Chapter 18. Filtering data

NHibernate provides an innovative new approach to handling data with "visibility" rules. A NHibernate filter is a global, named, parameterized filter that may be enabled or disabled for a particular NHibernate session.

18.1. NHibernate filters

NHibernate adds the ability to pre-define filter criteria and attach those filters at both a class and a collection level. A filter criteria is the ability to define a restriction clause very similiar to the existing "where" attribute available on the class and various collection elements. Except these filter conditions can be parameterized. The application can then make the decision at runtime whether given filters should be enabled and what their parameter values should be. Filters can be used like database views, but parameterized inside the application.

In order to use filters, they must first be defined and then attached to the appropriate mapping elements. To define a filter, use the <filter-def/> element within a <hibernate-mapping/> element:

<filter-def name="myFilter">
    <filter-param name="myFilterParam" type="String"/>

Then, this filter can be attached to a class:

<class name="MyClass" ...>
    <filter name="myFilter" condition=":myFilterParam = MY_FILTERED_COLUMN"/>

or, to a collection:

<set ...>
    <filter name="myFilter" condition=":myFilterParam = MY_FILTERED_COLUMN"/>

or, even to both (or multiples of each) at the same time.

The methods on ISession are: EnableFilter(string filterName), GetEnabledFilter(string filterName), and DisableFilter(string filterName). By default, filters are not enabled for a given session; they must be explcitly enabled through use of the ISession.EnableFilter() method, which returns an instance of the IFilter interface. Using the simple filter defined above, this would look like:

session.EnableFilter("myFilter").SetParameter("myFilterParam", "some-value");

Note that methods on the NHibernate.IFilter interface do allow the method-chaining common to much of NHibernate.

A full example, using temporal data with an effective record date pattern:

<filter-def name="effectiveDate">
    <filter-param name="asOfDate" type="date"/>

<class name="Employee" ...>
    <many-to-one name="Department" column="dept_id" class="Department"/>
    <property name="EffectiveStartDate" type="date" column="eff_start_dt"/>
    <property name="EffectiveEndDate" type="date" column="eff_end_dt"/>
        Note that this assumes non-terminal records have an eff_end_dt set to
        a max db date for simplicity-sake
    <filter name="effectiveDate"
            condition=":asOfDate BETWEEN eff_start_dt and eff_end_dt"/>

<class name="Department" ...>
    <set name="Employees" lazy="true">
        <key column="dept_id"/>
        <one-to-many class="Employee"/>
        <filter name="effectiveDate"
                condition=":asOfDate BETWEEN eff_start_dt and eff_end_dt"/>

Then, in order to ensure that you always get back currently effective records, simply enable the filter on the session prior to retrieving employee data:

ISession session = ...;
session.EnableFilter("effectiveDate").SetParameter("asOfDate", DateTime.Today);
IList<Employee> results = session.CreateQuery("from Employee as e where e.Salary > :targetSalary")
         .SetInt64("targetSalary", 1000000L)

In the HQL above, even though we only explicitly mentioned a salary constraint on the results, because of the enabled filter the query will return only currently active employees who have a salary greater than a million dollars.

Note: if you plan on using filters with outer joining (either through HQL or load fetching) be careful of the direction of the condition expression. It's safest to set this up for left outer joining; in general, place the parameter first followed by the column name(s) after the operator.

Default all filter definitions are applied to <many-to-one/> and <one-to-one/> elements. You can turn off this behaviour by using use-many-to-one attribute on <filter-def/> element.

<filter-def name="effectiveDate" use-many-to-one="false"/>