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Django rest framework nested self-referential objects

Posted by: admin November 30, 2017 Leave a comment

Questions:

I have model that looks like this:

class Category(models.Model):
    parentCategory = models.ForeignKey('self', blank=True, null=True, related_name='subcategories')
    name = models.CharField(max_length=200)
    description = models.CharField(max_length=500)

I managed to get flat json representation of all categories with serializer:

class CategorySerializer(serializers.HyperlinkedModelSerializer):
    parentCategory = serializers.PrimaryKeyRelatedField()
    subcategories = serializers.ManyRelatedField()

    class Meta:
        model = Category
        fields = ('parentCategory', 'name', 'description', 'subcategories')

Now what I want to do is for subcategories list to have inline json representation of subcategories instead of their ids. How would I do that with django-rest-framework? I tried to find it in documentation, but it seems incomplete.

Answers:

Instead of using ManyRelatedField, use a nested serializer as your field:

class SubCategorySerializer(serializers.ModelSerializer):
    class Meta:
        model = Category
        fields = ('name', 'description')

class CategorySerializer(serializers.ModelSerializer):
    parentCategory = serializers.PrimaryKeyRelatedField()
    subcategories = serializers.SubCategorySerializer()

    class Meta:
        model = Category
        fields = ('parentCategory', 'name', 'description', 'subcategories')

If you want to deal with arbitrarily nested fields you should take a look at the customising the default fields part of the docs. You can’t currently directly declare a serializer as a field on itself, but you can use these methods to override what fields are used by default.

class CategorySerializer(serializers.ModelSerializer):
    parentCategory = serializers.PrimaryKeyRelatedField()

    class Meta:
        model = Category
        fields = ('parentCategory', 'name', 'description', 'subcategories')

        def get_related_field(self, model_field):
            # Handles initializing the `subcategories` field
            return CategorySerializer()

Actually, as you’ve noted the above isn’t quite right.
This is a bit of a hack, but you might try adding the field in after the serializer is already declared.

class CategorySerializer(serializers.ModelSerializer):
    parentCategory = serializers.PrimaryKeyRelatedField()

    class Meta:
        model = Category
        fields = ('parentCategory', 'name', 'description', 'subcategories')

CategorySerializer.base_fields['subcategories'] = CategorySerializer()

A mechanism of declaring recursive relationships is something that needs to be added.


Edit: Note that there is now a third-party package available that specifically deals with this kind of use-case. See djangorestframework-recursive.

Questions:
Answers:

@wjin’s solution was working great for me until I upgraded to Django REST framework 3.0.0, which deprecates to_native. Here’s my DRF 3.0 solution, which is a slight modification.

Say you have a model with a self-referential field, for example threaded comments in a property called “replies”. You have a tree representation of this comment thread, and you want to serialize the tree

First, define your reusable RecursiveField class

class RecursiveField(serializers.Serializer):
    def to_representation(self, value):
        serializer = self.parent.parent.__class__(value, context=self.context)
        return serializer.data

Then, for your serializer, use the the RecursiveField to serialize the value of “replies”

class CommentSerializer(serializers.Serializer):
    replies = RecursiveField(many=True)

    class Meta:
        model = Comment
        fields = ('replies, ....)

Easy peasy, and you only need 4 lines of code for a re-usable solution.

NOTE: If your data structure is more complicated than a tree, like say a directed acyclic graph (FANCY!) then you could try @wjin’s package — see his solution. But I haven’t had any problems with this solution for MPTTModel based trees.

Questions:
Answers:

Late to the game here, but here’s my solution. Let’s say I’m serializing a Blah, with multiple children also of type Blah.

    class RecursiveField(serializers.Serializer):
        def to_native(self, value):
            return self.parent.to_native(value)

Using this field I can serialize my recursively-defined objects that have many child-objects

    class BlahSerializer(serializers.Serializer):
        name = serializers.Field()
        child_blahs = RecursiveField(many=True)

I wrote a recursive field for DRF3.0 and packaged it for pip
https://pypi.python.org/pypi/djangorestframework-recursive/

Questions:
Answers:

I recently had the same problem and came up with a solution that seems to work so far, even for arbitrary depth.
The solution is a small modification of the one from Tom Christie:

class CategorySerializer(serializers.ModelSerializer):
    parentCategory = serializers.PrimaryKeyRelatedField()

    def convert_object(self, obj):
        #Add any self-referencing fields here (if not already done)
        if not self.fields.has_key('subcategories'):
            self.fields['subcategories'] = CategorySerializer()      
        return super(CategorySerializer,self).convert_object(obj) 

    class Meta:
        model = Category
        #do NOT include self-referencing fields here
        #fields = ('parentCategory', 'name', 'description', 'subcategories')
        fields = ('parentCategory', 'name', 'description')
#This is not needed
#CategorySerializer.base_fields['subcategories'] = CategorySerializer()

I’m not sure it can reliably work in any situation, though…

Questions:
Answers:

