Working with cursors

Apostrophe uses cursors to fetch docs from the database. An apostrophe-cursor object helps us conveniently fetch docs from the aposDocs mongodb collection using chainable "filter" methods, quite similar to those MongoDB developers are used to. Apostrophe's cursors work much like MongoDB or Doctrine cursors, but with many filter methods specific to Apostrophe that add a great deal of convenience, including methods for every field in your schema. And it's possible to add your own filters.

So when do we need to work with cursors? When we are writing custom queries in our own server-side JavaScript code. If you are simply adding filters to a pieces page based on your schema fields, or adding filters to the "Manage" view of your pieces, you do not have to write any custom JavaScript at all. See reusable content with pieces for more information about how to easily configure the piecesFilters option, for example.

Still with us? OK, let's talk about programming with cursors.

An illustrated example

Let's say we've created a profiles module that extends apostrophe-pieces. Its configuration looks like this:

modules: {
profiles: {
extend: 'apostrophe-pieces',
name: 'profile',
label: 'Profile',
addFields: [
type: 'integer',
name: 'reputation',
label: 'Reputation'

Now let's say we want to fetch the ten most recently updated profiles with a reputation value greater than 30 and make sure we have access to that information in every page template:

module.exports = {
construct: function(self, options) {
self.on('apostrophe-pages:beforeSend', 'fetchProfiles', async function(req) { = await'profile').find(
reputation: {
$gte: 30
.sort({ updatedAt: -1 })

"What's going on in this code?" We've written a promise event handler that listens for the apostrophe-pages:beforeSend event, which is sent just before Apostrophe renders the page template. We've given it the method name fetchProfiles, to distinguish it from other handlers. And we've supplied an async function that fetches the profiles.'profile') returns the module that manages the piece type named profile. If the module has an alias option set to profiles, we could also write apos.profiles.

The find(req, ...) method of that module returns a cursor we can use to fetch profiles. We always pass it req, so it knows who is asking and what to include in the results. We also pass a MongoDB-style criteria object.

We then chain the sort filter method to specify a sort order, then call toArray() to return an actual array of profiles. Note that if we didn't specify await, we would just get a promise. Use await to get the actual array of profiles.

Full text search

So far this looks familiar to MongoDB developers. But Apostrophe adds some filter methods of its own that go beyond what you get out of the box with MongoDB.

Let's search for profiles related to shoes, based on the text of each document:

// You can add this code to the previous example = await'profile')

The search filter performs a MongoDB full-text search and adjusts the sort order to be based on search quality, unless you explicitly ask for another order. And, Apostrophe has already taken care of ensuring that MongoDB indexes the content of your string schema fields and rich text widgets.

You can specify searchable: false for a schema field if you really don't want it to be considered for search.

There is also an autocomplete filter, which accepts with partial words, autocompletes them based on "high importance" words such as those in titles and tags, and then feeds that back into the search filter. Autocomplete is great, but it can't find everything. So if you offer autocomplete, it's also a good idea to offer "full search" as well.

Built-in filters: every schema field gets one!

Every cursor object obtained via find from a manager automatically has methods with the same name as each field in the schema. For instance, you can write .slug('party').toArray() to find all docs with a slug (URL) that exactly matches the word party. This works for most schema field types, although there are a few for which filters don't make sense or don't exist yet.

Joins and filters

When working with joins, there are several ways we can call filter methods.

Let's say our join is named _jobs. In that case, we can write:

  • ._jobs('xyz') to match docs that are joined to the job whose _id is xyz.

  • .jobs('doctor') to match docs that are joined to the job with the slug doctor.

Note the absence of the _ in the second case.

If you are interested in results for docs joined to any of several jobs, you can pass an array:

  • ._jobs([ 'abc', 'xyz' ]) to match docs that are joined to a job with either _id.

  • .jobs([ 'doctor', 'dentist' ]) to match docs that are joined to a job with either slug.

You can also match only docs that join with all of the _id or slug values specified:

  • ._jobsAnd([ 'abc', 'xyz' ]) to match docs that are joined to both jobs, specified by _id.

  • .jobsAnd([ 'doctor', 'dentist' ]) to match docs that are joined to both jobs, specified by slug.

