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Best Practices

While there are many different development interfaces in Nautobot that each expose unique functionality, there are a common set of a best practices that have broad applicability to users and developers alike. This includes elements of writing Jobs, Plugins, and scripts for execution through the nbshell.

The below best practices apply to test code as well as feature code, and there are additional test-specific best practices to be aware of as well.

Base Classes

For models that support change-logging, custom fields, and relationships (which includes all subclasses of OrganizationalModel and PrimaryModel), the "Full-featured models" base classes below should always be used. For less full-featured models, refer to the "Minimal models" column instead.

Feature Full-featured models Minimal models
FilterSets NautobotFilterSet BaseFilterSet
Object create/edit forms NautobotModelForm BootstrapMixin
Object bulk-edit forms NautobotBulkEditForm BootstrapMixin
Table filter forms NautobotFilterForm BootstrapMixin
Read-only serializers BaseModelSerializer BaseModelSerializer
Nested serializers WritableNestedSerializer WritableNestedSerializer
All other serializers NautobotModelSerializer ValidatedModelSerializer
API View Sets NautobotModelViewSet ModelViewSet

Model Existence in the Database

A common Django pattern is to check whether a model instance's primary key (pk) field is set as a proxy for whether the instance has been written to the database or whether it exists only in memory. Because of the way Nautobot's UUID primary keys are implemented, this check will not work as expected because model instances are assigned a UUID in memory at instance creation time, not at the time they are written to the database (when the model's save() method is called). Instead, for any model which inherits from nautobot.core.models.BaseModel, you should check an instance's present_in_database property which will be either True or False.

Instead of:

    # Are we working with an existing instance in the database?
    # Actually, the above check doesn't tell us one way or the other!
    # Will never be reached!


if instance.present_in_database:
    # We're working with an existing instance in the database!
    # We're working with a newly created instance not yet written to the database!


There is one case where a model instance will have a null primary key, and that is the case where it has been removed from the database and is in the process of being deleted. For most purposes, this is not the case you are intending to check!

Model Validation

Django offers several places and mechanism in which to exert data and model validation. All model specific validation should occur within the model's clean() method or field specific validators. This ensures the validation logic runs and is consistent through the various Nautobot interfaces (Web UI, REST API, ORM, etc).

Consuming Model Validation

Django places specific separation between validation and the saving of an instance and this means it is a common Django pattern to make explicit calls first to a model instance's clean()/full_clean() methods and then the save() method. Calling only the save() method does not automatically enforce validation and may lead to data integrity issues.

Nautobot provides a convenience method that both enforces model validation and saves the instance in a single call to validated_save(). Any model which inherits from nautobot.core.models.BaseModel has this method available. This includes all core models and it is recommended that all new Nautobot models and plugin-provided models also inherit from BaseModel or one of its descendants such as nautobot.core.models.generics.OrganizationalModel or nautobot.core.models.generics.PrimaryModel.

The intended audience for the validated_save() convenience method is Job authors and anyone writing scripts for, or interacting with the ORM directly through the nbshell command. It is generally not recommended however, to use validated_save() as a blanket replacement for the save() method in the core of Nautobot.

During execution, should model validation fail, validated_save() will raise django.core.exceptions.ValidationError in the normal Django fashion.

Slug Field

Moving forward in Nautobot, all models should have a slug field. This field can be safely/correctly used in URL patterns, dictionary keys, GraphQL and REST API. Nautobot has provided the AutoSlugField to handle automatically populating the slug field from another field(s). Generally speaking model slugs should be populated from the name field. Below is an example on defining the slug field.

from django.db import models

from nautobot.core.fields import AutoSlugField
from nautobot.core.models.generics import PrimaryModel

class ExampleModel(PrimaryModel):
    name = models.CharField(max_length=100, unique=True)
    slug = AutoSlugField(populate_from='name')

Getting URL Routes

When developing new models a need often arises to retrieve a reversible route for a model to access it in either the web UI or the REST API. When this time comes, you must use nautobot.utilities.utils.get_route_for_model. You must not write your own logic to construct route names.

from nautobot.utilities.utils import get_route_for_model

This utility function supports both UI and API views for both Nautobot core apps and Nautobot plugins.

