For Django 1.1.

I have this in my

class User(models.Model):
    created = models.DateTimeField(auto_now_add=True)
    modified = models.DateTimeField(auto_now=True)

When updating a row I get:

[Sun Nov 15 02:18:12 2009] [error] /home/ptarjan/projects/twitter-meme/django/db/backends/mysql/ Warning: Column 'created' cannot be null
[Sun Nov 15 02:18:12 2009] [error]   return self.cursor.execute(query, args)

The relevant part of my database is:

  `created` datetime NOT NULL,
  `modified` datetime NOT NULL,

Is this cause for concern?

Side question: in my admin tool, those two fields aren’t showing up. Is that expected?

Any field with the auto_now attribute set will also inherit editable=False and therefore will not show up in the admin panel. There has been talk in the past about making the auto_now and auto_now_add arguments go away, and although they still exist, I feel you’re better off just using a custom save() method.

So, to make this work properly, I would recommend not using auto_now or auto_now_add and instead define your own save() method to make sure that created is only updated if id is not set (such as when the item is first created), and have it update modified every time the item is saved.

I have done the exact same thing with other projects I have written using Django, and so your save() would look like this:

from django.utils import timezone

class User(models.Model):
    created     = models.DateTimeField(editable=False)
    modified    = models.DateTimeField()

    def save(self, *args, **kwargs):
        ''' On save, update timestamps '''
        if not
            self.created =
        self.modified =
        return super(User, self).save(*args, **kwargs)

Hope this helps!

Edit in response to comments:

The reason why I just stick with overloading save() vs. relying on these field arguments is two-fold:

  1. The aforementioned ups and downs with their reliability. These arguments are heavily reliant on the way each type of database that Django knows how to interact with treats a date/time stamp field, and seems to break and/or change between every release. (Which I believe is the impetus behind the call to have them removed altogether).
  2. The fact that they only work on DateField, DateTimeField, and TimeField, and by using this technique you are able to automatically populate any field type every time an item is saved.
  3. Use vs., because it will return a TZ-aware or naive datetime.datetime object depending on settings.USE_TZ.

To address why the OP saw the error, I don’t know exactly, but it looks like created isn’t even being populated at all, despite having auto_now_add=True. To me it stands out as a bug, and underscores item #1 in my little list above: auto_now and auto_now_add are flaky at best.

But I wanted to point out that the opinion expressed in the accepted answer is somewhat outdated. According to more recent discussions (django bugs #7634 and #12785), auto_now and auto_now_add are not going anywhere, and even if you go to the original discussion, you’ll find strong arguments against the RY (as in DRY) in custom save methods.

A better solution has been offered (custom field types), but didn’t gain enough momentum to make it into django. You can write your own in three lines (it’s Jacob Kaplan-Moss’ suggestion).

from django.db import models
from django.utils import timezone

class AutoDateTimeField(models.DateTimeField):
    def pre_save(self, model_instance, add):

created_at = models.DateField(
updated_at = AutoDateTimeField(

Talking about a side question: if you want to see this fields in admin (though, you won’t be able to edit it), you can add readonly_fields to your admin class.

class SomeAdmin(ModelAdmin):
    readonly_fields = ("created","modified",)

Well, this applies only to latest Django versions (I believe, 1.3 and above)

I think the easiest (and maybe most elegant) solution here is to leverage the fact that you can set default to a callable. So, to get around admin’s special handling of auto_now, you can just declare the field like so:

from django.utils import timezone
date_field = models.DateField(

It’s important that you don’t use as the default value wouldn’t update (i.e., default gets set only when the code is loaded). If you find yourself doing this a lot, you could create a custom field. However, this is pretty DRY already I think.

