Advanced Usage

Remarks on Storages

Before we dive deeper into the usage of TinyDB, we should stop for a moment and discuss how TinyDB stores data.

To convert your data to a format that is writable to disk TinyDB uses the Python JSON module by default. It’s great when only simple data types are involved but it cannot handle more complex data types like custom classes. On Python 2 it also converts strings to unicode strings upon reading (described here).

If that causes problems, you can write your own storage, that uses a more powerful (but also slower) library like pickle or PyYAML.

Alternative JSON libary

As already mentioned, the default storage relies upon Python’s JSON module. To improve performance, you can install ujson , an extremely fast JSON implementation. TinyDB will auto-detect and use it if possible.

Handling Data

With that out of the way, let’s start with inserting, updating and retrieving data from your database.

Inserting data

As already described you can insert an element using db.insert(...). In case you want to insert multiple elements, you can use db.insert_multiple(...):

>>> db.insert_multiple([{'int': 1, 'char': 'a'}, {'int': 1, 'char': 'b'}])
>>> db.insert_multiple({'int': 1, 'value': i} for i in range(2))

Updating data

db.update(fields, query) only allows you to update an element by adding or overwriting it’s values. But sometimes you may need to e.g. remove one field or increment it’s value. In that case you can pass a function instead of fields:

>>> from tinydb.operations import delete
>>> db.update(delete('key1'), where('key') == 'value')

This will remove the key key1 from all matching elements. TinyDB comes with these operations:

  • delete(key): delete a key from the element
  • increment(key): incremenet the value of a key
  • decrement(key): decremenet the value of a key

Of course you also can write your own operations:

>>> def your_operation(your_arguments):
...     def transform(element):
...         # do something with the element
...         # ...
...     return transform
>>> db.update(your_operation(arguments), query)

Retrieving data

There are several ways to retrieve data from your database. For instance you can get the number of stored elements:

>>> len(db)

Then of course you can use as described in the Getting Started section. But sometimes you want to get only one matching element. Instead of using

>>> try:
...     result ='value') == 1)[0]
... except IndexError:
...     pass

you can use db.get(...):

>>> db.get(where('value') == 1)
{'int': 1, 'value': 1}
>>> db.get(where('value') == 100)


If multiple elements match the query, propably a random one of them will be returned!

Often you don’t want to search for elements but only know whether they are stored in the database. In this case db.contains(...) is your friend:

>>> db.contains(where('char') == 'a')

In a similar manner you can look up the number of elements matching a query:

>>> db.count(where('int') == 1)


Let’s summarize the ways to handle data:

Inserting data
db.insert_multiple(...) Insert multiple elements
Updatingg data
db.update(operation, ...) Update all matching elements with a special operation
Retrieving data
len(db) Get the number of elements in the database
db.get(query) Get one element matching the query
db.contains(query) Check if the database contains a matching element
db.count(query) Get the number of matching elements

Using Element IDs

Internally TinyDB associates an ID with every element you insert. It’s returned after inserting an element:

>>> db.insert({'value': 1})
>>> db.insert_multiple([{...}, {...}, {...}])
[4, 5, 6]

In addition you can get the ID of already inserted elements using element.eid:

>>> el = db.get(where('value') == 1)
>>> el.eid

Different TinyDB methods also work with IDs, namely: update, remove, contains and get.

>>> db.update({'value': 2}, eids=[1, 2])
>>> db.contains(eids=[1])
>>> db.remove(eids=[1, 2])
>>> db.get(eid=3)


Let’s sum up the way TinyDB supports working with IDs:

Getting an element’s ID
db.insert(...) Returns the inserted element’s ID
db.insert_multiple(...) Returns the inserted elements’ ID
element.eid Get the ID of an element fetched from the db
Working with IDs
db.get(eid=...) Get the elemtent with the given ID
db.contains(eids=[...]) Check if the db contains elements with one of the given IDs
db.update({...}, eids=[...]) Update all elements with the given IDs
db.remove(eids=[...]) Remove all elements with the given IDs


TinyDB lets you use a rich set of queries. In the Getting Started you’ve learned about the basic comparisons (==, <, >, ...). In addition to that TinyDB enables you run logical operations on queries.

>>> # Negate a query:
>>> where('int') == 1)
>>> # Logical AND:
>>>'int') == 1) & (where('char') == 'b'))
[{'int': 1, 'char': 'b'}]
>>> # Logical OR:
>>>'char') == 'a') | (where('char') == 'b'))
[{'int': 1, 'char': 'a'}, {'int': 1, 'char': 'b'}]


When using & or |, make sure you wrap the conditions on both sides with parentheses or Python will mess up the comparison.

