What’s New in SQLAlchemy 0.8?

About this Document

This document describes changes between SQLAlchemy version 0.7, undergoing maintenance releases as of October, 2012, and SQLAlchemy version 0.8, which is expected for release in early 2013.

Document date: October 25, 2012 Updated: March 9, 2013


This guide introduces what’s new in SQLAlchemy version 0.8, and also documents changes which affect users migrating their applications from the 0.7 series of SQLAlchemy to 0.8.

SQLAlchemy releases are closing in on 1.0, and each new version since 0.5 features fewer major usage changes. Most applications that are settled into modern 0.7 patterns should be movable to 0.8 with no changes. Applications that use 0.6 and even 0.5 patterns should be directly migratable to 0.8 as well, though larger applications may want to test with each interim version.

Platform Support

Targeting Python 2.5 and Up Now

SQLAlchemy 0.8 will target Python 2.5 and forward; compatibility for Python 2.4 is being dropped.

The internals will be able to make usage of Python ternaries (that is, x if y else z) which will improve things versus the usage of y and x or z, which naturally has been the source of some bugs, as well as context managers (that is, with:) and perhaps in some cases try:/except:/else: blocks which will help with code readability.

SQLAlchemy will eventually drop 2.5 support as well - when 2.6 is reached as the baseline, SQLAlchemy will move to use 2.6/3.3 in-place compatibility, removing the usage of the 2to3 tool and maintaining a source base that works with Python 2 and 3 at the same time.

New ORM Features

Rewritten relationship() mechanics

0.8 features a much improved and capable system regarding how relationship() determines how to join between two entities. The new system includes these features:

  • The primaryjoin argument is no longer needed when constructing a relationship() against a class that has multiple foreign key paths to the target. Only the foreign_keys argument is needed to specify those columns which should be included:

    class Parent(Base):
        __tablename__ = "parent"
        id = Column(Integer, primary_key=True)
        child_id_one = Column(Integer, ForeignKey("child.id"))
        child_id_two = Column(Integer, ForeignKey("child.id"))
        child_one = relationship("Child", foreign_keys=child_id_one)
        child_two = relationship("Child", foreign_keys=child_id_two)
    class Child(Base):
        __tablename__ = "child"
        id = Column(Integer, primary_key=True)
  • relationships against self-referential, composite foreign keys where a column points to itself are now supported. The canonical case is as follows:

    class Folder(Base):
        __tablename__ = "folder"
        __table_args__ = (
                ["account_id", "parent_id"], ["folder.account_id", "folder.folder_id"]
        account_id = Column(Integer, primary_key=True)
        folder_id = Column(Integer, primary_key=True)
        parent_id = Column(Integer)
        name = Column(String)
        parent_folder = relationship(
            "Folder", backref="child_folders", remote_side=[account_id, folder_id]

    Above, the Folder refers to its parent Folder joining from account_id to itself, and parent_id to folder_id. When SQLAlchemy constructs an auto- join, no longer can it assume all columns on the “remote” side are aliased, and all columns on the “local” side are not - the account_id column is on both sides. So the internal relationship mechanics were totally rewritten to support an entirely different system whereby two copies of account_id are generated, each containing different annotations to determine their role within the statement. Note the join condition within a basic eager load:

        folder.account_id AS folder_account_id,
        folder.folder_id AS folder_folder_id,
        folder.parent_id AS folder_parent_id,
        folder.name AS folder_name,
        folder_1.account_id AS folder_1_account_id,
        folder_1.folder_id AS folder_1_folder_id,
        folder_1.parent_id AS folder_1_parent_id,
        folder_1.name AS folder_1_name
    FROM folder
        LEFT OUTER JOIN folder AS folder_1
            folder_1.account_id = folder.account_id
            AND folder.folder_id = folder_1.parent_id
    WHERE folder.folder_id = ? AND folder.account_id = ?
  • Previously difficult custom join conditions, like those involving functions and/or CASTing of types, will now function as expected in most cases:

    class HostEntry(Base):
        __tablename__ = "host_entry"
        id = Column(Integer, primary_key=True)
        ip_address = Column(INET)
        content = Column(String(50))
        # relationship() using explicit foreign_keys, remote_side
        parent_host = relationship(
            primaryjoin=ip_address == cast(content, INET),

    The new relationship() mechanics make use of a SQLAlchemy concept known as annotations. These annotations are also available to application code explicitly via the foreign() and remote() functions, either as a means to improve readability for advanced configurations or to directly inject an exact configuration, bypassing the usual join-inspection heuristics:

    from sqlalchemy.orm import foreign, remote
    class HostEntry(Base):
        __tablename__ = "host_entry"
        id = Column(Integer, primary_key=True)
        ip_address = Column(INET)
        content = Column(String(50))
        # relationship() using explicit foreign() and remote() annotations
        # in lieu of separate arguments
        parent_host = relationship(
            primaryjoin=remote(ip_address) == cast(foreign(content), INET),

See also

Configuring how Relationship Joins - a newly revised section on relationship() detailing the latest techniques for customizing related attributes and collection access.

