Skip to main content
This is a pre-production deployment of Warehouse. Changes made here affect the production instance of PyPI (
Help us improve Python packaging - Donate today!

Tools for defining and querying complex relationships between objects

Project Description


Tools for defining and querying complex relationships between objects. This product builds on and requires zc.relationship and also five.intid.


Author: Alec Mitchell <>

Based on the index and relationship container from zc.relationship by Gary Poster from Zope Corporation, and the port of the Zope intid utility to Zope 2 by Whit Morriss in five.intid. This package includes a slightly modified version of container.txt from zc.relationship which is copyright Zope Corporation and distributed under the ZPL. The package was mostly inspired by ideas in the doctests of that product.

This work was partly sponsored by The Daily Reel (


2.0 - 2011-10-06

  • Updated to work with and require Zope 2.13. [hannosch]

1.0rc4 - unreleased

  • Depend on setuptools as we use namespace packages. [maurits]
  • Depend on zc.relationship 1.1.1 or higher. [maurits]
  • Depend on zc.relationship 1.1.1 to allow support for ZODB 3.7 and 3.8. [alecm]

1.0rc3 - 2008-12-06

  • Peg to 1.0 versions of zc.relationship to maximize backwards compatibility for now. [alecm]

1.0rc2 - unreleased

  • 1.0rc2 was never released.

1.0rc1 - 2008-11-26

  • Added a changelog and cleaned up package information boilerplate. [hannosch]
  • Getting a relation could cause a write transaction. This solved [regebro]

1.0b5 - 2008-05-10

  • Removed unused import statements as reported by pyflakes. [tomster]
  • Don’t assume an IntId already exists. [alecm]
  • Prep release with fixed dependencies, and new adapter based relationship proxying. [alecm]
  • Added support for relationships to proxy objects obtained using adaptation. [massimo]
  • It’s not safe to use ‘not target’ when target could be a content item (e.g. a folderish one for which an empty folder is false). The new code is now identical to the same pattern used in zc.relationship. [optilude]
  • Update version and zc.relationship dependency. [alecm]
  • Remove collective.testing dependency. [alecm]
  • Use a savepoint not a full commit during test. [alecm]
  • We no longer guarantee that the relation objects themselves are wrapped on retrieval, only that they can be wrapped as needed. [alecm]
  • We need implicit acquisition in order to obtain getPhysicalRoot for workflow/template expressions. [alecm]
  • Remove getPhysicalPath methods as they are no longer needed, make the str representation of relationships show something reasonable even if some of the sources/targets are missing. [alecm]
  • Early contributions. [optilude, ramon, wichert]
  • Initial implementation. [alecm]

Detailed Documentation


This is a product built on the zc.relationship product for Zope 3. It attempts to allow the functionality of that package to be used from Zope 2, along with some simple additional functionality derived from that package’s basic relationship Index.

The relationship container provided here is very similar to the one in zc.relationship. It is used to store and query objects implementing or adaptable to the simple IRelationship interface, but more complex relationships are supported as well. This extra functionality is defined in a few extensions to the IRelationship interface. These interfaces are described below:

IRelationship defines a basic relationship consisting of only sources and targets. These are sequences of objects that comprise the relationship. In the default implementation these must all be persistent objects from the ZODB (or more generally, objects for which and intid can be generated using the available IIntId utility (cf zope.intid and five.intid)).

IComplexRelationship adds a relationship predicate to indicate the type of relationship involved. This predicate is retrieved from an attribute called relation which should be an immutable unicode string (so a zope.i18n.Message can be used) in the default implementation.

IContextAwareRelationship adds a context in which the relationship applies. This context is provided by a method called getContext which, in the default implementation, should return objects of the same sort required by IRelationship (e.g. persistent objects from the ZODB). An example: a hierarchical relationship which exists only within the _context_ of a specific department or project.

IStatefulRelationship adds a relationship state to indicate the status of a particular relationship in the case that the relationship is one which changes over time or as a result of user actions. This state is retrieved from an attribute called state which should be an immutable unicode string (see above). For example: a relationship which requires explicit approval by the involved target objects, it would start in an unapproved state and then transition to approved when the target objects had signaled their approval. Also, the state may represent a different stages of a particular relationship, e.g. stranger, acquaintance, pal, friend, BFF.