Another option would be to recurse in the view that serializes your model. Here’s an example:

class DepartmentSerializer(ModelSerializer):
    class Meta:
        model = models.Department


class DepartmentViewSet(ModelViewSet):
    model = models.Department
    serializer_class = DepartmentSerializer

    def serialize_tree(self, queryset):
        for obj in queryset:
            data = self.get_serializer(obj).data
            data['children'] = self.serialize_tree(obj.children.all())
            yield data

    def list(self, request):
        queryset = self.get_queryset().filter(level=0)
        data = self.serialize_tree(queryset)
        return Response(data)

    def retrieve(self, request, pk=None):
        self.object = self.get_object()
        data = self.serialize_tree([self.object])
        return Response(data)

Questions:
Answers:

This is an adaptation from the caipirginka solution that works on drf 3.0.5 and django 2.7.4:

class CategorySerializer(serializers.ModelSerializer):

    def to_representation(self, obj):
        #Add any self-referencing fields here (if not already done)
        if 'branches' not in self.fields:
            self.fields['subcategories'] = CategorySerializer(obj, many=True)      
        return super(CategorySerializer, self).to_representation(obj) 

    class Meta:
        model = Category
        fields = ('id', 'description', 'parentCategory')

Note that the CategorySerializer in 6th line is called with the object and the many=True attribute.

Questions:
Answers:

Another option that works with Django REST Framework 3.3.2:

class CategorySerializer(serializers.ModelSerializer):
    class Meta:
        model = Category
        fields = ('id', 'name', 'parentid', 'subcategories')

    def get_fields(self):
        fields = super(CategorySerializer, self).get_fields()
        fields['subcategories'] = CategorySerializer(many=True)
        return fields

Questions:
Answers:

I was able to achieve this result using a serializers.SerializerMethodField. I’m not sure if this is the best way, but worked for me:

    class CategorySerializer(serializers.ModelSerializer):
    subcategories = serializers.SerializerMethodField(
        read_only=True, method_name="get_child_categories")

    class Meta:
        model = Category
        fields = [
            'name',
            'category_id',
            'subcategories',
        ]

    def get_child_categories(self, obj):
        """ self referral field """
        serializer = CategorySerializer(
            instance=obj.subcategories_set.all(),
            many=True
        )
        return serializer.data

Questions:
Answers:

I thought I’d join in on the fun!

Via wjin and Mark Chackerian I created a more general solution, which works for direct tree-like models and tree structures which have a through model. I’m not sure if this belongs in it’s own answer but I thought I might as well put it somewhere. I included a max_depth option which will prevent infinite recursion, at the deepest level children are represented as URLS (that’s the final else clause if you’d rather it wasn’t a url).

from rest_framework.reverse import reverse
from rest_framework import serializers

class RecursiveField(serializers.Serializer):
    """
    Can be used as a field within another serializer,
    to produce nested-recursive relationships. Works with
    through models, and limited and/or arbitrarily deep trees.
    """
    def __init__(self, **kwargs):
        self._recurse_through = kwargs.pop('through_serializer', None)
        self._recurse_max = kwargs.pop('max_depth', None)
        self._recurse_view = kwargs.pop('reverse_name', None)
        self._recurse_attr = kwargs.pop('reverse_attr', None)
        self._recurse_many = kwargs.pop('many', False)

        super(RecursiveField, self).__init__(**kwargs)

    def to_representation(self, value):
        parent = self.parent
        if isinstance(parent, serializers.ListSerializer):
            parent = parent.parent

        lvl = getattr(parent, '_recurse_lvl', 1)
        max_lvl = self._recurse_max or getattr(parent, '_recurse_max', None)

        # Defined within RecursiveField(through_serializer=A)
        serializer_class = self._recurse_through
        is_through = has_through = True

        # Informed by previous serializer (for through m2m)
        if not serializer_class:
            is_through = False
            serializer_class = getattr(parent, '_recurse_next', None)

        # Introspected for cases without through models.
        if not serializer_class:
            has_through = False
            serializer_class = parent.__class__

        if is_through or not max_lvl or lvl <= max_lvl: 
            serializer = serializer_class(
                value, many=self._recurse_many, context=self.context)

            # Propagate hereditary attributes.
            serializer._recurse_lvl = lvl + is_through or not has_through
            serializer._recurse_max = max_lvl

            if is_through:
                # Delay using parent serializer till next lvl.
                serializer._recurse_next = parent.__class__

            return serializer.data
        else:
            view = self._recurse_view or self.context['request'].resolver_match.url_name
            attr = self._recurse_attr or 'id'
            return reverse(view, args=[getattr(value, attr)],
                           request=self.context['request'])

Questions:
Answers:

With Django REST framework 3.3.1, I needed the following code to get subcategories added to categories:

models.py

class Category(models.Model):

    id = models.AutoField(
        primary_key=True
    )

    name = models.CharField(
        max_length=45, 
        blank=False, 
        null=False
    )

    parentid = models.ForeignKey(
        'self',
        related_name='subcategories',
        blank=True,
        null=True
    )

    class Meta:
        db_table = 'Categories'

serializers.py

class SubcategorySerializer(serializers.ModelSerializer):

    class Meta:
        model = Category
        fields = ('id', 'name', 'parentid')


class CategorySerializer(serializers.ModelSerializer):
    subcategories = SubcategorySerializer(many=True, read_only=True)

    class Meta:
        model = Category
        fields = ('id', 'name', 'parentid', 'subcategories')