Accessing data from collections with AQL

You can access collection data by looping over a collection and reading document attributes, with non-existing attributes returning a null value

A collection can be thought of as an array of documents. To access the documents, use a FOR operation to iterate over a collection using its name, like FOR doc IN collection ....

Note that when iterating over a collection, the order of documents is undefined. To establish an explicit and deterministic order for the documents, use a SORT operation in addition.

Data in collections is stored in documents, which are JSON objects. Each document potentially has different attributes than other documents. This is true even for documents of the same collection.

It is therefore quite normal to encounter documents that do not have some or all of the attributes that are queried in an AQL query. In this case, the non-existing attributes in the document are treated as if they would exist with a value of null. This means that comparing a document attribute to null returns true if the document has the particular attribute and the attribute has a value of null, or that the document does not have the particular attribute at all.

For example, the following query returns all documents from the collection users that have a value of null in the attribute name, plus all documents from users that do not have the name attribute at all:

FOR u IN users
  FILTER == null

Furthermore, null is less than any other value (excluding null itself). That means documents with non-existing attributes may be included in the result when comparing attribute values with the less than or less equal operators.

For example, the following query returns all documents from the collection users that have an attribute age with a value less than 39, but also all documents from the collection that do not have the attribute age at all.

FOR u IN users
  FILTER u.age < 39

This behavior should always be taken into account when writing queries.

To distinguish between an explicit null value and the implicit null value you get if you access a non-existent attribute, you can use the HAS() function. The following query only returns documents that have a name attribute with a null value:

FOR u IN users
  FILTER == null AND HAS(u, "name")

To exclude implicit as well as explicit null values in a query that uses < or <= comparison operators to limit the upper bound, you can add a check for the lower bound:

FOR u IN users
  FILTER u.age > null AND u.age < 39
  // or potentially
  //FILTER u.age >= 0 AND u.age < 39
  // which can be replaced with
  //FILTER RANGE(u.age, 0, 39, true, false)