# k Shortest Paths Queries in AQL

The AQL feature **k Shortest Paths** allows you to query not just a shortest path between two documents in an ArangoDB database, but the list of paths between them, sorted by length, or weight.

To walk you through how to use this feature, we will setup a small graph that represents train connections in Europe, giving travel time as weight on each edge, and then query for some short connections using **k Shortest Paths** queries in AQL.

See a quick feature overview here:

## Setup

Create a new graph `TrainGraph`

with document collection `places`

, and an edge collection `connections`

;

and copy and paste the following two queries to setup the example graph

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FOR p IN [ "Inverness", "Aberdeen", "Leuchars", "StAndrews", "Edinburgh", "Glasgow", "York", "Carlisle", "Birmingham", "London", "Brussels", "Cologne", "Toronto" ] INSERT { _key: p } INTO "places" |

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FOR c IN [ { _from: "places/Inverness", _to: "places/Aberdeen", travelTime: 3 } , { _from: "places/Aberdeen", _to: "places/Inverness", travelTime: 2.5 } , { _from: "places/Aberdeen", _to: "places/Leuchars", travelTime: 1.5 } , { _from: "places/Leuchars", _to: "places/Aberdeen", travelTime: 1 } , { _from: "places/Leuchars", _to: "places/Edinburgh", travelTime: 1.5 } , { _from: "places/Edinburgh", _to: "places/Leuchars", travelTime: 3 } , { _from: "places/Edinburgh", _to: "places/Glasgow", travelTime: 1 } , { _from: "places/Glasgow", _to: "places/Edinburgh", travelTime: 1 } , { _from: "places/Edinburgh", _to: "places/York", travelTime: 3.5 } , { _from: "places/York", _to: "places/Edinburgh", travelTime: 4 } , { _from: "places/Glasgow", _to: "places/Carlisle", travelTime: 1 } , { _from: "places/Carlisle", _to: "places/Glasgow", travelTime: 1 } , { _from: "places/Carlisle", _to: "places/York", travelTime: 2.5 } , { _from: "places/York", _to: "places/Carlisle", travelTime: 3.5 } , { _from: "places/Carlisle", _to: "places/Birmingham", travelTime: 2.0 } , { _from: "places/Birmingham", _to: "places/Carlisle", travelTime: 1 } , { _from: "places/Birmingham", _to: "places/London", travelTime: 1.5 } , { _from: "places/London", _to: "places/Birmingham", travelTime: 2.5 } , { _from: "places/Leuchars", _to: "places/StAndrews", travelTime: 0.2 } , { _from: "places/StAndrews", _to: "places/Leuchars", travelTime: 0.2 } , { _from: "places/York", _to: "places/London", travelTime: 1.8 } , { _from: "places/London", _to: "places/York", travelTime: 2.0 } , { _from: "places/London", _to: "places/Brussels", travelTime: 2.5 } , { _from: "places/Brussels", _to: "places/London", travelTime: 3.5 } , { _from: "places/Brussels", _to: "places/Cologne", travelTime: 2 } , { _from: "places/Cologne", _to: "places/Brussels", travelTime: 1.5 } ] INSERT c INTO "connections" |

We can now explore the resulting graph in ArangoDB’s graph viewer:

## Example Queries

Suppose we want to plan a trip from **Leuchars** to **Cologne**. If we want to know which connection has the fewest stations, we could use the following query:

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FOR v,e IN OUTBOUND SHORTEST_PATH "places/Leuchars" TO "places/Cologne" GRAPH "TrainGraph" RETURN [v,e] |

which gives the connection** Leuchars, Edinburgh, York, London, Brussels, Cologne.** We can obtain the same result by using `K_SHORTEST_PATHS`

with `LIMIT 1`

, which restricts the result to one returned path:

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FOR path IN OUTBOUND K_SHORTEST_PATHS "places/Leuchars" TO "places/Cologne" GRAPH "TrainGraph" LIMIT 1 RETURN path |

Note that `K_SHORTEST_PATHS`

returns every path as a JSON object with components `vertices`

, `edges`

, and `weight`

.

`LIMIT`

with `K_SHORTEST_PATHS`

, as not giving a limit can lead to an expensive, exhaustive search through the graph)Increasing the `LIMIT`

will give alternative routes that might be a little longer than the shortest route, for example

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FOR path IN OUTBOUND K_SHORTEST_PATHS "places/Leuchars" TO "places/Cologne" GRAPH "TrainGraph" LIMIT 3 RETURN path |

Here, we also get **Leuchars, Edinburgh, York, Carlisle, Birmingham, London, Brussels, Cologne**, and**Leuchars,* **Edinburgh, Glasgow, Carlisle, Birmingham, London, Brussels, Cologne.**

What if we want to take travel time into account? We can tell `K_SHORTEST_PATHS`

the name of an attribute that contains the travel time!

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FOR path IN OUTBOUND K_SHORTEST_PATHS "places/Leuchars" TO "places/Cologne" GRAPH "TrainGraph" OPTIONS { weightAttribute: "travelTime", defaultWeight: 1000 } LIMIT 3 RETURN path |

Which returns the routes **Leuchars, Edinburgh, York, London, Brussels, Cologne** with weight 11.3,

**Leuchars, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Carlisle, Birmingham, London, Brussels, Cologne** with weight 11.5, and

**Leuchars, Edinburgh, York, Carlisle, Birmingham, London, Brussels, Cologne** with weight 12.3.

Should we try planning a route that does not exist, such as a trip from **London **to **Toronto**

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FOR path IN OUTBOUND K_SHORTEST_PATHS "places/London" TO "places/Toronto" GRAPH "TrainGraph" OPTIONS { weightAttribute: "travelTime", defaultWeight: 1000 } LIMIT 3 RETURN path |

We can get lucky and get the answer that there is no such route quickly, but we might also have to wait for a long time for ArangoDB to conclude that there is no such path: It might have to search the whole of the European train network, and the whole of the Canadian train network, to find that there is no train connection between those two.

## Conclusion

k Shortest Paths are a useful tool when you want to query your graph database for alternative paths to the shortest path that are just deviating a bit in terms of cost.

The `K_SHORTEST_PATHS`

keyword also supports the `INBOUND`

and `ANY`

modifier to specify which direction edges should be considered in. You can find its documentation here.