#1401 #610

New Class/Object Inspection System

Lots of SQLAlchemy users are writing systems that require the ability to inspect the attributes of a mapped class, including being able to get at the primary key columns, object relationships, plain attributes, and so forth, typically for the purpose of building data-marshalling systems, like JSON/XML conversion schemes and of course form libraries galore.

Originally, the Table and Column model were the original inspection points, which have a well-documented system. While SQLAlchemy ORM models are also fully introspectable, this has never been a fully stable and supported feature, and users tended to not have a clear idea how to get at this information.

0.8 now provides a consistent, stable and fully documented API for this purpose, including an inspection system which works on mapped classes, instances, attributes, and other Core and ORM constructs. The entrypoint to this system is the core-level inspect() function. In most cases, the object being inspected is one already part of SQLAlchemy’s system, such as Mapper, InstanceState, Inspector. In some cases, new objects have been added with the job of providing the inspection API in certain contexts, such as AliasedInsp and AttributeState.

A walkthrough of some key capabilities follows:

>>> class User(Base):
...     __tablename__ = "user"
...     id = Column(Integer, primary_key=True)
...     name = Column(String)
...     name_syn = synonym(name)
...     addresses = relationship("Address")

>>> # universal entry point is inspect()
>>> b = inspect(User)

>>> # b in this case is the Mapper
>>> b
<Mapper at 0x101521950; User>

>>> # Column namespace
>>> b.columns.id
Column('id', Integer(), table=<user>, primary_key=True, nullable=False)

>>> # mapper's perspective of the primary key
>>> b.primary_key
(Column('id', Integer(), table=<user>, primary_key=True, nullable=False),)

>>> # MapperProperties available from .attrs
>>> b.attrs.keys()
['name_syn', 'addresses', 'id', 'name']

>>> # .column_attrs, .relationships, etc. filter this collection
>>> b.column_attrs.keys()
['id', 'name']

>>> list(b.relationships)
[<sqlalchemy.orm.properties.RelationshipProperty object at 0x1015212d0>]

>>> # they are also namespaces
>>> b.column_attrs.id
<sqlalchemy.orm.properties.ColumnProperty object at 0x101525090>

>>> b.relationships.addresses
<sqlalchemy.orm.properties.RelationshipProperty object at 0x1015212d0>

>>> # point inspect() at a mapped, class level attribute,
>>> # returns the attribute itself
>>> b = inspect(User.addresses)
>>> b
<sqlalchemy.orm.attributes.InstrumentedAttribute object at 0x101521fd0>

>>> # From here we can get the mapper:
>>> b.mapper
<Mapper at 0x101525810; Address>

>>> # the parent inspector, in this case a mapper
>>> b.parent
<Mapper at 0x101521950; User>

>>> # an expression
>>> print(b.expression)
"user".id = address.user_id
>>> # inspect works on instances >>> u1 = User(id=3, name="x") >>> b = inspect(u1) >>> # it returns the InstanceState >>> b <sqlalchemy.orm.state.InstanceState object at 0x10152bed0> >>> # similar attrs accessor refers to the >>> b.attrs.keys() ['id', 'name_syn', 'addresses', 'name'] >>> # attribute interface - from attrs, you get a state object >>> b.attrs.id <sqlalchemy.orm.state.AttributeState object at 0x10152bf90> >>> # this object can give you, current value... >>> b.attrs.id.value 3 >>> # ... current history >>> b.attrs.id.history History(added=[3], unchanged=(), deleted=()) >>> # InstanceState can also provide session state information >>> # lets assume the object is persistent >>> s = Session() >>> s.add(u1) >>> s.commit() >>> # now we can get primary key identity, always >>> # works in query.get() >>> b.identity (3,) >>> # the mapper level key >>> b.identity_key (<class '__main__.User'>, (3,)) >>> # state within the session >>> b.persistent, b.transient, b.deleted, b.detached (True, False, False, False) >>> # owning session >>> b.session <sqlalchemy.orm.session.Session object at 0x101701150>


