Command Reference

South is mainly used via the console and its three important commands: migrate, schemamigration and datamigration. It also overrides a few parts of syncdb.


The migrate command is used to control the migration of the system forwards or backwards through the series of migrations for any given app.

The most common use is:

./ migrate myapp

This will migrate the app myapp forwards through all the migrations. If you want to migrate all the apps at once, run:

./ migrate

This has the same effect as calling the first example for every app, and will deal with Dependencies properly.

You can also specify a specific migration to migrate to:

./ migrate myapp 0002_add_username

Note that, if the system has already migrated past the specified migration, it will roll back to it instead. If you want to migrate all the way back, specify the special migration name zero:

./ migrate myapp zero

You can also just give prefixes of migrations, to save typing:

./ migrate myapp 0002

But they must be unique:

$ ./ migrate myapp 000
Running migrations for myapp:
 - Prefix 00 matches more than one migration:


  • --all: Used instead of an app name, allows you to migrate all applications to the same target. For example, ./ migrate --all --fake 0001 if you are converting a lot of apps.
  • --list: Shows what migrations are available, and puts a * next to ones which have been applied.
  • --merge: Runs any missed (out-of-order) migrations without rolling back to them.
  • --no-initial-data: Doesn’t load in any initial data fixtures after a full upwards migration, if there are any.
  • --fake: Records the migration sequence as having been applied, but doesn’t actually run it. Useful for Converting An App.
  • --db-dry-run: Loads and runs the migration, but doesn’t actually access the database (the SQL generated is thrown away at the last minute). The migration is also not recorded as being run; this is useful for sanity-testing migrations to check API calls are correct.

Conflict Resolution

South’s migration system really comes into its own when you start getting conflicting migrations - that is, migrations that have been applied in the wrong sequence.

One example is if Anne writes new migrations 0003_foo and 0004_bar, runs the migration up to 0004 to make sure her local copy is up-to-date, and then updates her code from (say) Subversion. In the meantime, her coworker Bob has written a migration 0003_baz, which gets pulled in.

Now, there’s a problem. 0003_baz should have been applied before 0004_bar, but it hasn’t been; in this situation, South will helpfully say something like:

Running migrations for aeblog:
 - Current migration: 5 (after 0004_bar)
 - Target migration: 5 (after 0004_bar)
 ! These migrations should have been applied already, but aren't:
   - 0003_baz
 ! Please re-run migrate with one of these switches:
   --skip: Ignore this migration mismatch and keep going
   --merge: Just apply the missing migrations out of order
   If you want to roll back to the first of these migrations
   and then roll forward, do:
     ./ migrate --skip 0002_add_username
     ./ migrate

As you can see, you have two real options; --merge, which will just apply the missing migration and continue, and the two commands which roll back to before the missing migration (using --skip to ignore the error we’re dealing with) and then migrating properly, in order, from there to the end.

Using --skip by itself will let you continue, but isn’t much of a solution; South will still complain the next time you run a migrate without --skip.

Sometimes, even worse things happen and South finds out that an applied migration has gone missing from the filesystem. In this scenario, it will politely tell you to go fix the problem yourself, although in more recent versions, you also have the option to tell South to wipe all records of the missing migrations being applied.

Initial Data and post_syncdb

South will load initial_data files in the same way as syncdb, but it loads them at the end of every successful migration process, so ensure they are kept up-to-date, along with the rest of your fixtures (something to help ease the pain of migrating fixtures may appear shortly in South).

South also sends the post_syncdb signal when a model’s table is first created (this functionality requires that you generated those migrations with startmigration). This behaviour is intended to mirror the behaviour of syncdb, although for sanity reasons you may want to consider moving any setup code connected to such a signal into a migration.


(In South 0.6 and below, this is called startmigration)

While migrate is the real meat and bones of South, schemamigration is by comparison an entirely optional extra. It’s a utility to help write some of your migrations (specifically, the ones which change the schema) for you; if you like, you can ignore it and write everything youself, in which case we wish you good luck, and happy typing.

However, if you have a sense of reason, you’ll realise that having the large majority of your migrations written for you is undoubtedly a good thing.

The main use of schemamigration is when you’ve just finished your shiny new and want to load up your database. In vanilla Django, you’d just run syncdb - however, with migrations, you’ll need a migration to create the tables.

In this scenario, you just run:

./ schemamigration myapp --initial

That will write one big migration to create all the tables for the models in your app; just run ./ migrate to get it in and you’re done in only one more step than syncdb!

Later on, you’ll add models to your app, or change your fields. Each time you do this, run schemamigration with the –auto flag:

./ schemamigration myapp --auto changed_user_model_bug_434

If you make further changes to your models, you can further refine the most recent migration:

./ schemamigration myapp --auto --update

You can also manually specify changes:

./ schemamigration mitest some_cols --add-field User.age --add-model User

See the tutorial for more.

Finally, if you’re writing a schema migration that South can’t automatically create for you (yet!) then you can just create a skeleton:

./ schemamigration myapp my_new_column_migration –empty

Note that if you’re writing a data migration, you should use the datamigration command instead.


Note that you can combine as many --add-X options as you like.

  • --add-model: Generates a creation migration for the given modelname.
  • --add-field: Generates an add-column migration for modelname.field.
  • --add-index: Generates an add-index migration for modelname.field.
  • --initial: Like having –model for every model in your app. You should use this only for your first migration.
  • --auto: Generates a migration with automatically-detected actions.
  • --update: Update the most recent migration, instead of creating a new one.
  • --stdout: Writes the migration to stdout instead of a file.


(In South 0.6 and below, this is called startmigration)

When you want to create a data migration, use this command to create a blank template to write your migration with:

./ datamigration books capitalise_titles

You can also freeze in additional apps if you want:

./ datamigration books capitalise_titles --freeze awards


  • --freeze: Use appname to additional models into the app.
  • --stdout: Writes the migration to stdout instead of a file.


(New in South 0.7)

Run this command to generate a graphviz .dot file for your migrations; you can then use this to generate a graph of your migrations’ dependencies.

Typical usage:

./ graphmigrations | dot -Tpng -omigrations.png

This command can be particularly helpful to examine complex dependency sets between lots of different apps [1].

[1]This command was written and used for the first time while helping the debug the rather complex set of dependencies in django-cms; it’s quite a sight to behold.


This command has no options.


South overrides the Django syncdb command; as well as changing the output to show apps delineated by their migration status, it also makes syncdb only work on a subset of the apps - those without migrations.

If you want to run syncdb on all of the apps, then use --all, but be warned; this will put your database schema and migrations out of sync. If you do this, you might be able to fix it with:

./ migrate --fake


  • --all: Makes syncdb operate on all apps, not just unmigrated ones.


An alias command that both creates an initial migration for an app and then fake-applies it. Takes one argument, the app label of the app to convert:

./ convert_to_south myapp

There’s more documentation on how to use this in the Converting An App section.