JSON Miniquery

A "JSON mini query" is a simple expression that evaluates to true or false for any given JSON value.

It is used in docspell to filter notification events.

The examples shown here assume the JSON at the end of this page.


A json mini query is a sequence of "segments" where each one selects contents from the "current result". The current result is always a list of JSON values and starts out with a single element list containing the given root JSON document.

When the expression is applied, it is read from left to right where each segment is evaluated against the JSON. All results are always aggregated into a single list which is handed to the next segment as input. Each segment of the expression is always applied to every element in the list.

The expression evaluates to true if the final result is non-empty and to false otherwise. So the actual values selected at the and are not really of interest. It only matters if the last result is the empty list or not.

There are the following possible segments:

  • selecting fields: fieldname[,fieldname2,…]
  • selecting specific array elements: (0[,1,…])
  • filter list of nodes against given values: =some-value, !some-value
  • combining the above (sequence, & and |)

Field selection

The simplest segment is just a field name. It looks up the field name in the current JSON result and replaces each element in the result with the value at that field.

query: a
current result: [{"a":1,"b":2}, {"a":5, "b":2}]
next result: [1, 5]

You can select multiple fields at once by separating names by comma. This simply combines all results into a list:

query: a,b
current result: [{"a":1,"b":2}, {"a":5, "b":2}]
next result: [1, 2, 5, 2]

You can use dot-notation combining several field selection segments to select elements deeper in the JSON:

query: a.b.x,y
current result:
  [{"a": {"b": {"x": 1, "y": 2}}, "v": 0},
   {"a": {"b": {"y": 9, "b": 2}}, "z": 0}]
next result: [1, 2, 9]

Array selection

When looking at an array, you can select specific elements by their indexes. To distinguish it from field selection, you must surround it by parens:

query: (0,2)
current result: [[1,2,3,4]]
next result: [1,3]

If you combine field selection and array selection, keep in mind that a previous field selection combines both arrays into one before array selection is used!

query: a(0,2)
current result: [{"a": [10,9,8,7]}, {"a": [1,2,3,4]}]
next result: [10,8]

Matching Values

You can filter elements of the current result based on their value. This only works for primitive elements.

  • equals (case insensitive): =
  • not equals (case insensitive): !

Values can be given either as a simple string or, should it contain whitespace or brackets/parens, you need to enclose it either in single or double quotes. If you want to check for null use the special *null* value.

The match will be applied to all elements in the current result and filters out those that don't match.

query: =blue
current result: ["blue", "green", "red"]
next result: ["blue"]
query: color=blue
current result:
    [{"color": "blue", "count": 2},
     {"color": "blue", "count": 1},
     {"color": "red", "count": 3}]
next result:["blue", "blue"]


The above expressions can be combined by writing one after the other, sequencing them. This has been shown in some examples above. The next segment will be applied to the result of the previous segment. When sequencing field names they must be separated by a dot.

Another form is to combine several expressions using & or |. The results of all sub expressions will be concatenated into a single list. When using &, results are only concatenated if all lists are not empty; otherwise the result is the empty list.

This example filters all count equal to 6 and all name equal to max. Since there are no counts with value 6, the final result is empty.

query: [count=6 & name=max]
current result:
  [{"name":"max", "count":4},
   {"name":"me", "count": 3},
   {"name":"max", "count": 3}
next result: []

Using | for combining lets all the max values through:

query: [count=6 & name=max]
current result:
  [{"name":"max", "count":4},
   {"name":"me", "count": 3},
   {"name":"max", "count": 3}
next result: ["max", "max"]

Example walkthrough

Let's look at an example:

content.added,removed[name=Invoice | category=expense]

Starting out with the root JSON document, a list is created containing it as the only element:

( {"eventType": "TagsChanged", "content: {…}, …} )

Then the field content is selected. This changes the list to contain this sub-document:

( {"account": "demo", "added":[…], "removed":[…], …} )

Then two fields are selected. They both select arrays. Both results are combined into a single list and arrays are flattened. So the result after content.added,removed looks like this:

( {"id":"Fy4…",name="…",category="…"}, {"id":"7zae…",…}, {"id":"GbXg…",…} )

At last, the remaining elements are filtered. It resolve all name fields and keeps only invoice values. It also resolves category and keeps only expense values. Both lists are then concatenated into one. The final result is then ["Invoice", "expense"], which matches the sample json data below.

Sample JSON

Some examples assume the following JSON:

  "eventType": "TagsChanged",
  "account": {
    "collective": "demo",
    "user": "demo",
    "login": "demo"
  "content": {
    "account": "demo",
    "items": [
        "id": "4PvMM4m7Fwj-FsPRGxYt9zZ-uUzi35S2rEX-usyDEVyheR8",
        "name": "MapleSirupLtd_202331.pdf",
        "dateMillis": 1633557740733,
        "date": "2021-10-06",
        "direction": "incoming",
        "state": "confirmed",
        "dueDateMillis": 1639173740733,
        "dueDate": "2021-12-10",
        "source": "webapp",
        "overDue": false,
        "dueIn": "in 3 days",
        "corrOrg": "Acme AG",
        "notes": null
    "added": [
        "id": "Fy4VC6hQwcL-oynrHaJg47D-Q5RiQyB5PQP-N5cFJ368c4N",
        "name": "Invoice",
        "category": "doctype"
        "id": "7zaeU6pqVym-6Je3Q36XNG2-ZdBTFSVwNjc-pJRXciTMP3B",
        "name": "Grocery",
        "category": "expense"
    "removed": [
        "id": "GbXgszdjBt4-zrzuLHoUx7N-RMFatC8CyWt-5dsBCvxaEuW",
        "name": "Receipt",
        "category": "doctype"
    "itemUrl": "http://localhost:7880/app/item"