be used to serialize the target. The value argument will typically be a model instance.

If you want to implement a read-write relational field, you must also implement the .to_internal_value(self, data) method.

To provide a dynamic queryset based on the context, you can also override .get_queryset(self) instead of specifying .queryset on the class or when initializing the field.

Example

For example, we could define a relational field to serialize a track to a custom string representation, using its ordering, title, and duration.

import time

class TrackListingField(serializers.RelatedField):
    def to_representation(self, value):
        duration = time.strftime('%M:%S', time.gmtime(value.duration))
        return 'Track %d: %s (%s)' % (value.order, value.name, duration)

class AlbumSerializer(serializers.ModelSerializer):
    tracks = TrackListingField(many=True)

    class Meta:
        model = Album
        fields = ('album_name', 'artist', 'tracks')

This custom field would then serialize to the following representation.

{
    'album_name': 'Sometimes I Wish We Were an Eagle',
    'artist': 'Bill Callahan',
    'tracks': [
        'Track 1: Jim Cain (04:39)',
        'Track 2: Eid Ma Clack Shaw (04:19)',
        'Track 3: The Wind and the Dove (04:34)',
        ...
    ]
}

Custom hyperlinked fields

In some cases you may need to customize the behavior of a hyperlinked field, in order to represent URLs that require more than a single lookup field.

You can achieve this by overriding HyperlinkedRelatedField. There are two methods that may be overridden:

get_url(self, obj, view_name, request, format)

The get_url method is used to map the object instance to its URL representation.

May raise a NoReverseMatch if the view_name and lookup_field attributes are not configured to correctly match the URL conf.

get_object(self, queryset, view_name, view_args, view_kwargs)

If you want to support a writable hyperlinked field then you’ll also want to override get_object, in order to map incoming URLs back to the object they represent. For read-only hyperlinked fields there is no need to override this method.

The return value of this method should the object that corresponds to the matched URL conf arguments.

May raise an ObjectDoesNotExist exception.

Example

Say we have a URL for a customer object that takes two keyword arguments, like so:

/api/<organization_slug>/customers/<customer_pk>/

This cannot be represented with the default implementation, which accepts only a single lookup field.

In this case we’d need to override HyperlinkedRelatedField to get the behavior we want:

from aiorest_ws.db.orm.django import serializers
from aiorest_ws.url.utils import reverse

class CustomerHyperlink(serializers.HyperlinkedRelatedField):
    # We define these as class attributes, so we don't need to pass them as arguments.
    view_name = 'customer-detail'
    queryset = Customer.objects.all()

    def get_url(self, obj, view_name, request, format):
        relative = self.context.get('relative', False)
        args = tuple(map(str, [obj.organization.slug, obj.pk])
        return reverse(view_name, args=args, relative=relative)

    def get_object(self, view_name, view_args, view_kwargs):
        lookup_kwargs = {
           'organization__slug': view_kwargs['organization_slug'],
           'pk': view_kwargs['customer_pk']
        }
        return self.get_queryset().get(**lookup_kwargs)

Note that if you wanted to use this style together with the generic views then you’d also need to override .get_object on the view in order to get the correct lookup behavior.

Generally we recommend a flat style for API representations where possible, but the nested URL style can also be reasonable when used in moderation.