This page in other versions: 8.4 / 9.0 / 9.1 / 9.2 / 9.3  |  Development versions: devel  |  Unsupported versions: 8.3

F.21. ltree

This module implements a data type ltree for representing labels of data stored in a hierarchical tree-like structure. Extensive facilities for searching through label trees are provided.

F.21.1. Definitions

A label is a sequence of alphanumeric characters and underscores (for example, in C locale the characters A-Za-z0-9_ are allowed). Labels must be less than 256 bytes long.

Examples: 42, Personal_Services

A label path is a sequence of zero or more labels separated by dots, for example L1.L2.L3, representing a path from the root of a hierarchical tree to a particular node. The length of a label path must be less than 65Kb, but keeping it under 2Kb is preferable. In practice this is not a major limitation; for example, the longest label path in the DMOZ catalog (http://www.dmoz.org) is about 240 bytes.

Example: Top.Countries.Europe.Russia

The ltree module provides several data types:

  • ltree stores a label path.

  • lquery represents a regular-expression-like pattern for matching ltree values. A simple word matches that label within a path. A star symbol (*) matches zero or more labels. For example:

    foo         Match the exact label path foo
    *.foo.*     Match any label path containing the label foo
    *.foo       Match any label path whose last label is foo
    

    Star symbols can also be quantified to restrict how many labels they can match:

    *{n}        Match exactly n labels
    *{n,}       Match at least n labels
    *{n,m}      Match at least n but not more than m labels
    *{,m}       Match at most m labels — same as  *{0,m}
    

    There are several modifiers that can be put at the end of a non-star label in lquery to make it match more than just the exact match:

    @           Match case-insensitively, for example a@ matches A
    *           Match any label with this prefix, for example foo* matches foobar
    %           Match initial underscore-separated words
    

    The behavior of % is a bit complicated. It tries to match words rather than the entire label. For example foo_bar% matches foo_bar_baz but not foo_barbaz. If combined with *, prefix matching applies to each word separately, for example foo_bar%* matches foo1_bar2_baz but not foo1_br2_baz.

    Also, you can write several possibly-modified labels separated with | (OR) to match any of those labels, and you can put ! (NOT) at the start to match any label that doesn't match any of the alternatives.

    Here's an annotated example of lquery:

    Top.*{0,2}.sport*@.!football|tennis.Russ*|Spain
    a.  b.     c.      d.               e.
    

    This query will match any label path that:

    1. begins with the label Top

    2. and next has zero to two labels before

    3. a label beginning with the case-insensitive prefix sport

    4. then a label not matching football nor tennis

    5. and then ends with a label beginning with Russ or exactly matching Spain.

  • ltxtquery represents a full-text-search-like pattern for matching ltree values. An ltxtquery value contains words, possibly with the modifiers @, *, % at the end; the modifiers have the same meanings as in lquery. Words can be combined with & (AND), | (OR), ! (NOT), and parentheses. The key difference from lquery is that ltxtquery matches words without regard to their position in the label path.

    Here's an example ltxtquery:

    Europe & Russia*@ & !Transportation
    

    This will match paths that contain the label Europe and any label beginning with Russia (case-insensitive), but not paths containing the label Transportation. The location of these words within the path is not important. Also, when % is used, the word can be matched to any underscore-separated word within a label, regardless of position.

Note: ltxtquery allows whitespace between symbols, but ltree and lquery do not.

F.21.2. Operators and Functions

Type ltree has the usual comparison operators =, <>, <, >, <=, >=. Comparison sorts in the order of a tree traversal, with the children of a node sorted by label text. In addition, the specialized operators shown in Table F-12 are available.

