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Reusable code that treats forms as if they were table rows in a database

Reusable code that caches Foswiki topics, and provides fast searches of the content.

Summary of Contents

This module supports fast structured queries over topics in an arbitrarily-sized web. It uses a database to cache topic data to deliver much more scaleable search performance. Different back-end techologies can be used to implement the cache, to allow simple tradeoffs between scaling and raw performance.

Historically this module was designed to be used with a companion plugin, such as Foswiki:Extensions.FormQueryPlugin or Foswiki:Extensions.DBCachePlugin, which support queries and the display of query results. When used this way, the DBCacheContrib supports queries made using a simple query language.

The module can also be used in "standard schema mode" to support plugins that accelerate core functions, such as the QueryAcceleratorPlugin.


  • Perform efficient structured queries on data in forms

Using the built-in query language

The query language supported by DBCacheContrib is very similar to the query language used with %SEARCH, which was derived from it. The contrib can be used in two modes; compatible schema mode (as used by FormQueryPlugin and DBCachePlugin) and standard schema mode (as described in QuerySearch).

In standard schema mode the schema of the DB is as described in QuerySearch. In compatible schema mode, the underlying schema is somewhat different, to support the extended requirements of the plugins that use it.

The Compatible Schema

You can think of the database as an map of all the topics in a web. Each entry is itself a map (or hash, in perl terms) that maps a set of field names to values.

Each topic in the web automatically gets a number of standard fields, generated by reading the metadata from the topic (see MetaData)
  • name - name of the topic
  • parent - name of parent topic
  • attachments - array of maps, each of which contains:
    • name - attachment name
    • attr - e.g hidden
    • comment - attachment comment
    • path - client path used to upload attachment
    • size - size in Kb
    • user - who uploaded the attachment
    • version - e.g. 1.3
  • info - map containing:
    • author - most recent author
    • date - date of last change
    • format - topic format version
    • version - topic version number
  • moved - map containing:
    • by - who moved it
    • date - when they moved it
    • from - where they moved it from
    • to - where they moved it to
  • preferences - array of maps, each of which contains:
    • name - preference name
    • type - either Set or Local
    • value - the value of the named preference
  • form - form type
  • form name - e.g. if a "MyForm" is attached, this will be MyForm. This is a reference to a map containing a key for each field in the form. Each key maps to the value in the form data for that key.
  • text - raw text of the topic)

Other fields may be added by subclasses. Refer to the documentation for the plugin that is using the DBCache for more details.

Query operators

Fields are given by name, and values by strings or numbers. Strings should always be surrounded by 'single-quotes'. Strings which are regular expressions (RHS of =, != =~ operators) use 'perl' regular expression syntax (google for perlre for help). Numbers can be signed integers or decimals. Single quotes in values may be escaped using backslash (\).

The following operators are available:
Operator Result Meaning
= Boolean LHS exactly matches the regular expression on the RHS. The expression must match the whole string.
!= Boolean Inverse of =
=~ Boolean LHS contains RHS i.e. the RHS is found somewhere in the field value.
< Boolean Numeric <
> Boolean Numeric >
>= Boolean Numeric >=
<= Boolean Numeric <=
@ Node Access node referenced by LHS. e.g. ProjectLeader@TopicTitle returns the formfield TopicTitle of the topic stored in the formfield ProjectLeader
lc String Unary lower case
displayValue String return display value of a formfield, e.g. displayValue('State')
uc String Unary UPPER CASE
d2n Number Convert a date string into epoch seconds
n2d String Convert epoch seconds into a date string
length Number Length of an array, e.g. length(attachments) to return the number of attachments
! Boolean Unary NOT
AND Boolean AND
OR Boolean OR
ALLOWS Boolean LHS is a topic that allows to perform RHS by the current user e.g. topic ALLOWS VIEW is true when the current user is allowed to view the given topic
() any Bracketed subexpression
IS_DATE Boolean Compare two dates e.g. '1 Apr 2003' IS_DATE '1 Apr 2004'
EARLIER_THAN Boolean Date is earlier than the given date
EARLIER_THAN_OR_ON Boolean Date is earlier than, or on, the given date
LATER_THAN Boolean LHS is later than the given date
LATER_THAN_OR_ON Boolean LHS is later than the given date
WITHIN_DAYS Boolean Date (which must be in the future) is within n working days of todays date

Working with dates

DBCacheContrib can parse dates during indexing time, that is when the topic is saved and further stored into its internal database format. Dates must be explicitly marked as being of such a data type by means of a DataForm definition. A date formfield is stored in epoch seconds as well as in a secondary attribute named <fieldName_origvalue>. This lets you access the original value as it was edited by the user.

