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C++17 wrapper for the LMDB embedded B+ tree database library
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lmdb++: a C++17 wrapper for LMDB

This is a comprehensive C++ wrapper for the LMDB embedded database library, offering both an error-checked procedural interface and an object-oriented resource interface with RAII semantics.

This library is a fork of Arto Bendiken's lmdbxx C++11 library. The main difference is from Arto's version is that the lmdb::val class has been removed. Instead, all keys and values are std::string_views. See the Fork Differences section for full details on what has been changed from Arto's version.


Here follows a simple motivating example demonstrating basic use of the object-oriented resource interface::

#include <iostream>
#include <lmdb++.h>

int main() {
    /* Create and open the LMDB environment: */
    auto env = lmdb::env::create();
    env.set_mapsize(1UL * 1024UL * 1024UL * 1024UL); /* 1 GiB */"./example.mdb/", 0, 0664);
    lmdb::dbi dbi;

    // Get the dbi handle, and insert some key/value pairs in a write transaction:
        auto wtxn = lmdb::txn::begin(env);
        dbi = lmdb::dbi::open(wtxn, nullptr);

        dbi.put(wtxn, "username", "jhacker");
        dbi.put(wtxn, "email",    std::string(""));
        dbi.put(wtxn, "fullname", std::string_view("J. Random Hacker"));


   // In a read-only transaction, get and print one of the values:
       auto rtxn = lmdb::txn::begin(env, nullptr, MDB_RDONLY);

       std::string_view email;
       if (dbi.get(rtxn, "email", email)) {
           std::cout << "The email is: " << email << std::endl;
       } else {
           std::cout << "email not found!" << std::endl;
   } // rtxn aborted automatically

   // Print out all the values using a cursor:
       auto rtxn = lmdb::txn::begin(env, nullptr, MDB_RDONLY);

           auto cursor = lmdb::cursor::open(rtxn, dbi);

           std::string_view key, value;
           if (cursor.get(key, value, MDB_FIRST)) {
               do {
                   std::cout << "key: " << key << "  value: " << value << std::endl;
               } while (cursor.get(key, value, MDB_NEXT));
       } // destroying cursor before committing/aborting transaction (see below)

    return 0;
} // enviroment closed automatically

NOTE: In order to run this example, you must first manually create the ./example.mdb/ directory. This is a basic characteristic of LMDB: the given environment path must already exist, as LMDB will not attempt to automatically create it.

Should any operation in the above fail, an lmdb::error exception will be thrown and terminate the program since we don't specify an exception handler. All resources will regardless get automatically cleaned up due to RAII semantics.


  • Designed to be entirely self-contained as a single <lmdb++.h> header file that can be dropped into a project.
  • Implements a straightforward mapping to and from the LMDB C library, with consistent naming.
  • Provides both a procedural interface and an object-oriented RAII interface.
  • Simplifies error handling by translating error codes into C++ exceptions.
  • Carefully differentiates logic errors, runtime errors, and fatal errors.
  • Exception strings include the name of the LMDB function that failed.
  • Plays nice with others: all symbols are placed into the lmdb namespace.
  • 100% free and unencumbered public domain software, usable in any context and for any purpose.


The <lmdb++.h> header file requires a C++17 compiler and standard library. Recent releases of Clang or GCC will work fine.

In addition, for your application to build and run, the underlying <lmdb.h> header file shipped with LMDB must be available in the preprocessor's include path, and you must link with the liblmdb native library. On Ubuntu Linux 14.04 and newer, these prerequisites can be satisfied by installing the liblmdb-dev package.


LMDB uses a simple struct named MDB_val which contains only a void * and a size_t. This is what it uses to represent both keys and values in all functions. As of C++17, there is a standard type known as std::string_view which also contains only a pointer and a size. In the resource interface of this library, std::string_view is used for all keys and values.

The nice aspect about std::string_view objects is that they are compatible with many aspects of C++. You can easily construct std::strings from them, ie std::string(my_stringview). Unfortunately, that involves copying the data from the LMDB memory map to a new allocation on the heap (unless your string is short, then a short string optimisation may apply).