You also can search for elements where a specific key exists:

[{'int': 1, 'char': 'a'}, {'int': 1, 'char': 'b'}]

Advanced queries

In addition to these checks TinyDB supports checking against a regex or a custom test function:

>>> # Regex:
[{'int': 1, 'char': 'abc'}, {'int': 1, 'char': 'def'}]
[{'int': 1, 'char': 'abbc'}, {'int': 1, 'char': 'bb'}]
>>> # Custom test:
>>> test_func = lambda c: c == 'a'
[{'char': 'a', 'int': 1}]

Nested Queries

You can insert nested elements into your database:

>>> db.insert({'field': {'name': {'first_name': 'John', 'last_name': 'Doe'}}})

To search for a nested field, use where('field').has(...). You can apply any queries you already know to this selector:

[{'field': ...}]
>>>'field').has('name').has('last_name') == 'Doe')
[{'field': ...}]

You also can use lists inside of elements:

>>> db.insert({'field': [{'val': 1}, {'val': 2}, {'val': 3}])

Using where('field').any(...) and where('field').all(...) you can specify checks for the list’s items using either a nested query or a sequence such as a list. They behave similarly to Python’s any and all:

>>> # Nested Query:
>>>'field').any(where('val') == 1))
>>>'field').all(where('val') > 0))
>>> # List:
>>>'field').any([{'val': 1}, {'val': 4}]))
>>>'field').all([{'val': 1}, {'val': 4}]))
>>>'field').all([{'val': 1}, {'val': 3}]))


Again, let’s recapitulate the query operations:

where('field').matches(regex) Match any element matching the regular expression
where('field').contains(regex) Match any element with a matching substring
where('field').test(func) Matches any element for which the function returns True
Combining Queries
~ query Match elements that don’t match the query
(query1) & (query2) Match elements that match both queries
(query1) | (query2) Match elements that match one of the queries
Nested Queries  
where('field').has('field') Match any element that has the specified item. Perform more queries on this selector as needed
where('field').any(query) Match any element where ‘field’ is a list where one of the items matches the subquery
where('field').all(query) Match any element where ‘field’ is a list where all items match the subquery


TinyDB supports working with multiple tables. They behave just the same as the TinyDB class. To create and use a table, use db.table(name).

>>> table = db.table('table_name')
>>> table.insert({'value': True})
>>> table.all()
[{'value': True}]

To remove all tables from a database, use:

>>> db.purge_tables()


TinyDB uses a table named _default as default table. All operations on the database object (like db.insert(...)) operate on this table.

You can get a list with the names of all tables in your database:

>>> db.tables()
{'_default', 'table_name'}

Query Caching

TinyDB caches query result for performance. You can optimize the query cache size by passing the cache_size to the table(...) function:

>>> table = db.table('table_name', cache_size=30)


You can set cache_size to None to make the cache unlimited in size.

Smart Query Cache

If you perform lots of queries while the data changes only little, you may enable a smarter query cache. It updates the query cache when inserting/removing/updating elements so the cache doesn’t get invalidated.

>>> table = db.table('table_name', smart_cache=True)

Storages & Middlewares

Storage Types

TinyDB comes with two storage types: JSON and in-memory. By default TinyDB stores its data in JSON files so you have to specify the path where to store it:

>>> from tinydb import TinyDB, where
>>> db = TinyDB('path/to/db.json')

To use the in-memory storage, use:

>>> from tinydb.storages import MemoryStorage
>>> db = TinyDB(storage=MemoryStorage)


Middlewares wrap around existing storages allowing you to customize their behaviour.

>>> from tinydb.storages import JSONStorage
>>> from tinydb.middlewares import CachingMiddleware
>>> db = TinyDB('/path/to/db.json', storage=CachingMiddleware(JSONStorage))


You can nest middlewares:

>>> db = TinyDB('/path/to/db.json', storage=FirstMiddleware(SecondMiddleware(JSONStorage)))


The CachingMiddleware improves speed by reducing disk I/O. It caches all read operations and writes data to disk after a configured number of write operations.

To make sure that all data is safely written when closing the table, use one of these ways:

# Using a context manager:
with database as db:
    # Your operations
# Using the close function

What’s next

Congratulations, you’ve made through the user guide! Now go and build something awesome or dive deeper into TinyDB with these ressources:

« Getting Started | How to Extend TinyDB »