As an effect, dates may be compared and sorted directly, i.e. without any further conversion during search time. Two dates can be compared directly against each other using numerical comparison operators. This means that the operators IS_DATE, EARLIER_THAN, EARLIERTHAN_OR_ON, LATER_THAN and LATER_THAN_OR_ON can be replaced with =, <, <, => and >= respectively.

In the case that you have to specify date strings explicitly as part of the query, use d2n(<date-string) to first convert it into an integer before comparing it against a date formfield.

WITHIN_DAYS works out the number of working days assuming a 5 day week (i.e. excluding Saturday and Sunday). Apologies in advance if your weekend is offset ± a day! Integers will automatically be converted to dates, by assuming they represent a number of seconds since midnight GMT on 1st January 1970. You can also use the d2n operator to convert a date string to such an integer.

Date formats

Dates must be dates in the format expected by Time::ParseDate. In addition the following formats are understood as well:

  • yyyymmddThhmmss
  • yyyymmddThhmmssZ<offset>

The cache

To achieve best perfomance the plugin caches the data read from topics in a database. The database is stored in the work area for the DBCacheContrib (see {WorkAreaDir} in configure). If any topic changes in the web, this cache is automatically updated.

Detailed Documentation

Clients use the DBCache by defining a subclass of the Foswiki::Contrib::DBCacheContrib class. Implementors are stongly recommended to read the POD documentation in the code:

Installation Instructions

You do not need to install anything in the browser to use this extension. The following instructions are for the administrator who installs the extension on the server.

Open configure, and open the "Extensions" section. "Extensions Operation and Maintenance" Tab -> "Install, Update or Remove extensions" Tab. Click the "Search for Extensions" button. Enter part of the extension name or description and press search. Select the desired extension(s) and click install. If an extension is already installed, it will not show up in the search results.

You can also install from the shell by running the extension installer as the web server user: (Be sure to run as the webserver user, not as root!)
cd /path/to/foswiki
perl tools/extension_installer <NameOfExtension> install

If you have any problems, or if the extension isn't available in configure, then you can still install manually from the command-line. See for more help.

This code is based on an original development of Motorola Inc. and is protected by the following copyrights:

  • Copyright © 2002-2003 Motorola Inc. All Rights Reserved.
  • Portions copyright © 2004 Crawford Currie
  • Portions copyright © 2013-2020 Foswiki Contributors


BerkeleyDB>=0Optional, still experimental.