However, with some care std::string_view lets you avoid copying in several cases. For example, you can take zero-copy substrings by using substr(). Many modern C++ libraries are now being designed to reduce or eliminate copying by accepting or returning std::string_view objects, for example the TAO C++ JSON parser and the flatbuffers serialisation system.

With std::string_view the standard LMDB caveats apply: If you need to keep the data around after closing the LMDB transaction (or after performing any write operation on the DB) then you need to make a copy. This is as easy as assigning the std::string_view to an std::string.

std::string longLivedValue;

    auto txn = lmdb::txn::begin(env);
    auto mydb = lmdb::dbi::open(txn, "mydb");

    std::string_view v;
    mydb.get(txn, "hello", v);

    longLivedValue = v;

In the code above, note that "hello" was passed in as a key. This works because a std::string_view is implicitly constructed. This works for char *, std::string, etc.

string_view Conversions

Arto's original version of this library had templated get and put convenience methods. These methods reduced type safety and caused problems for some users so this fork has removed them in favour of explicit methods to convert to and from std::string_views.

Note: These conversion functions described in this section are mostly designed for storing integers in MDB_INTEGERKEY/MDB_INTEGERDUP databases. Although you can use them for more complicated types, we do not recommend doing so. Instead, please look into zero-copy serialization schemes such as flatbuffers or capn proto. With these you can get almost all the performance benefit of storing raw structs. In addition you will get more safety, the ability to access your database from languages other than C/C++, database portability across systems, and a way to upgrade your structures by adding new fields, deprecating old ones, etc.

If you do decide to store complex structs directly, you have to be very careful when using the following methods. If you have any pointers in your structures then you will almost certainly experience out-of-bounds memory accesses, and/or memory corruption.


For example, suppose you want to store raw uint64_t values in a DB. You can use the to_sv function to create a string_view which can then be passed to a put method:

  mydb.put(txn, "some_key", lmdb::to_sv<uint64_t>(123456));

NOTE: The above to_sv call will create a std::string_view pointing to a temporary object. You should ensure that you don't retain the string_view outside of the current full expression, which in this case is the mydb.put(). Otherwise, you will encounter undefined behaviour.

Afterwards, you can get the value back out of the DB and extract the uint64_t with from_sv:

  std::string_view view;
  mydb.get(txn, "some_key", view);
  uint64_t val = lmdb::from_sv<uint64_t>(view);

This copies the memory from the database and returns this copy for you to use. In the case of simple data-types like uint64_t this doesn't make a difference, but for large structs you may want to use the pointer-based conversions described in the next section.

from_sv will throw an MDB_BAD_VALSIZE exception if the view isn't the expected size (in this case, 8 bytes). You should also use this method if you wish to ensure that your value is correctly aligned prior to accessing it since LMDB only guarantees 2-byte alignment of keys, unless you are careful with the sizes of your keys and data.


If you wish to avoid the copying and have the string_view point directly to an existing block of memory, you can use ptr_to_sv (note that the templated type is optional here since it can be inferred from the pointer type):

  uint64_t val = 123456;
  mydb.put(txn, "some_key", lmdb::ptr_to_sv(&val));

Note that you are responsible for managing the backing memory, and you should ensure that it is valid for as long as you need the constructed string_view.

Similarly, you can get a pointer pointing into the LMDB mapped memory by using ptr_from_sv:

  std::string_view view;
  mydb.get(txn, "some_key", view);
  uint64_t *ptr = lmdb::ptr_from_sv<uint64_t>(view);

Since the returned pointer is pointing into LMDB's mapped memory, you should not use this pointer after the transaction has been terminated, or after performing any write operations on the DB.

As with from_sv, ptr_from_sv will throw an MDB_BAD_VALSIZE exception if the view isn't the expected size (in this case, 8 bytes).