End users usually find "AND" filters to be frustrating because they receive few or no results. We recommend using the "OR" approach.

Custom filters

The standard filter methods for each schema field are quite powerful, but occasionally you'll want to write one of your own. Here's an example of a custom filter.

Let's say the people module contains a join field like this:

addFields: [
name: '_jobs',
type: 'joinByArray',
withType: 'job'

See reusable content with pieces for a more complete discussion of this particular example join.

We can already write ._jobs('xyz') to match people that are joined with that particular job _id. But let's say we want an easy way to match only people who are joined with more than one job - people who are "busy." Here's a custom filter that can do that:

module.exports = {
construct: function(self, options) {
self.addFilter('busy', {
def: false,
launder: function(value) {
return self.apos.launder.boolean(value);
safeFor: 'public',
finalize: function() {
const popular = self.get('popular');
if (popular) {
// MongoDB dot notation
self.and({ 'jobsIds.1': { $exists: 1 } });

"What's happening in this code?"

  • We placed our code in lib/modules/profiles/lib/cursor.js. This is important. Apostrophe will automatically load any code placed here as an implicit subclass of our cursor type. That means we can modify the cursor in our own construct function.

  • We called addFilter and gave the filter the name busy. This defines a new, chainable .busy(true) method for our cursor type.

  • We set a default value with def. By default, we don't want to restrict results to "busy" people.

  • We provided a launder function. The launder function accepts raw input from the web browser and returns it in a sanitized, "laundered" form. This is indispensable for a filter the public is allowed to use, for instance via the query string on a pieces-page. See the launder module, always available as self.apos.launder inside our cursor code.

  • We set safeFor to public. With this setting, any subclass of apostrophe-pieces-pages we choose to provide for browsing our profiles will automatically support a market query string parameter and filter results accordingly. The "slug" property of each doc is a user-friendly label based on the title, suitable for use in URLs.

  • We provide a finalize function. finalize does the real work of the filter, as described below.

  • We call self.and. The and filter says, "this cursor has all the criteria I already gave it... and this additional MongoDB criteria object must match too." Behind the scenes, it creates an { $and: [ ... ] } MongoDB criteria object. But we don't have to fuss with that. This is the most commonly used filter when building other filters.

  • The parameter to self.and is a MongoDB criteria object that uses "dot notation" to check whether the jobsIds array has at least two values. Although we don't see it in the field's schema, a joinByArray field named _jobs automatically stores the actual _ids being joined with in an array property called jobsIds. We can leverage this knowledge to build the filter we want.

  • Cursors for our pieces will still automatically inherit all the usual features, like filter methods for each schema field. Here we are just adding one more.

Although not shown here, the finalize method can also take a callback. If it does, then it can do asynchronous work before invoking the callback. This is useful if your filter must make a database query or API call. In this case, we just need to modify the MongoDB criteria for the query that Apostrophe is about to make.

Adding features to all cursors for pieces

You can change the behavior of all cursors for pieces. Just put your cursor definition, like the one above, in lib/modules/apostrophe-pieces/lib/cursor.js in your project.

Adding features to all cursors for pages

The apostrophe-pages-cursor type is used to fetch the current page for display on the site. It is also used to fetch its ancestors and children, and defines filters for those purposes. You can configure the filters that are called by default when fetching the current page via the filters option to apostrophe-pages.

But what if we want to add new filters to this type?

For this trick, you'll need to get slightly more comfortable with Apostrophe's use of moog to manage object-oriented programming.

But it's still pretty easy:

modules: {
'extend-page-cursors': {}
module.exports = {
construct: function(self, options) {
self.apos.define('apostrophe-pages-cursor', require('./lib/pagesCursor.js'));
module.exports = {
construct: function(self, options) {
self.addFilter('yourFilterNameHere', { ... definition ... });

What's happening in this code?

  • We created a new module, extend-page-cursors.

  • In that module, we called self.apos.define, a convenience method that invokes self.apos.synth.define to define a new type of object. But since that type already exists, it creates an implicit subclass, in which our version replaces the original but does not discard it. Instead, our construct function is called after the regular one. This allows us to add additional filters as we see fit.

  • We used require to pull in the actual definition from pagesCursor.js, just to keep the code tidy.