New with_polymorphic() feature, can be used anywhere

The Query.with_polymorphic() method allows the user to specify which tables should be present when querying against a joined-table entity. Unfortunately the method is awkward and only applies to the first entity in the list, and otherwise has awkward behaviors both in usage as well as within the internals. A new enhancement to the aliased() construct has been added called with_polymorphic() which allows any entity to be “aliased” into a “polymorphic” version of itself, freely usable anywhere:

from sqlalchemy.orm import with_polymorphic

palias = with_polymorphic(Person, [Engineer, Manager])
session.query(Company).join(palias, Company.employees).filter(
    or_(Engineer.language == "java", Manager.hair == "pointy")

See also

Using with_polymorphic() - newly updated documentation for polymorphic loading control.


of_type() works with alias(), with_polymorphic(), any(), has(), joinedload(), subqueryload(), contains_eager()

The PropComparator.of_type() method is used to specify a specific subtype to use when constructing SQL expressions along a relationship() that has a polymorphic mapping as its target. This method can now be used to target any number of target subtypes, by combining it with the new with_polymorphic() function:

# use eager loading in conjunction with with_polymorphic targets
Job_P = with_polymorphic(Job, [SubJob, ExtraJob], aliased=True)
q = (

The method now works equally well in most places a regular relationship attribute is accepted, including with loader functions like joinedload(), subqueryload(), contains_eager(), and comparison methods like PropComparator.any() and PropComparator.has():

# use eager loading in conjunction with with_polymorphic targets
Job_P = with_polymorphic(Job, [SubJob, ExtraJob], aliased=True)
q = (

# pass subclasses to eager loads (implicitly applies with_polymorphic)
q = s.query(ParentThing).options(
    joinedload_all(ParentThing.container, DataContainer.jobs.of_type(SubJob))

# control self-referential aliasing with any()/has()
Job_A = aliased(Job)
q = (
            and_(Job_A.id < Job.id, Job_A.type == "fred")

#2438 #1106

Events Can Be Applied to Unmapped Superclasses

Mapper and instance events can now be associated with an unmapped superclass, where those events will be propagated to subclasses as those subclasses are mapped. The propagate=True flag should be used. This feature allows events to be associated with a declarative base class:

from sqlalchemy.ext.declarative import declarative_base

Base = declarative_base()

@event.listens_for("load", Base, propagate=True)
def on_load(target, context):
    print("New instance loaded:", target)

# on_load() will be applied to SomeClass
class SomeClass(Base):
    __tablename__ = "sometable"

    # ...


Declarative Distinguishes Between Modules/Packages

A key feature of Declarative is the ability to refer to other mapped classes using their string name. The registry of class names is now sensitive to the owning module and package of a given class. The classes can be referred to via dotted name in expressions:

class Snack(Base):
    # ...

    peanuts = relationship(
        "nuts.Peanut", primaryjoin="nuts.Peanut.snack_id == Snack.id"

The resolution allows that any full or partial disambiguating package name can be used. If the path to a particular class is still ambiguous, an error is raised.


New DeferredReflection Feature in Declarative

The “deferred reflection” example has been moved to a supported feature within Declarative. This feature allows the construction of declarative mapped classes with only placeholder Table metadata, until a prepare() step is called, given an Engine with which to reflect fully all tables and establish actual mappings. The system supports overriding of columns, single and joined inheritance, as well as distinct bases-per-engine. A full declarative configuration can now be created against an existing table that is assembled upon engine creation time in one step:

class ReflectedOne(DeferredReflection, Base):
    __abstract__ = True

class ReflectedTwo(DeferredReflection, Base):
    __abstract__ = True

class MyClass(ReflectedOne):
    __tablename__ = "mytable"

class MyOtherClass(ReflectedOne):
    __tablename__ = "myothertable"

class YetAnotherClass(ReflectedTwo):
    __tablename__ = "yetanothertable"



ORM Classes Now Accepted by Core Constructs

While the SQL expressions used with Query.filter(), such as User.id == 5, have always been compatible for use with core constructs such as select(), the mapped class itself would not be recognized when passed to select(), Select.select_from(), or Select.correlate(). A new SQL registration system allows a mapped class to be accepted as a FROM clause within the core:

from sqlalchemy import select

stmt = select([User]).where(User.id == 5)

Above, the mapped User class will expand into the Table to which User is mapped.


