Modelling using zope.schema


zope.schema package provide a storage-neutral way to define Python object models with validators.


Zope 3 schemas are a database-neutral and form-library-neutral way to describe Python data models.

Plone uses Zope 3 schemas for these purposes:

  • to describe persistent data models;
  • to describe HTML form data;
  • to describe ZCML configuration data.

Since Zope 3 schemas are not bound to e.g. a SQL database engine, it gives you very reusable way to define data models.

Schemas are just regular Python classes, with some special attribute declarations. They are always subclasses of zope.interface.Interface. The schema itself cannot be a concrete object instance — you need to either have a persistent.Persistent object (for database data) or a z3c.form.form.Form object (for HTML forms).

Zope 3 schemas are used for tasks like:

  • defining allowed input data format (string, integer, object, list, etc.) for Python class instance attributes;
  • specifying required attributes on an object;
  • defining custom validators on input data.

The basic unit of data model declaration is the field, which specifies what kind of data each Python attribute can hold.

More info

zope.schema provides a very comprehensive set of fields out of the box. Finding good documentation for them, however, can be challenging. Here are some starting points:

Example of a schema

Let's define a data model to store addresses:

import zope.interface
from zope import schema

class ICheckoutAddress(zope.interface.Interface):
    """ Provide meaningful address information.

    This is not 1:1 with getpaid.core interfaces, but
    more like a better guess.

    first_name = schema.TextLine(title=_(u"First name"), default=u"")
    last_name = schema.TextLine(title=_(u"Last name"), default=u"")
    organization = schema.TextLine(title=_(u"Organization"), default=u"")
    phone = schema.TextLine(title=_(u"Phone number"), default=u"")
    country = schema.Choice( title = _(u"Country"),
    vocabulary = "getpaid.countries", required=False, default=None)
    state = schema.Choice( title = _(u"State"),
    vocabulary="getpaid.states", required=False, default=None)
    city = schema.TextLine(title=_(u"City"), default=u"")
    postal_code = schema.TextLine(title=_(u"Postal code"), default=u"")
    street_address = schema.TextLine(title=_(u"Address"), default=u"")

Next, we define a concrete persistent class which uses this data model. We can use this class to store data based on our model definition in the ZODB database.

We use zope.schema.fieldproperty.FieldProperty to bind persistent class attributes to the data definition.


from persistent import Persistent # Automagical ZODB persistent object
from zope.schema.fieldproperty import FieldProperty

class CheckoutAddress(Persistent):
    """ Store checkout address """

    # Declare that all instances of this class will
    # conform to the ICheckoutAddress data model:

    # Provide the fields:
    first_name = FieldProperty(ICheckoutAddress["first_name"])
    last_name = FieldProperty(ICheckoutAddress["last_name"])
    organization = FieldProperty(ICheckoutAddress["organization"])
    phone = FieldProperty(ICheckoutAddress["phone"])
    country =  FieldProperty(ICheckoutAddress["country"])
    state = FieldProperty(ICheckoutAddress["state"])
    city = FieldProperty(ICheckoutAddress["phone"])
    postal_code = FieldProperty(ICheckoutAddress["postal_code"])
    street_address = FieldProperty(ICheckoutAddress["street_address"])

For persistent objects, see persistent object documentation.

Using schemas as data models

Based on the example data model above, we can use it in e.g. content type browser views to store arbitrary data as content type attributes.


class MyView(BrowserView):
    """ Connect this view to your content type using a ZCML declaration.

    def __call__(self):
        # Get the content item which this view was invoked on:
        context = self.context.aq_inner

        # Store a new address in it as the ``test_address`` attribute
        context.test_address = CheckoutAddress()
        context.test_address.first_name = u"Mikko"
        context.test_address.last_name = u"Ohtamaa"

        # Note that you can still add arbitrary attributes to any
        # persistent object.  They are simply not validated, as they
        # don't go through the ``zope.schema`` FieldProperty
        # declarations.
        # Do not do this, you will regret it later.
        context.test_address.arbitary_attribute = u"Don't do this!"

Field constructor parameters

The Field base class defines a list of standard parameters that you can use to construct schema fields. Each subclass of Field will have its own set of possible parameters in addition to this.

See the full list here.

field title as unicode string
field description as unicode string
boolean, whether the field is required
Default value if the attribute is not present

... and so on.


