Django: When saving, how can you check if a field has changed?

0 votes
asked Aug 30, 2009 by paul-tarjan

In my model I have :

class Alias(MyBaseModel):
    remote_image = models.URLField(max_length=500, null=True, help_text="A URL that is downloaded and cached for the image. Only
 used when the alias is made")
    image = models.ImageField(upload_to='alias', default='alias-default.png', help_text="An image representing the alias")

    def save(self, *args, **kw):
        if (not self.image or == 'alias-default.png') and self.remote_image :
            try :
                data = utils.fetch(self.remote_image)
                image = StringIO.StringIO(data)
                image =
                buf = StringIO.StringIO()
      , format='PNG')
       + ".png", ContentFile(buf.getvalue()))
            except IOError :

Which works great for the first time the remote_image changes.

How can I fetch a new image when someone has modified the remote_image on the alias? And secondly, is there a better way to cache a remote image?

21 Answers

0 votes
answered Jan 30, 2009 by smileychris

While this doesn't actually answer your question, I'd go about this in a different way.

Simply clear the remote_image field after successfully saving the local copy. Then in your save method you can always update the image whenever remote_image isn't empty.

If you'd like to keep a reference to the url, you could use an non-editable boolean field to handle the caching flag rather than remote_image field itself.

0 votes
answered Jan 31, 2009 by jiaaro

as an extension of SmileyChris' answer, you can add a datetime field to the model for last_updated, and set some sort of limit for the max age you'll let it get to before checking for a change

0 votes
answered Aug 1, 2009 by zgoda

And now for direct answer: one way to check if the value for the field has changed is to fetch original data from database before saving instance. Consider this example:

class MyModel(models.Model):
    f1 = models.CharField(max_length=1)

    def save(self, *args, **kw):
        if is not None:
            orig = MyModel.objects.get(
            if orig.f1 != self.f1:
                print 'f1 changed'
        super(MyModel, self).save(*args, **kw)

The same thing applies when working with a form. You can detect it at the clean or save method of a ModelForm:

class MyModelForm(forms.ModelForm):

    def clean(self):
        cleaned_data = super(ProjectForm, self).clean()
        #if self.has_changed():  # new instance or existing updated (form has data to save)
        if is not None:  # new instance only
            if self.instance.f1 != cleaned_data['f1']:
                print 'f1 changed'
        return cleaned_data

    class Meta:
        model = MyModel
        exclude = []
0 votes
answered Aug 24, 2009 by josh

Though it's a bit late, let me throw out this solution for others that come across this post. Essentially, you want to override the __init__ method of models.Model so that you keep a copy of the original value. This makes it so that you don't have to do another DB lookup (which is always a good thing).

class Person(models.Model):
  name = models.CharField()

  __original_name = None

  def __init__(self, *args, **kwargs):
    super(Person, self).__init__(*args, **kwargs)
    self.__original_name =

  def save(self, force_insert=False, force_update=False, *args, **kwargs):
    if != self.__original_name:
      # name changed - do something here

    super(Person, self).save(force_insert, force_update, *args, **kwargs)
    self.__original_name =
0 votes
answered Aug 28, 2011 by chris-pratt

Best way is with a pre_save signal. May not have been an option back in '09 when this question was asked and answered, but anyone seeing this today should do it this way:

@receiver(pre_save, sender=MyModel)
def do_something_if_changed(sender, instance, **kwargs):
        obj = sender.objects.get(
    except sender.DoesNotExist:
        pass # Object is new, so field hasn't technically changed, but you may want to do something else here.
        if not obj.some_field == instance.some_field: # Field has changed
            # do something
0 votes
answered Aug 12, 2012 by ivanperelivskiy

I use following mixin:

from django.forms.models import model_to_dict

class ModelDiffMixin(object):
    A model mixin that tracks model fields' values and provide some useful api
    to know what fields have been changed.

    def __init__(self, *args, **kwargs):
        super(ModelDiffMixin, self).__init__(*args, **kwargs)
        self.__initial = self._dict

    def diff(self):
        d1 = self.__initial
        d2 = self._dict
        diffs = [(k, (v, d2[k])) for k, v in d1.items() if v != d2[k]]
        return dict(diffs)

    def has_changed(self):
        return bool(self.diff)

    def changed_fields(self):
        return self.diff.keys()

    def get_field_diff(self, field_name):
        Returns a diff for field if it's changed and None otherwise.
        return self.diff.get(field_name, None)

    def save(self, *args, **kwargs):
        Saves model and set initial state.
        super(ModelDiffMixin, self).save(*args, **kwargs)
        self.__initial = self._dict

    def _dict(self):
        return model_to_dict(self, fields=[ for field in


>>> p = Place()
>>> p.has_changed
>>> p.changed_fields
>>> p.rank = 42
>>> p.has_changed
>>> p.changed_fields
>>> p.diff
{'rank': (0, 42)}
>>> p.categories = [1, 3, 5]
>>> p.diff
{'categories': (None, [1, 3, 5]), 'rank': (0, 42)}
>>> p.get_field_diff('categories')
(None, [1, 3, 5])
>>> p.get_field_diff('rank')
(0, 42)


Please note that this solution works well in context of current request only. Thus it's suitable primarily for simple cases. In concurrent environment where multiple requests can manipulate the same model instance at the same time, you definitely need a different approach.

0 votes
answered Jan 7, 2013 by myaser

I had this situation before my solution was to override the pre_save() method of the target field class it will be called only if the field has been changed
useful with FileField example:

class PDFField(FileField):
    def pre_save(self, model_instance, add):
        # do some operations on your file 
        # if and only if you have changed the filefield

not useful if you want to do any (post_save) operation like using the created object in some job (if certain field has changed)

0 votes
answered Jan 11, 2013 by hassek

improving @josh answer for all fields:

class Person(models.Model):
  name = models.CharField()

def __init__(self, *args, **kwargs):
    super(Person, self).__init__(*args, **kwargs)
    self._original_fields = dict([(field.attname, getattr(self, field.attname))
        for field in self._meta.local_fields if not isinstance(field, models.ForeignKey)])

def save(self, *args, **kwargs):
    for field in self._meta.local_fields:
      if not isinstance(field, models.ForeignKey) and\
        self._original_fields[] != getattr(self,
        # Do Something    
  super(Person, self).save(*args, **kwargs)

just to clarify, the getattr works to get fields like with strings (i.e. getattr(person, "name")

0 votes
answered Jan 12, 2013 by robert-kajic

You can use django-model-changes to do this without an additional database lookup:

from django.dispatch import receiver
from django_model_changes import ChangesMixin

class Alias(ChangesMixin, MyBaseModel):
   # your model

@receiver(pre_save, sender=Alias)
def do_something_if_changed(sender, instance, **kwargs):
    if 'remote_image' in instance.changes():
        # do something
0 votes
answered Jan 17, 2014 by aaron-mcmillin

Another late answer, but if you're just trying to see if a new file has been uploaded to a file field, try this: (adapted from Christopher Adams's comment on the link in zach's comment here)

Updated link:

def save(self, *args, **kw):
    from django.core.files.uploadedfile import UploadedFile
    if hasattr(self.image, 'file') and isinstance(self.image.file, UploadedFile) :
        # Handle FileFields as special cases, because the uploaded filename could be
        # the same as the filename that's already there even though there may
        # be different file contents.

        # if a file was just uploaded, the storage model with be UploadedFile
        # Do new file stuff here
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