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A concise language parser for creating MongoDB queries

Project description

A simple query language that returns a valid MongoDB query.

MongoDB provides a flexible query model that is powerful, yet verbose at times. MgoQuery provides a simple query langauge to create a concise, search-like syntax for constructing MongoDB queries.


  1. Provide a safe and limited interface for querying MongoDB.
  2. Provide a query language that is URL friendly

Query Syntax

The MgoQuery syntax is inspired by tools such as Xapian, Lucene and GMail’s advance query search.

Here is an example of the basic format:

"x>3, x<5" | "y>10, z:True"

Which translates to:

{'$or': [{'$and': [{'x': {'$gte': 3}},
                   {'x': {'$lte': 5}}]},
         {'$and': [{'y': {'$gte': 10}},
                   {'z': True}]}]}

Spaces are optional which means the above query could be rewritten as:

"x>3, x<5" | "y>10, z:True"


An expression defines a single requirement for a single key in a MongoDB query. For example

{'x': 1}

An expression in a MgoQuery is as follows:

$key <-> operator <-> $value

The operators are as follows:

equals = “:” greater than or equal to >= “>” less than or equal to <= “<”

It should be noted that we only use greater/less than or equal to as the theory is it will be easier for users to understand the value they use will be included in the results.

Here are some examples:

x:3     => {'x': '3'}
foo > 4 => {'foo': {'$gte': '4'}}
y < x   => {'y': {'$lte': 'x'}}

One thing to note in the above examples is that the values are all strings. I will explain how to help the parser know when you want to use different types in the parsed output.

Expressions can be combined in order to create more complex expressions. There are two ways to combine expressions, grouping and combination operators.

Combination Operators

Similar to the operators in expressions, combination operators act upon two expressions.

expression <-> operator <-> expression

Here are two examples using the two combination operators:

x:1 , y:2 => {'$and': [{'x': '1'}, {'y': '2'}]}
x:1 | y:2 => {'$or': [{'x': '1'}, {'y': '2'}]}

The “,” acts as an AND operator meaning both expressions would need to match in the document for it to be returned.

The “|” acts as an OR operator such that either expression can match in order for the document to be returned.

I should be noted that you may only use combination operator at a time. There is no precendence that takes place in order to clarify how the expression should be applied. For example:

x:1, y:2 | foo:bar

There is no way for the parser to know whether you intended the ‘y:2’ expression to be compared first to the ‘x:1’ with AND or with the ‘foo:bar’ using OR.

It is possible to use different combination operators by using groups.


Groups allow you to use more than one combination operator in a query. Here is the format for a group:

"expression [<-> operator]"

Quotes are used to wrap the expressions and the combination operator such that you can use more than one. Here is a more complex example to see how this works:

"x>1, x<5" | "y>2, x:None"

In this example the groups are surrounded in the quotes and use the AND operator. Both groups are then used in an OR operation. In english the example would read as:

Select all documents if:
The key ‘x’ is greater than or equal to 1 AND The key ‘x’ is less than or equal to 5
The key ‘y’ is greater than or equal to 2 AND The key ‘x’ does not exist or is None.

Currently groups cannot be nested as we do not have the use case for this complex of queries.

Using the Parser

Here is a small session showing how to use the parser in order to construct queries:

Python 2.7.1 (r271:86832, Jul 31 2011, 19:30:53)
[GCC 4.2.1 (Based on Apple Inc. build 5658) (LLVM build 2335.15.00)] on darwin
Type "help", "copyright", "credits" or "license" for more information.
>>> from pprint import pprint
>>> from mgoquery import Parser
>>> p = Parser()
>>> result = p.parse('x > 5, y < 3')
>>> print result
{'$and': [{'x': {'$gte': '5'}}, {'y': {'$lte': '3'}}]}

Converting Values in Queries

As you can see from the examples, the parser default does not make an effort to understand the type of value for each expression. In order to convert the value to the correct type you can pass a conversion function to the Parser constructor.

Here is a simple session using the same example from above:

>>> p = Parser(conversion=lambda key, value: int(value))
>>> print(p.parse('x:1, y:2'))
{'$and': [{'x': 1}, {'y': 2}]}

The conversion function should take two arguments, a “key” and “value”. The key is the name of the key used by the documents you want to query. As MongoDB doesn’t support forcing a type on a specific key in a collection of documents, we use the name of the key to provide a suggestion as to what type to use.

Here is an example using a potential date parsing function:

from mylibs import parse_date
from mgoquery import Parser

def value_conversion(key, value):
    if 'date' in key or 'time' in key:
        return parse_date(value)
    return value

p = Parser(conversion=value_conversion)
# prints -> {'starttdate': datetime(2012, 2, 3)}

The return value of the conversion function should be the converted value. It is also appropriate to validate the input and throw an error if it is invalid.

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