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Understanding Relationships

Relationships are the connections you make between different lists of content in Keystone. What you build depends a great deal on what you need. This guide will show you how to reason about, and configure relationships in Keystone so you can bring value to your project through structured content.


How to reason about relationships

Keystone provides a lot of flexibility when it comes to relationships. To get what you need there are two key questions you need to answer:

  1. Which side of the relationship do I need to access data from?

Your needs here will define whether your relationship needs to be one, or two-sided.

  1. How many connections do need on either side of my relationship?

Understanding this will determine the kind of cardinality you need to configure.

These topics are easier to understand by example. We’ll explore them, as well as the basics of setting up relationships through the use case of a blog app that has a post type for blog entries, and user type for post authors. Let’s get started…

How to define a relationship in Keystone

Relationships are made using the relationship field type within a list(). In our blog example we can connect a blog post to some users using the relationship field’s ref configuration option like so:

import { config, list } from '@keystone-next/keystone';
import { text, relationship } from '@keystone-next/keystone/fields';
export default config({
lists: {
User: list({ fields: { name: text() } }),
Post: list({
fields: {
title: text(),
content: text(),
authors: relationship({ ref: 'User', many: true, }),
},
}),
},
});

The many config option relates to cardinality which we explore later

One-sided & two-sided relationships

In Keystone it’s possible to define relationships from one, or both sides of the two lists you’re connecting. We refer to these as one-sided, and two-sided relationships:

One-sided

Our example above is one-sided: the Post list relates to the User list via the authors field. This kind of relationship will let us query for the authors of a post in our GraphQL API like so:

query {
posts {
title
content
authors {
name
}
}
}

Two-sided

If we can find all the authors of a post, we can also find all the posts written by a particular user. To do this we need to configure a two-sided relationship in our schema:

import { config, list } from '@keystone-next/keystone';
import { text, relationship } from '@keystone-next/keystone/fields';
export default config({
lists: {
User: list({
fields: {
name: text(),
// relates posts to authors
posts: relationship({ref: 'Post.authors', many: true }),
},
}),
Post: list({
fields: {
title: text(),
content: text(),
// relates authors to posts
authors: relationship({ ref: 'User.posts', many: true }),
},
}),
},
});

In the example above we added a posts field to the User list, and changed the ref config of the authors field to be User.posts.

In a two-sided relationship the ref config must be formatted as <listName>.<fieldName> and both sides must refer to each other.

Now that our relationship is two-sided we can query all the posts written by each user like so:

query {
users {
name
posts {
title
content
}
}
}

Things to keep in mind:

Two-sided relationships are declared in two places, but there is only one relationship between both lists.

Both fields share the same data. If you change the author of a post, that post will no longer show up in the original author’s posts.

Self-referencing relationships

Keystone also lets you define one, and two-sided relationships that refer to the same list. To make a one-sided Twitter style following relationship we do the following:

import { config, list } from '@keystone-next/keystone';
import { text, relationship } from '@keystone-next/keystone/fields';
export default config({
lists: {
User: list({
fields: {
name: text(),
follows: relationship({ ref: 'User', many: true }),
},
}),
},
});

Or change this into a two-sided relationship to also access the followers of every user:

import { config, list } from '@keystone-next/keystone';
import { text, relationship } from '@keystone-next/keystone/fields';
export default config({
lists: {
User: list({
fields: {
name: text(),
follows: relationship({ ref: 'User.followers', many: true }),
followers: relationship({ ref: 'User.follows', many: true }),
},
}),
},
});

The only relationship configuration not currently supported is having a field reference itself, e.g. friends: relationship({ ref: 'User.friends', many: true }).

Establishing cardinality

Cardinality is a term used to describe how many items can exist on either side of a relationship. Each side can have either one or many related items. Since each relationship can have one and two sides, we have the following options available:

Relationship typeOne to oneOne to manyMany to many
One-sided
Two-sided

Cardinality is defined through the relationship field’s many configuration option. It’s a boolean where:

  • false = one

  • true = many

false is the default state for the many config option.

Let’s explore how to set up each type of cardinality in the context of our blog:

One-sided cardinalities

One-to-many

  • Posts have a single author
  • Users can have multiple posts
import { config, list } from '@keystone-next/keystone';
import { text, relationship } from '@keystone-next/keystone/fields';
export default config({
lists: {
User: list({
fields: {
name: text(),
},
}),
Post: list({
fields: {
title: text(),
content: text(),
author: relationship({ ref: 'User', many: false }),
},
}),
},
});

Many-to-many

  • Posts can have multiple authors
  • Users can have multiple posts
export default config({
lists: {
User: list({
fields: {
name: text(),
},
}),
Post: list({
fields: {
title: text(),
content: text(),
authors: relationship({ ref: 'User', many: true }),
},
}),
},
});

Two-sided cardinalities

In two-sided relationships the many option on both sides must be considered.

One-to-one

  • Posts have a single author
  • Users can create only one post
export default config({
lists: {
User: list({
fields: {
name: text(),
post: relationship({ ref: 'Post.author', many: false }),
},
}),
Post: list({
fields: {
title: text(),
content: text(),
author: relationship({ ref: 'User.post', many: false }),
},
}),
},
});

One-to-many

  • Posts have a single author
  • Users can have multiple posts
export default config({
lists: {
User: list({
fields: {
name: text(),
posts: relationship({ref: 'Post.author', many: true }),
},
}),
Post: list({
fields: {
title: text(),
content: text(),
author: relationship({ ref: 'User.posts', many: false }),
},
}),
},
});

Note that we’ve used many: false in the author field and many: true in the posts field.

Many-to-many

  • Posts can have multiple authors
  • Users can have multiple posts
export default config({
lists: {
User: list({
fields: {
name: text(),
posts: relationship({ ref: 'Post.authors', many: true }),
},
}),
Post: list({
fields: {
title: text(),
content: text(),
authors: relationship({ ref: 'User.posts', many: true }),
},
}),
},
});

Note that we have used many: true in both the authors and posts fields.

Summary

Keystone relationships are managed using the relationship field type. They can be configured as one-sided or two-sided by the ref config option. Their cardinality can be set using the many flag. Keystone gives you the flexibility to choose what you want based on what you need to achieve.