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Field Resolvers

Although Vulcan uses SimpleSchema JSON schema to generate a GraphQL schema, it's important to understand that the two can be very different.

Note: this section will make more sense if you've already read the Resolvers section.


For example, you might have a userId property in your Movie schema, but then you want this property to resolve as a user object in the GraphQL schema (and in turn, in your client store). You can use resolveAs to accomplish this:

userId: {
  type: String,
  optional: true,
  canRead: ['guests'],
  resolveAs: {
    fieldName: 'user',
    arguments: 'foo: Int = 10',
    type: 'User',
    resolver: (movie, args, context) => {
      return context.Users.findOne({ _id: movie.userId }, { fields: context.Users.getViewableFields(context.currentUser, context.Users) });
    addOriginalField: true

We are doing five things here:

  1. Specifying that the field should be named user in the API.
  2. Specifying that the field can take a foo argument that defaults to 10.
  3. Specifying that the user field returns an object of GraphQL type User.
  4. Defining a resolver function that indicates how to retrieve that object.
  5. Specifying that the original field (userId, with type String) should also be added to our GraphQL schema.

Note that it is recommended that you pick a different name for the "real" database field (userId) and the field in your schema (user), especially if you set addOriginalField to true. This way, you will be able to unambiguously require either the _id or the full user object just by specifying which field you need.

Also, the resolved type is a GraphQL type, not a primitive type or a schema. Therefore, it must necessarilly be a string ('User' in the previous example). If you rather need an array of user, the resolved type will be '[User]'. For primitive types, you must provide the name as a string, instead of the constructor : 'Date' for a Date, 'String' for a String etc.

Custom Types

Creating a collection with createCollection will automatically create the associated GraphQL type, but in some case you might want to resolve a field to a GraphQL type that doesn't correspond to any existing collection.

Here's how the vulcan:voting package defines a new Vote GraphQL type:

const voteSchema = `
  type Vote {
    itemId: String
    power: Float
    votedAt: String

  union Votable = Post | Comment


Which can then be used as the value for type in a resolveAs field.

GraphQL-Only Fields

Note that a field doesn't have to “physically” exist in your database to be able to generate a corresponding GraphQL field.

For example, you might want to query the Facebook API to get the number of likes associated with a post's URL:

likesNumber: {
  type: Number,
  optional: true,
  canRead: ['guests'],
  resolveAs: {
    type: 'Number',
    resolver: async (post, args, context) => {
      return await getFacebookLikes(post.url);

This will create a likesNumber field in your GraphQL schema (and your Apollo store) even though no such field has to exist in your database.

Note that for GraphQL only fields it is ok to leave out the fieldName property (which will default to using the same name as the schema field) since there is no actual database field of the same name.

Field Resolvers vs Denormalization

Another approach to achieve the same thing as field resolvers is denormalization, in other words "physically" storing the same information in your database.

For example, assuming you wanted to show a post author's displayName, you could write a resolver that fetches the user object, or you could simply store a new authorDisplayName property on the post document directly.

So how do you decide which approach to pick? Here are a few general guidelines.

Resolvers are good when:

  • The resolver doesn't require any extra database calls. For example, generating a createdAtFormatted date string from a createdAt timestamp.
  • You want to avoid duplicating data. For example, copying a post author's entire user object on the post itself is probably a bad idea because that object can quickly get out of sync with the main Users document.
  • Keeping the denormalized data up to date gets too complex. If you find yourself writing three or four callbacks to update a single property, a resolver might turn out to be better.

On the other hand, denormalization is better when:

  • You want to sort documents by the field. Resolved field don't actually exist in your database, meaning you can't sort by them.
  • Generating the data through a resolver would require extra database calls.
  • The data changes infrequently.