This wrapper offers both an error-checked procedural interface and an object-oriented resource interface with RAII semantics. The former will be useful for easily retrofitting existing projects that currently use the raw C interface, but we recommend the resource interface for all new projects due to the exception safety afforded by RAII semantics.

Resource Interface

The high-level resource interface wraps LMDB handles in a loving RAII embrace. This way, you can ensure e.g. that a transaction will get automatically aborted when exiting a lexical scope, regardless of whether the escape happened normally or by throwing an exception.

C handle C++ wrapper class
MDB_env* lmdb::env
MDB_txn* lmdb::txn
MDB_dbi lmdb::dbi
MDB_cursor* lmdb::cursor
MDB_val std::string_view

The methods available on these C++ classes are named consistently with the procedural interface, below, with the obvious difference of omitting the handle type prefix which is already implied by the class in question.

Procedural Interface

The low-level procedural interface wraps LMDB functions with error-checking code that will throw an instance of a corresponding C++ exception class in case of failure. This interface doesn't offer any convenience overloads as does the resource interface; the parameter types are exactly the same as for the raw C interface offered by LMDB itself. The return type is generally void for these functions since the wrapper eats the error code returned by the underlying C function, throwing an exception in case of failure and otherwise returning values in the same output parameters as the C interface.

This interface is implemented entirely using static inline functions, so there are no hidden extra costs to using these wrapper functions so long as you have a decent compiler capable of basic inlining optimization.

See the FUNCTIONS.rst file for a mapping of the procedural interface to the underlying LMDB C functions.


  • The C++ procedural interface is more strictly and consistently grouped by handle type than is the LMDB native interface. For instance, mdb_put() is wrapped as the C++ function lmdb::dbi_put(), not lmdb::put(). These differences--a handful in number--all concern operations on database handles.

  • The C++ interface takes some care to be const-correct for input-only parameters, something the original C interface largely ignores. Hence occasional use of const_cast in the wrapper code base.

  • lmdb::dbi_put() does not throw an exception if LMDB returns the MDB_KEYEXIST error code; it instead just returns false. This is intended to simplify common usage patterns.

  • lmdb::dbi_get(), lmdb::dbi_del(), and lmdb::cursor_get() do not throw an exception if LMDB returns the MDB_NOTFOUND error code; they instead just return false. This is intended to simplify common usage patterns.

  • lmdb::env_get_max_keysize() returns an unsigned integer, instead of a signed integer as the underlying mdb_env_get_maxkeysize() function does. This conversion is done since the return value cannot in fact be negative.

Cursor double-free issue

In a read-write transaction, you must make sure to call .close() on your cursors (or let them go out of scope) before committing or aborting your transaction. Otherwise you will do a double-free which, if you are lucky, will crash your process. This is described in this github issue.

Consider this code:

    auto txn = lmdb::txn::begin(env);
    auto mydb = lmdb::dbi::open(txn, "mydb");

    auto cursor = lmdb::cursor::open(txn, mydb);
    std::string_view key, val;
    cursor.get(key, val, MDB_FIRST);

} // <-- BAD! cursor is destroyed here

The above code will result in a double free. You can uncomment a test case in if you want to verify this for yourself. When compiled with -fsanitize=address you will see the following:

==14400==ERROR: AddressSanitizer: attempting double-free on 0x614000000240 in thread T0:

To fix this, you should call cursor.close() before you call txn.commit(). Or, alternatively, do your cursor operations in a sub-scope so the cursor is destroyed before the transaction is committed:

    auto txn = lmdb::txn::begin(env);
    auto mydb = lmdb::dbi::open(txn, "mydb");

        auto cursor = lmdb::cursor::open(txn, mydb);
        std::string_view key, val;
        cursor.get(key, val, MDB_FIRST);
    } // <-- GOOD! cursor is destroyed here


Note that the double-free issue does not affect read-only transactions, but it is good practice to ensure closing/destruction of all cursors and transactions happen in the correct order, as shown in the motivating example. This is because you may change a read-only transaction to a read-write transaction in the future.