Do not initialize any non-primitive values using the default keyword parameter of schema fields. Python and the ZODB stores objects by reference. Python code will construct only one field value during schema construction, and share its content across all objects. This is probably not what you intend. Instead, initialize objects in the __init__() method of your schema implementer.

In particular, dangerous defaults are: default=[], default={}, default=SomeObject().

Schema introspection

The zope.schema._schema module provides some introspection functions:

  • getFieldNames(schema_class)
  • getFields(schema_class)
  • getFieldNamesInOrder(schema) — retain the orignal field declaration order.
  • getFieldsInOrder(schema) — retain the orignal field declaration order.


import zope.schema
import zope.interface

class IMyInterface(zope.interface.Interface):

    text = zope.schema.TextLine()

# Get list of schema fields from IMyInterface
fields = zope.schema.getFields(IMyInterface)

Dumping schema data

Below is an example how to extract all schema defined fields from an object.

from collections import OrderedDict

import zope.schema

def dump_schemed_data(obj):
    Prints out object variables as defined by its zope.schema Interface.
    out = OrderedDict()

    # Check all interfaces provided by the object
    ifaces = obj.__provides__.__iro__

    # Check fields from all interfaces
    for iface in ifaces:
        fields = zope.schema.getFieldsInOrder(iface)
        for name, field in fields:
            # ('header', <zope.schema._bootstrapfields.TextLine object at 0x1149dd690>)
            out[name] = getattr(obj, name, None)

    return out

Finding the schema for a Dexterity type

When trying to introspect a Dexterity type, you can get a reference to the schema thus:

from zope.component import getUtility
from plone.dexterity.interfaces import IDexterityFTI

schema = getUtility(IDexterityFTI, name=PORTAL_TYPE_NAME).lookupSchema()

...and then inspect it using the methods above. Note this won't have behavior fields added to it at this stage, only the fields directly defined in your schema.

Field order

The order attribute can be used to determine the order in which fields in a schema were defined. If one field was created after another (in the same thread), the value of order will be greater.

Default values

To make default values of schema effective, class attributes must be implemented using FieldProperty.


import zope.interface
from zope import schema
from zope.schema.fieldproperty import FieldProperty

class ISomething(zope.interface.Interface):
    """ Sample schema """
    some_value = schema.Bool(default=True)

class SomeStorage(object):

    some_value = FieldProperty(ISomething["some_value"])

something = SomeStorage()
assert something.some_value == True

Validation and type constrains

Schema objects using field properties provide automatic validation facilities, preventing setting badly formatted attributes.

There are two aspects to validation:

  • Checking the type constraints (done automatically).
  • Checking whether the value fills certain constrains (validation).

Example of how type constraints work:

class ICheckoutData(zope.interface.Interface):
    """ This interface defines all the checkout data we have.

    It will also contain the ``billing_address``.

    email = schema.TextLine(title=_(u"Email"), default=u"")

class CheckoutData(Persistent):


    email = FieldProperty(ICheckoutData["email"])

def test_store_bad_email(self):
    """ Check that we can't put data to checkout """

    data =

    from zope.schema.interfaces import WrongContainedType, WrongType, NotUnique

    try: = 123 # Can't set email field to an integer.
        raise AssertionError("Should never be reached.")
    except WrongType:

Example of validation (email field):

from zope import schema

class InvalidEmailError(schema.ValidationError):
    __doc__ = u'Please enter a valid e-mail address.'

def isEmail(value):
    if re.match('^'+EMAIL_RE, value):
        return True
    raise InvalidEmailError

class IContact(Interface):
    email = schema.TextLine(title=u'Email', constraint=isEmail)

Persistent objects and schema

ZODB persistent objects do not provide facilities for setting field defaults or validating the data input.

When you create a persistent class, you need to provide field properties for it, which will sanify the incoming and outgoing data.

