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Changing Resource Structure With Evolution

As you develop your software and make changes to structures, your existing content will be in an old state. Whether in production or during development, you need a facility to correct out-of-date data.

Evolution provides a rich facility for “evolving” your resources to match changes during development. Substance D’s evolution facility gives Substance D developers full control over the data updating process:

  • Write scripts for each package that get called during an update
  • Set revision markers in the data to indicate the revision level a database is at
  • Console script and SDI GUI that can be run to “evolve” a database

Running an Evolution from the Command Line

Substance D applications generate a console script at bin/sdi_evolve. Running this without arguments displays some help:

$ bin/sd_evolve
Requires a config_uri as an argument

    sd_evolve [--latest] [--dry-run] [--mark-finished=stepname] [--mark-unfinished=stepname] config_uri
      Evolves new database with changes from scripts in evolve packages
         - with no arguments, evolve displays finished and unfinished steps
         - with the --latest argument, evolve runs scripts as necessary
         - with the --dry-run argument, evolve runs scripts but does not issue any commits
         - with the --mark-finished argument, marks the stepname as finished
         - with the --mark-unfinished argument, marks the stepname as unfinished

    e.g. sd_evolve --latest etc/development.ini

Running with your INI file, as explained in the help, shows information about the version numbers of various packages:

$ bin/sd_evolve etc/development.ini

Finished steps:

    2013-06-14 13:01:28 substanced.evolution.legacy_to_new

Unfinished steps:

This shows that one evolution step has already been run and that there are no unfinished evolution steps.

Running an Evolution from the SDI

The Evolution section of the Database tab of the Substance D root object allows you to do what you might have otherwise done using the sd_evolve console script described above.

In some circumstances when Substance D itself needs to be upgraded, you may need to use the sd_evolve script rather than the GUI. For example, if the way that Substance D Folder objects work is changed and folder objects need to be evolved, it may be impossible to view the evolution GUI, and you may need to use the console script.


If you add substanced.autoevolve = true within your application .ini file, all pending evolution upgrade steps will be run when your application starts. Alternately you can use the SUBSTANCED_AUTOEVOLVE evnironment variable (e.g. export SUBSTANCED_AUTOEVOLVE=true) to do the same thing.

Adding Evolution Support To a Package

Let’s say we have been developing an sdidemo package and, with content already in the database, we want to add evolution support. Our sdidemo package is designed to be included into a site, so we have the traditional Pyramid includeme support. In there we add the following:

import logging

logger = logging.getLogger('evolution')

def evolve_stuff(root, registry):
    logger.info('Stuff evolved.')

def includeme(config):

We’ve used the substanced.evolution.add_evolution_step() API to add an evolution step in this package’s includeme function.

Running sd_evolve without --latest (meaning, without performing an evolution) shows that Substance D’s evolution now knows about our package:

$ bin/sd_evolve etc/development.ini

Finished steps:

    2013-06-14 13:01:28 substanced.evolution.legacy_to_new

Unfinished steps:


Let’s now run sd_evolve “for real”. This will cause the evolution step to be executed and marked as finished.

$ bin/sd_evolve --latest etc/development.ini

2013-06-14 13:22:51,475 INFO  [evolution][MainThread] Stuff evolved.
Evolution steps executed:

This examples shows a number of points:

  • Each package can easily add evolution support via the config.add_evolution_step() directive. You can learn more about this directive by reading its API documentation at substanced.evolution.add_evolution_step().
  • Substance D’s evolution service looks at the database to see which steps haven’t been run, then runs all the needed evolve scripts, sequentially, to bring the database up to date.
  • All changes within an evolve script are in the scope of a transaction. If all the evolve scripts run to completion without exception, the transaction is committed.

Manually Marking a Step As Evolved

In some cases you might have performed the work in an evolve step by hand and you know there is no need to re-perform that work. You’d like to mark the step as finished for one or more evolve scripts, so these steps don’t get run. The --mark-step-finished argument to sd_evolve accomplishes this. The “Mark finished” button in the SDI evolution GUI does the same.


Evolution is baselined at first startup. When there’s no initial list of finished steps in the database. Substance D, in the root factory, says: “I know all the steps participating in evolution, so when I first create the root object, I will set all of those steps to finished.”

If you wish to perform something after Root was created, see Affecting Content Creation.