Jupyter Notebook and the Django shell

I've been working on a project analyzing data about Philadelphia City Council - elections, demographics, terms of service, etc. A very crude version of this project is here. I want to make this more robust, and a big part of doing so includes playing with code. One of my favorite ways to play with Python code is using the Jupyter Notebook. It's an interactive brower based platform where I can run snippets of code, view the results, and easily edit and re-run things until I get what I'm looking for.

Today I discovered the shell-plus Django extension, which lets you run Django shell in various interactive Python shells.

Like most Python packages, it can be installed with pip.

$ pip install django-extensions

The module then needs to be added to the INSTALLED_APPS in your settings.py file:

INSTALLED_APPS = (
    ...
    'django_extensions',
)

While I typically start a new Jupyter notebook like this:

$ jupyter notebook

to start it with the Django shell, I need to start it like this:

$ python manage.py shell_plus --notebook

Now when I create a new notebook, I can choose between a standard Python 3 notebook or a Django Shell Plus notebook. Then I can import Django, import my modules, and anything else I need, and work on my Django project.

Note that if I start a notebook the typical way, I still have the option to open a Django Shell Plus notebook, but it does not actually run as such. I need to run the notebook using the special command above.

The next step was to avoid all the clutter of my various Jupyter notebooks in my Django project. A typical Django project has a structure that looks something like this:

myproject/
    manage.py
    myproject/
        __init__.py
        urls.py
        wsgi.py
        settings.py
    polls/
        __init__.py
        admin.py
        apps.py
        migrations/
            __init__.py
        models.py
        tests.py
        views.py
    # and so on

If I ran Jupyter notebook from the myproject directory, I ended up with a ton of .ipynb files mixed up in there - messy and hard to keep track of. If I created a folder in myproject called jupyter_notebooks, I kept getting this error: SystemError: Parent module '' not loaded, cannot perform relative import when I tried to import my models. A lot of research and troubleshooting, and I couldn't find a fix to this.

The solution I ended up going with was to create a folder called jupyter_notebooks at the same level as my_project (rather than inside it), and starting Jupyter notebook with the Django shell like this:

python myproject/manage.py shell_plus --notebook

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