Array Operators

Array expansion

In order to access a named attribute from all elements in an array easily, AQL offers the shortcut operator [*] for array variable expansion.

Using the [*] operator with an array variable will iterate over all elements in the array, thus allowing to access a particular attribute of each element. It is required that the expanded variable is an array. The result of the [*] operator is again an array.

To demonstrate the array expansion operator, let’s go on with the following three example users documents:

[
  {
    name: "john",
    age: 35,
    friends: [
      { name: "tina", age: 43 },
      { name: "helga", age: 52 },
      { name: "alfred", age: 34 }
    ]
  },
  {
    name: "yves",
    age: 24,
    friends: [
      { name: "sergei", age: 27 },
      { name: "tiffany", age: 25 }
    ]
  },
  {
    name: "sandra",
    age: 40,
    friends: [
      { name: "bob", age: 32 },
      { name: "elena", age: 48 }
    ]
  }
]

With the [*] operator it becomes easy to query just the names of the friends for each user:

FOR u IN users
  RETURN { name: u.name, friends: u.friends[*].name }

This will produce:

[
  { "name" : "john", "friends" : [ "tina", "helga", "alfred" ] },
  { "name" : "yves", "friends" : [ "sergei", "tiffany" ] },
  { "name" : "sandra", "friends" : [ "bob", "elena" ] }
]

This is a shortcut for the longer, semantically equivalent query:

FOR u IN users
  RETURN { name: u.name, friends: (FOR f IN u.friends RETURN f.name) }

Array contraction

In order to collapse (or flatten) results in nested arrays, AQL provides the [**] operator. It works similar to the [*] operator, but additionally collapses nested arrays.

How many levels are collapsed is determined by the amount of asterisk characters used. [**] collapses one level of nesting - just like FLATTEN(array) or FLATTEN(array, 1) would do -, [***] collapses two levels - the equivalent to FLATTEN(array, 2) - and so on.

Let’s compare the array expansion operator with an array contraction operator. For example, the following query produces an array of friend names per user:

FOR u IN users
  RETURN u.friends[*].name

As we have multiple users, the overall result is a nested array:

[
  [
    "tina",
    "helga",
    "alfred"
  ],
  [
    "sergei",
    "tiffany"
  ],
  [
    "bob",
    "elena"
  ]
]

If the goal is to get rid of the nested array, we can apply the [**] operator on the result. But simply appending [**] to the query won’t help, because u.friends is not a nested (multi-dimensional) array, but a simple (one-dimensional) array. Still, the [**] can be used if it has access to a multi-dimensional nested result.

We can extend above query as follows and still create the same nested result:

RETURN (
  FOR u IN users RETURN u.friends[*].name
)

By now appending the [**] operator at the end of the query…

RETURN (
  FOR u IN users RETURN u.friends[*].name
)[**]

… the query result becomes:

[
  [
    "tina",
    "helga",
    "alfred",
    "sergei",
    "tiffany",
    "bob",
    "elena"
  ]
]

Note that the elements are not de-duplicated. For a flat array with only unique elements, a combination of UNIQUE() and FLATTEN() is advisable.

Inline expressions

It is possible to filter elements while iterating over an array, to limit the amount of returned elements and to create a projection using the current array element. Sorting is not supported by this shorthand form.

These inline expressions can follow array expansion and contraction operators [* …], [** …] etc. The keywords FILTER, LIMIT and RETURN must occur in this order if they are used in combination, and can only occur once:

anyArray[* FILTER conditions LIMIT skip,limit RETURN projection]

Example with nested numbers and array contraction:

LET arr = [ [ 1, 2 ], 3, [ 4, 5 ], 6 ]
RETURN arr[** FILTER CURRENT % 2 == 0]

All even numbers are returned in a flat array:

[
  [ 2, 4, 6 ]
]

Complex example with multiple conditions, limit and projection:

FOR u IN users
    RETURN {
        name: u.name,
        friends: u.friends[* FILTER CONTAINS(CURRENT.name, "a") AND CURRENT.age > 40
            LIMIT 2
            RETURN CONCAT(CURRENT.name, " is ", CURRENT.age)
        ]
    }

No more than two computed strings based on friends with an a in their name and older than 40 years are returned per user:

[
  {
    "name": "john",
    "friends": [
      "tina is 43",
      "helga is 52"
    ]
  },
  {
    "name": "sandra",
    "friends": [
      "elena is 48"
    ]
  },
  {
    "name": "yves",
    "friends": []
  }
]

Inline filter

To return only the names of friends that have an age value higher than the user herself, an inline FILTER can be used:

FOR u IN users
  RETURN { name: u.name, friends: u.friends[* FILTER CURRENT.age > u.age].name }

The pseudo-variable CURRENT can be used to access the current array element. The FILTER condition can refer to CURRENT or any variables valid in the outer scope.

Inline limit

The number of elements returned can be restricted with LIMIT. It works the same as the limit operation. LIMIT must come after FILTER and before RETURN, if they are present.

FOR u IN users
  RETURN { name: u.name, friends: u.friends[* LIMIT 1].name }

Above example returns one friend each:

[
  { "name": "john", "friends": [ "tina" ] },
  { "name": "sandra", "friends": [ "bob" ] },
  { "name": "yves", "friends": [ "sergei" ] }
]

A number of elements can also be skipped and up to n returned:

FOR u IN users
  RETURN { name: u.name, friends: u.friends[* LIMIT 1,2].name }

The example query skips the first friend and returns two friends at most per user:

[
  { "name": "john", "friends": [ "helga", "alfred" ] },
  { "name": "sandra", "friends": [ "elena" ] },
  { "name": "yves", "friends": [ "tiffany" ] }
]

Inline projection

To return a projection of the current element, use RETURN. If a FILTER is also present, RETURN must come later.

FOR u IN users
  RETURN u.friends[* RETURN CONCAT(CURRENT.name, " is a friend of ", u.name)]

The above will return:

[
  [
    "tina is a friend of john",
    "helga is a friend of john",
    "alfred is a friend of john"
  ],
  [
    "sergei is a friend of yves",
    "tiffany is a friend of yves"
  ],
  [
    "bob is a friend of sandra",
    "elena is a friend of sandra"
  ]
]