Table F-12. ltree Operators

Operator Returns Description
ltree @> ltree boolean is left argument an ancestor of right (or equal)?
ltree <@ ltree boolean is left argument a descendant of right (or equal)?
ltree ~ lquery boolean does ltree match lquery?
lquery ~ ltree boolean does ltree match lquery?
ltree ? lquery[] boolean does ltree match any lquery in array?
lquery[] ? ltree boolean does ltree match any lquery in array?
ltree @ ltxtquery boolean does ltree match ltxtquery?
ltxtquery @ ltree boolean does ltree match ltxtquery?
ltree || ltree ltree concatenate ltree paths
ltree || text ltree convert text to ltree and concatenate
text || ltree ltree convert text to ltree and concatenate
ltree[] @> ltree boolean does array contain an ancestor of ltree?
ltree <@ ltree[] boolean does array contain an ancestor of ltree?
ltree[] <@ ltree boolean does array contain a descendant of ltree?
ltree @> ltree[] boolean does array contain a descendant of ltree?
ltree[] ~ lquery boolean does array contain any path matching lquery?
lquery ~ ltree[] boolean does array contain any path matching lquery?
ltree[] ? lquery[] boolean does ltree array contain any path matching any lquery?
lquery[] ? ltree[] boolean does ltree array contain any path matching any lquery?
ltree[] @ ltxtquery boolean does array contain any path matching ltxtquery?
ltxtquery @ ltree[] boolean does array contain any path matching ltxtquery?
ltree[] ?@> ltree ltree first array entry that is an ancestor of ltree; NULL if none
ltree[] ?<@ ltree ltree first array entry that is a descendant of ltree; NULL if none
ltree[] ?~ lquery ltree first array entry that matches lquery; NULL if none
ltree[] ?@ ltxtquery ltree first array entry that matches ltxtquery; NULL if none

The operators <@, @>, @ and ~ have analogues ^<@, ^@>, ^@, ^~, which are the same except they do not use indexes. These are useful only for testing purposes.

The available functions are shown in Table F-13.

Table F-13. ltree Functions

Function Return Type Description Example Result
subltree(ltree, int start, int end) ltree subpath of ltree from position start to position end-1 (counting from 0) subltree('Top.Child1.Child2',1,2) Child1
subpath(ltree, int offset, int len) ltree subpath of ltree starting at position offset, length len. If offset is negative, subpath starts that far from the end of the path. If len is negative, leaves that many labels off the end of the path. subpath('Top.Child1.Child2',0,2) Top.Child1
subpath(ltree, int offset) ltree subpath of ltree starting at position offset, extending to end of path. If offset is negative, subpath starts that far from the end of the path. subpath('Top.Child1.Child2',1) Child1.Child2
nlevel(ltree) integer number of labels in path nlevel('Top.Child1.Child2') 3
index(ltree a, ltree b) integer position of first occurrence of b in a; -1 if not found index('0.1.2.3.5.4.5.6.8.5.6.8','5.6') 6
index(ltree a, ltree b, int offset) integer position of first occurrence of b in a, searching starting at offset; negative offset means start -offset labels from the end of the path index('0.1.2.3.5.4.5.6.8.5.6.8','5.6',-4) 9
text2ltree(text) ltree cast text to ltree
ltree2text(ltree) text cast ltree to text
lca(ltree, ltree, ...) ltree lowest common ancestor, i.e., longest common prefix of paths (up to 8 arguments supported) lca('1.2.2.3','1.2.3.4.5.6') 1.2
lca(ltree[]) ltree lowest common ancestor, i.e., longest common prefix of paths lca(array['1.2.2.3'::ltree,'1.2.3']) 1.2

F.21.3. Indexes

ltree supports several types of indexes that can speed up the indicated operators:

  • B-tree index over ltree: <, <=, =, >=, >

  • GiST index over ltree: <, <=, =, >=, >, @>, <@, @, ~, ?

    Example of creating such an index:

    CREATE INDEX path_gist_idx ON test USING GIST (path);
    
  • GiST index over ltree[]: ltree[] <@ ltree, ltree @> ltree[], @, ~, ?

    Example of creating such an index:

    CREATE INDEX path_gist_idx ON test USING GIST (array_path);
    

    Note: This index type is lossy.

F.21.4. Example

This example uses the following data (also available in file contrib/ltree/ltreetest.sql in the source distribution):

CREATE TABLE test (path ltree);
INSERT INTO test VALUES ('Top');
INSERT INTO test VALUES ('Top.Science');
INSERT INTO test VALUES ('Top.Science.Astronomy');
INSERT INTO test VALUES ('Top.Science.Astronomy.Astrophysics');
INSERT INTO test VALUES ('Top.Science.Astronomy.Cosmology');
INSERT INTO test VALUES ('Top.Hobbies');
INSERT INTO test VALUES ('Top.Hobbies.Amateurs_Astronomy');
INSERT INTO test VALUES ('Top.Collections');
INSERT INTO test VALUES ('Top.Collections.Pictures');
INSERT INTO test VALUES ('Top.Collections.Pictures.Astronomy');
INSERT INTO test VALUES ('Top.Collections.Pictures.Astronomy.Stars');
INSERT INTO test VALUES ('Top.Collections.Pictures.Astronomy.Galaxies');
INSERT INTO test VALUES ('Top.Collections.Pictures.Astronomy.Astronauts');
CREATE INDEX path_gist_idx ON test USING gist(path);
CREATE INDEX path_idx ON test USING btree(path);