Query.update() supports UPDATE..FROM

The new UPDATE..FROM mechanics work in query.update(). Below, we emit an UPDATE against SomeEntity, adding a FROM clause (or equivalent, depending on backend) against SomeOtherEntity:

query(SomeEntity).filter(SomeEntity.id == SomeOtherEntity.id).filter(
    SomeOtherEntity.foo == "bar"
).update({"data": "x"})

In particular, updates to joined-inheritance entities are supported, provided the target of the UPDATE is local to the table being filtered on, or if the parent and child tables are mixed, they are joined explicitly in the query. Below, given Engineer as a joined subclass of Person:

query(Engineer).filter(Person.id == Engineer.id).filter(
    Person.name == "dilbert"
).update({"engineer_data": "java"})

would produce:

UPDATE engineer SET engineer_data='java' FROM person
WHERE person.id=engineer.id AND person.name='dilbert'


rollback() will only roll back “dirty” objects from a begin_nested()

A behavioral change that should improve efficiency for those users using SAVEPOINT via Session.begin_nested() - upon rollback(), only those objects that were made dirty since the last flush will be expired, the rest of the Session remains intact. This because a ROLLBACK to a SAVEPOINT does not terminate the containing transaction’s isolation, so no expiry is needed except for those changes that were not flushed in the current transaction.


Caching Example now uses dogpile.cache

The caching example now uses dogpile.cache. Dogpile.cache is a rewrite of the caching portion of Beaker, featuring vastly simpler and faster operation, as well as support for distributed locking.

Note that the SQLAlchemy APIs used by the Dogpile example as well as the previous Beaker example have changed slightly, in particular this change is needed as illustrated in the Beaker example:

--- examples/beaker_caching/caching_query.py
+++ examples/beaker_caching/caching_query.py
@@ -222,7 +222,8 @@

         if query._current_path:
-            mapper, key = query._current_path[-2:]
+            mapper, prop = query._current_path[-2:]
+            key = prop.key

             for cls in mapper.class_.__mro__:
                 if (cls, key) in self._relationship_options:

See also

Dogpile Caching


New Core Features

Fully extensible, type-level operator support in Core

The Core has to date never had any system of adding support for new SQL operators to Column and other expression constructs, other than the ColumnOperators.op() method which is “just enough” to make things work. There has also never been any system in place for Core which allows the behavior of existing operators to be overridden. Up until now, the only way operators could be flexibly redefined was in the ORM layer, using column_property() given a comparator_factory argument. Third party libraries like GeoAlchemy therefore were forced to be ORM-centric and rely upon an array of hacks to apply new operations as well as to get them to propagate correctly.

The new operator system in Core adds the one hook that’s been missing all along, which is to associate new and overridden operators with types. Since after all, it’s not really a column, CAST operator, or SQL function that really drives what kinds of operations are present, it’s the type of the expression. The implementation details are minimal - only a few extra methods are added to the core ColumnElement type so that it consults its TypeEngine object for an optional set of operators. New or revised operations can be associated with any type, either via subclassing of an existing type, by using TypeDecorator, or “globally across-the-board” by attaching a new Comparator object to an existing type class.

For example, to add logarithm support to Numeric types:

from sqlalchemy.types import Numeric
from sqlalchemy.sql import func

class CustomNumeric(Numeric):
    class comparator_factory(Numeric.Comparator):
        def log(self, other):
            return func.log(self.expr, other)

The new type is usable like any other type:

data = Table(
    Column("id", Integer, primary_key=True),
    Column("x", CustomNumeric(10, 5)),
    Column("y", CustomNumeric(10, 5)),

stmt = select([data.c.x.log(data.c.y)]).where(data.c.x.log(2) < value)

New features which have come from this immediately include support for PostgreSQL’s HSTORE type, as well as new operations associated with PostgreSQL’s ARRAY type. It also paves the way for existing types to acquire lots more operators that are specific to those types, such as more string, integer and date operators.


Multiple-VALUES support for Insert

The Insert.values() method now supports a list of dictionaries, which will render a multi-VALUES statement such as VALUES (<row1>), (<row2>), .... This is only relevant to backends which support this syntax, including PostgreSQL, SQLite, and MySQL. It is not the same thing as the usual executemany() style of INSERT which remains unchanged:

        {"name": "some name"},
        {"name": "some other name"},
        {"name": "yet another name"},

See also



Type Expressions

SQL expressions can now be associated with types. Historically, TypeEngine has always allowed Python-side functions which receive both bound parameters as well as result row values, passing them through a Python side conversion function on the way to/back from the database. The new feature allows similar functionality, except on the database side:

from sqlalchemy.types import String
from sqlalchemy import func, Table, Column, MetaData

class LowerString(String):
    def bind_expression(self, bindvalue):
        return func.lower(bindvalue)

    def column_expression(self, col):
        return func.lower(col)

metadata = MetaData()
test_table = Table("test_table", metadata, Column("data", LowerString))

Above, the LowerString type defines a SQL expression that will be emitted whenever the test_table.c.data column is rendered in the columns clause of a SELECT statement:

>>> print(select([test_table]).where(test_table.c.data == "HI"))
SELECT lower(test_table.data) AS data FROM test_table WHERE test_table.data = lower(:data_1)

This feature is also used heavily by the new release of GeoAlchemy, to embed PostGIS expressions inline in SQL based on type rules.