These additional interfaces are entirely optional and may will be looked up using adaptation to the desired interface. So the relationship objects themselves do not have to directly provide these properties or methods, though that is also possible. Only sources and targets are required to make a query-able relationship.

This additional richness could have been obtained using post query filters, as supported by the default zc.relationship container. However, filtering in this way is much less efficient that allowing these potentially common attributes to be indexed and queried directly (especially when doing so only results in a small increase in storage requirements.

Using This Package

The basic functionality provided by this package is demonstrated and tested in container.txt, which essentially duplicates the container tests from zc.relationship in a Zope 2 environment. This section demonstrates some basic usage, as well as the features provided by additional interfaces described above.

First you need a site with some content and by default an IIntId utility. This was created for us by the test setup which has provided us with an app an IIntId utility provided by the five.intid package. Additionally, we need to create a relationship container to use:

>>> from plone.relations import tests
>>> tests.setUp(app)
>>> import transaction
>>> from plone.relations import interfaces
>>> from plone.relations.container import Z2RelationshipContainer
>>> container = Z2RelationshipContainer()
>>> from zope.interface.verify import verifyObject
>>> verifyObject(interfaces.IComplexRelationshipContainer, container)
>>> app._setOb('references', container)
>>> container.__name__ = 'references'
>>> container.__parent__ = app
>>> container = app['references']

This would generally be registered as a named local utility providing the IComplexRelationshipContainer interface, but we will use it directly. Now we make some relationships, using the provided Relationship class which implements IRelationship and has a built-in adapter to IComplexRelationship. To properly illustrate the potential complexity of relationships we will use some characters and contexts from the 1974 film _Chinatown_:

>>> from plone.relations.tests import ChinatownSetUp
>>> ChinatownSetUp(app) #creates our characters and contexts
>>> from plone.relations.relationships import Z2Relationship as Relationship
>>> rel1 = Relationship((app['noah'],), (app['evelyn'],), relation='parent')
>>> verifyObject(interfaces.IRelationship, rel1)
>>> interfaces.IComplexRelationship(rel1).relation
>>> container.add(rel1)
>>> rel2 = Relationship((app['hollis'],), (app['noah'],), relation='business-partner')
>>> container.add(rel2)

Note that there is a default adatper for IRelationship objects which provides IComplexRelationship using a simple attribute on the relationship.

Then we add a relationship with a state, by directly applying the interface and adding the attribute (which is not such a great way to do this):

>>> rel3 = Relationship((app['hollis'],), (app['evelyn'],), relation='intimate')
>>> rel3.state = 'married'
>>> from plone.relations.interfaces import IStatefulRelationship
>>> from zope.interface import alsoProvides
>>> alsoProvides(rel3, IStatefulRelationship)
>>> container.add(rel3)

We currently have a simple tree:

 noah <---(business-partner)---
  | (parent)                   |
  v                            |
evelyn <-(intimate:married)- hollis

Now we can make queries against this simple data set, like finding objects for which a another object is the source or target:

>>> list(container.findTargets(source=app['hollis']))
[<Demo noah>, <Demo evelyn>]
>>> list(container.findTargets(source=app['hollis'], relation='intimate'))
[<Demo evelyn>]
>>> list(container.findTargets(source=app['hollis'], relation='intimate', state='married'))
[<Demo evelyn>]
>>> list(container.findTargets(source=app['hollis'], relation='intimate', state='divorced'))
>>> list(container.findTargets(source=app['evelyn'], relation='parent'))
>>> list(container.findTargets(source=app['noah'], relation='parent'))
[<Demo evelyn>]
>>> list(container.findSources(target=app['evelyn']))
[<Demo noah>, <Demo hollis>]
>>> list(container.findSources(target=app['evelyn'], relation='parent'))
[<Demo noah>]
>>> list(container.findSources(target=app['evelyn'], relation='intimate'))
[<Demo hollis>]


We can also generate a list of relationships, and even look transitively at chains of relationships by specifying a maxDepth (and optionally a minDepth) for any of the queries. In particular the findRelationships method will seek out chains of relationship matching the specified parameters. Let’s look at the ways that hollis and evelyn are connected:

>>> list(container.findRelationships(source=app['hollis'],
...                                  target=app['evelyn'], maxDepth=2))
[(<Relationship 'intimate' from (<Demo hollis>,) to (<Demo evelyn>,)>,), (<Relationship 'business-partner' from (<Demo hollis>,) to (<Demo noah>,)>, <Relationship 'parent' from (<Demo noah>,) to (<Demo evelyn>,)>)]

Hollis is evelyn's husband, and also her father’s associate.

