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Adding and Updating Nautobot Settings

Best practices when adding, updating, and deprecating/removing Nautobot configuration settings.

Consider Constance

If the setting is one that would be desirable to configure at run time rather than install time, and the nature of the setting is such that it can be changed at run time without requiring a server reload or similar operations to fully take effect, consider implementing it as a django-constance setting.

Constance Advantages

  • Constance-enabled settings can be configured through the UI by any user with admin privileges, rather than requiring filesystem access to the Nautobot installation to modify.
  • Constance-enabled settings changes can take effect with zero downtime, as no server restart is required.
  • Constance-enabled settings can still be set in as a way to "lock" the configuration and disable the ability for admin users to modify it through the UI.

Constance Drawbacks

  • Constance-enabled settings must be definable through the UI, so advanced settings patterns like callable functions and other Python objects can't generally be implemented through Constance.
  • Many native Django settings can't be implemented through Constance as they typically require a process restart to fully take effect.
  • Care needs to be taken when implementing environment variable support for settings that are also Constance-enabled - you must check for "<variable_name>" in os.environ before setting a variable in the Nautobot settings, so that it remains unset (and therefore manageable by Constance) if the environment variable isn't specified, rather than the simpler common pattern of just SETTING = os.getenv("<variable_name>", <default value>) used elsewhere in the settings.

Environment Variable Support

For all settings where it's feasible to do so, you should make sure that it's configurable via environment variable as an alternative to directly editing Exceptions would be for settings that cannot easily be defined as an environment variable string, such as Python functions, complex dicts, etc.

The environment variable should typically be named NAUTOBOT_<setting_name> unless there is a strong existing convention in other tools for a different name.

For Constance-enabled settings, the general pattern would be:

if "NAUTOBOT_MY_SETTING" in os.environ and os.environ["NAUTOBOT_MY_SETTING"] != "":


    "MY_SETTING": ConstanceConfigItem(
        help_text="<user-facing string>",

For non-Constance-enabled settings, the pattern is simpler:

MY_SETTING = os.getenv("NAUTOBOT_MY_SETTING", "<default_value>")


As of Nautobot 2.2.0, settings documentation is automatically generated from the contents of nautobot/core/settings.yaml. This document describes a JSON Schema for Nautobot settings, with a number of custom extensions to support richer documentation. In general, documentation for a typical string-based setting will take the following form:

    default: "some_default"
    description: "My setting. One to three sentences here at most."
    details: "<optional additional details, examples, caveats, etc.>"
    environment_variable: "NAUTOBOT_MY_SETTING"
      "Documentation on": ""
    type: "string"
    version_added: "2.2.0"

As with a standard JSON Schema, it's possible to define other data types ("type": "array", "type": "object", etc.) and those will have other available/expected keys. Refer to documents like Creating your first schema for details if you're less familiar with JSON Schema conventions.

The special keys added specifically for documentation are as follows:

  • details: additional text beyond what's included in description, including examples, caveats, etc.
  • default_literal: The default must be the actual JSON-serializable value that is the default value for this setting. If the default value is not sufficiently self-explanatory, or is not JSON-serializable (such as a Python function), you can define a string for this key that will be rendered directly into the documentation in place of the default.
  • environment_variable: The environment variable that can be used to define this setting. Omit if not supported.
  • is_constance_setting: Set to true if this setting can be managed through Constance. Can be omitted if false.
  • is_required_setting: Set to true if this setting should be documented in; omit to default to
  • see_also: Optional dictionary of "<link text>": "<link URL>" entries that direct the user to other pages (local or remote) for additional details or context.
  • version_added: Nautobot version number where support for this setting was first added.

Markdown rendering is supported for the description, details, and default_literal fields. The see_also field is also rendered as Markdown, but only the link text should include any markdown formatting.


Markdown is technically supported in other fields, but it's not recommended to use it outside of the fields above as it may not render as expected in all contexts.

Technical Details of Settings Documentation

The and files are rendered as Jinja2 templates via Mkdocs-Macros. The file nautobot/docs/ is responsible for loading settings.yaml into the template context for rendering. mkdocs.yml instructs Mkdocs-Macros to run that file at documentation rendering time. The macros and templating are not enabled for all documentation by default - instead, only the files with render_macros: true in their headers will be templated.