Best practices for writing extensions

Follow CKAN’s coding standards

See Contributing guide.

Use the plugins toolkit instead of importing CKAN

Try to limit your extension to interacting with CKAN only through CKAN’s plugin interfaces and plugins toolkit. It’s a good idea to keep your extension code separate from CKAN as much as possible, so that internal changes in CKAN from one release to the next don’t break your extension.

Don’t edit CKAN’s database tables

An extension can create its own tables in the CKAN database, but it should not write to core CKAN tables directly, add columns to core tables, or use foreign keys against core tables.

Implement each plugin class in a separate Python module

This keeps CKAN’s plugin loading order simple, see ckan.plugins.

Names of config settings should include the name of the extension

Names of config settings provided by extensions should include the name of the extension, to avoid conflicting with core config settings or with config settings from other extensions. For example:

ckan.my_extension.show_most_popular_groups = True

Internationalize user-visible strings

All user-visible strings should be internationalized, see String internationalization.

Add third party libraries to requirements.txt

If your extension requires third party libraries, rather than adding them to, they should be added to requirements.txt, which can be installed with:

pip install -r requirements.txt

To prevent accidental breakage of your extension through backwards-incompatible behaviour of newer versions of your dependencies, their versions should be pinned, such as:


On the flip side, be mindful that this could also create version conflicts with requirements of considerably newer or older extensions.

Do not automatically modify the database structure

If your extension uses custom database tables then it needs to modify the database structure, for example to add the tables after its installation or to migrate them after an update. These modifications should not be performed automatically when the extension is loaded, since this can lead to dead-locks and other problems.

Instead, create a paster command which can be run separately.