If you alter your model class like this:

class MyModel(models.Model):
    time = models.DateTimeField(auto_now_add=True)
    time.editable = True

Then this field will show up in my admin change page

Based on what I’ve read and my experience with Django so far, auto_now_add is buggy. I agree with jthanism — override the normal save method it’s clean and you know what’s hapenning. Now, to make it dry, create an abstract model called TimeStamped:

from django.utils import timezone

class TimeStamped(models.Model):
    creation_date = models.DateTimeField(editable=False)
    last_modified = models.DateTimeField(editable=False)

    def save(self, *args, **kwargs):
        if not self.creation_date:
            self.creation_date =

        self.last_modified =
        return super(TimeStamped, self).save(*args, **kwargs)

    class Meta:
        abstract = True

And then, when you want a model that has this time-stampy behavior, just subclass:

    field1 = ...

If you want the fields to show up in admin, then just remove the editable=False option

class Feedback(models.Model):
   feedback = models.CharField(max_length=100)
   created = models.DateTimeField(auto_now_add=True)
   updated = models.DateTimeField(auto_now=True)

Here, we have created and updated columns that will have a timestamp when created, and when someone modified feedback.

auto_now_add will set time when an instance is created whereas auto_now will set time when someone modified his feedback.

Is this cause for concern?

No, Django automatically adds it for you while saving the models, so, it is expected.

Side question: in my admin tool, those 2 fields aren’t showing up. Is that expected?

Since these fields are auto added, they are not shown.

To add to the above, as synack said, there has been a debate on the django mailing list to remove this, because, it is “not designed well” and is “a hack”

Writing a custom save() on each of my models is much more pain than using the auto_now

Obviously you don’t have to write it to every model. You can write it to one model and inherit others from it.

But, as auto_add and auto_now_add are there, I would use them rather than trying to write a method myself.

As for your Admin display, see this answer.

Note: auto_now and auto_now_add are set to editable=False by default, which is why this applies.

I needed something similar today at work. Default value to be, but editable both in admin and class views inheriting from FormMixin, so for created in my the following code fulfilled those requirements:

from __future__ import unicode_literals
import datetime

from django.db import models
from django.utils.functional import lazy
from django.utils.timezone import localtime, now

def get_timezone_aware_now_date():
    return localtime(now()).date()

class TestDate(models.Model):
    created = models.DateField(default=lazy(

For DateTimeField, I guess remove the .date() from the function and change to datetime.datetime or better timezone.datetime. I haven’t tried it with DateTime, only with Date.

auto_now=True didn’t work for me in Django 1.4.1, but the below code saved me. It’s for timezone aware datetime.

from django.utils.timezone import get_current_timezone
from datetime import datetime

class EntryVote(models.Model):
    voted_on = models.DateTimeField(auto_now=True)

    def save(self, *args, **kwargs):
        self.voted_on =
        super(EntryVote, self).save(*args, **kwargs)

You can use for created and auto_now for modified:

from django.utils import timezone
class User(models.Model):
    created = models.DateTimeField(
    modified = models.DateTimeField(auto_now=True)

If you are using a custom primary key instead of the default auto- increment int, auto_now_add will lead to a bug.

Here is the code of Django’s default DateTimeField.pre_save withauto_now and auto_now_add:

def pre_save(self, model_instance, add):
    if self.auto_now or (self.auto_now_add and add):
        value =
        setattr(model_instance, self.attname, value)
        return value
        return super(DateTimeField, self).pre_save(model_instance, add)

I am not sure what the parameter add is. I hope it will some thing like:

add = True if getattr(model_instance, 'id') else False

The new record will not have attr id, so getattr(model_instance, 'id') will return False will lead to not setting any value in the field.

Here’s the answer if you’re using south and you want to default to the date you add the field to the database:

Choose option 2

Looks like this:

$ ./ schemamigration myapp --auto
 ? The field 'User.created_date' does not have a default specified, yet is NOT NULL.
 ? Since you are adding this field, you MUST specify a default
 ? value to use for existing rows. Would you like to:
 ?  1. Quit now, and add a default to the field in
 ?  2. Specify a one-off value to use for existing columns now
 ? Please select a choice: 2
 ? Please enter Python code for your one-off default value.
 ? The datetime module is available, so you can do e.g.
 + Added field created_date on myapp.User