Added in version 1.4.3

Support for generating API routes was added to get_route_for_model() by passing the argument api=True.

UI Routes

Instead of:

route = f"{model._meta.app_label}:{model._meta.model_name}_list"
if model._meta.app_label in settings.PLUGINS:
    route = f"plugins:{route}"


route = get_route_for_model(model, "list")


Instead of:

api_route = f"{model._meta.app_label}-api:{model._meta.model_name}-list"
if model._meta.app_label in settings.PLUGINS:
    api_route = f"plugins-api:{api_route}"


api_route = get_route_for_model(model, "list", api=True)


Core models:

>>> get_route_for_model(Device, "list")
>>> get_route_for_model(Device, "list", api=True)

Plugin models:

>>> get_route_for_model(ExampleModel, "list")
>>> get_route_for_model(ExampleModel, "list", api=True)


The first argument may also optionally be an instance of a model, or a string using the dotted notation of {app_label}.{model} (e.g. dcim.device).

Using an instance:

>>> instance = Device.objects.first()
>>> get_route_for_model(instance, "list")

Using dotted notation:

>>> get_route_for_model("dcim.device", "list")

Filtering Models with FilterSets

The following best practices must be considered when establishing new FilterSet classes for model classes.

Mapping Model Fields to Filters

  • Filtersets must inherit from nautobot.extras.filters.NautobotFilterSet (which inherits from nautobot.utilities.filters.BaseFilterSet)
    • This affords that automatically generated lookup expressions (ic, nic, iew, niew, etc.) are always included
    • This also asserts that the correct underlying Form class that maps the generated form field types and widgets will be included
  • FIltersets must publish all model fields from a model, including related fields.
    • All fields should be provided using Meta.fields = "__all__" and this would be preferable for the first and common case as it requires the least maintanence and overhead and asserts parity between the model fields and the filterset filters.
    • In some cases simply excluding certain fields would be the next most preferable e.g. Meta.exclude = ["unwanted_field", "other_unwanted_field"]
    • Finally, the last resort should be explicitly declaring the desired fields using Meta.fields =. This should be avoided because it incurs the highest technical debt in maintaining alignment between model fields and filters.
  • In the event that fields do need to be customized to extend lookup expressions, a dictionary of field names mapped to a list of lookups may be used, however, this pattern is only compatible with explicitly declaring all fields, which should also be avoided for the common case. For example:
class UserFilter(NautobotFilterSet):
    class Meta:
        model = User
        fields = {
            'username': ['exact', 'contains'],
            'last_login': ['exact', 'year__gt'],
  • It is acceptable that default filter mappings may need to be overridden with custom filter declarations, but filter_overrides (see below) should be used as a first resort.
  • Custom filter definitions must not shadow the name of an existing model field if it is also changing the type.
    • For example DeviceFilterSet.interfaces is a BooleanFilter that is shadowing the Device.interfaces related manager. This introduces problems with automatic introspection of the filterset and this pattern must be avoided.
  • For foreign-key related fields, on existing core models in the v1.3 release train:
    • The field should be shadowed, replacing the PK filter with a lookup-based on a more human-readable value (typically slug, if available).
    provider = NaturalKeyorPKMultipleChoiceFilter(
        label="Provider (ID or slug)",
  • For foreign-key related fields on new core models for v1.4 or later:
    • The field must be shadowed utilizing a hybrid NaturalKeyOrPKMultipleChoiceFilter which will automatically try to lookup by UUID or slug depending on the value of the incoming argument (e.g. UUID string vs. slug string).
    • Fields that use name instead of slug can set the natural_key argument on NaturalKeyOrPKMultipleChoiceFilter.
    • In default settings for filtersets, when not using NaturalKeyOrPKMultipleChoiceFilter, provider would be a pk (UUID) field, whereas using NaturalKeyOrPKMultipleChoiceFilter will automatically support both input values for slug or pk.
    • New filtersets should follow this direction vs. propagating the need to continue to overload the default foreign-key filter and define an additional _id filter on each new filterset. We know that most existing FilterSets aren't following this pattern, and we plan to change that in a major release.
    • Using the previous field (provider) as an example, it would look something like this:
    from nautobot.utilities.filters import NaturalKeyOrPKMultipleChoiceFilter
    provider = NaturalKeyOrPKMultipleChoiceFilter(
        label="Provider (slug or ID)",
    # optionally use the to_field_name argument to set the field to name instead of slug
    provider = NaturalKeyOrPKMultipleChoiceFilter(
        label="Provider (name or ID)",

