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Data Model Overview

In TurboGears the model represents whatever persistent data your application works with.

In practice, we usually use an ORM (object relational mapper) in our model.

Object relational mappers provide a bridge between Python objects and a relational database. An ORM lets you use object-oriented programming style for accessing a relational database, and provides an abstraction layer over different database backend systems. ORMs are not designed to hide away the database 100%, but they go a long way towards letting you write Python and not worry about SQL.

TurboGears 1.0 models are typically represented using SQLObject objects, as SQLObject is the default ORM used by TurboGears 1.0. This Getting Started guide is therefore based on SQLObject. However, you can also use SQLAlchemy and this will become the default ORM starting with TurboGears 1.1 If you prefer this solution, please read our alternative Getting Started guide using SQLAlchemy and Elixir.

Set the Database URI (dburi)

You need to tell your model where to find the database by configuring the database settings.

In your project’s dev.cfg file (for development) or the prod.cfg file (for production use) you’ll find the parameter sqlobject.dburi, which controls where the database is stored. The value is a typical URI scheme. For example:


The default settings specifies a devdata.sqlite SQLite database file within your project’s top directory. You can change the dburi to use other alternative databases such as MySQL, Postgres, MS SQL Server, etc.


On the connection URI (sqlobject.dburi), You can also provide options via “query parameters”. Two useful options are debug and debugOutput:

If you add ?debug=1 to your URI, each query will be output as it is run.

If you add &debugOutput=1, you’ll also see the result of the query displayed.

Define the Data Model

You define your data model in the file in your project’s package.

TurboGears (i.e. SQLObject) provides two different ways to define your database:

  1. Define tables and their relationships in Python.
  2. Get them automatically from your database.

For clarity in your code and database portability, it is often easier to define your model in Python terms.

Defining your model in Python requires more typing of Python code, but saves you from having to write SQL to create your database. Check the Model Reference for detail.

To define a Python classes to be based on your database, you just do this in

from sqlobject import *

class Book(SQLObject):
    class sqlmeta:
        fromDatabase = True


This only works with some databases. Check the SQLObject Automatic Class Generation documentation to check whether this works with your database.

Create the Database

To create the database from the model definition, you just need to run the following command from within your project’s top-level directory:

$ tg-admin sql create

This will create tables that you’ve defined in your model. Of course, this will only work, if you defined the model with Python, not if you use fromDatabase = True,

Using the Model Outside your Application

If you want to access the database from outside of your TurboGears application, for example for data import scripts or database maintenance, you have to load the database configuration properly first. Please see Using Your Model Outside of TurboGears Applications for an explanation.