Entity Annotations in ObjectBox

Persisting objects with Entity Annotations in your iOS Swift application is easy with ObjectBox.

Database Persistence with Entity Annotations

ObjectBox DB persists Swift objects. For a clear distinction, we sometimes call those persistable objects "entities". To let ObjectBox know which classes are entities you can either make them implement the ObjectBox.Entity protocol, or add annotations to them. Then ObjectBox can take care of your entities.

Here is an example:

// objectbox: entity
class User {
    var id: Id = 0

    var name: String

    // objectbox: transient
    private var tempUsageCount: Int // not persisted

    // ...

The Entity annotation identifies the Swift class User as a persistable entity. This will trigger ObjectBox to generate persistence code tailored for this class, even if it does not conform to the Entity protocol..

Note: It’s often good practice to model entities as “dumb” data classes with just properties.

Object IDs: id

In ObjectBox, every object has an ID of type Id to efficiently get or reference objects. Usually ObjectBox will just find that property in your entity based on its type and "do the right thing", but if you have several properties of the same Id type, or your ID uses the types UInt64 or Int64, you can use an annotation to mark a particular property as the ID of your entity:

class User: Entity {

    // objectbox: id
    var thisIsMyId: UInt64 = 0

    // ...

While we recommend to define your ID as type Id or EntityId<MyEntity>(where MyEntity would be replaced with the name of your class), you can also annotate a property of type UInt64 or Int64 as an ID.

ObjectBox will usually manage ID values for you, but should you absolutely need to, you can tell ObjectBox that you want to assign IDs manually by yourself by adding an "assignable" parameter to the id annotation:

// objectbox: id = { "assignable": true }

If you do that, make sure that you assign a unique ID to each new object. If you assign the same ID to two objects of the same class, writing one to the database will overwrite the other. In general, it is best to let ObjectBox assign IDs. You are free to provide an additional indexed property to e.g. store a GUID for an object in addition to the ID used by ObjectBox, and to use queries to retrieve objects based on that GUID.

Ways to Define IDs

To specify Entity IDs, you need to have a property of type Id . The code generator will look for one of these configurations, in the following order

  1. A property that has a // objectbox: id comment annotation on the line above the property definition.

  2. A property named var id: Id.

  3. Any other property of the Id type, if there is only one.

You usually don't need more than one property of the Id type. Use ObjectBox's support for object relations if you need to connect entities with each other. In any case, should you need to store a reference to another object for an unusual purpose, simply use annotations to ensure ObjectBox uses the right property as the entity's ID.

Here's an example of using annotations in action:

// objectbox: entity
class ExampleEntity {
    var anotherID: Id = 0

    // objectbox: id
    var theEntityIdentifier: Id = 0 // <- this will be used
    required init() {
        // nothing to do here

ObjectBox supports several types for IDs. Apart from Id, you can also use the more type-safe EntityId<ExampleEntity> struct (where ExampleEntity is the class of your entity), which will let you ensure that you don't accidentally pass an ID of the wrong type into Box API.

In addition, you can also use UInt64 or Int64 for your IDs, but for ObjectBox to know to use those, you must annotate them.

Using Different Names in the Database than in Swift

class User: Entity {
    // objectbox: name = "USERNAME"
    var name: String

The name annotation lets you define a name on the database level for a property. This allows you to rename the Swift field without affecting the property name on the database level. This is mostly useful in cross-platform code, where different platforms may have different conventions for property names and you need to exchange database files between them.

Note: To rename properties and even entities you should use Uid annotations instead.

Transient Properties

class User: Entity {
    // objectbox: transient
    var tempUsageCount: Int

The // objectbox: transient annotation can be used to mark properties that should not be persisted, like the temporary counter above. As far as ObjectBox is concerned, transient properties simply do not exist. static properties are always ignored by ObjectBox and do not need to be marked as transient.

Property Indexes with Index

Annotate a property with // objectbox: index to create a database index for the corresponding database column. This can greatly improve performance when querying for that property.

// objectbox: index
var name: String

Index is currently not supported for Data, Float and Double

An index stores additional information in the database to make lookups "faster", or more correctly, "more scalable". With an index, you will get results fast no matter if you store ten, one thousand, or one million objects in the database. Index based database lookups perform in O(log n).

As an analogy we could look at how you store objects in an Array<>. For example you could store persons using an Array<Person>. Now, you want to search for all persons with a specific name so you would iterate through the list and check for the name property of each object. This is an O(N) operation and thus does not scale well with an increasing number of objects.

To make this more scalable you can introduce a second data structure Dictionary<String, Person> with the name as a key. This will give you a superfast lookup time (typically O(1)). The downside of this is that it needs more resources (here: RAM) and slows down add/remove operations on the list a bit. These principles can be transferred to database indexes, just that the primary resource consumed is disk space.

Index types (String)

Because String properties typically take more space than scalar values, ObjectBox uses a hash for indexing strings by default. For any other type, the property value is used for all index look-ups.

You can instruct ObjectBox to use a value-based index for a String property by specifying an index type:

// objectbox: index = value 
var name: String

Keep in mind that for String, depending on the length of your values, a value-based index may require more storage space than the default hash-based index.

ObjectBox supports these index types:

  • Not specified Uses best index based on property type (hash for String, value for others).

  • value Uses property values to build index. For String, this may require more storage than a hash-based index.

  • hash Uses 32-bit hashes of property values to build the index. Occasional collisions may occur which should not have any performance impact in practice. Usually a better choice than hash64, as it requires less storage.

  • hash64 Uses 64-bit hashes of property values to build the index. Requires more storage than hash and thus should not be the first choice in most cases.

Limits of hash-based indexes: Hashes work great for equality checks, but not for "starts with" type conditions. If you frequently use those, you should use value-based indexes instead.

Unique constraints

Annotate a property with unique to enforce that values are unique before an entity is put:

// objectbox: unique
var name: String

A put() operation will abort and throw an ObjectBoxError.uniqueViolation error:

do {
    try box.put(User("Sam Flynn"))
} catch ObjectBoxError.uniqueViolation(let message) {
    // A user with that name already exists.

Unique constraints are based on an index. You can further configure the index by adding an index annotation.

Converting Enums and Custom Types

You can add an // objectbox: convert annotation to properties with types that ObjectBox does not know to allow converting it into a recognized type. See Enums and Custom Types for more.


Creating to-one and to-many relations between objects is possible as well, and may require use of the // objectbox: backlink annotation, see the Relations documentation for details.

Triggering generation

You usually should not need to do anything special to trigger code generation once your entity classes are properly annotated. The setup.rb script should have automatically configured your project to run the code generator when you compile your project, for example using Product > Build in Xcode.

Should you have unusual needs or encountering issues, see Customizing Code Generation for a description of how things usually work.

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