When the persistent object is created it has no attributes. When you try to access the attribute through a named zope.schema.fieldproperty.FieldProperty accessor, it first checks whether the attribute exists. If the attribute is not there, it is created and the default value is returned.


from persistent import Persistent
from zope import schema
from zope.interface import implements, alsoProvides
from zope.component import adapts
from zope.schema.fieldproperty import FieldProperty

# ... other implementation code ...

class IHeaderBehavior(form.Schema):
    """ Sample schema """
    inheritable = schema.Bool(
            title=u"Inherit header",
            description=u"This header is visible on child content",

    block_parents = schema.Bool(
            title=u"Block parent headers",
            description=u"Do not show parent headers for this content",

    # Contains list of HeaderAnimation objects
    alternatives = schema.List(
            title=u"Available headers and animations",
            description=u"Headers and animations uploaded here",

alsoProvides(IHeaderAnimation, form.IFormFieldProvider)

class HeaderBehavior(Persistent):
    """ Sample persistent object for the schema """


    # zope.schema magic happens here - see FieldProperty!

    # We need to declare field properties so that objects will
    # have input data validation and default values taken from schema
    # above

    inheritable = FieldProperty(IHeaderBehavior["inheritable"])
    block_parents = FieldProperty(IHeaderBehavior["block_parents"])
    alternatives = FieldProperty(IHeaderBehavior["alternatives"])

Now you see the magic:

header = HeaderBehavior()
# This  triggers the ``alternatives`` accessor, which returns the default
# value, which is an empty list
assert header.alternatives = []

Collections (and multichoice fields)

Collections are fields composed of several other fields. Collections also act as multi-choice fields.

For more information see:

Single-choice example

Only one value can be chosen.

Below is code to create Python logging level choice:

import logging

from zope.schema.vocabulary import SimpleVocabulary, SimpleTerm

def _createLoggingVocabulary():
    """ Create zope.schema vocabulary from Python logging levels.

    Note that term.value is int, not string.

    _levelNames looks like::

        {0: 'NOTSET', 'INFO': 20, 'WARNING': 30, 40: 'ERROR', 10: 'DEBUG', 'WARN': 30, 50:
        'CRITICAL', 'CRITICAL': 50, 20: 'INFO', 'ERROR': 40, 'DEBUG': 10, 'NOTSET': 0, 30: 'WARNING'}

    @return: Iterable of SimpleTerm objects
    for level, name in logging._levelNames.items():

        # logging._levelNames dictionary is bidirectional, let's
        # get numeric keys only

        if type(level) == int:
            term = SimpleTerm(value=level, token=str(level), title=name)
            yield term

# Construct SimpleVocabulary objects of log level -> name mappings
logging_vocabulary = SimpleVocabulary(list(_createLoggingVocabulary()))

class ISyncRunOptions(Interface):

    log_level = schema.Choice(vocabulary=logging_vocabulary,
                              title=u"Log level",
                              description=u"One of python logging module constants",

Multi-choice example

Using zope.schema.List, many values can be chosen once. Each value is atomically constrained by value_type schema field.


from zope import schema
from plone.directives import form

from z3c.form.browser.checkbox import CheckBoxFieldWidget

class IMultiChoice(form.Schema):

    # Contains lists of values from Choice list using special "get_field_list" vocabulary
    # We also give a plone.form.directives hint to render this as
    # multiple checbox choices
    yourField = schema.List(title=u"Available headers and animations",
                               description=u"Headers and animations uploaded here",

Dynamic schemas

Schemas are singletons, as there only exist one class instance per Python run-time. For example, if you need to feed schemas generated dynamically to form engine, you need to

  • If the form engine (e.g. z3c.form refers to schema fields, then replace these references with dynamically generated copes)
  • Generate a Python class dynamically. Output Python source code, then eval() it. Using eval() is almost always considered as a bad practice.


Though it is possible, you should not modify zope.schema classes in-place as the same copy is shared between different threads and if there are two concurrent HTTP requests problems occur.

Replacing schema fields with dynamically modified copies

The below is an example for z3c.form. It uses Python copy module to copy f.field reference, which points to zope.schema field. For this field copy, we modify required attribute based on input.


def fields(self):
    """ Get the field definition for this form.

    Form class's fields attribute does not have to
    be fixed, it can be property also.

    # Construct the Fields instance as we would
    # normally do in more static way
    fields = z3c.form.field.Fields(ICheckoutAddress)

    # We need to override the actual required from the
    # schema field which is a little tricky.
    # Schema fields are shared between instances
    # by default, so we need to create a copy of it
    if self.optional:
        for f in fields.values():
            # Create copy of a schema field
            # and force it unrequired
            schema_field = copy.copy(f.field) # shallow copy of an instance
            schema_field.required = False
            f.field = schema_field

Don't use dict {} or list [] as a default value

Because how Python object construction works, giving [] or {} as a default value will make all created field values to share this same object.

Use value adapters instead