Fixing the “Cannot Import Name ‘force_text’ from django.utils.encoding” Error in Django

When working with Django, you may come across an error like:

Cannot import name 'force_text' from 'django.utils.encoding'

This error occurs when there is a missing dependency or version conflict with the django.utils.encoding module.

In this comprehensive guide, I’ll explain what is causing this import error and the steps to fix it in Django 2.x and 3.x.

Let’s start by understanding the django.utils.encoding module and why the import error happens.


What is django.utils.encoding?

The django.utils.encoding module contains utility functions for working with text encoding and Unicode strings in Django.

Some key functions it provides include:

  • force_text(s) – Converts strings to Unicode text
  • force_str(s) – Converts to normal str strings
  • force_bytes(s) – Converts to bytestrings
  • smart_text(s) – Human readable Unicode when possible

These functions handle text encoding and decoding between Unicode and bytestrings in Python 2 and 3.

Why Does the ImportError Occur?

When you try to import force_text from django.utils.encoding and get an error, there are two common reasons:

  1. You have the wrong Django version installed for your code
  2. The django.utils.encoding module is missing entirely

First, this error most often occurs when the force_text function no longer exists in the current Django version. It was removed in Django 3.0.

So if you are running Django 2.x code on Django 3.x, the import fails.

Second, you may see the error because the underlying django.utils.encoding module is missing from the environment. This can happen with virtual environments and conflicting packages.

Now let’s look at how to fix these issues in both Django 2.x and 3.x.

How to Fix force_text ImportError

The solutions depend on whether you are using Django 2.x or the newer Django 3.x. Let’s go over both cases.

For Django 2.x

If you are running Django 2.x code, the import error usually means you have the wrong Django version installed.

To fix it:

  1. Upgrade to the latest Django 2.x version like 2.2.x or 2.1.x based on your codebase. This will provide the force_text function.
  2. Make sure to pin Django in your requirements file to avoid getting Django 3.x on new installs. For example:

With Django 2.x installed, import force_text should work fine.

For Django 3.x

If you have upgraded to Django 3.x, you need a new approach because force_text is gone in Django 3.

To fix it:

  1. Install the django-utils-encoding-backport package. This backports force_text and other utils from Django 2.x.
  2. Import it using:
from django_utils_encoding_backport import force_text

This provides force_text for Django 3.x code.

So in summary:

  • For Django 2.x, upgrade Django
  • For Django 3.x, install the backport package

This covers most cases of the force_text import error. But first, let’s get some background on Django upgrades.

Understanding the Django Upgrade Process

Django has a robust release process with new major versions every nine months. Django 3.0 was a major change with Python 2.x support dropped and API changes.

When upgrading Django:

  • Review the release notes and deprecation timelines
  • Watch for dependencies that may need upgrading like django-utils-encoding
  • Update code based on any API changes or removed functions
  • Fully test the application after upgrading
  • Pin dependencies to avoid inadvertent updates

This due diligence prevents issues like missing force_text. Planning the upgrade and handling deprecations smoothly is key.

Checking Installed Django Versions

Before making any changes, first check your currently installed Django version(s):

# Check Django version
python -m django --version 

# View installed packages
pip freeze

This determines if you need to upgrade Django or install a backport module.

If the Django version seems correct, also verify you are importing django.utils.encoding properly in your code.

Virtual Environments and Requirements Files

Python best practices recommend using:

  • Virtual environments to isolate package dependencies between projects
  • Requirements files to pin transitive dependency versions

This prevents conflicting packages and ensures reproducible installs.

If you encounter the force_text error, examine the virtual environment and requirements.txt for any issues.

You may need to recreate the virtual environment or update the requirements file.

Step-by-Step Fixes

With that background in mind, let’s walk through some complete examples of fixing the force_text error in Django.

Fix 1: Upgrade Django Version

If you see the error after upgrading other packages, you may need to update Django itself.


  • Django 2.2 app using force_text
  • Pip dependencies updated
  • Now get ImportError for force_text

Steps to fix:

  1. Check Django version:
# django-admin --version
  1. Upgrade Django to latest 2.2.x:
pip install Django>=2.2,<3.0
  1. Verify updated version:
# django-admin --version
  1. force_text now imports without error!

Fix 2: Install django-utils-encoding Backport

If you upgraded to Django 3.0, install the backport package:


  • Codebase running on Django 3.0
  • Needs force_text function

Steps to fix:

  1. Install backport package:
pip install django-utils-encoding-backport

2.Update code:

from django_utils_encoding_backport import force_text
  1. force_text again available!

Fix 3: Modify Code Imports

If django.utils.encoding is entirely missing, modify the code’s imports:


  • django.utils.encoding not installed
  • Code imports force_text from it

Steps to fix:

  1. Install django-utils-encoding-backport
  2. Update code:
# Remove old import
from django.utils.encoding import force_text  

# Import from backport
from django_utils_encoding_backport import force_text

This resolves the missing module and broken import.

Troubleshooting Tips

Here are some additional troubleshooting tips for the force_text error:

  • Search if the error occurs only under specific conditions like importing certain modules. This can reveal conflicts.
  • Vary Python versions in case it is a Python 2 vs 3 issue.
  • Try updating pip and reinstalling packages to refresh the environment.
  • Search Django Github issues to see if a bug has been reported related to the error.
  • Remove the virtual environment and requirements file and recreate to fully reset dependencies.
  • Test if the error occurs in a fresh Django project to isolate the problem.

Thoroughly investigating when and where the error occurs is crucial to determining the fix.

Preventing Dependency Issues

To avoid Python dependency issues in the future:

  • Always pin versions of Django, Python packages, and pip in requirements files. Avoid loose version specifiers like Django>=2.
  • Isolate dependencies in virtual environments to prevent conflicts between projects.
  • Perform Django upgrades incrementally rather than all at once.
  • Use pip list --outdated to review outdated packages that may require upgrading.
  • Consider Docker containers or environments like Poetry to strictly manage dependencies.

Proactively managing dependencies goes a long way in preventing tricky import errors.


This covers how to troubleshoot and fix the “Cannot import name ‘force_text’ from django.utils.encoding” error in Django.

Key points include:

  • The error indicates a missing dependency or version conflict
  • For Django 2.x, upgrade to the latest 2.x release
  • For Django 3.x, install the django-utils-encoding-backport package
  • Pin exact versions in requirements files to prevent issues
  • Isolate environments and incrementally upgrade Django

With the right Django version and dependencies installed, the force_text import error should be resolved.

Carefully managing dependencies and virtual environments is crucial for running Django apps at scale and avoiding import issues.

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