MongoDB::DataTypes - The data types used with MongoDB


version 0.703_2


This goes over the types you can save to the database and use for queries in the Perl driver. If you are using another language, please refer to that language's documentation (


You must query for data using the correct type.

For example, it is perfectly valid to have some records where the field "foo" is 123 (integer) and other records where "foo" is "123" (string). Thus, you must query for the correct type. If you save {"foo" => "123"}, you cannot query for it with {"foo" => 123}. MongoDB is strict about types.

If the type of a field is ambiguous and important to your application, you should document what you expect the application to send to the database and convert your data to those types before sending. There are some object-document mappers that will enforce certain types for certain fields for you.

You generally shouldn't save numbers as strings, as they will behave like strings (e.g., range queries won't work correctly) and the data will take up more space. If you set "looks_like_number" in MongoDB::BSON, the driver will automatically convert everything that looks like a number to a number before sending it to the database.

Numbers are the only exception to the strict typing: all number types stored by MongoDB (32-bit integers, 64-bit integers, 64-bit floating point numbers) will match each other.



By default, numbers with a decimal point will be saved as doubles (64-bit).

32-bit Platforms

Numbers without decimal points will be saved as 32-bit integers. To save a number as a 64-bit integer, use bigint:

    use bigint;

    $collection->insert({"user_id" => 28347197234178})

The driver will die if you try to insert a number beyond the signed 64-bit range: -9,223,372,036,854,775,808 to +9,223,372,036,854,775,807.

Numbers that are saved as 64-bit integers will be decoded as doubles.

64-bit Platforms

Numbers without a decimal point will be saved and returned as 64-bit integers. Note that there is no way to save a 32-bit int on a 64-bit machine.

Keep in mind that this can cause some weirdness to ensue if some machines are 32-bit and others are 64-bit. Take the following example:

  • Programmer 1 saves an int on a 32-bit platform.

  • Programmer 2 retrieves the document on a 64-bit platform and re-saves it, effectively converting it to a 64-bit int.

  • Programmer 1 retrieves the document on their 32-bit machine, which decodes the 64-bit int as a double.

Nothing drastic, but good to be aware of.

64-bit integers in the shell

The Mongo shell has one numeric type: the 8-byte float. This means that it cannot always represent an 8-byte integer exactly. Thus, when you display a 64-bit integer in the shell, it will be wrapped in a subobject that indicates it might be an approximate value. For instance, if we run this Perl on a 64-bit machine:

    $coll->insert({_id => 1});

then look at it in the shell, we see:

    > db.whatever.findOne()
        "_id" :
                "floatApprox" : 1

This doesn't mean that we saved a float, it just means that the float value of a 64-bit integer may not be exact.

Dealing with numbers and strings in Perl

Perl is very flexible about whether something is number or a string: it generally infers the type from context. Unfortunately, the driver doesn't have any context when it has to choose how to serialize a variable. Therefore, the default behavior is to introspect the flags that are set on that variable and decide what the user meant, which are generally affected by the last operation.

    my $var = "4";
    # stored as the string "4"
    $collection->insert({myVar => $var});

    $var = int($var) if (int($var) eq $var);
    # stored as the int 4
    $collection->insert({myVar => $var});

Because of this, users often find that they end up with more strings than they wanted in their database.

If you would like to have everything that looks like a number saved as a number, set the "looks_like_number" in MongoDB::BSON option.

    $MongoDB::BSON::looks_like_number = 1;

    my $var = "4";
    # stored as the int 4
    $collection->insert({myVar => $var});

This will send anything that "looks like" a number as a number. It can recognize anything that Scalar::Util's looks_like_number function can recognize.

