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cache configurable trees of related model instances in Django

Project description

django-cachetree provides caching of configurable trees of related model instances in Django. For example, with django-cachetree you could easily cache a user instance and the user’s photos and comments on a photo-sharing site as a single item in the cache. When a user is fetched from the database, its related objects are “prefetched” before the user object is set in the cache. This means that when you retrieve the user object from the cache, the related objects are there with it and you can access them without hitting the database (or hitting the cache again):

user = User.objects.get_cached(pk=1) # user not yet in cache, hits the
                                     # database and prefetches related objects


user = User.objects.get_cached(pk=1) # hits the cache
photos = user.photo_set.all()
print photos[0].title # doesn't hit database or cache
comments = user.comment_set.all()
print comments[0].date # doesn't hit database or cache

You can configure django-cachetree to cache related objects of related objects of related objects, to any depth. For example, on a blog, you could cache author objects along with their set of blog entries, the set of comments for each of those entries, and the commenter for each of those comments.

django-cachetree automatically invalidates cached objects when they or the related objects cached with them are changed, deleted, or created.


django-cachetree requires Django 1.3 and Python 2.5, 2.6, or 2.7.


You can install django-cachetree with

pip install django-cachetree


easy_install django-cachetree

This will add cachetree to your Python path. Add 'cachetree' to your INSTALLED_APPS, and add 'cachetree.middleware.InstallCachetree' to your middleware classes. This will add a get_cached method to the default manager for each of your cached models. (Note that because get_cached is added to the manager class, it will be available on all instances of that manager class. However, attempting to use it on a model not defined in your CACHETREE setting will raise a ValueError.) If invalidation is enabled, cachetree.install() also registers signal handlers that are used for invalidation.

Installing cachetree via middleware will only work if there is a page request to trigger the middleware. To install and use cachetree outside of a request-response context (for example, in a test suite), run


in your testrunner or at the bottom of your models file.

The CACHETREE setting

To use django-cachetree, add a CACHETREE setting to The CACHETREE setting consists of nested dictionaries that tell django-cachetree what to cache. The keys in the topmost dictionary should contain the app_label for each app that has models you wish to cache. Each app_label’s dictionary should contain a key with the class name (as a string) for each cached model in the app. These are the models whose managers will provide a get_cached method, and are known as “root models” in django-cachetree’s terminology. For example, to cache Author and Entry models but none of their related objects in an app called myapp, you would write:

    "myapp": {
        "Author": {},
        "Entry": {},

The dictionary for each root model can contain three optional keys, "timeout", "lookups", and "prefetch".

The timeout, in seconds, to use when caching instances of this model. Overrides your global timeout setting in CACHES.

A tuple containing the field names that can be used as kwargs when calling get_cached for this model. By default, lookups are allowed by primary key. If your model’s primary key field is id, the default setting would be ("pk", "id").

To lookup by a combination of fields, include the field names as a tuple within your lookups tuple. For example, to look up User instances by id or by first_name and last_name:

    "auth": {
        "User": {
            "lookups": (
                ("first_name", "last_name"),

If invalidation is enabled, lookups are restricted to fields defined on the model, including ForeignKey fields and OneToOneFields but excluding ManyToManyFields. Specifying ManyToManyFields or reverse ForeignKey or OneToOneFields will raise cachetree.ImproperlyConfigured. Lookup separators (for example, username__contains) are also not allowed and will raise ImproperlyConfigured. To know what keys to invalidate, django-cachetree requires exact lookups (which is the default when no lookup separator is used).


A dictionary specifying the tree of related objects to prefetch and cache with the root model instance. Each key should be the attribute name (as a string) of the related instance(s) to be prefetched. Each key’s value should be a dictionary of attribute names to prefetch on the related instance(s), or an empty dictionary (or None) if no further relationships should be prefetched. Any relationship can be prefetched: OneToOneField, ForeignKey, and ManyToManyField, forward or reverse. For example, to cache author objects, their set of entries, those entries’ comments, and each comment’s commenter, you might write:

    "myapp": {
        "Author": {
            "lookups": (
                ("first_name", "last_name"),
            "prefetch": {
                "entry_set": {
                    "comment_set": {
                        "commenter": {},

The above example assumes that each Author object is related to its entries by an entry_set attribute, each entry object is related to its comments by a comment_set attribute, and each comment object relates to its commenter by a commenter field.