Filter Naming and Definition

  • Boolean filters for membership must be named with has_{related_name} (e.g. has_interfaces)

  • Boolean filters for identity must be named with is_{name} (e.g. is_virtual_chassis) although this is semantically identical to has_ filters, there may be occasions where naming the filter is_ would be more intuitive.

  • Filters must declare field_name when they have a different name than the underlying model field they are referencing. Where possible the suffix component of the filter name must map directly to the underlying field name.

For example, DeviceFilterSet.has_console_ports could be better named, to assert that the filter name following the has_ prefix is a one-to-one mapping to the underlying model's related field name (consoleports) therefore field_name must point to the field name as defined on the model:

    has_consoleports = BooleanFilter(field_name="consoleports")
  • Filters must be declared using the appropriate lookup expression (lookup_expr) if any other expression than exact (the default) is required. For example:
   has_consoleports = BooleanFilter(field_name="consoleports", lookup_expr="isnull")
  • Filters must be declared using exclude=True if a queryset .exclude() is required to be called vs. queryset .filter() which is the default when the filter default exclude=False is passed through. If you require Foo.objects.exclude(), you must pass exclude=True instead of defining a filterset method to explicitly hard-code such a query. For example:
   has_consoleports = BooleanFilter(field_name="consoleports", lookup_expr="isnull", exclude=True)
  • Filters must be declared using disinct=True if a queryset .distinct()is required to be called on the queryset

  • Filters must not be set to be required using required=True

  • Filter methods defined using the method= keyword argument may only be used as a last resort (see below) when correct usage of field_name, lookup_expr, exclude, or other filter keyword arguments do not suffice. In other words: filter methods should used as the exception and not the rule.

  • Use of filter_overrides must be considered in cases where more-specific class-local overrides. The need may ocassionally arise to change certain filter-level arguments used for filter generation, such such as changing a filter class, or customizing a UI widget. Any extra arguments are sent to the filter as keyword arguments at instance creation time. (Hint: extra must be a callable)

    For example:

class ProductFilter(NautobotFilterSet):

     class Meta:
         model = Interface
         fields = "__all__"
         filter_overrides = {
             # This would change the default to all CharFields to use lookup_expr="icontains". It
             # would also pass in the custom `choices` generated by the `generate_choices()`
             # function.
             models.CharField: {
                 "filter_class": filters.MultiValueCharFilter,
                 "extra": lambda f: {
                     "lookup_expr": "icontains",
                     "choices": generate_choices(),
             # This would make BooleanFields use a radio select widget vs. the default of checkbox
             models.BooleanField: {
                 "extra": lambda f: {
                     "widget": forms.RadioSelect,


Existing features of filtersets and filters must be exhausted first using keyword arguments before resorting to customizing, re-declaring/overloading, or defining filter methods.

Filter Methods

Filters on a filterset can reference a method (either a callable, or the name of a method on the filterset) to perform custom business logic for that filter field. However, many uses of filter methods in Nautobot are problematic because they break the ability for such filter fields to be properly reversible.