On the other hand, sometimes there is data that looks like a number but should be saved as a string. For example, suppose we were storing zip codes. If we wanted to generally convert strings to numbers, we might have something like:

    $MongoDB::BSON::looks_like_number = 1;

    # zip is stored as an int: 4101
    $collection->insert({city => "Portland", "zip" => "04101"});

To force a "number" to be saved as a string with aggressive number conversion on, bless the string as a MongoDB::BSON::String type:

    my $z = "04101";
    my $zip = bless(\$z, "MongoDB::BSON::String");

    # zip is stored as "04101"
    $collection->insert({city => "Portland",
        zip => bless(\$zip, "MongoDB::BSON::String")});

Additionally, there are two utility functions, force_int and c<force_double>, to explicitly set Perl's internal type flags to Integer (IV) and Double (NV) respectively, thus triggering MongoDB's recognition of the values as Int32/Int64 (depending on the platform) or Double:

    my $x = 1.0;
    $coll->insert({x => $x}); # Inserts an integer

    $coll->insert({x => $x}); # Inserts a double


All strings must be valid UTF-8 to be sent to the database. If a string is not valid, it will not be saved. If you need to save a non-UTF-8 string, you can save it as a binary blob (see the Binary Data section below).

All strings returned from the database have the UTF-8 flag set.

Unfortunately, due to Perl weirdness, UTF-8 is not very pretty. For example, suppose we have a UTF-8 string:

    my $str = 'Åland Islands';

Now, let's print it:

    print "$str\n";

You can see in the output:

    "\x{c5}land Islands"

Lovely, isn't it? This is how Perl prints UTF-8. To make it "pretty," there are a couple options:

    my $pretty_str = utf8::encode($str);

This, unintuitively, clears the UTF-8 flag.

You can also just run

    binmode STDOUT, ':utf8';

and then the string (and all future UTF-8 strings) will print "correctly."

You can also turn off $MongoDB::BSON::utf_flag_on, and the UTF-8 flag will not be set when strings are decoded:

    $MongoDB::BSON::utf8_flag_on = 0;


Arrays must be saved as array references (\@foo, not @foo).

Embedded Documents

Embedded documents are of the same form as top-level documents: either hash references or Tie::IxHashs.


The DateTime or DateTime::Tiny packages can be used to insert and query for dates. Dates stored in the database will be returned as instances of one of these classes, depending on the dt_type setting of the connection:

    $conn->dt_type( 'DateTime::Tiny' );

An example of storing and retrieving a date:

    use DateTime;

    my $now = DateTime->now;
    $collection->insert({'ts' => $now});

    my $obj = $collection->find_one;
    print "Today is ".$obj->{'ts'}->ymd."\n";

An example of querying for a range of dates:

    my $start = DateTime->from_epoch( epoch => 100000 );
    my $end = DateTime->from_epoch( epoch => 500000 );

    my $cursor = $collection->query({event => {'$gt' => $start, '$lt' => $end}});

Warning: creating Perl DateTime objects is extremely slow. Consider saving dates as numbers or DateTime::Tiny objects and converting the numbers to DateTimes only when needed. A single DateTime field can make deserialization up to 10 times slower.

For example, you could use the time function to store seconds since the epoch:

    $collection->update($criteria, {'$set' => {"last modified" => time()}})

This will be faster to deserialize.

Note that (at least, as of DateTime::Tiny version 1.04) there is no time-zone attribute for DateTime::Tiny objects. We therefore consider all such times to be in the UTC time zone. Likewise, DateTime::Tiny has no notion of milliseconds (yet?), so the milliseconds portion of the datetime will be set to zero.

Regular Expressions

Use qr/.../ to use a regular expression in a query:

    my $cursor = $collection->query({"name" => qr/[Jj]oh?n/});

Regular expressions will match strings saved in the database.

You can also save and retrieve regular expressions themselves:

    $collection->insert({"regex" => qr/foo/i});
    $obj = $collection->find_one;
    if ("FOO" =~ $obj->{'regex'}) { # matches
        print "hooray\n";

Note for Perl 5.8 users: flags are lost when regular expressions are retrieved from the database (this does not affect queries or Perl 5.10+).


Use the boolean package to get boolean values. boolean::true and boolean::false are the only parts of the package used, currently.

