Signal Processors

Keeping data in sync between the (authoritative) database & the (non-authoritative) search index is one of the more difficult problems when using Haystack. Even frequently running the update_index management command still introduces lag between when the data is stored & when it’s available for searching.

A solution to this is to incorporate Django’s signals (specifically models.db.signals.post_save & models.db.signals.post_delete), which then trigger individual updates to the search index, keeping them in near-perfect sync.

Older versions of Haystack (pre-v2.0) tied the SearchIndex directly to the signals, which caused occasional conflicts of interest with third-party applications.

To solve this, starting with Haystack v2.0, the concept of a SignalProcessor has been introduced. In it’s simplest form, the SignalProcessor listens to whatever signals are setup & can be configured to then trigger the updates without having to change any SearchIndex code.


Incorporating Haystack’s SignalProcessor into your setup will increase the overall load (CPU & perhaps I/O depending on configuration). You will need to capacity plan for this & ensure you can make the tradeoff of more real-time results for increased load.

Default - BaseSignalProcessor

The default setup is configured to use the haystack.signals.BaseSignalProcessor class, which includes all the underlying code necessary to handle individual updates/deletes, BUT DOES NOT HOOK UP THE SIGNALS.

This means that, by default, NO ACTION IS TAKEN BY HAYSTACK when a model is saved or deleted. The BaseSignalProcessor.setup & BaseSignalProcessor.teardown methods are both empty to prevent anything from being setup at initialization time.

This usage is configured very simply (again, by default) with the HAYSTACK_SIGNAL_PROCESSOR setting. An example of manually setting this would look like:

HAYSTACK_SIGNAL_PROCESSOR = 'haystack.signals.BaseSignalProcessor'

This class forms an excellent base if you’d like to override/extend for more advanced behavior. Which leads us to...

Realtime - RealtimeSignalProcessor

The other included SignalProcessor is the haystack.signals.RealtimeSignalProcessor class. It is an extremely thin extension of the BaseSignalProcessor class, differing only in that in implements the setup/teardown methods, tying ANY Model save/delete to the signal processor.

If the model has an associated SearchIndex, the RealtimeSignalProcessor will then trigger an update/delete of that model instance within the search index proper.

Configuration looks like:

HAYSTACK_SIGNAL_PROCESSOR = 'haystack.signals.RealtimeSignalProcessor'

This causes all SearchIndex classes to work in a realtime fashion.


These updates happen in-process, which if a request-response cycle is involved, may cause the user with the browser to sit & wait for indexing to be completed. Since this wait can be undesirable, especially under load, you may wish to look into queued search options. See the Haystack-Related Applications documentation for existing options.

Custom SignalProcessors

The BaseSignalProcessor & RealtimeSignalProcessor classes are fairly simple/straightforward to customize or extend. Rather than forking Haystack to implement your modifications, you should create your own subclass within your codebase (anywhere that’s importable is usually fine, though you should avoid files).

For instance, if you only wanted User saves to be realtime, deferring all other updates to the management commands, you’d implement the following code:

from django.contrib.auth.models import User
from django.db import models
from haystack import signals

class UserOnlySignalProcessor(signals.BaseSignalProcessor):
    def setup(self):
        # Listen only to the ``User`` model.
        models.signals.post_save.connect(self.handle_save, sender=User)
        models.signals.post_delete.connect(self.handle_delete, sender=User)

    def teardown(self):
        # Disconnect only for the ``User`` model.
        models.signals.post_save.disconnect(self.handle_save, sender=User)
        models.signals.post_delete.disconnect(self.handle_delete, sender=User)

For other customizations (modifying how saves/deletes should work), you’ll need to override/extend the handle_save/handle_delete methods. The source code is your best option for referring to how things currently work on your version of Haystack.