Error Handling

This wrapper draws a careful distinction between three different classes of possible LMDB error conditions:

  • Logic errors, represented by lmdb::logic_error. Errors of this class are thrown due to programming errors where the function interfaces are used in violation of documented preconditions. A common strategy for handling this class of error conditions is to abort the program with a core dump, facilitating introspection to locate and remedy the bug.
  • Fatal errors, represented by lmdb::fatal_error. Errors of this class are thrown due to the exhaustion of critical system resources, in particular available memory (ENOMEM), or due to attempts to exceed applicable system resource limits. A typical strategy for handling this class of error conditions is to terminate the program with a descriptive error message. More robust programs and shared libraries may wish to implement another strategy, such as retrying the operation after first letting most of the call stack unwind in order to free up scarce resources.
  • Runtime errors, represented by lmdb::runtime_error. Errors of this class are thrown as a matter of course to indicate various exceptional conditions. These conditions are generally recoverable, and robust programs will take care to correctly handle them.

NOTE: The distinction between logic errors and runtime errors mirrors that found in the C++11 standard library, where the <stdexcept> header defines the standard exception base classes std::logic_error and std::runtime_error. The standard exception class std::bad_alloc, on the other hand, is a representative example of a fatal error.

Error code Exception class Exception type
MDB_KEYEXIST lmdb::key_exist_error runtime
MDB_NOTFOUND lmdb::not_found_error runtime
MDB_CORRUPTED lmdb::corrupted_error fatal
MDB_PANIC lmdb::panic_error fatal
MDB_VERSION_MISMATCH lmdb::version_mismatch_error fatal
MDB_MAP_FULL lmdb::map_full_error runtime
MDB_BAD_DBI lmdb::bad_dbi_error runtime [4]
(others) lmdb::runtime_error runtime
  • [4] Available since LMDB 0.9.14 (2014/09/20).
  • MDB_KEYEXIST and MDB_NOTFOUND are handled specially by some functions.


To report a bug or submit a patch for lmdb++, please file an issue in the issue tracker on GitHub.

Questions and discussions about LMDB itself should be directed to the OpenLDAP mailing lists.

Also see Arto's original github (not maintained anymore?) and sourceforge documentation (not up to date with this fork's changes).

Fork Differences

This C++17 version is a fork of Arto Bendiken's C++11 version with the following changes:

  • lmdb::val has been removed and replaced with std::string_view. See the string::view section for more details.

  • The templated versions of the get and put methods have been removed. See the conversion methods described in string_view Conversions for an alternative.

  • Changes to cursors:

    • The cursor interface has been completed. put, del, and count have been added, bringing us to parity with the LMDB API.
    • The cursor find method has been removed. This method did not correspond to any function in LMDB API. All it did was a get with a cursor op of MDB_SET. You should now do this directly, and consider the differences between MDB_SET, MDB_SET_KEY, and MDB_GET_BOTH_RANGE.
    • The option of passing MDB_val* in via the cursor resource interface has been removed. Now you must use std::string_view. Of course the procedural interface still lets you use raw MDB_val*s if you want.
    • cursor_put returns bool to propagate the condition that the key already exists and either MDB_NODUPDATA or MDB_NOOVERWRITE were set. This makes it consistent with cursor_get.
  • A del method has been added to the lmdb::dbi resource interface that lets you pass in a value as well as a key so that you can delete sorted dup items via dbi objects.

  • lmdb::dbi instances can now be constructed uninitialized. Attempting to use them in this state will result in an error. You should initialize them first, for example:

    lmdb::dbi mydb;
    // mydb is uninitialized, don't use it!
        auto txn = lmdb::txn::begin(env);
        mydb = lmdb::dbi::open(txn, "mydb", MDB_CREATE);
    // now mydb is safe to use
  • lmdb::dbi instances can now be copied.

  • Considerably expanded the test suite.

  • Converted documentation to markdown.

  • Added a section to the docs describing the cursor double-free issue.


Arto Bendiken

This fork maintained by Doug Hoyte


This is free and unencumbered public domain software. For more information, see or the accompanying UNLICENSE file.

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