Change History

15 Oct 2020 new n2d() operator to convert epoch seconds to date string; new displayValue() operator to query not only for storage values but also for their displayed and translated form; translating display values using the core I18N module or Foswiki:Extensions/MultiLingualPlugin if installed; read default formfield values while indexing a topic; removed dependency on Time::ParseDate; fixed unit tests; addess perl critics
26 Nov 2018 don't interpret any 8 digits as yyyymmdd; updated dependency on Time::PaseDate
01 Oct 2018 rationalized parsing dates
25 May 2018 added allows operator to match standard query language
20 Feb 2018 extend ref operator to dereference multi-value formfields
28 Jul 2017 Foswikitask:Item14449: numeric operands may cause a perl warning when parameters aren't numeric; trying to fill archive segments in a more efficient way
16 Jan 2017 Foswikitask:Item14270: oo-ify core; fixed parsing numbers
09 Jul 2016 Foswikitask:Item14111: remove inline data images before indexing
18 Oct 2015 Foswikitask:Item13824: fixed dbcache failing to update topics in subwebs under certain conditions
29 Sep 2015 Foswikitask:Item13763: performance improvement: use fastget() instead of get() wherever possible
25 Sep 2015 Foswikitask:Item13753: ref operator fails under certain conditions
12 Jan 2015 Foswikitask:Item13148: added support for CPAN:Sereal
29 Apr 2014 Foswikitask:Item12877: web parameter might be tainted
18 Mar 2014 Foswikitask:Item12789: fix dereferencing unblessed cache map
12 Dec 2013 Foswikitask:Item12673: allow to store keys with dots in it
10 Jul 2013 Foswikitask:Item12542: cache non-standard %META data and make it searchable
28 Mar 2013 Foswikitask:Item12458: fix op_ref in search queries
14 Mar 2013 Foswikitask:Item12425: make preferences searchable by caching them into a map instead of an array
25 Jan 2013 Foswikitask:Item12369: fixed loading cache from disk on a change
07 Jan 2013 Foswikitask:Item8195: extract and cache preference settings; Foswikitask:Item12333: implement an archivist caching a web in segments;
01 Oct 2012 Foswiktask:Item11752: don't fail to build the cache for formfield names with dots in it
10 Jan 2012 Foswikitask:Item11406: remove redundant reference to archivist from all stored values
25 Aug 2011 Foswikitask:Item11070: working around odd defaults of normalizeWebTopicName
28 Mar 2011 Foswikitask:Item9375: disabling {AlwaysUpdateCache} by default and making an expert option with appropriate warnings
17 Nov 2009 Foswikitask:Item8327: series of robustness fixes (Foswiki:Main.MichaelDaum)
30 Jun 2009 Foswikitask:Item8153: make dirs for path to cache; Foswikitask:Item8194: incoporated patch from Foswiki:Main.MichaelDaum Foswikitask:Item8195: extract and cache permissions settings
18 Jun 2009 Foswikitask:Item8183: fixed problem with Scalar::Util::weaken that was causing DBCachePlugin problems
6 Jun 2009 Foswikitask:Item1691: changes to support Foswiki:Extensions.QueryAcceleratorPlugin
7 Apr 2009 Foswikitask:Item5440: fixed negative values in SUMFIELD Foswikitask:Item8106: add back in the Map methods to the main class, as they are used by subclasses Foswikitask:Item8063: fix the accidental encoding of field values in the cache
28 Jan 2009 Foswikitask:Item453: Foswiki version; added Berkeley DB support, dropped plain-file support. Added Michael Daum's EARLIER_THAN_OR_ON and LATER_THAN_OR_ON ops. Fixed a number of bugs.
12346 fixing uptodate() for Andrew File Systems; fixed memory leak on persistent perl
16347 remove META data from text hash; include META data in all hash. Foswiki:Main.MichaelDaum
16346 caching all topic elements to an all field to allow th search in all of the text and the formfields like the normal grep-based SEARCH does. Foswiki:Main.MichaelDaum
15868 fixed WITHIN_DAYS and EARLIER_THAN. Foswiki:Main.MichaelDaum
15583 made query parser pluggable so that other plugins can implement their own predicates. Foswiki:Main.MichaelDaum
15019 added {DBCacheContrib}{AlwaysUpdateCache} to remove the updateCache from every operation. Foswiki:Main.SvenDowideit
13562 Bugs:Item3985 - fixed failures with hierarchical webs
13527 Moved the cache into the extensions work areas, instead of the web directory
12943 Bugs:Item3659: added automatic conversion of integers to dates
12923 added REF operator; added link to web object to hashes; fixed parent relation to end in System; added "web" property to topic hashes; caching META:PREFERENCES now
11537 Added lc and uc operators for case-insensitive searches
9303 TWikibug:Item1844 - don't die on broken symlinks
8682 TWikibug:Item1580 - one-char fix that makes the difference
8110 TWikibug:Item663 - formatting and text fixes
7552 TWikibug:Item997 - test update
7274 TWikibug:Item719 - onReload() is not a static method.
7262 TWikibug:Item719 - Foswiki:Main.MichaelDaum's patch (almost) to correct parameters to onReload
7260 TWikibug:Item727 - made it clean the form name using normaliseWebTopicName
6353 TWikibug:Item380 - do as the man says; make all $/ local
5720 Updated tests
5719 Fix for correct handling of parent relations
5229 Small improvement to the way it handles errors from Storable and Archive
5223 Documentation fixes, adding gifs.
5048 Cairo readiness
5036 Split from SharedCode
5031 Moving to new name
5030 About to rename
5019 Improved topic data model, cleaned up tests
5008 Added extended access syntax, [?], [*] etc.
5006 Doc fixes
5005 Poddified documentation
5003 Initial version
8 Jul 2004 Initial version, split out from FormQueryPlugin

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