Now, we have a table test populated with data describing the hierarchy shown below:

                        Top
                     /   |  \
             Science Hobbies Collections
                 /       |              \
        Astronomy   Amateurs_Astronomy Pictures
           /  \                            |
Astrophysics  Cosmology                Astronomy
                                        /  |    \
                                 Galaxies Stars Astronauts

We can do inheritance:

ltreetest=> SELECT path FROM test WHERE path <@ 'Top.Science';
                path
------------------------------------
 Top.Science
 Top.Science.Astronomy
 Top.Science.Astronomy.Astrophysics
 Top.Science.Astronomy.Cosmology
(4 rows)

Here are some examples of path matching:

ltreetest=> SELECT path FROM test WHERE path ~ '*.Astronomy.*';
                     path
-----------------------------------------------
 Top.Science.Astronomy
 Top.Science.Astronomy.Astrophysics
 Top.Science.Astronomy.Cosmology
 Top.Collections.Pictures.Astronomy
 Top.Collections.Pictures.Astronomy.Stars
 Top.Collections.Pictures.Astronomy.Galaxies
 Top.Collections.Pictures.Astronomy.Astronauts
(7 rows)

ltreetest=> SELECT path FROM test WHERE path ~ '*.!pictures@.*.Astronomy.*';
                path
------------------------------------
 Top.Science.Astronomy
 Top.Science.Astronomy.Astrophysics
 Top.Science.Astronomy.Cosmology
(3 rows)

Here are some examples of full text search:

ltreetest=> SELECT path FROM test WHERE path @ 'Astro*% & !pictures@';
                path
------------------------------------
 Top.Science.Astronomy
 Top.Science.Astronomy.Astrophysics
 Top.Science.Astronomy.Cosmology
 Top.Hobbies.Amateurs_Astronomy
(4 rows)

ltreetest=> SELECT path FROM test WHERE path @ 'Astro* & !pictures@';
                path
------------------------------------
 Top.Science.Astronomy
 Top.Science.Astronomy.Astrophysics
 Top.Science.Astronomy.Cosmology
(3 rows)

Path construction using functions:

ltreetest=> SELECT subpath(path,0,2)||'Space'||subpath(path,2) FROM test WHERE path <@ 'Top.Science.Astronomy';
                 ?column?
------------------------------------------
 Top.Science.Space.Astronomy
 Top.Science.Space.Astronomy.Astrophysics
 Top.Science.Space.Astronomy.Cosmology
(3 rows)

We could simplify this by creating a SQL function that inserts a label at a specified position in a path:

CREATE FUNCTION ins_label(ltree, int, text) RETURNS ltree
    AS 'select subpath($1,0,$2) || $3 || subpath($1,$2);'
    LANGUAGE SQL IMMUTABLE;

ltreetest=> SELECT ins_label(path,2,'Space') FROM test WHERE path <@ 'Top.Science.Astronomy';
                ins_label
------------------------------------------
 Top.Science.Space.Astronomy
 Top.Science.Space.Astronomy.Astrophysics
 Top.Science.Space.Astronomy.Cosmology
(3 rows)

F.21.5. Authors

All work was done by Teodor Sigaev () and Oleg Bartunov (). See http://www.sai.msu.su/~megera/postgres/gist/ for additional information. Authors would like to thank Eugeny Rodichev for helpful discussions. Comments and bug reports are welcome.

Add Comment

Please use this form to add your own comments regarding your experience with particular features of PostgreSQL, clarifications of the documentation, or hints for other users. Please note, this is not a support forum, and your IP address will be logged. If you have a question or need help, please see the faq, try a mailing list, or join us on IRC. Note that submissions containing URLs or other keywords commonly found in 'spam' comments may be silently discarded. Please contact the webmaster if you think this is happening to you in error.

Proceed to the comment form.

Privacy Policy | About PostgreSQL
Copyright © 1996-2014 The PostgreSQL Global Development Group