Modifying Relationships

The above method also allows us to access existing relationships directly, which is especially helpful when we want to alter them. In this case hollis has been _murdered_; so evelyn is now his widow. We express this with a state change on the relationship, note that we have to reindex the relationship after applying the state directly to it, if we had used an adapter to provide the state, then it should have taken care of this for us when the attribute was set.:

>>> relations = container.findRelationships(target=app['evelyn'], relation='intimate')
>>> relations = list(relations)
>>> relations
[(<Relationship 'intimate' from (<Demo hollis>,) to (<Demo evelyn>,)>,)]
>>> marriage = relations[0][0]
>>> marriage.state = 'widowed'
>>> container.reindex(marriage) # an adapter could handle this, as
...                             # we'll see later with context

We have changed the state of the marriage, let’s ensure we can still find it the same way we did before, but also using out new state:

>>> list(container.findTargets(source=app['hollis'], relation='intimate'))
[<Demo evelyn>]
>>> list(container.findTargets(source=app['hollis'], relation='intimate', state='widowed'))
[<Demo evelyn>]
>>> list(container.findTargets(source=app['hollis'], relation='intimate', state='happy'))

Now let’s add some more relationships, including one with an unknown relation. Here is the new relation tree:

        noah <----(business-partner)---
         | (parent)                    |
         v                             |
       evelyn <-(intimate:widowed)- hollis
(client)/  \ (??)
       v    v
    jake    katherine

and the associated code:

>>> rel4 = Relationship((app['evelyn'],), (app['jake'],), relation='client')
>>> rel5 = Relationship((app['evelyn'],), (app['katherine'],))
>>> container.add(rel4)
>>> container.add(rel5)
>>> sorted([repr(r) for r in container.findTargets(source=app['evelyn'])])
['<Demo jake>', '<Demo katherine>']
>>> list(container.findTargets(source=app['evelyn'], relation=None))
[<Demo katherine>]
>>> list(container.findTargets(source=app['noah'], relation=None))

Note that we can find entries with empty parameters using None as the query argument.


Now we’ll apply a context to an existing relationship using a simple adapter, in the real world this extra data would probably be stored using an annotation on the relationship, but here we store it directly:

>>> class ContextAdapter(object):
...     def __init__(self, relationship):
...         self.relationship = relationship
...     def getContext(self):
...         return getattr(self.relationship, '_context', None)
...     def setContext(self, context):
...         self.relationship._context = context
...         #reindex ourself in the container
...         if self.relationship.__parent__ is not None:
...             self.relationship.__parent__.reindex(self.relationship)
>>> from zope.component import provideAdapter
>>> provideAdapter(ContextAdapter, (interfaces.IRelationship,), interfaces.IContextAwareRelationship)

Right now the client relationship between evelyn and jake doesn’t tell us much because there are potentially many different contexts for a client relationship. In this case jake is a private investigator and the context is the investigation of hollis' murder. This investigation object could consist of notes pertaining to the investigation or other relevant data. We apply it to the relationship as a context:

>>> list(container.findSources(target=app['jake'], relation='client',
...                            context=app['investigation']))
>>> relationships = list(container.findRelationships(source=app['evelyn'],
...                                                  target=app['jake']))
>>> relationships
[(<Relationship 'client' from (<Demo evelyn>,) to (<Demo jake>,)>,)]
>>> evelyn_jake = relationships[0][0]
>>> interfaces.IContextAwareRelationship(evelyn_jake).setContext(
...                                                   app['investigation'])
>>> list(container.findSources(target=app['jake'], relation='client',
...                            context=app['investigation']))
[<Demo evelyn>]
>>> list(container.findSources(target=app['jake'], context=None))
>>> list(container.findSources(target=app['katherine'], context=None))
[<Demo evelyn>]

