POCO ActiveRecord Framework

POCO ActiveRecord User Guide


POCO ActiveRecord is a simple and lightweight object-relational mapping (ORM) framework built on top of the POCO Data library. The main goal of POCO ActiveRecord is to relieve developers from having to write lots of boilerplate database query code for common operations like finding an object by ID, updating an object, deleting an object or running paged queries. As its name implies, the framework follows the well-known Active Record architectural pattern. It's based on a code generator (named ActiveRecord Compiler, or arc) and uses a convention-over-configuration approach.

Getting Started

The starting point for using the ActiveRecord framework is an XML file. The XML file describes the classes that correspond to database tables, and their relationships. From that XML file, the ActiveRecord Compiler generates corresponding header and source files defining and implementing the respective C++ classes, as well as type handlers for the POCO Data library.

Following is an example for such an XML file. The file defines two classes, an Employee class (mapped to a table named employees), and a Role class (mapped to a table named roles).

<project namespace="Sample">
  <class name="Employee" table="employees">
    <property name="id" type="uuid"/>
    <property name="name" type="string"/>
    <property name="ssn" type="string"/>
    <property name="role" type="int16" references="Role"/>
    <property name="manager" type="uuid" references="Employee" cardinality="?"/>

  <class name="Role" table="roles" autoIncrementID="true">
    <property name="id" type="int16"/>
    <property name="name" type="string"/>
    <property name="description" type="string"/>

There is a n:1 relationship between Employee and Role (each employee has exactly one role). Furthermore, each employee can optionally have a manager, which is again an Employee.

Properties named id are considered to be primary keys, unless a different property has been designated the primary key (with the key attribute in the class element). It's also possible to have objects without a primary key or ID column (keyless active records).

The generated C++ classes will be in the Sample namespace, as specified in the project element.

The definitions in the XML file correspond to the database schema built by the following CREATE TABLE statements:

CREATE TABLE employees (
  name VARCHAR(64),
  ssn VARCHAR(32),
  role INTEGER,
  manager CHAR(36)

  name VARCHAR(64),
  description VARCHAR(256)

If the database engine supports it, the id column of the employees table can be an UUID as well.

Running the ActiveRecord Compiler with the above XML file (sample.xml) with the following statement:

$ arc sample.xml

will create the following files in the current working directory:


The generated classes are derived from the Poco::ActiveRecord::ActiveRecord class template and have accessor methods for all properties defined in the XML file, as well as methods for creating, updating and deleting instances in the database.

ActiveRecord objects are reference counted, and every generated class contains a Ptr type alias for an appropriate Poco::AutoPtr<>.

The Context

ActiveRecord uses a Context (Poco::ActiveRecord::Context) class to bind objects to a database session (Poco::Data::Session). In addition to the database session, the Context also holds a connector-specific Poco::ActiveRecord::StatementPlaceholderProvider. This class makes sure generated SQL statements have the correct placeholders for the respective database backend. For most database backends, the ? placeholders will be fine, but PostgreSQL has a different placeholder format ($1, $2, etc). The Context's StatementPlaceholderProvider takes care of that.

Every ActiveRecord object must be associated with a Context, before any database operations can take place. Context objects are relatively lightweight, so they can be created whenever needed. Context objects are reference-counted, so a Context object will be kept alive as long as at least one ActiveRecord object still references it.

Creating an Object

The following code snippet shows how to create a new Role object and insert it into the roles table.

Poco::Data::Session session("SQLite", "data.sqlite");
Context::Ptr pContext = new Context(session);

Role::Ptr pDeveloper = new Role;
    .description("Developer role");


As can be seen, setters (name(), description() in this case) can be chained. The create() method will bind the object to a Context and then execute an INSERT statement to insert the object into the roles table.

Finding an Object

The following code snippet shows how to find a Role object by its ID (1).

Poco::Data::Session session("SQLite", "data.sqlite");
Context::Ptr pContext = new Context(session);

Role::Ptr pRole = Role::find(pContext, 1);
    << "name: " << pRole->name() << "\n"
    << "description: " << pRole->description() << std::endl;

Updating an Object

Updating an object involves first updating the respective properties using the setter functions, then calling the update() method. To update an ActiveRecord object, the object must already be bound to a Context. Objects returned from find(), or from a query will already be bound to a Context. Note that the following snippets will omit the session and context setup code.

Role::Ptr pRole = Role::find(pContext, 1);
pRole->description("New developer role");

Deleting an Object

An object bound to a Context can be deleted by calling the remove() method.

Role::Ptr pRole = Role::find(pContext, 1);


Finding objects by their IDs alone is fine if the respective IDs are already known. However, in most cases, ActiveRecord objects will be obtained by executing a query. To do that, the ActiveRecord framework provides the Poco::ActiveRecord::Query class template. The Query template must be instantiated with the class of the resulting objects. The Query class will generate a SELECT statement. Query parameters can be specified via data binding. The ? placeholder can be used regardless of the underlying database backend. The Query class will replace it with the appropriate placeholder for the backend. Actual query parameters are bound with the bind() method. The query is then executed by calling the execute() method.

The result of a Query is a std::vector containing pointers (Poco::AutoPtr) to returned objects.

Poco::ActiveRecord::Query<Role> query(pContext);
const auto result = query
    .where("name = ?")
for (const auto& pRole: result)
    std::cout << pRole->description() << std::endl;

The argument to the where() method can be any SQL WHERE clause. Please note that you must use column names from the actual database tables in the WHERE clause, not property names.