Consider this example from nautobot.dcim.filters.DeviceFilterSet.pass_through_ports:

    # Filter field definition is a BooleanFilter, for which an "isnull" lookup_expr
    # is the only valid filter expression
    pass_through_ports = django_filters.BooleanFilter(
        label="Has pass-through ports",

    # Method definition loses context and further the field's lookup_expr
    # falls back to the default of "exact" and the `name` value is irrelevant here.
    def _pass_through_ports(self, queryset, name, value):
        breakpoint()  # This was added to illustrate debugging with pdb below
        return queryset.exclude(frontports__isnull=value, rearports__isnull=value)

The default lookup_expr unless otherwise specified is “exact”, as seen in django_filters.conf:


When this method is called, the internal state is default, making reverse introspection impossible, because the lookup_expr is defaulting to “exact”:

(Pdb) field = self.filters[name]
(Pdb) field.exclude
(Pdb) field.lookup_expr

This means that the arguments for the field are being completely ignored and the hard-coded queryset queryset.exclude(frontports__isnull=value, rearports__isnull=value) is all that is being run when this method is called.

Additionally, name variable that gets passed to the method cannot be used here because there are two field names at play (frontports and rearports). This hard-coding is impossible to introspect and therefore impossible to reverse.

So while this filter definition coudl be improved like so, there is still no way to know what is going on in the method body:

    pass_through_ports = django_filters.BooleanFilter(
        method="_pass_through_ports",  # The method that is called
        exclude=True,                  # Perform an `.exclude()` vs. `.filter()``
        lookup_expr="isnull",          # Perform `isnull` vs. `exact``
        label="Has pass-through ports",

For illustration, if we use another breakpoint, you can see that the filter field now has the correct attributes that can be used to help reverse this query:

(Pdb) field = self.filters[name]
(Pdb) field.exclude
(Pdb) field.lookup_expr

Except that it stops there becuse of the method body. Here are the problems:

  • There's no way to identify either of the field names required here
  • The name that is incoming to the method is the filter name as defined (pass_through_ports in this case) does not map to an actual model field
  • So the filter can be introspected for lookup_expr value using self.filters[name].lookup_expr, but it would have to be assumed that applies to both fields.
  • Same with exclude (self.filters[name].exclude)

It would be better to just eliminate pass_through_ports=True entirely in exchange for front_ports=True&rear_ports=True (current) or has_frontports=True&has_rearports=True (future).

Generating Reversible Q Objects

With consistent and proper use of filter field arguments when defining them on a fitlerset, a query could be constructed using the field_name and lookup_expr values. For example:

    def generate_query(self, field, value):
        query = Q()
        predicate = {f"{field.field_name}__{field.lookup_expr}": value}
        if field.exclude:
            query |= ~Q(**predicate)
            query |= Q(**predicate)
        return query

## Somewhere else in business logic:
field = filterset.filters[name]
value =[name]
query = generate_query(field, value)
filterset.qs.filter(query).count()  # 339


  • For the vast majority of cases where we have method filters, it’s for Boolean filters
  • For the common case method filters are unnecessary technical debt and should be eliminated where better suited by proper use of filter field arguments
  • Reversibility may not always necessarily be required, but by properly defining field_name, lookup_expr, and exclude on filter fields, introspection becomes deterministic and reversible queries can be reliably generated as needed.
  • For exceptions such as DeviceFilterSet.has_primary_ip where it checks for both Device.primary_ip4 OR Device.primary_ip6, method filters may still be necessary, however, they would be the exception and not the norm.
  • The good news is that in the core there are not that many of these filter methods defined, but we also don’t want to see them continue to proliferate.

Using NautobotUIViewSet for Plugin Development

Added in version 1.4.0

Using NautobotUIViewSet for plugin development is strongly recommended.