Debugging a Django Application

There are numerous tools in the world designed to make debugging a Django application much easier. Whether a template is taking too long to render, or an API endpoint is crashing on certain input, there are better ways to debug than inserting print statements.

Django Debug Toolbar

The Django Debug Toolbar is a very useful tool that allows for viewing lots of information about how every page was rendered, including debug error pages. It adds a sidebar to rendered HTML requests that includes things like:

  • Django, Python, and toolbar versions
  • SQL queries needed to render the page, and their execution time
  • Timing information
  • Contents of settings
  • Page and WSGI headers
  • View information, including session data, POST data, view function name, view kwargs, etc.
  • Static and template files
  • Signals called during view
  • Logging

To install the toolbar, install it with pip:

(venv) $ pip install django-debug-toolbar

and then add it to the project’s INSTALLED_APPS:


Run the app and it’s ready to go! Whenever DEBUG is set to True, any connection matching Django’s INTERNAL_IPS will have the toolbar. For more information on how to install it, see their installation docs.


For API calls that error out, Django Debug Toolbar can be used, since it shows up on debug error pages. However, you’ll need to use something like Django PDB to debug pages that don’t throw errors.

Django PDB

Python’s Debugger is useful for getting information from running processes, including Django’s built-in log of SQL queries ran. Unlike the Django Debug Toolbar above, PDB can be used for any endpoint, including API endpoints, making it a much more useful utility (though much harder to use, since it requires knowledge of Python’s debugger). Django PDB is a tool that can automatically activate pdb for any endpoint.

To set up django-pdb, first install it with pip:

(venv) $ pip install django-pdb

Then add it to the end of the application’s INSTALLED_APPS:


Add it to the end of the application’s MIDDLEWARE_CLASSES:


Now, run the development server as normal:

(venv) $ python runserver

To drop into pdb for a particular request, add a pdb parameter to the request:

$ curl http://localhost:8000/v1/objects/1?pdb

A pdb prompt should appear in the terminal where is running.

$ python runserver
Performing system checks...

System check identified no issues (0 silenced).
October 09, 2015 - 20:56:08
Django version 1.7.6, using settings 'project.settings'
Starting development server at
Quit the server with CONTROL-C.
GET /v1/objects/1?pdb
function "myview" in app/
args: ()
kwargs: {'id': u'1'}
> /home/user/projects/project/venv/local/lib/python2.7/site-packages/django/core/handlers/
-> non_atomic_requests = getattr(view, '_non_atomic_requests', set())

Normal pdb commands can be used, including n(ext) to skip to the next line of the current function, s(tep) to step to the next line, or into a called function, and c(ontinue) to jump to the next breakpoint.

To view SQL queries run in a certain view, for instance, clear the previous queries at the beginning of the view, step through the view until the return, and print Django’s queries list:

(Pdb) from django.db import reset_queries
(Pdb) n
-> def song(request, id=None):
(Pdb) n
-> return HttpResponse(
(Pdb) from django.db import connection
(Pdb) connection.queries
[{u'time': u'0.004', u'sql': u'QUERY = u\'SELECT "words_song"."id", "words_song"."name", "words_song"."video", "words_song"."slug" FROM "words_song" WHERE "words_song"."id" = %s LIMIT 21\' - PARAMS = (1,)'}]

For more information on how to use pdb, see the official debugger documentation.