In time some additional relationships develop. Jake and katherine have a fling during the investigation. Also, jake becomes suspicious of hollis' business partner and father-in-law noah:

>>> rel6 = Relationship((app['jake'],), (app['evelyn'],), 'intimate')
>>> rel6.state = 'fling'
>>> interfaces.IContextAwareRelationship(rel6).setContext(app['investigation'])
>>> rel7 = Relationship((app['jake'],), (app['noah'],), 'nemesis')
>>> interfaces.IContextAwareRelationship(rel7).setContext(app['investigation'])
>>> container.add(rel6)
>>> container.add(rel7)

Multiple Relationship Chains and Cycles

We’ve got a fairly complex graph, but an existing relationship becomes a little clearer, when we learn katherine is evelyn’s sister:

>>> murky = list(container.findRelationships(source=app['evelyn'],
...                                          target=app['katherine']))
>>> evelyn_katherine = murky[0][0]
>>> interfaces.IComplexRelationship(evelyn_katherine).relation = 'sibling'

Here’s the current relationship tree in ASCII form:

        (nemesis)---->noah <-----(business-partner)--
 [investigation]|      | (parent)                    |
                |      v                             |
(intimate:fling)|--> evelyn <-(intimate:widowed)- hollis
[investigation] |      /\
           [investigation]\ (sibling)
                |   /      \
                |  v        v
                jake       katherine

This complexity will allow us to explore how the relationship query mechanisms resolve multiple relationship paths:

>>> list(container.findTargets(source=app['jake'], context=app['investigation']))
[<Demo evelyn>, <Demo noah>]
>>> list(container.findRelationships(context=app['investigation']))
[(<Relationship 'client' from (<Demo evelyn>,) to (<Demo jake>,)>,), (<Relationship 'intimate' from (<Demo jake>,) to (<Demo evelyn>,)>,), (<Relationship 'nemesis' from (<Demo jake>,) to (<Demo noah>,)>,)]

The first findTargets example above shows all the people that are jake's targets in the context of the investigation. Then we have a map of all the relationships that apply in the context of the investigation.

In the end of the film we discover some rather sinister connections between these characters. Noah was hollis' murderer, and also had an inappropriate intimate relationship with his daughter evelyn which resulted in their daughter katherine. We add those relationships below (note how one can use multiple sources or targets for a single relationship with noah and evelyn the sources for their parental relationship with katherine):

 noah-(intimate[the past])->evelyn
    |\                     /
    | \                   /
    |  \                 /
    |   \  (parents)    /
    |    -->katherine<--

and the code:

>>> rel8 = Relationship((app['noah'],), (app['evelyn'],), 'intimate')
>>> interfaces.IContextAwareRelationship(rel8).setContext(app['the past'])
>>> container.add(rel8)
>>> rel9 = Relationship((app['noah'],), (app['hollis'],), 'murderer')
>>> container.add(rel9)
>>> rel10 = Relationship((app['evelyn'], app['noah']), (app['katherine'],),
...                      'parent')
>>> container.add(rel10)

At this point the relationship tree is far too complex and full of loops to draw understandably using ascii art. However, it’s no trouble for our relationship container to inspect it:

>>> list(container.findSources(target=app['katherine'], relation='parent', maxDepth=None))
[<Demo evelyn>, <Demo noah>]
>>> list(container.findRelationships(source=app['noah'],
...                                  target=app['katherine'],
...                                  relation='parent', maxDepth=None))
[(<Relationship 'parent' from (<Demo evelyn>, <Demo noah>) to (<Demo katherine>,)>,), (<Relationship 'parent' from (<Demo noah>,) to (<Demo evelyn>,)>, <Relationship 'parent' from (<Demo evelyn>, <Demo noah>) to (<Demo katherine>,)>)]

This is the same query we tried earlier when we were unclear of relation between katherine and noah. Now we can see that noah is both her father and grandfather (ick!).