Core Inspection System

The inspect() function introduced in New Class/Object Inspection System also applies to the core. Applied to an Engine it produces an Inspector object:

from sqlalchemy import inspect
from sqlalchemy import create_engine

engine = create_engine("postgresql://scott:tiger@localhost/test")
insp = inspect(engine)

It can also be applied to any ClauseElement, which returns the ClauseElement itself, such as Table, Column, Select, etc. This allows it to work fluently between Core and ORM constructs.

New Method Select.correlate_except()

select() now has a method Select.correlate_except() which specifies “correlate on all FROM clauses except those specified”. It can be used for mapping scenarios where a related subquery should correlate normally, except against a particular target selectable:

class SnortEvent(Base):
    __tablename__ = "event"

    id = Column(Integer, primary_key=True)
    signature = Column(Integer, ForeignKey("signature.id"))

    signatures = relationship("Signature", lazy=False)

class Signature(Base):
    __tablename__ = "signature"

    id = Column(Integer, primary_key=True)

    sig_count = column_property(
        .where(SnortEvent.signature == id)

PostgreSQL HSTORE type

Support for PostgreSQL’s HSTORE type is now available as HSTORE. This type makes great usage of the new operator system to provide a full range of operators for HSTORE types, including index access, concatenation, and containment methods such as comparator_factory.has_key(), comparator_factory.has_any(), and comparator_factory.matrix():

from sqlalchemy.dialects.postgresql import HSTORE

data = Table(
    Column("id", Integer, primary_key=True),
    Column("hstore_data", HSTORE),



See also




Enhanced PostgreSQL ARRAY type

The ARRAY type will accept an optional “dimension” argument, pinning it to a fixed number of dimensions and greatly improving efficiency when retrieving results:

# old way, still works since PG supports N-dimensions per row:
Column("my_array", postgresql.ARRAY(Integer))

# new way, will render ARRAY with correct number of [] in DDL,
# will process binds and results more efficiently as we don't need
# to guess how many levels deep to go
Column("my_array", postgresql.ARRAY(Integer, dimensions=2))

The type also introduces new operators, using the new type-specific operator framework. New operations include indexed access:

result = conn.execute(select([mytable.c.arraycol[2]]))

slice access in SELECT:

result = conn.execute(select([mytable.c.arraycol[2:4]]))

slice updates in UPDATE:

conn.execute(mytable.update().values({mytable.c.arraycol[2:3]: [7, 8]}))

freestanding array literals:

>>> from sqlalchemy.dialects import postgresql
>>> conn.scalar(select([postgresql.array([1, 2]) + postgresql.array([3, 4, 5])]))
[1, 2, 3, 4, 5]

array concatenation, where below, the right side [4, 5, 6] is coerced into an array literal:

select([mytable.c.arraycol + [4, 5, 6]])

See also




New, configurable DATE, TIME types for SQLite

SQLite has no built-in DATE, TIME, or DATETIME types, and instead provides some support for storage of date and time values either as strings or integers. The date and time types for SQLite are enhanced in 0.8 to be much more configurable as to the specific format, including that the “microseconds” portion is optional, as well as pretty much everything else.

Column("sometimestamp", sqlite.DATETIME(truncate_microseconds=True))

Huge thanks to Nate Dub for the sprinting on this at Pycon 2012.

See also





“COLLATE” supported across all dialects; in particular MySQL, PostgreSQL, SQLite

The “collate” keyword, long accepted by the MySQL dialect, is now established on all String types and will render on any backend, including when features such as MetaData.create_all() and cast() is used:

>>> stmt = select([cast(sometable.c.somechar, String(20, collation="utf8"))])
>>> print(stmt)
SELECT CAST(sometable.somechar AS VARCHAR(20) COLLATE "utf8") AS anon_1 FROM sometable

See also



“Prefixes” now supported for update(), delete()

Geared towards MySQL, a “prefix” can be rendered within any of these constructs. E.g.:

stmt = table.delete().prefix_with("LOW_PRIORITY", dialect="mysql")

stmt = table.update().prefix_with("LOW_PRIORITY", dialect="mysql")

The method is new in addition to those which already existed on insert(), select() and Query.

