Release: 0.9.10 legacy version | Release Date: July 22, 2015

SQLAlchemy 0.9 Documentation

ORM Examples

The SQLAlchemy distribution includes a variety of code examples illustrating a select set of patterns, some typical and some not so typical. All are runnable and can be found in the /examples directory of the distribution. Descriptions and source code for all can be found here.

Additional SQLAlchemy examples, some user contributed, are available on the wiki at

Mapping Recipes

Adjacency List

An example of a dictionary-of-dictionaries structure mapped using an adjacency list model.


node = TreeNode('rootnode')


Listing of files:


Examples illustrating the usage of the “association object” pattern, where an intermediary class mediates the relationship between two classes that are associated in a many-to-many pattern.

Listing of files:

Directed Graphs

An example of persistence for a directed graph structure. The graph is stored as a collection of edges, each referencing both a “lower” and an “upper” node in a table of nodes. Basic persistence and querying for lower- and upper- neighbors are illustrated:

n2 = Node(2)
n5 = Node(5)
print n2.higher_neighbors()

Listing of files:

Dynamic Relations as Dictionaries

Illustrates how to place a dictionary-like facade on top of a “dynamic” relation, so that dictionary operations (assuming simple string keys) can operate upon a large collection without loading the full collection at once.

Listing of files:

Generic Associations

Illustrates various methods of associating multiple types of parents with a particular child object.

The examples all use the declarative extension along with declarative mixins. Each one presents the identical use case at the end - two classes, Customer and Supplier, both subclassing the HasAddresses mixin, which ensures that the parent class is provided with an addresses collection which contains Address objects.

The and scripts are modernized versions of recipes presented in the 2007 blog post Polymorphic Associations with SQLAlchemy.

Listing of files:

Large Collections

Large collection example.

Illustrates the options to use with relationship() when the list of related objects is very large, including:

  • “dynamic” relationships which query slices of data as accessed
  • how to use ON DELETE CASCADE in conjunction with passive_deletes=True to greatly improve the performance of related collection deletion.

Listing of files:

Materialized Paths

Illustrates the “materialized paths” pattern for hierarchical data using the SQLAlchemy ORM.

Listing of files:

Nested Sets

Illustrates a rudimentary way to implement the “nested sets” pattern for hierarchical data using the SQLAlchemy ORM.

Listing of files:

Relationship Join Conditions

Examples of various orm.relationship() configurations, which make use of the primaryjoin argument to compose special types of join conditions.

Listing of files:

XML Persistence

Illustrates three strategies for persisting and querying XML documents as represented by ElementTree in a relational database. The techniques do not apply any mappings to the ElementTree objects directly, so are compatible with the native cElementTree as well as lxml, and can be adapted to suit any kind of DOM representation system. Querying along xpath-like strings is illustrated as well.


# parse an XML file and persist in the database
doc = ElementTree.parse("test.xml")
session.add(Document(file, doc))

# locate documents with a certain path/attribute structure
for document in find_document('/somefile/header/field2[@attr=foo]'):
    # dump the XML
    print document

Listing of files:

Versioning Objects

Versioning with a History Table

Illustrates an extension which creates version tables for entities and stores records for each change. The given extensions generate an anonymous “history” class which represents historical versions of the target object.

Usage is illustrated via a unit test module, which can be run via nose:

cd examples/versioning
nosetests -v

A fragment of example usage, using declarative:

from history_meta import Versioned, versioned_session

Base = declarative_base()

class SomeClass(Versioned, Base):
    __tablename__ = 'sometable'

    id = Column(Integer, primary_key=True)
    name = Column(String(50))

    def __eq__(self, other):
        assert type(other) is SomeClass and ==

Session = sessionmaker(bind=engine)

sess = Session()
sc = SomeClass(name='sc1')
sess.commit() = 'sc1modified'

assert sc.version == 2

SomeClassHistory = SomeClass.__history_mapper__.class_

assert sess.query(SomeClassHistory).\
            filter(SomeClassHistory.version == 1).\
            all() \
            == [SomeClassHistory(version=1, name='sc1')]

The Versioned mixin is designed to work with declarative. To use the extension with classical mappers, the _history_mapper function can be applied:

from history_meta import _history_mapper

m = mapper(SomeClass, sometable)

SomeHistoryClass = SomeClass.__history_mapper__.class_

Listing of files:

Versioning using Temporal Rows

Illustrates an extension which versions data by storing new rows for each change; that is, what would normally be an UPDATE becomes an INSERT.

Listing of files:

Vertical Attribute Mapping

Illustrates “vertical table” mappings.

