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Querying with Sift

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Gatsby stores all data loaded during the source-nodes phase in Redux. And it allows you to write GraphQL queries to query that data. But Redux is a plain JavaScript object store. So how does Gatsby query over those nodes using the GraphQL query language?

The answer is that it uses the sift.js library. It is a port of the MongoDB query language that works over plain JavaScript objects. It turns out that mongo’s query language is very compatible with GraphQL.

Most of the logic below is in the run-sift.js file, which is called from the ProcessedNodeType resolve() function.

ProcessedNodeType Resolve Function

Remember, at the point this resolve function is created, we have been iterating over all the distinct node.internal.types in the redux nodes namespace. So for instance we might be on the MarkdownRemark type. Therefore the resolve() function closes over this type name and has access to all the nodes of that type.

The resolve() function calls run-sift.js, and provides it with the following arguments:

  • GraphQLArgs (as JavaScript object). Within a filter. E.g. wordcount: { paragraphs: { eq: 4 } }
  • All nodes in redux of this type. E.g. where internal.type == MmarkdownRemark'
  • Context path, if being called as part of a page query
  • typeName. E.g. markdownRemark
  • gqlType. See more on gqlType

For example:


This file converts GraphQL Arguments into sift queries and applies them to the collection of all nodes of this type. The rough steps are:

  1. Convert query args to sift args
  2. Drop leaves from args
  3. Resolve inner query fields on all nodes
  4. Track newly realized fields
  5. Run sift query on all nodes
  6. Create Page dependency if required

1. Convert query args to sift args

Sift expects all field names to be prepended by a $. The siftifyArgs function takes care of this. It descends the args tree, performing the following transformations for each field key/value scenario.

  • field key iselemMatch? Change to $elemMatch. Recurse on value object
  • field value is regex? Apply regex cleaning
  • field value is glob, use minimatch library to convert to Regex
  • normal value, prepend $ to field name.

So, the above query would become:

2. Drop leaves (e.g. {eq: 4}) from args

To assist in step 3, we create a version of the siftified args called fieldsToSift that has all leaves of the args tree replaced with boolean true. This is handled by the extractFieldsToSift function. fieldsToSift would look like this after the function is applied:

3. Resolve inner query fields on all nodes

Step 4 will perform the actual sift query over all the nodes, returning the first one that matches the query. But we must remember that the nodes that are in redux only include data that was explicitly created by their source or transform plugins. If instead of creating a data field, a plugin used setFieldsOnGraphQLNodeType to define a custom field, then we have to manually call that field’s resolver on each node. The args in step 2 is a great example. The wordcount field is defined by the gatsby-transformer-remark plugin, rather than created during the creation of the remark node.

The nodesPromise function iterates over all nodes of this type. Then, for each node, resolveRecursive descends the siftToFields tree, getting the field name, and then finding its gqlType, and then calling that type’s resolve function manually. E.g, for the above example, we would find the gqlField for wordcount and call its resolve field:

Note that the graphql-js library has NOT been invoked yet. We’re instead calling the appropriate gqlType resolve function manually.

The resolve method in this case would return a paragraph node, which also needs to be properly resolved. So We descend the fieldsToSift arg tree and perform the above operation on the paragraph node (using the found paragraph gqlType).

After resolveRecursive has finished, we will have “realized” all the query fields in each node, giving us confidence that we can perform the query with all the data being there.

4. Track newly realized fields

Since new fields on the node may have been created in this process, we call trackInlineObjectsInRootNode() to track these new objects. See Node Tracking docs for more.

5. Run sift query on all nodes

Now that we’ve realized all fields that need to be queried, on all nodes of this type, we are finally ready to apply the sift query. This step is handled by tempPromise. It simply concatenates all the top level objects in the args tree together with a sift $and expression, and then iterates over all nodes returning the first one that satisfies the sift expression.

In the case that connection === true (argument passed to run-sift), then instead of just choosing the first argument, we will select ALL nodes that match the sift query. If the GraphQL query specified sort, skip, or limit fields, then we use the graphql-skip-limit library to filter down to the appropriate results. See Schema Connections for more info.

6. Create Page dependency if required

Assuming we find a node (or multiple if connection === true), we finish off by recording the page that initiated the query (in the path field) depends on the found node. More on this in Page -> Node Dependencies.

Note about plugin resolver side effects

As mentioned above, run-sift must “realize” all query fields before querying over them. This involves calling the resolvers of custom plugins on each node of that type. Therefore, if a resolver performs side effects, then these will be triggered, regardless of whether the field result actually matches the query.

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