See also







Behavioral Changes

The consideration of a “pending” object as an “orphan” has been made more aggressive

This is a late add to the 0.8 series, however it is hoped that the new behavior is generally more consistent and intuitive in a wider variety of situations. The ORM has since at least version 0.4 included behavior such that an object that’s “pending”, meaning that it’s associated with a Session but hasn’t been inserted into the database yet, is automatically expunged from the Session when it becomes an “orphan”, which means it has been de-associated with a parent object that refers to it with delete-orphan cascade on the configured relationship(). This behavior is intended to approximately mirror the behavior of a persistent (that is, already inserted) object, where the ORM will emit a DELETE for such objects that become orphans based on the interception of detachment events.

The behavioral change comes into play for objects that are referred to by multiple kinds of parents that each specify delete-orphan; the typical example is an association object that bridges two other kinds of objects in a many-to-many pattern. Previously, the behavior was such that the pending object would be expunged only when de-associated with all of its parents. With the behavioral change, the pending object is expunged as soon as it is de-associated from any of the parents that it was previously associated with. This behavior is intended to more closely match that of persistent objects, which are deleted as soon as they are de-associated from any parent.

The rationale for the older behavior dates back at least to version 0.4, and was basically a defensive decision to try to alleviate confusion when an object was still being constructed for INSERT. But the reality is that the object is re-associated with the Session as soon as it is attached to any new parent in any case.

It’s still possible to flush an object that is not associated with all of its required parents, if the object was either not associated with those parents in the first place, or if it was expunged, but then re-associated with a Session via a subsequent attachment event but still not fully associated. In this situation, it is expected that the database would emit an integrity error, as there are likely NOT NULL foreign key columns that are unpopulated. The ORM makes the decision to let these INSERT attempts occur, based on the judgment that an object that is only partially associated with its required parents but has been actively associated with some of them, is more often than not a user error, rather than an intentional omission which should be silently skipped - silently skipping the INSERT here would make user errors of this nature very hard to debug.

The old behavior, for applications that might have been relying upon it, can be re-enabled for any Mapper by specifying the flag legacy_is_orphan as a mapper option.

The new behavior allows the following test case to work:

from sqlalchemy import Column, Integer, String, ForeignKey
from sqlalchemy.orm import relationship, backref
from sqlalchemy.ext.declarative import declarative_base

Base = declarative_base()

class User(Base):
    __tablename__ = "user"
    id = Column(Integer, primary_key=True)
    name = Column(String(64))

class UserKeyword(Base):
    __tablename__ = "user_keyword"
    user_id = Column(Integer, ForeignKey("user.id"), primary_key=True)
    keyword_id = Column(Integer, ForeignKey("keyword.id"), primary_key=True)

    user = relationship(
        User, backref=backref("user_keywords", cascade="all, delete-orphan")

    keyword = relationship(
        "Keyword", backref=backref("user_keywords", cascade="all, delete-orphan")

    # uncomment this to enable the old behavior
    # __mapper_args__ = {"legacy_is_orphan": True}

class Keyword(Base):
    __tablename__ = "keyword"
    id = Column(Integer, primary_key=True)
    keyword = Column("keyword", String(64))

from sqlalchemy import create_engine
from sqlalchemy.orm import Session

# note we're using PostgreSQL to ensure that referential integrity
# is enforced, for demonstration purposes.
e = create_engine("postgresql://scott:tiger@localhost/test", echo=True)


session = Session(e)

u1 = User(name="u1")
k1 = Keyword(keyword="k1")

session.add_all([u1, k1])

uk1 = UserKeyword(keyword=k1, user=u1)

# previously, if session.flush() were called here,
# this operation would succeed, but if session.flush()
# were not called here, the operation fails with an
# integrity error.
# session.flush()
del u1.user_keywords[0]



The after_attach event fires after the item is associated with the Session instead of before; before_attach added

Event handlers which use after_attach can now assume the given instance is associated with the given session:

@event.listens_for(Session, "after_attach")
def after_attach(session, instance):
    assert instance in session

Some use cases require that it work this way. However, other use cases require that the item is not yet part of the session, such as when a query, intended to load some state required for an instance, emits autoflush first and would otherwise prematurely flush the target object. Those use cases should use the new “before_attach” event:

@event.listens_for(Session, "before_attach")
def before_attach(session, instance):
    instance.some_necessary_attribute = (


Query now auto-correlates like a select() does

Previously it was necessary to call Query.correlate() in order to have a column- or WHERE-subquery correlate to the parent:

subq = (
    .filter(Entity.id == Parent.entity_id)
session.query(Parent).filter(subq == "some value")

This was the opposite behavior of a plain select() construct which would assume auto-correlation by default. The above statement in 0.8 will correlate automatically:

subq = session.query(Entity.value).filter(Entity.id == Parent.entity_id).as_scalar()
session.query(Parent).filter(subq == "some value")

like in select(), correlation can be disabled by calling query.correlate(None) or manually set by passing an entity, query.correlate(someentity).


