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django-devdata provides a convenient workflow for creating development databases seeded with anonymised production data. Have a development database that contains useful data, and is fast to create and keep up to date.

As of 1.x, django-devdata is ready for use in real-world projects. See releases for more details.

Elevator pitch

# blog.models

class Post(models.Model):
    content = models.TextField()
    published = models.DateTimeField()

class Comment(models.Model):
    user = models.ForeignKey(User)
    post = models.ForeignKey(Post)
    text = models.TextField()

    'auth.User': [
        # We want all internal users
        # Get some random other users, we don't need everyone
        RandomSampleQuerySetStrategy(name='random_users', count=10),
    'blog.Post': [
        # Only the latest blog posts necessary for testing...
        LatestSampleQuerySetStrategy(name='latest_posts', count=3, order='-published'),
        # Except that one the weird edge case
        ExactQuerySetStrategy(name='edge_case', pks=(42,)),
    'blog.Comment': [
        # Get all the comments – devdata will automatically restrict to only
        # those that maintain referential integrity, i.e. comments from users
        # not selected, or on posts not selected, will be skipped.
(prod)$ python devdata_export devdata
(prod)$ tar -czf devdata.tar devdata/
(local)$ scp prod:~/devdata.tar devdata.tar.gz
(local)$ tar -xzf devdata.tar.gz
(local)$ python devdata_import devdata/


In the same way that development environments being close in configuration to production environments, it's important that the data in databases we use for development is a realistic representation of that in production.

We could use a dump of a production database, but there are several problems with this:

  1. It's bad for user privacy and a security risk. It may not be allowed in some organisations.
  2. Production databases can be too big, impractical or unusable.
  3. Test data is limited to that available in production.
  4. Preserving referential integrity for a sample of data is hard.

Another option is to use factories or fake data to generate the entire development database. This is mostly desirable, but...

  • It can be a burden to maintain factories once there are hundreds or thousands of them.
  • It can be hard to retroactively add these to a Django site of a significant size.


django-devdata provides defines a three step workflow:

  1. Exporting data, with a customisable export strategies per model.
  2. Anonymising data, with customisable anonymisation per field/model.
  3. Importing data, with customisable importing per model.

django-devdata ships with built-in support for:

  • Exporting full tables
  • Exporting subsets (random, latest, specified primary keys)
  • Anonymising data with faker
  • Importing exported data
  • Importing data from factory-boy factories

In addition to this, the structure provided by django-devdata can be extended to support extraction from other data sources, to import/export Django fixtures, or to work with other factory libraries.

Exporting, anonymising, and importing, are all configurable, and django-devdata's base classes will help do this without much work.



This step allows a sync strategy to persist some data that will be used to create a new development database. For example, the QuerySetStrategy can export data from a table to a filesystem for later import.

This can be used for:

  • Exporting a manually created database for other developers to use.
  • Exporting realistic data from a production database.
  • A cron job to maintain a development dataset hosted on cloud storage.

This step is optional (the built-in factory strategy doesn't do this).


This step is critical when using django-devdata to export from production sources. It's not a distinct step, but rather an opt-out part of the export step.


This step is responsible for creating a new database and filling it. If any exporting strategies have been used those must have run first, or their outputs must have been downloaded if they are being shared/hosted somewhere.

Factory-based strategies generate data during this process.



The django-devdata strategies define how an import and optionally an export happen. Each model is configured with a list of Strategies to use.

Classes are provided to inherit from for customising this behaviour:

  • Strategy – the base class of all strategies.
  • Exportable – a mixin that opts this strategy in to the export step.
  • QuerySetStrategy – the base of all strategies that export production data to a filesystem. Handles referential integrity, serialisation, and anonymisation of the data pre-export.
  • FactoryStrategy – the base of all strategies that create data based on factory-boy factories.

The API necessary for classes to implement is small, and there are customisation points provided for common patterns.

In our experience most models can be exported with just the un-customised QuerySetStrategy, some will need to use other pre-provided strategies, and a small number will need custom exporters based on the classes provided.

Extra Strategies

Sometimes it can be useful to export and import data from the database which lives outside the tables which Django manages via models.

The "extra" strategies provide hooks which support transferring these data.

Classes are provided to inherit from for customising this behaviour:

  • ExtraExport – defines how to get data out of the database.
  • ExtraImport – defines how to get data into a database.

The API necessary for classes to implement is small and reminiscent of those for Strategy and Exportable.

The following "extra" strategies are provided out of the box:

  • PostgresSequences – transfers data about Postgres sequences which are not attached to tables.


Anonymisers are configured by field name, and by model and field name.

Each anonymiser is a function that takes a number of kwargs with useful context and returns a new value, compatible with the Django JSON encoder/decoder.

The signature for an anonymiser is:

def anonymise(*, obj: Model, field: str, pii_value: Any, fake: Faker) -> Any:

There are several anonymisers provided to use or to build off:

  • faker_anonymise – Use faker to anonymise this field with the provided generator, e.g. faker_anonymise('pyint', min_value=15, max_value=85).
  • const – anonymise to a constant value, e.g. const('ch_XXXXXXXX').
  • random_foreign_key – anonymise to a random foreign key.

django-devdata's anonymisation is not intended to be perfect, but rather to be a reasonable default for creating useful data that does a good enough job by default. Structure in data can be used to de-anonymise users in some cases with advanced techniques, and django-devdata does not attempt to solve for this case as most attackers, users, and legislators, are more concerned about obviously personally identifiable information such as names and email addresses. This anonymisation is no replacement for encryption at-rest with tools like FileVault or BitLocker on development machines.

An example of this pragmatism in anonymisation is the preserve_nulls argument taken by some built-in anonymisers. This goes against true anonymisation, but the absence of data is typically not of much use to attackers (or concern for users), if the actual data is anonymised, while this can be of huge benefit to developers in maintaining data consistency.


django-devdata makes heavy use of Django settings for both defining how it should act for your site, and also for configuring how you'll use your workflow.

django-devdata default settings, with documentation on usage.

# Required
# A mapping of app model label to list of strategies to be used.
# {'auth.User': [QuerySetStrategy(name='all')], 'sessions.Session': []}

# Optional
# A list of strategies for transferring data about a database which are not
# captured in the tables themselves.
# [
#   ('devdata.extras.PostgresSequences', {}),
# ]

# Optional
# A mapping of field name to an anonymiser to be used for all fields with that
# name.
# {'first_name': faker_anonymise('first_name'), 'ip': const('')}

# Optional
# A mapping of app model label to a mapping of fields and anonymisers to be
# scoped to just that model.
# {'auth.User': {'first_name': faker_anonymise('first_name')}}

# Optional
# List of locales to be used for Faker in generating anonymised data.
# ['en_GB', 'en_AU']

# Optional
# In many codebases, there will only be a few models that will do most of the
# work to restrict the total export size – only taking a few users, or a few
# comments – for many models a default behaviour of taking everything
# following the restrictions from other models would be sufficient. This setting
# allows for specifying a default strategy.
# Important:
# - When using this, no errors will be raised if a model is missed from the list
#   of strategies.
# - This strategy is not added to all models, and it does not override an empty
#   list of strategies. It is only used when a model is not defined in the
#   strategy config at all.

Strategies can be defined either as a strategy instance, or a tuple of dotted-path and kwargs, for example the following are equivalent:

    'auth.User': [

    'auth.User': [
        ('devdata.strategies.QuerySetStrategy', {'name': 'all_users'}),

This alternate configuration format is provided in cases of extensive use of custom strategies, as strategies often import models, but due to the Django startup process models can't be imported until the settings have been imported.