Introduction to User Actions
In some ways the communication layer of the ArangoDB server behaves like a Web server. Unlike a Web server, it normally responds to HTTP requests by delivering JSON objects. Remember, documents in the database are just JSON objects. So, most of the time the HTTP response will contain a JSON document from the database as body. You can extract the documents stored in the database using HTTP GET. You can store documents using HTTP POST.
However, there is something more. You can write small snippets - so called actions - to extend the database. The idea of actions is that sometimes it is better to store parts of the business logic within ArangoDB.
The simplest example is the age of a person. Assume you store information about people in your database. It is an anti-pattern to store the age, because it changes every now and then. Therefore, you normally store the birthday and let the client decide what to do with it. However, if you have many different clients, it might be easier to enrich the person document with the age using actions once on the server side.
Or, for instance, if you want to apply some statistics to large data-sets and you cannot easily express this as query. You can define a action instead of transferring the whole data to the client and do the computation on the client.
Actions are also useful if you want to restrict and filter data according to some complex permission system.
The ArangoDB server can deliver all kinds of information, JSON being only one possible format. You can also generate HTML or images. However, a Web server is normally better suited for the task as it also implements various caching strategies, language selection, compression and so on. Having said that, there are still situations where it might be suitable to use the ArangoDB to deliver HTML pages - static or dynamic. A simple example is the built-in administration interface. You can access it using any modern browser and there is no need for a separate Apache or IIS.
In general you will use Foxx to easily extend the database with business logic. Foxx provides an simple to use interface to actions.
The following sections will explain the low-level actions within ArangoDB on which Foxx is built and show how to define them. The examples start with delivering static HTML pages - even if this is not the primary use-case for actions. The later sections will then show you how to code some pieces of your business logic and return JSON objects.