Exploring the relationships pointing to katherine from evelyn yields a pretty crazy picture, even when we restrict ourselves to paths of at most 2 relationships (we need to play some tricks to ensure that the results are returned in a repeatable order, so that this test passes):

>>> relations = container.findRelationships(target=app['katherine'],
...                                         maxDepth=2)
>>> res = [repr(r) for r in relations]
>>> res.sort(key=lambda x:(len(x), x)) # sort by length
>>> print '\n'.join(res)
(<Relationship 'sibling' from (<Demo evelyn>,) to (<Demo katherine>,)>,)
(<Relationship 'parent' from (<Demo evelyn>, <Demo noah>) to (<Demo katherine>,)>,)
(<Relationship 'parent' from (<Demo noah>,) to (<Demo evelyn>,)>, <Relationship 'sibling' from (<Demo evelyn>,) to (<Demo katherine>,)>)
(<Relationship 'intimate' from (<Demo jake>,) to (<Demo evelyn>,)>, <Relationship 'sibling' from (<Demo evelyn>,) to (<Demo katherine>,)>)
(<Relationship 'intimate' from (<Demo noah>,) to (<Demo evelyn>,)>, <Relationship 'sibling' from (<Demo evelyn>,) to (<Demo katherine>,)>)
(<Relationship 'intimate' from (<Demo hollis>,) to (<Demo evelyn>,)>, <Relationship 'sibling' from (<Demo evelyn>,) to (<Demo katherine>,)>)
(<Relationship 'nemesis' from (<Demo jake>,) to (<Demo noah>,)>, <Relationship 'parent' from (<Demo evelyn>, <Demo noah>) to (<Demo katherine>,)>)
(<Relationship 'parent' from (<Demo noah>,) to (<Demo evelyn>,)>, <Relationship 'parent' from (<Demo evelyn>, <Demo noah>) to (<Demo katherine>,)>)
(<Relationship 'intimate' from (<Demo jake>,) to (<Demo evelyn>,)>, <Relationship 'parent' from (<Demo evelyn>, <Demo noah>) to (<Demo katherine>,)>)
(<Relationship 'intimate' from (<Demo noah>,) to (<Demo evelyn>,)>, <Relationship 'parent' from (<Demo evelyn>, <Demo noah>) to (<Demo katherine>,)>)
(<Relationship 'intimate' from (<Demo hollis>,) to (<Demo evelyn>,)>, <Relationship 'parent' from (<Demo evelyn>, <Demo noah>) to (<Demo katherine>,)>)
(<Relationship 'business-partner' from (<Demo hollis>,) to (<Demo noah>,)>, <Relationship 'parent' from (<Demo evelyn>, <Demo noah>) to (<Demo katherine>,)>)

The relationships are as follows:

evelyn |-(sibling)-> katherine evelyn+noah |-(parent)-> katherine noah |-(parent)-> evelyn |-(sibling)-> katherine jake |-(intimate)-> evelyn |-(sibling)-> katherine noah |-(intimate)-> evelyn |-(sibling)-> katherine hollis |-(intimate)-> evelyn |-(sibling)-> katherine jake |-(nemesis)-> noah |-(parent)-> katherine noah |-(parent)-> evelyn |-(parent)-> katherine jake |-(intimate)-> evelyn |-(parent)-> katherine noah |-(intimate)-> evelyn |-(parent)-> katherine hollis |-(intimate)-> evelyn |-(parent)-> katherine hollis |-(business-partner)-> noah |-(parent)-> katherine

It’s important to note that nothing explodes when a cycle is found. The result in such a case is just a special tuple that implements ICircularRelationshipPath. We can see this by looking at the simplest cycles between evelyn and herself:

>>> list(container.findRelationships(source=app['evelyn'],
...                                  target=app['evelyn'], maxDepth=2))
[cycle(<Relationship 'client' from (<Demo evelyn>,) to (<Demo jake>,)>, <Relationship 'intimate' from (<Demo jake>,) to (<Demo evelyn>,)>)]

Acquisition Nonsense

Zope 2 requires almost every object to support acquisition in order to function (it is required for security and traversal). Below we will perform some sanity checks to ensure that the objects involved are wrapped in ways that meet Zope 2’s expectations:

