Fine print – things you should know

Up to this point, we’ve emphasized how Newt DB leverages ZODB and Postgres to give you the best of both worlds. We’ve given some examples showing how easy working with an object-oriented database can be, and how Postgres can allow powerful queries to be easily expressed. Like anything, however, any database has some topics that have to be mastered to get full advantage and avoid pitfalls.

Highly, but not completely transparent object persistence

Newt and ZODB try to make accessing and updating objects as simple and natural as working with objects in memory. This is done in two ways:

  1. When an object is accessed or modified, data are loaded automatically and saved if a transaction is committed.

    The database keeps track of objects that have been marked as changed. If a transaction is committed, changed objects are saved to Postgres. If a transaction is aborted, then changed objects’ states are discarded and will be reloaded with current state when they’re accessed next.

  2. Object accesses and changes are detected by observing attribute access. This works very well for accesses, but can miss updates. For example, consider this class:

    class Tasks(newt.db.Persistent):
       def __init__(self):
           self._data = set()
       def add(self, task):

    In this example, the add method updates the object by updating a subobject. It doesn’t set an attribute, and the change isn’t detected automatically. There are a number of ways we can fix this, for example by explicitly marking the object as changed:

    def add(self, task):
        self._p_changed = True

To learn more about writing persistent objects, see:

Learn about indexing and querying PostgreSQL

By default, Newt creates a JSON index on your data. Read about support for querying and indexing JSON data here:

Postgres can index expressions, not just column values. This can provide a lot of power. For example, Newt provides helper functions for setting up full-text indexes. These helpers generate text extraction functions and then define indexes on them. For example, if we ask for SQL statements to index title fields:

>>> import
>>> print('title_text', 'title'))
create or replace function title_text(state jsonb) returns tsvector as $$
  text text;
  result tsvector;
  if state is null then return null; end if;

  text = coalesce(state ->> 'title', '');
  result := to_tsvector(text);

  return result;
$$ language plpgsql immutable;

create index newt_title_text_idx on newt using gin (title_text(state));

A PL/pgSQL function is generated that extracts the title from the JSON. Then an index is created using the function. To learn more about full-text search in Postgres, see:

To search the index generated in the example above, you use the function as well:

select * from newt where title_text(state) @@ 'green'

In this query, the function, title_text(state) isn’t evaluated but is instead used to match the search term against the index [1].

Indexing expressions allows a lot of power, especially when working with JSON data.

When designing queries for your application, you’ll want to experiment and learn how to use the Postgres EXPLAIN command.

Postgres is not (really) object oriented

Using Newt DB, search and indexing use Postgres. The data to be indexed have to be in the object state. You can’t call object methods to get data to be indexed. You can write database functions to extract data and these functions can branch based on object class.


Transactions are a core feature of Newt, ZODB and Postgres. Transactions are extremely important for implementing reliable applications. At a high-level, transactions provide:

Data modified by a transaction is saved in its entirety or not at all. This makes error handling much easier. If an error occurs in your application, the transaction is rolled back and no changes are saved. Without atomicity, if there was an error, you the programmer would be responsible for rolling back the changes, which is difficult and likely to produce inconsistent data.
Transactions provide isolation between concurrently running programs. You as a programmer don’t need to worry about concurrency control yourself.

In the examples in Getting started, a simple form of transaction interaction was used, which is appropriate for interactive sessions. For programs, there are a number of transaction-execution forms that can be used. See:

for more information.

[1]In a more complex query, Postgres might evaluate the expression. It depends on what other indexes might be in play.