Skip to main content
Version: Next

Type-Safe Relations

Entity relations are mapped to entity references - instances of the entity that have at least the primary key available. This reference is stored in identity map, so you will get the same object reference when fetching the same document from database.

@ManyToOne(() => Author)
author!: Author; // the value is always instance of the `Author` entity

You can check whether an entity is initialized via wrap(entity).isInitialized(), and use await wrap(entity).init() to initialize it. This will trigger database call and populate the entity, keeping the same reference in identity map.

const author = em.getReference(123);
console.log(author.id); // accessing the id will not trigger any db call
console.log(wrap(author).isInitialized()); // false
console.log(author.name); // undefined

await wrap(author).init(); // this will trigger db call
console.log(wrap(author).isInitialized()); // true
console.log(author.name); // defined

The isInitialized() method can be used for runtime checks, but that could end up being quite tedious - we can do better! Instead of manual checks for entity state, we can use the Reference wrapper.

Reference wrapper

When you define @ManyToOne and @OneToOne properties on your entity, TypeScript compiler will think that desired entities are always loaded:

@Entity()
export class Book {

@PrimaryKey()
id!: number;

@ManyToOne()
author!: Author;

constructor(author: Author) {
this.author = author;
}

}

const book = await em.findOne(Book, 1);
console.log(book.author instanceof Author); // true
console.log(wrap(book.author).isInitialized()); // false
console.log(book.author.name); // undefined as `Author` is not loaded yet

You can overcome this issue by using the Reference wrapper. It simply wraps the entity, defining load(): Promise<T> method that will first lazy load the association if not already available. You can also use unwrap(): T method to access the underlying entity without loading it.

You can also use load<K extends keyof T>(prop: K): Promise<T[K]>, which works like load() but returns the specified property.

./entities/Book.ts
import { Entity, Ref, ManyToOne, PrimaryKey, ref } from '@mikro-orm/core';

@Entity()
export class Book {

@PrimaryKey()
id!: number;

@ManyToOne(() => Author, { ref: true })
author: Ref<Author>;

constructor(author: Author) {
this.author = ref(author);
}

}
const book1 = await em.findOne(Book, 1);
book.author instanceof Reference; // true
book1.author; // Ref<Author> (instance of `Reference` class)
book1.author.name; // type error, there is no `name` property
book1.author.unwrap().name; // unsafe sync access, undefined as author is not loaded
book1.author.isInitialized(); // false
(await book1.author.load()).name; // async safe access

const book2 = await em.findOne(Book, 1, { populate: ['author'] });
book2.author; // LoadedReference<Author> (instance of `Reference` class)
book2.author.$.name; // type-safe sync access

There are also getEntity() and getProperty() methods that are synchronous getters, that will first check if the wrapped entity is initialized, and if not, it will throw and error.

const book = await em.findOne(Book, 1);
console.log(book.author instanceof Reference); // true
console.log(wrap(book.author).isInitialized()); // false
console.log(book.author.getEntity()); // Error: Reference<Author> 123 not initialized
console.log(book.author.getProperty('name')); // Error: Reference<Author> 123 not initialized
console.log(await book.author.load('name')); // ok, loading the author first
console.log(book.author.getProperty('name')); // ok, author already loaded

If you use different metadata provider than TsMorphMetadataProvider (e.g. ReflectMetadataProvider), you will also need to explicitly set ref parameter:

The ref option is an alias for wrappedReference, and Ref is an alias for IdentifiedReference type, both added in v5.5.

@ManyToOne(() => Author, { ref: true })
author!: Ref<Author>;

Loaded type

If you check the return type of em.find and em.findOne methods, you might be a bit confused - instead of the entity, they return Loaded type:

// res1 is of type `Loaded<User, never>[]`
const res1 = await em.find(User, {});

// res2 is of type `Loaded<User, 'identity' | 'friends'>[]`
const res2 = await em.find(User, {}, { populate: ['identity', 'friends'] });

The User entity is defined as follows:

import { Entity, PrimaryKey, ManyToOne, OneToOne, Collection, Ref, ref } from '@mikro-orm/core';

@Entity()
export class User {

@PrimaryKey()
id!: number;

@ManyToOne(() => Identity)
identity: Ref<Identity>;

@ManyToMany(() => User)
friends = new Collection<User>(this);

constructor(identity: Identity) {
this.identity = ref(identity);
}

}

The Loaded type will represent what relations of the entity are populated, and will add a special $ symbol to them, allowing for type-safe synchronous access to the loaded properties. This works great in combination with the Reference wrapper:

If you don't like symbols with magic names like $, you can as well use the get() method, which is an alias for it.