The results of a Query can be ordered, by calling the orderBy() method. Note that the argument to orderBy must be the actual column name in the table, not the property name of the object. The column name can be followed by ASC or DESC to specify the direction.

Poco::ActiveRecord::Query<Role> query(pContext);
const auto result = query
    .where("name = ?")
    .orderBy("name ASC")
for (const auto& pRole: result)
    std::cout << pRole->description() << std::endl;


The result of a query can be paged, by specifying an offset and a limit. The offset specifies the index of the first result to be returned, the limit specifies the maximum number of objects returned.

To retrieve all roles, split up into pages of 10 roles, the following code could be used:

std::size_t offset = 0;
const std::size_t pageSize = 10;
Poco::ActiveRecord::Query<Role> query(pContext);
bool done = false;
while (!done)
    const auto result = query

    offset += result.size();
    done = result.empty();

    for (const auto& pRole: result)
        // ...


In order to re-execute a Query, the reset() method must be called first, as is shown above at the end of the while loop.

Filtering Results

In addition to filtering results with a WHERE clause, it's also possible to filter results with a lambda expression. While WHERE is evaluated in the database engine, and therefore much more efficient, the filter() method allows some additional flexibility.

Poco::ActiveRecord::Query<Role> query(pContext);
    [](const Role& role)
        return role.name() == "Senior Developer";

const auto result = query.execute();

The lambda expression is passed a const reference to an ActiveRecord object and must return a bool. If true is returned, the object is included in the result, otherwise not.


Relations (defined in the XML file as properties with a references attribute) can be accessed via two kinds accessor methods. The first accepts an ActiveObject::Ptr as parameter or returns it, the second kind takes a key as parameter or returns it. Accessors that take a key/ID value instead of an ActiveRecord have their method name suffixed with ID.

In the following sample, the role property is set with the key value, whereas the manager property is set via the ActiveRecord object.

Employee::Ptr pManager = new Employee;
pManager->name("Bill Lumbergh").ssn("23452343").roleID(3);

Employee::Ptr pEmployee = new Employee;
pEmployee->name("Michael Bolton").ssn("123987123").roleID(2).manager(pManager);

Auto-Increment Keys and Auto-Generated UUIDs on Insert

ActiveRecord supports auto-incrementing keys when inserting an ActiveRecord. T o enable this feature, the autoIncrementID attribute in the class element needs to be set to true. When inserting such an ActiveRecord object, after executing the INSERT statement, the actual value of the key will be obtained from the database. This is currently implemented for SQLite, MySQL/MariaDB and PostgreSQL, using appropriate database-specific mechanisms.

When inserting an ActiveRecord with an all-null UUID, a random UUID will be generated before executing the INSERT statement.

Keyless Active Records

It is possible to define classes without an ID or primary key property. For these objects, no find() method will be generated, and updating these objects is also not possible (update() will throw a Poco::NotImplementedException).

Keyless ActiveRecord objects can be retrieved by executing a Poco::ActiveRecord::Query.

Compiler XML Reference

Supported Data Types

The following data types can be specified for properties in the type attribute and are mapped to the indicated C++ types.

Type in XML     C++ Type
bool            bool
char            char
int8            Poco::Int8
uint8           Poco::UInt8
int16           Poco::Int16
uint16          Poco::UInt16
int32           Poco::Int32
uint32          Poco::UInt32
int64           Poco::Int64
uint64          Poco::UInt64
float           float
double          double
dateTime        Poco::DateTime
timestamp       Poco::Timestamp
time            Poco::Data::Time
date            Poco::Data::Date
uuid            Poco::UUID
string          std::string

Note: When creating the underlying database schema, it's the developer's responsibility to use a database-specific column type compatible with the data type specified in the XML.

Elements and Attributes

The project Element

The project element must be the root element in the XML file. The project element accepts the following attributes:

  • namespace: Specifies the C++ namespace for the generated classes. A multi-level namespace can be specified, e.g. "MyProject::Data".
  • convertCamelCase: If set to true, property and class names specified in camel case (e.g., firstName) will be converted to snake case (first_name) to identify the respective column or table. Defaults to false.

The class Element

The class element must be inside of a project element and accepts the following attributes:

  • name: Specifies the name of the class. Must be a valid C++ class name. Required.
  • table: Specifies the name of the related database table. If not specified, the table name will be derived from the class name (see the convertCamelCase attribute in the project element).
  • key: Specifies the name of the primary key column. If not specified, defaults to id.
  • autoIncrementID: If set to true, the primary key is considered to be auto-incremented. A new ActiveObject is inserted with a NULL primary key, which causes the database to assign a new key value. The actual key value is then obtained from the database after executing the INSERT statement.

The property Element

The property element must be inside of a class element and accepts the following attributes:

  • name: Specifies the name of the variable, which is also used for the getter and setter methods. Must be a valid C++ variable or method name. Required.
  • column: Specifies the name of the related database column. If not specified, the column name will be derived from the property name (see the convertCamelCase attribute in the project element).
  • type: Specifies the data type of the property. See Supported Data Types for a list of supported values. Required.
  • references: Specifies the name of the target class for a relation. Must be the name of another class defined in the same XML document.
  • cardinality: Specifies the cardinality of the relation. The following values can be specified: ? means zero or one, 1 means exactly one (default). Additionally, * means zero or more and + means one or more, but no accessor is currently generated for the latter two cardinalities.
  • nullable: If set to true, marks the property or column as nullable. In this case, the accessor methods will accept or return a Poco::Nullable<> value.