A “vertical table” refers to a technique where individual attributes of an object are stored as distinct rows in a table. The “vertical table” technique is used to persist objects which can have a varied set of attributes, at the expense of simple query control and brevity. It is commonly found in content/document management systems in order to represent user-created structures flexibly.

Two variants on the approach are given. In the second, each row references a “datatype” which contains information about the type of information stored in the attribute, such as integer, string, or date.


shrew = Animal(u'shrew')
shrew[u'cuteness'] = 5
shrew[u'weasel-like'] = False
shrew[u'poisonous'] = True


q = (session.query(Animal).
       and_(AnimalFact.key == u'weasel-like',
            AnimalFact.value == True))))
print 'weasel-like animals', q.all()

Listing of files:

Inheritance Mapping Recipes

Basic Inheritance Mappings

Working examples of single-table, joined-table, and concrete-table inheritance as described in datamapping_inheritance.

Listing of files:

Special APIs

Attribute Instrumentation

Two examples illustrating modifications to SQLAlchemy’s attribute management system.

Listing of files:

Horizontal Sharding

A basic example of using the SQLAlchemy Sharding API. Sharding refers to horizontally scaling data across multiple databases.

The basic components of a “sharded” mapping are:

  • multiple databases, each assigned a ‘shard id’
  • a function which can return a single shard id, given an instance to be saved; this is called “shard_chooser”
  • a function which can return a list of shard ids which apply to a particular instance identifier; this is called “id_chooser”. If it returns all shard ids, all shards will be searched.
  • a function which can return a list of shard ids to try, given a particular Query (“query_chooser”). If it returns all shard ids, all shards will be queried and the results joined together.

In this example, four sqlite databases will store information about weather data on a database-per-continent basis. We provide example shard_chooser, id_chooser and query_chooser functions. The query_chooser illustrates inspection of the SQL expression element in order to attempt to determine a single shard being requested.

The construction of generic sharding routines is an ambitious approach to the issue of organizing instances among multiple databases. For a more plain-spoken alternative, the “distinct entity” approach is a simple method of assigning objects to different tables (and potentially database nodes) in an explicit way - described on the wiki at EntityName.

Listing of files:

Extending the ORM

Dogpile Caching

Illustrates how to embed dogpile.cache functionality within the Query object, allowing full cache control as well as the ability to pull “lazy loaded” attributes from long term cache as well.

Changed in version 0.8: The example was modernized to use dogpile.cache, replacing Beaker as the caching library in use.

In this demo, the following techniques are illustrated:

  • Using custom subclasses of Query
  • Basic technique of circumventing Query to pull from a custom cache source instead of the database.
  • Rudimental caching with dogpile.cache, using “regions” which allow global control over a fixed set of configurations.
  • Using custom MapperOption objects to configure options on a Query, including the ability to invoke the options deep within an object graph when lazy loads occur.


# query for Person objects, specifying cache
q = Session.query(Person).options(FromCache("default"))

# specify that each Person's "addresses" collection comes from
# cache too
q = q.options(RelationshipCache(Person.addresses, "default"))

# query
print q.all()

To run, both SQLAlchemy and dogpile.cache must be installed or on the current PYTHONPATH. The demo will create a local directory for datafiles, insert initial data, and run. Running the demo a second time will utilize the cache files already present, and exactly one SQL statement against two tables will be emitted - the displayed result however will utilize dozens of lazyloads that all pull from cache.

The demo scripts themselves, in order of complexity, are run as Python modules so that relative imports work:

python -m examples.dogpile_caching.helloworld

python -m examples.dogpile_caching.relationship_caching

python -m examples.dogpile_caching.advanced

python -m examples.dogpile_caching.local_session_caching

Listing of files:

PostGIS Integration

A naive example illustrating techniques to help embed PostGIS functionality.

This example was originally developed in the hopes that it would be extrapolated into a comprehensive PostGIS integration layer. We are pleased to announce that this has come to fruition as GeoAlchemy.

The example illustrates:

  • a DDL extension which allows CREATE/DROP to work in conjunction with AddGeometryColumn/DropGeometryColumn
  • a Geometry type, as well as a few subtypes, which convert result row values to a GIS-aware object, and also integrates with the DDL extension.
  • a GIS-aware object which stores a raw geometry value and provides a factory for functions such as AsText().
  • an ORM comparator which can override standard column methods on mapped objects to produce GIS operators.
  • an attribute event listener that intercepts strings and converts to GeomFromText().
  • a standalone operator example.

The implementation is limited to only public, well known and simple to use extension points.


print session.query(Road).filter(Road.road_geom.intersects(r1.road_geom)).all()

Listing of files:

Previous: Alternate Class Instrumentation Next: SQLAlchemy Core