/RethinkDB JavaScript

ReQL data types

RethinkDB’s basic data types include numbers, strings, boolean values, objects, arrays, and the null value. In addition, it stores RethinkDB-specific data types including tables, streams, selections, binary objects, time objects, geometry data types, and grouped data.

The typeOf command can be appended to any ReQL command to display what data type that command will returns. For instance (in JavaScript):

r.table('users').get(1).typeOf().run(conn, callback)

Returns "SELECTION<OBJECT>". (Yes, the type of the typeOf command is "STRING".)

Basic data types

  • Numbers are any real number: 5, 3.14159, -42. RethinkDB uses double precision (64-bit) floating point numbers internally. (Neither infinity nor NaN are allowed.)

  • Strings are any valid UTF-8 string: "superhero", "ünnëcëssärÿ ümläüts". Strings may include the null code point (U+0000).

  • Booleans are true and false.

  • Null is a value distinct from the number zero, an empty set, or a zero-length string. Natively this might be null, nil or None, depending on the language. it is often used to explicitly denote the absence of any other value. The root node of a tree structure might have a parent of null, or a required but as yet non-initialized key might be given a value of null.

  • Objects are JSON data objects, standard key-value pairs.


    Any valid JSON object is a valid RethinkDB object, so values can be any of the basic values, arrays, or other objects. Documents in a RethinkDB database are objects. Like JSON, key names must be strings, not integers.

  • Arrays are lists of zero or more elements.

    [1, 2, 3] [] [{user: 'Bob', posts: 23}, {user: 'Jason', posts: 10}]

    Again, anything valid in a JSON array is valid in RethinkDB: the elements may be any of the basic values, objects, or other arrays. Arrays in RethinkDB are loaded fully into memory before they’re returned to the user, so they’re inefficient at large sizes. RethinkDB defaults to supporting arrays of up to 100,000 elements; this may be set to a different value at runtime for reading by using the array_limit option to run.

RethinkDB-specific data types

  • Databases are RethinkDB databases. This is the return type of db.

  • Tables are RethinkDB database tables. They behave like selections—they’re writable, as you can insert and delete documents in them. ReQL methods that use an index, like getAll, are only available on tables.

  • Streams are lists like arrays, but they’re loaded in a lazy fashion. Operations that return streams return a cursor. A cursor is a pointer into the result set. Instead of reading the results all at once like an array, you loop over the results, retrieving the next member of the set with each iteration. This makes it possible to efficiently work with large result sets. (See “Working with Streams,” below, for some tips.) Streams are read-only; you can’t pass one as an input to an ReQL command meant to modify its input like update or delete.

  • Selections represent subsets of tables, for example, the return values of filter or get. There are three kinds of selections: Selection<Object>, Selection<Array> and Selection<Stream>. The difference between selections and their non-selection counterparts is that selections are writable—their return values can be passed as inputs to ReQL commands that modify the database. For instance, the get command will return a Selection<Object> that could then be passed to an update or delete command. (Note: singleSelection is an older term for Selection<Object>; they mean the same thing.)

    Some commands (orderBy and between) return a data type similar to a selection called a table_slice. In most cases a table_slice behaves identically to a selection, but between can only be called on a table or a table_slice, not any other kind of selection.

  • Pseudotypes cover several kinds of other ReQL-specific data types which are generally composites or special cases of other types:

    • Binary objects are similar to BLOBs in SQL databases: files, images and other binary data. See Storing binary objects for details.

    • Times are RethinkDB’s native date/time type, stored with millisecond precision. You can use native date/time types in supported languages, as the conversion will be done by the driver. See Dates and times in RethinkDB for details.

    • Geometry data types for geospatial support, including points, lines, and polygons. (See below for more detail.)

    • Grouped data is created by the group command, which partitions a stream into multiple groups based on specified fields or functions. ReQL commands called on GROUPED_DATA operate on each group individually. For more details, read the group documentation. Depending on the input to group, grouped data may have the type of GROUPED_STREAM.

Abstract data types

In the ReQL API documentation and some error messages, you’ll come across terms for “data types” that are actually classes of other data types.

  • A datum is a catch-all term for most non-stream data types, including all basic data types, pseudotypes, objects, and non-stream selections. Datum types do not include streams (including Selection<Stream>), databases, tables and table slices, and functions.

  • A Sequence is any list data type: arrays, streams, selections, and tables.

  • Minval and maxval are used with some commands such as between to specify absolute lower and upper bounds (e.g., between(r.minval, 1000) would return all documents in a table whose primary key is less than 1000).

  • Functions can be passed as parameters to certain ReQL commands.

You may also see Any used for commands that work with any data type.

Sorting order

Arrays (and strings) sort lexicographically. Objects are coerced to arrays before sorting. Strings are sorted by UTF-8 codepoint and do not support Unicode collations.

Mixed sequences of data sort in the following order:

  • arrays
  • booleans
  • null
  • numbers
  • objects
  • binary objects
  • geometry objects
  • times
  • strings

This is the alphabetical order of their type name as returned by the typeOf() command. (Binary objects, geometry objects and times are “pseudotypes,” and return PTYPE<BINARY>, PTYPE<GEOMETRY> and PTYPE<TIME>, respectively.)

This example in the Data Explorer demonstrates sorting mixed types:

    {val: 1},
    {val: 2},
    {val: null},
    {val: 'foo'},
    {val: 'bar'},
    {val: [1, 2, 4]},
    {val: [1, 2, 3]},
    {val: true},
    {val: r.now()},
    {val: {foo: 100}},
    {val: {bar: 200}}

Geometry data types

For more information on these data types, read about RethinkDB’s geospatial support.

  • Points are denoted by a single coordinate pair, two floating point numbers indicating longitude (−180 through 180) and latitude (−90 through 90).

  • Lines are a sequence of two or more points, denoted by either point objects or coordinate pairs.

  • Polygons are multipoint lines denoted by a sequence of three or more points, denoted by either point objects or coordinate pairs, which do not intersect with themselves. The first and last coordinate pairs of a polygon are equal.

    Polygons can also have holes in them, created when a polygon entirely enclosed by another one is “punched out” of the larger one using the polygonSub command. (This is the only way to create a polygon with a hole in it.)

In the ReQL API documentation you’ll also see a “pseudotype” called Geometry, which is a collective for all of the geometry data types. Those commands will work with points, lines and polygons.

Working with streams

Streams use “lazy loading,” a concept you may have run across in other database interfaces. Instead of returning an entire result set from a query, streams return an iterator referred to as a “cursor,” a pointer into the data set.

Different languages support iterators in different ways, but the fundamental concept is always the same: the result set is traversed in a loop that returns one result set at a time. In Python, you might loop through a stream this way:

players = r.table('players').run(conn)
for player in players:
	print player

In Ruby, you would use a block:

players = r.table('players').run(conn)
players.each do |player|
	puts player

JavaScript has no native iterator, but ReQL implements an each command similar to jQuery’s.

r.table('players').run(conn, function(err, cursor) {
	cursor.each(function(err, player) {
		if (err) throw err;

Smaller result sets can be turned into an array directly, with native language constructs in Python and Ruby (list(players) and players.to_a respectively) or ReQL commands in JavaScript and Java (players.toArray() and players.toList() respectively; see toArray and toList documentation).

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