CKAN Documentation 2.1.5 documentation »

Writing Extensions


A CKAN extension is a Python package that contains one or more plugins. A plugin is a class that implements one or more of CKAN’s plugin interfaces to customize CKAN or add new features.

Plugins: An Overview

Plugins are created as classes inheriting from either the Plugin or SingletonPlugin base classes. Most Extensions use the SingletonPlugin base class and we advise you to use this if possible.

Having created your class you need to inherit from one or more plugin interfaces to allow CKAN to interact with your extension. When specifying the interfaces that will be implemented you must remember to either (a) define all methods required by the interface or (b) use the inherits=True parameter which will use the interfaces default methods for any that you have not defined.


When writing extensions it is important to keep your code separate from CKAN by not importing ckan modules, so that internal CKAN changes do not break your code between releases. You can however import ckan.plugins without this risk.

Libraries Available To Extensions

As well as using the variables made available to them by implementing various plugin hooks, extensions will likely want to be able to use parts of the CKAN core library. To allow this, CKAN provides a stable set of modules that extensions can use safe in the knowledge the interface will remain stable, backward-compatible and with clear deprecation guidelines as development of CKAN core progresses. This interface is available in Plugins Toolkit.

Example Extension

# Example Extension
# This extension adds a new template helper function `hello_world` when
# enabled templates can `{{ h.hello_world() }}` to add this html snippet.

import ckan.plugins as p

class HelloWorldPlugin(p.SingletonPlugin):


    def hello_world():
        # This is our simple helper function.
        html = '<span>Hello World</span>'
        return p.toolkit.literal(html)

    def get_helpers(self):
        # This method is defined in the ITemplateHelpers interface and
        # is used to return a dict of named helper functions.
        return {'hello_world': hello_world}

Guidelines for writing extensions

  • Use the plugins Plugins Toolkit.
  • Extensions should use actions via get_action(). This function is available in the toolkit.
  • No foreign key constraints into core as these cause problems.


Anything else?

Creating CKAN Extensions

All CKAN extensions must start with the name ckanext-. You can create your own CKAN extension like this (you must be in your CKAN pyenv):

(pyenv)$ paster create -t ckanext ckanext-myextension

You’ll get prompted to complete a number of variables which will be used in your dataset. You change these later by editing the generated file.

Once you’ve run this, you should now install the extension in your virtual environment:

(pyenv)$ cd ckanext-myextension
(pyenv)$ python develop


Running python develop will add a .egg-link file to your python site-packages directory (which is on your python path). This allows your extension to be imported and used, with any changes made to the extension source code showing up immediately without needing to be reinstalled, which is very useful during development.

To instead install a python package by copying all of the files to the site-packages directory run python install.


Testing CKAN Extensions

CKAN extensions ordinarily have their own test.ini that refers to the CKAN test.ini, so you can run them in exactly the same way. For example:

cd ckanext-dgu
nosetests ckanext/stats/tests --ckan
nosetests ckanext/stats/tests --ckan --with-pylons=test-core.ini

Testing Plugins

When writing tests for your plugin code you will need setup and teardown code similar to the following to ensure that your plugin is loaded while testing:

from ckan import plugins

class TestMyPlugin(TestCase):

   def setup_class(cls):
       # Use the entry point name of your plugin as declared
       # in your package's

   def teardown_class(cls):

The exception to using plugins.load() is for when your plug-in is for routes. In this case, the plugin must be configured before the WSGI app is started. Here is an example test set-up:

from pylons import config
import paste.fixture
from ckan.config.middleware import make_app

class TestMyRoutesPlugin(TestCase):

    def setup_class(cls):
        cls._original_config = config.copy()
        config['ckan.plugins'] = 'my_routes_plugin'
        wsgiapp = make_app(config['global_conf'], **config.local_conf) = paste.fixture.TestApp(wsgiapp)

    def teardown_class(cls):

At this point you should be able to write your own plugins and extensions together with their tests.

Plugin API Documentation

Core Plugin Reference

CKAN Interface Reference