If invalidation is enabled, there is one restriction on prefetching. If you prefetch a ManyToManyField (forward or reverse) that defines a custom intermediary model (as specified with the through argument on the model field definition), you must also prefetch the attribute that points to the intermediary instances. For example, if you have an Entry model related to a Category model through a custom intermediary model called EntryCategory, and you prefetch Entry.categories (a ManyToManyField), you must also prefetch the Entry.entrycategory_set attribute that Django adds to your Entry model, or ImproperlyConfigured will be raised.

You can find example CACHETREE settings in django-cachetree’s test module, which defines models and settings covering all possible relationships.

Prefetching ManyToManyFields and Reverse ForeignKeys

When you configure django-cachetree to cache a ManyToManyField or reverse ForeignKey, such as user.photo_set (where Photo has a foreign key to User), django-cachetree calls user.photo_set.all(), evaluates the queryset, and caches the results on the user when prefetching. Subsequent calls to user.photo_set.all() will return the cached results, rather than returning a new queryset (which would require hitting the database again to evaluate). django-cachetree patches the manager on ManyToManyField and ForeignKey descriptors to make this behavior possible. However, only the all() method is patched. If you call user.photo_set.count() or user.photo_set.filter() or any other method besides all(), you will bypass the cached results and hit the database. Assuming your object set is not huge, you can avoid hitting the database by calling all() and counting or filtering the results within your code.

How Invalidation Works

When you call cachetree.install(), django-cachetree analyzes your CACHETREE setting and determines which relationships must be followed in order to traverse the tree backwards from prefetched related instances to their root model instances. Using this information, whenever a model defined in your CACHETREE setting (either as a root model or as a prefetched relationship) is created, saved, or deleted (and in the case of ManyToManyFields and reverse ForeignKeys, added, removed, or cleared using the field manager’s add(), remove(), or clear() methods), django-cachetree traverses its relationships back to the root model instance(s) that need to be invalidated. django-cachetree uses a post_init signal handler to keep track of each instance’s initial state, and when the instance changes and is saved, django-cachetree follows both the instance’s new and initial values to find the root model instances that need to be invalidated. For example, if you cache Author objects along with their entry_set, and you change an Entry object’s author, django-cachetree will invalidate both the new and the initial Author objects for that entry.

Important Caveat: django-cachetree does not perform invalidation when you run an UPDATE query using a manager’s update() method. You will either need to invalidate the affected instances yourself by calling invalidate() (described below), rely on the cached objects to expire naturally, or avoid using update().

Cachetree Authentication Backend

If django.contrib.auth is installed in your project, you can use django-cachetree’s authentication backend:


This will look in the cache before hitting the database when authenticating users. Adding the auth.User model to your CACHETREE setting is optional. Not adding it implies the following settings:



        "auth": {
            "User": {

If you wish to allow additional lookups on User or to prefetch related instances, explicitly define User in your CACHETREE setting.


The following functions can be imported from cachetree:

Works like get_object_or_404, but uses get_cached instead of get.
Traverses relationships on each of the instances to find and invalidate its root model instance(s).
Decorator that disables invalidation for the duration of the function it decorates.

Additional Settings

Set to True to disable django-cachetree. Calls to get_cached() or get_cached_object_or_404() will use get(). Calls to invalidate() and uses of the no_invalidation decorator will have no effect. This allows you to temporarily disable django-cachetree without modifying any code. Default: False.
Set to False to disable invalidation. django-cachetree will continue to cache model objects but will not invalidate them when they change. Calls to invalidate() and uses of the no_invalidation decorator will have no effect. Default: True.
Controls the prefix django-cachetree uses when it prefetches a set of related objects and caches it on a model instance. In the example of author.entry_set.all(), django-cachetree caches the author’s set of entries as author._cached_entry_set, and subsequent calls to author.entry_set.all() return this attribute. Normally you will not need to access this attribute directly, but this setting allows you to change the prefix in case of name conflicts. Default: _cached_.

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