Correlation is now always context-specific

To allow a wider variety of correlation scenarios, the behavior of Select.correlate() and Query.correlate() has changed slightly such that the SELECT statement will omit the “correlated” target from the FROM clause only if the statement is actually used in that context. Additionally, it’s no longer possible for a SELECT statement that’s placed as a FROM in an enclosing SELECT statement to “correlate” (i.e. omit) a FROM clause.

This change only makes things better as far as rendering SQL, in that it’s no longer possible to render illegal SQL where there are insufficient FROM objects relative to what’s being selected:

from sqlalchemy.sql import table, column, select

t1 = table("t1", column("x"))
t2 = table("t2", column("y"))
s = select([t1, t2]).correlate(t1)


Prior to this change, the above would return:

SELECT t1.x, t2.y FROM t2

which is invalid SQL as “t1” is not referred to in any FROM clause.

Now, in the absence of an enclosing SELECT, it returns:

SELECT t1.x, t2.y FROM t1, t2

Within a SELECT, the correlation takes effect as expected:

s2 = select([t1, t2]).where(t1.c.x == t2.c.y).where(t1.c.x == s)
SELECT t1.x, t2.y FROM t1, t2
WHERE t1.x = t2.y AND t1.x =
    (SELECT t1.x, t2.y FROM t2)

This change is not expected to impact any existing applications, as the correlation behavior remains identical for properly constructed expressions. Only an application that relies, most likely within a testing scenario, on the invalid string output of a correlated SELECT used in a non-correlating context would see any change.


create_all() and drop_all() will now honor an empty list as such

The methods MetaData.create_all() and MetaData.drop_all() will now accept a list of Table objects that is empty, and will not emit any CREATE or DROP statements. Previously, an empty list was interpreted the same as passing None for a collection, and CREATE/DROP would be emitted for all items unconditionally.

This is a bug fix but some applications may have been relying upon the previous behavior.


Repaired the Event Targeting of InstrumentationEvents

The InstrumentationEvents series of event targets have documented that the events will only be fired off according to the actual class passed as a target. Through 0.7, this wasn’t the case, and any event listener applied to InstrumentationEvents would be invoked for all classes mapped. In 0.8, additional logic has been added so that the events will only invoke for those classes sent in. The propagate flag here is set to True by default as class instrumentation events are typically used to intercept classes that aren’t yet created.


No more magic coercion of “=” to IN when comparing to subquery in MS-SQL

We found a very old behavior in the MSSQL dialect which would attempt to rescue users from themselves when doing something like this:

scalar_subq = select([someothertable.c.id]).where(someothertable.c.data == "foo")
select([sometable]).where(sometable.c.id == scalar_subq)

SQL Server doesn’t allow an equality comparison to a scalar SELECT, that is, “x = (SELECT something)”. The MSSQL dialect would convert this to an IN. The same thing would happen however upon a comparison like “(SELECT something) = x”, and overall this level of guessing is outside of SQLAlchemy’s usual scope so the behavior is removed.


Fixed the behavior of Session.is_modified()

The Session.is_modified() method accepts an argument passive which basically should not be necessary, the argument in all cases should be the value True - when left at its default of False it would have the effect of hitting the database, and often triggering autoflush which would itself change the results. In 0.8 the passive argument will have no effect, and unloaded attributes will never be checked for history since by definition there can be no pending state change on an unloaded attribute.


Column.key is honored in the Select.c attribute of select() with Select.apply_labels()

Users of the expression system know that Select.apply_labels() prepends the table name to each column name, affecting the names that are available from Select.c:

s = select([table1]).apply_labels()

Before 0.8, if the Column had a different Column.key, this key would be ignored, inconsistently versus when Select.apply_labels() were not used:

# before 0.8
table1 = Table("t1", metadata, Column("col1", Integer, key="column_one"))
s = select([table1])
s.c.column_one  # would be accessible like this
s.c.col1  # would raise AttributeError

s = select([table1]).apply_labels()
s.c.table1_column_one  # would raise AttributeError
s.c.table1_col1  # would be accessible like this

In 0.8, Column.key is honored in both cases:

# with 0.8
table1 = Table("t1", metadata, Column("col1", Integer, key="column_one"))
s = select([table1])
s.c.column_one  # works
s.c.col1  # AttributeError

s = select([table1]).apply_labels()
s.c.table1_column_one  # works
s.c.table1_col1  # AttributeError

All other behavior regarding “name” and “key” are the same, including that the rendered SQL will still use the form <tablename>_<colname> - the emphasis here was on preventing the Column.key contents from being rendered into the SELECT statement so that there are no issues with special/ non-ascii characters used in the Column.key.


single_parent warning is now an error

A relationship() that is many-to-one or many-to-many and specifies “cascade=’all, delete-orphan’”, which is an awkward but nonetheless supported use case (with restrictions) will now raise an error if the relationship does not specify the single_parent=True option. Previously it would only emit a warning, but a failure would follow almost immediately within the attribute system in any case.