// res is of type `Loaded<User, 'identity'>`
const user = await em.findOneOrFail(User, 1, { populate: ['identity'] });

// instead of the async `await user.identity.load()` call that would ensure the relation is loaded
// you can use the dynamically added `$` symbol for synchronous and type-safe access to it:
console.log(user.identity.$.email);

If you'd omit the populate hint, type of user would be Loaded<User, never> and the user.identity.$ symbol wouldn't be available - such call would end up with compilation error.

// if we try without the populate hint, the type is `Loaded<User, never>`
const user2 = await em.findOneOrFail(User, 2);

// TS2339: Property '$' does not exist on type '{ id: number; } & Reference'.
console.log(user.identity.$.email);

Same works for the Collection wrapper, that offers runtime methods isInitialized, loadItems and init, as well as the type-safe $ symbol.

// res is of type `Loaded<User, 'friends'>`
const user = await em.findOneOrFail(User, 1, { populate: ['friends'] });

// instead of the async `await user.friends.loadItems()` call that would ensure the collection items are loaded
// you can use the dynamically added `$` symbol for synchronous and type-safe access to it:
for (const friend of user.friends.$) {
console.log(friend.email);
}

You can also use the Loaded type in your own methods, to require on type level that some relations will be populated:

function checkIdentity(user: Loaded<User, 'identity'>) {
if (!user.idenity.$.email.includes('@')) {
throw new Error(`That's a weird e-mail!`);
}
}
// works
const u1 = await em.findOneOrFail(User, 2, { populate: ['identity'] });
checkIdentity(u1);

// fails
const u2 = await em.findOneOrFail(User, 2);
checkIdentity(u2);

Keep in mind this is all just a type-level information, you can easily trick it via type assertions.

Assigning to Reference properties

When you define the property as Reference wrapper, you will need to assign the Reference instance to it instead of the entity. You can convert any entity to a Reference wrapper via ref(entity), or use wrapped option of em.getReference():

ref(e) is a shortcut for wrap(e).toReference(), which is the same as Reference.create(e).

import { ref } from '@mikro-orm/core';

const book = await em.findOne(Book, 1);
const repo = em.getRepository(Author);

book.author = repo.getReference(2, { wrapped: true });

// same as:
book.author = ref(repo.getReference(2));
await em.flush();

Since v5 we can also create entity references without access to EntityManager. This can be handy if you want to create a reference from inside entity constructor:

@Entity()
export class Book {

@ManyToOne(() => Author, { ref: true })
author!: Ref<Author>;

constructor(authorId: number) {
this.author = Reference.createFromPK(Author, authorId);
}

}

Another way is to use toReference() method available as part of WrappedEntity interface:

const author = new Author(...)
book.author = wrap(author).toReference();

If the reference already exist, you can also re-assign to it via set() method:

book.author.set(new Author(...));

What is Ref (IdentifiedReference)?

Ref is an intersection type that adds primary key property to the Reference interface. It allows to get the primary key from Reference instance directly.

By default, we try to detect the PK by checking if a property with a known name exists. We check for those in order: _id, uuid, id - with a way to manually set the property name via PrimaryKeyProp symbol ([PrimaryKeyProp]?: 'foo';).

We can also override this via second generic type argument.

const book = await em.findOne(Book, 1);
console.log(book.author.id); // ok, returns the PK

You can also have non-standard primary key:

author: Ref<Author, 'myPrimaryKey'>;

const book = await em.findOne(Book, 1);
console.log(book.author.myPrimaryKey); // ok, returns the PK

For MongoDB, define the PK generic type argument as 'id' | '_id' to access both string and ObjectId PK values:

./entities/Book.ts
@Entity()
export class Book {

@PrimaryKey()
_id!: ObjectId;

@SerializedPrimaryKey()
id!: string;

@ManyToOne(() => Author, { ref: true })
author!: Ref<Author, 'id' | '_id'>;

}
const book = await em.findOne(Book, 1);
console.log(book.author.id); // ok, returns string PK
console.log(book.author._id); // ok, returns ObjectId PK

As opposed to wrap(e).init() which always refreshes the entity, Reference.load() method will query the database only if the entity is not already loaded in Identity Map.