>>> list(container.findSources(target=app['katherine']))[0].aq_chain
[<Demo evelyn>, <Application at >, <ZPublisher.BaseRequest.RequestContainer object at ...>]
>>> list(container.findTargets(source=app['hollis'],
...                            relation='business-partner'))[0].aq_chain
[<Demo noah>, <Application at >, <ZPublisher.BaseRequest.RequestContainer object at ...>]
>>> list(list(container.findRelationships(source=app['evelyn'],
...                      target=app['katherine']))[0][0].targets)[0].aq_chain
[<Demo katherine>, <Application at >, <ZPublisher.BaseRequest.RequestContainer object at ...>]
>>> list(list(container.findRelationships(source=app['evelyn'],
...                      target=app['katherine']))[0][0].sources)[0].aq_chain
[<Demo evelyn>, <Application at >, <ZPublisher.BaseRequest.RequestContainer object at ...>]

As you can see, even as returned from the search the targets and sources have their original wrapping. Relationships are not wrapped, though they can be explicitly wrapped with some available context when security checks are needed. The sources and targets attributes of a returned relationship will to have their original wrapping as well, even after ghosting:

>>> evelyn = list(container.findSources(target=app['katherine']))[0]
>>> noah = list(container.findTargets(source=app['hollis'],
...                                   relation='business-partner'))[0]
>>> rel = list(container.findRelationships(source=app['evelyn'],
...                          target=app['katherine']))[0][0]
>>> sp = transaction.savepoint()
>>> evelyn._p_deactivate()
>>> noah._p_deactivate()
>>> for _rel in container.values():
...    _rel._p_deactivate()
...    _rel.targets._p_deactivate()
...    _rel.sources._p_deactivate()
>>> container._p_deactivate()
>>> list(rel.targets)[0].aq_chain
[<Demo katherine>, <Application at >, <ZPublisher.BaseRequest.RequestContainer object at ...>]
>>> list(container.findSources(target=app['katherine']))[0].aq_chain
[<Demo evelyn>, <Application at >, <ZPublisher.BaseRequest.RequestContainer object at ...>]
>>> list(container.findTargets(source=app['hollis'],
...                            relation='business-partner'))[0].aq_chain
[<Demo noah>, <Application at >, <ZPublisher.BaseRequest.RequestContainer object at ...>]
>>> list(list(container.findRelationships(source=app['evelyn'],
...                      target=app['katherine']))[0][0].targets)[0].aq_chain
[<Demo katherine>, <Application at >, <ZPublisher.BaseRequest.RequestContainer object at ...>]

All of the wrappers are preserved except those on the sources and targets, which for this reason mostly shouldn’t be directly depended on (at least not from code that requires security checks or acquisition).

What happens when we create a relationship to an explicitly rewrapped object:

>>> rel = Relationship((app['katherine'],),(app['jake'].__of__(container),))
>>> container.add(rel)
>>> list(rel.targets)[0].aq_chain
[<Demo jake>, <Application at >, <ZPublisher.BaseRequest.RequestContainer object at ...>]
>>> list(container.findTargets(source=app['katherine'],
...                            relation=None))[0].aq_chain
[<Demo jake>, <Application at >, <ZPublisher.BaseRequest.RequestContainer object at ...>]

The retrieval via search returns the object only wrapped by its original containment, regardless of how it was wrapped when used in the relationship. When we retrieve the relationship, the original wrapping of sources and targets will be restored.

>>> sp = transaction.savepoint()
>>> rel._p_deactivate()
>>> rel.sources._p_deactivate()
>>> rel.targets._p_deactivate()
>>> list(list(container.findRelationships(source=app['katherine'],
...                                relation=None))[0][0].targets)[0].aq_chain
[<Demo jake>, <Application at >, <ZPublisher.BaseRequest.RequestContainer object at ...>]
>>> tests.tearDown()
Release History

Release History

This version
History Node


History Node


History Node


History Node


History Node


History Node


History Node


History Node


Download Files

Download Files

Download the file for your platform. If you're not sure which to choose, learn more about installing packages.

File Name & Checksum SHA256 Checksum Help Version File Type Upload Date (50.1 kB) Copy SHA256 Checksum SHA256 Source Oct 6, 2011

Supported By

WebFaction WebFaction Technical Writing Elastic Elastic Search Pingdom Pingdom Monitoring Dyn Dyn DNS Sentry Sentry Error Logging CloudAMQP CloudAMQP RabbitMQ Heroku Heroku PaaS Kabu Creative Kabu Creative UX & Design Fastly Fastly CDN DigiCert DigiCert EV Certificate Rackspace Rackspace Cloud Servers DreamHost DreamHost Log Hosting