An example of inserting boolean values:

    use boolean;

    $collection->insert({"okay" => true, "name" => "fred"});

An example using boolean values for query operators (only returns documents where the name field exists):

    my $cursor = $collection->query({"name" => {'$exists' => boolean::true}});

Most of the time, you can just use 1 or 0 instead of true and false, such as for specifying fields to return. boolean is the only way to save booleans to the database, though.

By default, booleans are returned from the database as integers. To return booleans as booleans, set $MongoDB::BSON::use_boolean to 1.


"OID" stands for "Object ID", and is a unique id that is automatically added to documents if they do not already have an _id field before they are saved to the database. They are 12 bytes which are guarenteed to be unique. Their string form is a 24-character string of hexidecimal digits.

To create a unique id:

    my $oid = MongoDB::OID->new;

To create a MongoDB::OID from an existing 24-character hexidecimal string:

    my $oid = MongoDB::OID->new("value" => "123456789012345678901234");

Binary Data

By default, all database strings are UTF8. To save images, binaries, and other non-UTF8 data, you need to store it as binary data. There are two ways to do this.

String Refs

In general, you can pass the string as a reference. For example:

    # non-utf8 string
    my $string = "\xFF\xFE\xFF";

    $collection->insert({"photo" => \$string});

This will save the variable as binary data, bypassing the UTF8 check.

Binary data can be matched exactly by the database, so this query will match the object we inserted above:

    $collection->find({"photo" => \$string});

MongoDB::BSON::Binary type

You can also use the MongoDB::BSON::Binary class. This allows you to preserve the subtype of your data. Binary data in MongoDB stores a "type" field, which can be any integer between 0 and 255. Identical data will only match if the subtype is the same.

Perl uses the default subtype of SUBTYPE_GENERIC.

The driver defaults to returning binary data as strings, not instances of MongoDB::BSON::Binary (or even string references) for backwards compatibility reasons. If you need to round-trip binary data, set the MongoDB::BSON::use_binary flag:

    $MongoDB::BSON::use_binary = 1;

Comparisons (e.g., $gt, $lt) may not work as you expect with binary data, so it is worth experimenting.


MongoDB::Code is used to represent JavaScript code and, optionally, scope. To create one:

    use MongoDB::Code;

    my $code = MongoDB::Code->new("code" => "function() { return 'hello, world'; }");

Or, with a scope:

    my $code = MongoDB::Code->new("code" => "function() { return 'hello, '+name; }",
        "scope" => {"name" => "Fred"});

Which would then return "hello, Fred" when run.


MongoDB::MinKey is "less than" any other value of any type. This can be useful for always returning certain documents first (or last).

MongoDB::MinKey has no methods, fields, or string form. To create one, it is sufficient to say:

    bless $minKey, "MongoDB::MinKey";


MongoDB::MaxKey is "greater than" any other value of any type. This can be useful for always returning certain documents last (or first).

MongoDB::MaxKey has no methods, fields, or string form. To create one, it is sufficient to say:

    bless $minKey, "MongoDB::MaxKey";


    my $ts = MongoDB::Timestamp->new({sec => $seconds, inc => $increment});

Timestamps are used internally by MongoDB's replication. You can see them in their natural habitat by querying local.main.$oplog. Each entry looks something like:

    { "ts" : { "t" : 1278872990000, "i" : 1 }, "op" : "n", "ns" : "", "o" : { } }

In the shell, timestamps are shown in milliseconds, although they are stored as seconds. So, to represent this document in Perl, we would do:

    my $oplog = {
        "ts" => MongoDB::Timestamp->new("sec" => 1278872990, "inc" => 1),
        "op" => "n",
        "ns" => "",
        "o" => {}

Timestamps are not dates. You should not use them unless you are doing something low-level with replication. To save dates or times, use a number, DateTime object, or DateTime::Tiny object.


  • Florian Ragwitz <>

  • Kristina Chodorow <>

  • Mike Friedman <>


This software is Copyright (c) 2014 by MongoDB, Inc..

This is free software, licensed under:

  The Apache License, Version 2.0, January 2004

1 POD Error

The following errors were encountered while parsing the POD:

Around line 203:

Non-ASCII character seen before =encoding in ''Åland'. Assuming UTF-8