Quick Tour

Morphia wraps the MongoDB Java driver so some level of familiarity with using the driver can be helpful. Morphia does its best to abstract much of that away but if something is confusing, please consult the Java driver documentation as well.

The following code snippets come from the QuickTour.java example code that can be found with the Morphia source.

Setting up Morphia

The following example shows how to create the initial Morphia instance. Using this instance, you can configure various aspects of how Morphia maps your entities and validates your queries.

final Morphia morphia = new Morphia();

// tell Morphia where to find your classes
// can be called multiple times with different packages or classes

// create the Datastore connecting to the default port on the local host
final Datastore datastore = morphia.createDatastore(new MongoClient(), "morphia_example");

This snippet creates the Morphia instance we’ll be using in our simple application. The Morphia class exists to configure the Mapper to be used and to define various system-wide defaults. It is also what is used to create the Datastore we’ll be using. The Datastore takes two parameters: the MongoClient used to connect to MongoDB and the name of the database to use. With this approach we could conceivably configure Morphia once and then connect to multiple databases by creating different Datastore instances. In practice, this is likely pretty rare but it is possible.

The second line, which we skipped over, deserves a bit of consideration. In this case, we’re telling Morphia to look at every class in the package we’ve given and find every class annotated with @Entity (which we’ll cover shortly) and discover the mapping metadata we’ve put on our classes. There are several variations of mapping that can be done and they can be called multiple times with different values to properly cover all your entities wherever they might live in your application.

Mapping Options

Once you have an instance of Morphia, you can configure various mapping options via the MapperOptions class. While it’s possible to specify the Mapper when creating an instance of Morphia, most users will use the default mapper. In either case, the Mapper can be fetched using the getMapper() method on the Morphia instance. The two most common elements to configure are storeEmpties and storeNulls. By default Morphia will not store empty List or Map values nor will it store null values in to MongoDB. If your application needs empty or null values to be present for whatever reason, setting these values to true will tell Morphia to save them for you. There are a few other options to configure on MapperOptions, but we’ll not be covering them here.

Mapping Classes

There are two ways that Morphia can handle your classes: as top level entities or embedded in others. Any class annotated with @Entity is treated as a top level document stored directly in a collection. Any class with @Entity must have a field annotated with @Id to define which field to use as the _id value in the document written to MongoDB. @Embedded indicates that the class will result in a subdocument inside another document. @Embedded classes do not require the presence of an `@Id ` field.

Let’s examine a more complete example:

    @Index(value = "salary", fields = @Field("salary"))
class Employee {
    private ObjectId id;
    private String name;
    private Employee manager;
    private List<Employee> directReports;
    private Double salary;

There are a few things here to discuss and others we’ll defer to later sections. This class is annotated using the @Entity annotation so we know that it will be a top level document. In the annotation, you’ll see "employees". By default, Morphia will use the class name as the collection name. If you pass a String instead, it will use that value for the collection name. In this case, all Employee instances will be saved in to the employees collection instead. There is a little more to this annotation but the annotations guide covers those details.

The @Indexes annotation lists which indexes Morphia should create. In this instance, we’re defining an index named salary on the field salary with the default ordering of ascending. More information on indexing can found here.

We’ve marked the id field to be used as our primary key (the _id field in the document). In this instance we’re using the Java driver type of ObjectId as the ID type. The ID can be any type you’d like but is generally something like ObjectId or Long. There are two other annotations to cover but it should be pointed out now that other than transient and static fields, Morphia will attempt to copy every field to a document bound for the database.

The simplest of the two remaining annotations is @Property. This annotation is entirely optional. If you leave this annotation off, Morphia will use the Java field name as the document field name. Often times this is fine. However, some times you’ll want to change the document field name for any number of reasons. In those cases, you can use @Property and pass it the name to be used when this class is serialized out to a document to be handed off to MongoDB.