Adding the inspector argument to the column_reflect event

0.7 added a new event called column_reflect, provided so that the reflection of columns could be augmented as each one were reflected. We got this event slightly wrong in that the event gave no way to get at the current Inspector and Connection being used for the reflection, in the case that additional information from the database is needed. As this is a new event not widely used yet, we’ll be adding the inspector argument into it directly:

@event.listens_for(Table, "column_reflect")
def listen_for_col(inspector, table, column_info): ...


Disabling auto-detect of collations, casing for MySQL

The MySQL dialect does two calls, one very expensive, to load all possible collations from the database as well as information on casing, the first time an Engine connects. Neither of these collections are used for any SQLAlchemy functions, so these calls will be changed to no longer be emitted automatically. Applications that might have relied on these collections being present on engine.dialect will need to call upon _detect_collations() and _detect_casing() directly.


“Unconsumed column names” warning becomes an exception

Referring to a non-existent column in an insert() or update() construct will raise an error instead of a warning:

t1 = table("t1", column("x"))
t1.insert().values(x=5, z=5)  # raises "Unconsumed column names: z"


Inspector.get_primary_keys() is deprecated, use Inspector.get_pk_constraint

These two methods on Inspector were redundant, where get_primary_keys() would return the same information as get_pk_constraint() minus the name of the constraint:

>>> insp.get_primary_keys()
["a", "b"]

>>> insp.get_pk_constraint()
{"name":"pk_constraint", "constrained_columns":["a", "b"]}


Case-insensitive result row names will be disabled in most cases

A very old behavior, the column names in RowProxy were always compared case-insensitively:

>>> row = result.fetchone()
>>> row["foo"] == row["FOO"] == row["Foo"]

This was for the benefit of a few dialects which in the early days needed this, like Oracle and Firebird, but in modern usage we have more accurate ways of dealing with the case-insensitive behavior of these two platforms.

Going forward, this behavior will be available only optionally, by passing the flag `case_sensitive=False` to `create_engine()`, but otherwise column names requested from the row must match as far as casing.


InstrumentationManager and alternate class instrumentation is now an extension

The sqlalchemy.orm.interfaces.InstrumentationManager class is moved to sqlalchemy.ext.instrumentation.InstrumentationManager. The “alternate instrumentation” system was built for the benefit of a very small number of installations that needed to work with existing or unusual class instrumentation systems, and generally is very seldom used. The complexity of this system has been exported to an ext. module. It remains unused until once imported, typically when a third party library imports InstrumentationManager, at which point it is injected back into sqlalchemy.orm by replacing the default InstrumentationFactory with ExtendedInstrumentationRegistry.



SQLSoup is a handy package that presents an alternative interface on top of the SQLAlchemy ORM. SQLSoup is now moved into its own project and documented/released separately; see https://bitbucket.org/zzzeek/sqlsoup.

SQLSoup is a very simple tool that could also benefit from contributors who are interested in its style of usage.



The older “mutable” system within the SQLAlchemy ORM has been removed. This refers to the MutableType interface which was applied to types such as PickleType and conditionally to TypeDecorator, and since very early SQLAlchemy versions has provided a way for the ORM to detect changes in so-called “mutable” data structures such as JSON structures and pickled objects. However, the implementation was never reasonable and forced a very inefficient mode of usage on the unit-of-work which caused an expensive scan of all objects to take place during flush. In 0.7, the sqlalchemy.ext.mutable extension was introduced so that user-defined datatypes can appropriately send events to the unit of work as changes occur.

Today, usage of MutableType is expected to be low, as warnings have been in place for some years now regarding its inefficiency.


sqlalchemy.exceptions (has been sqlalchemy.exc for years)

We had left in an alias sqlalchemy.exceptions to attempt to make it slightly easier for some very old libraries that hadn’t yet been upgraded to use sqlalchemy.exc. Some users are still being confused by it however so in 0.8 we’re taking it out entirely to eliminate any of that confusion.