This just leaves @Reference. This annotation is telling Morphia that this field refers to other Morphia mapped entities. In this case Morphia will store what MongoDB calls a DBRef which is just a collection name and key value. These referenced entities must already be saved or at least have an ID assigned or Morphia will throw an exception.

Saving Data

For the most part, you treat your Java objects just like you normally would. When you’re ready to write an object to the database, it’s as simple as this:

final Employee elmer = new Employee("Elmer Fudd", 50000.0);

Taking it one step further, lets define some relationships and save those, too.

final Employee daffy = new Employee("Daffy Duck", 40000.0);

final Employee pepe = new Employee("Pepé Le Pew", 25000.0);



As you can see, we just need to create and save the other Employees then we can add them to the direct reports list and save. Morphia takes care of saving the keys in Elmer’s document that refer to Daffy and Pepé. Updating data in MongoDB is as simple as updating your Java objects and then calling datastore.save() with them again. For bulk updates (e.g., everyone gets a raise!) this is not the most efficient way of doing updates. It is possible to update directly in the database without having to pull in every document, convert to Java objects, update, convert back to a document, and write back to MongoDB. But in order to show you that piece, first we need to see how to query.


Morphia attempts to make your queries as type safe as possible. All of the details of converting your data are handled by Morphia directly and only rarely do you need to take additional action. As with everything else, Datastore is where we start:

final Query<Employee> query = datastore.createQuery(Employee.class);
final List<Employee> employees = query.asList();

This is a basic Morphia query. Here, we’re telling the Datastore to create a query that’s been typed to Employee. In this case, we’re fetching every Employee in to a List. For very large query results, this could very well be too much to fit in to memory. For this simple example, using asList() is fine but in practice fetch() is usually the more appropriate choice. Most queries will, of course, want to filter the data in some way. There are two ways of doing this:

underpaid = datastore.createQuery(Employee.class)

The field() method here is used to filter on the named field and returns an instance of an interface with a number of methods to build a query. This approach is helpful if compile-time checking is needed. Between javac failing on missing methods and IDE auto-completion, query building can be done quite safely.

The other approach uses the filter() method which is a little more free form and succinct than field(). Here we can embed certain operators in the query string. While this is less verbose than the alternative, it does leave more things in the string to validate and potentially get wrong:

List<Employee> underpaid = datastore.createQuery(Employee.class)
                                    .filter("salary <=", 30000)

Either query works. It comes down to a question of preference in most cases. In either approach, Morphia will validate that there is a field called salary on the Employee class. If you happen to have mapped that field such that the name in the database doesn’t match the Java field, Morphia can use either form and will validate against either name.


Now that we can query, however simply, we can turn to in-database updates. These updates take two components: a query, and a set of update operations. In this example, we’ll find all the underpaid employees and give them a raise of 10000. The first step is to create the query to find all the underpaid employees. This is one we’ve already seen:

final Query<Employee> underPaidQuery = datastore.createQuery(Employee.class)
                                             .filter("salary <=", 30000);

To define how we want to update the documents matched by this query, we can call update() on our query:

final UpdateOperations<Employee> updateOperations = datastore.createUpdateOperations(Employee.class)
                                                   .inc("salary", 10000);

There are many operations on this class but, in this case, we’re only updating the salary field by 10000. This corresponds to the $inc operator. The UpdateResult instance returned will contain various statistics about the update operation. There’s one last step involved here:

final UpdateResults results = datastore.update(underPaidQuery, updateOperations);

This line executes the update in the database without having to pull in however many documents are matched by the query. The UpdateResults instance returned will contain various statistics about the update operation.


After everything else, removes are really quite simple. Removing just needs a query to find and delete the documents in question and then tell the Datastore to delete them:

final Query<Employee> overPaidQuery = datastore.createQuery(Employee.class)
                                                .filter("salary >", 100000);

There are a couple of variations on delete() but this is probably the most common usage. If you already have an object in hand, there is a delete that can take that reference and delete it. There is more information in the javadoc.