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  • David M. Chandler

    Web app developer since 1994 and Google Cloud Platform Instructor now residing in Colorado. Besides tech, I enjoy landscape photography and share my work at ColoradoPhoto.gallery.

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Archive for December 11th, 2012

stORM: a lightweight DAO generator for Android SQLite

Posted by David Chandler on December 11, 2012

In my previous blog post on writing a Java annotation processor, I mentioned that I’d been working on a lightweight ORM for Android SQLite. I’m finally ready to offer a preview of project stORM with this caveat: at this stage, it’s more of a DAO (data access object) code generator than a full-fledged ORM. The generated DAO classes offer a simple interface to save and retrieve objects to SQLite without having to write any SQL code; however, stORM doesn’t attempt to offer features of full-fledged ORMs such as lazy loading of an object graph.


stORM is intended as an easy way to create a basic object store with SQLite. It lets you insert, update, delete, and query objects without having to write any SQL. It can persist fields of any primitive or wrapper type, including enums. in addition, for more complex types, you can provide your own custom TypeConverter with @Converter. stORM does not yet support modeling of relations. Support for foreign keys and indexes is planned.

stORM is implemented as a Java annotation processor so it can be used with or without an IDE. To use it, you simply annotate POJO (plain old Java object) classes that you want to persist in a SQLite database and stORM automatically generates a SQLiteOpenHelper class and DAO classes for you.


Here’s an example of stORM usage. The Person class is a POJO with a few String and primitive types (firstName, lastName, weight, and height). Note that it includes an id field of type long. An ID field of type long is required along with corresponding accessor methods. To name the ID field differently, place the @Id annotation on any field of type long.

package com.turbomanage.demo.entity;

import com.turbomanage.storm.api.Entity;

public class Person {

	private long id;
	private String firstName, lastName;
	private int weight;
	private double height;

	// accessor methods omitted

The Person class is annotated with @Entity, which enables the annotation processor to generate a corresponding DAO class. To insert a new Person in the database, we simply use the generated DAO class. The DAO package name is derived by appending “.dao” to your entity package, and the DAO classname is the entity classname + “Dao”.

import com.turbomanage.demo.entity.dao.PersonDao;
PersonDao dao = new PersonDao(getContext());
Person newPerson = new Person();
// insert
long newPersonId = dao.insert(newPerson);
// query by example
Person examplePerson = new Person();
List allDavids = dao.listByExample(examplePerson);

The insert() method returns the id of the newly inserted row. In addition, the id field of the Person object is populated with this value.

The DAO’s listByExample() method is the simplest way to do a query. It lets you retrieve all rows matching the fields of an example object with non-default values. There is also a filter() method which lets you specify conditions directly.


To get started with stORM:

  1. Download the storm-api and storm-apt jars from storm-gen.googlecode.com.
  2. Add storm-api.jar to your project’s libs/ folder. This contains the stORM annotations and runtime.
  3. Add storm-apt.jar to your project’s annotation factory class path. In Eclipse, you can find this under project properties | Java Compiler | Annotation Processing | Factory Path. The apt jar contains the annotation processor which inspects your project’s source code and generates the required database classes.
Eclipse properties dialog

Add storm-apt.jar to your project’s annotation factory classpath in Eclipse.


Once you’ve added the jars to your project, it’s easy to use stORM. You just need a DatabaseHelper class annotated with @Database and one or more POJO classes annotated with @Entity.

  1. Create a new class that extends DatabaseHelper.
  2. Add @Database and supply a database name and version.
  3. Override getUpgradeStrategy() to choose one of the available strategies (DROP_CREATE for new projects).
  4. Create a POJO class you want to persist to the database.
  5. Make sure it has a field of type long named “id” or annotated with @Id.
  6. Add the @Entity annotation to the class.

Following these steps, you’ll see 3 generated classes under .apt_generated (you might need to unfilter hidden resources in the Eclipse Project Explorer to see it):

  • a DbFactory class. This provides a singleton instance of your DatabaseHelper class (which in turn extends SQLiteOpenHelper). Having only one instance of SQLiteOpenHelper ensures that SQLite’s own threadsafe mechanisms work as intended.
  • a DAO class for each entity. This extends SQLiteDao and mainly supplies the necessary type parameter to the base class.
  • a Table class for each entity. This contains the generated code to convert an entity instance to and from a SQL row.

You can use the DAO simply by creating a new instance. You must pass it the application context as this is required by the underlying SQLiteOpenHelper.

PersonDao dao = new PersonDao(getContext());

The DAO constructor obtains the singleton instance of your DatabaseHelper class from the generated factory class. Because of this, it’s safe to create new DAO instances anywhere you need them. You can now invoke any of the public methods on the DAO, such as insert(), update(), and listAll(). There are also listByExample() and getByExample() methods that build a query from an example object.

You can also use the FilterBuilder API (still under contruction) to run a query like this:

List<Person> allDavids = dao.filter().eq(Columns.FIRSTNAME, "David").list();

Version upgrades

One of the more challenging aspects of using SQLite can be upgrading your app’s database schema with new versions. stORM makes this easier by providing several upgrade strategies which you can choose in your DatabaseHelper class:

  • DROP_CREATE will drop all tables and create the database again using the new schema implied by your new entity definitions. This will destroy all data in the database, so should only be used in testing, not after your app is in production.
  • BACKUP_RESTORE will first backup the database to CSV files, then drop and recreate the database, and finally restore all the data from the backup CSV files. Any new fields (columns) in your entities will receive default values, and dropped columns will simply disappear. It is not yet possible to rename a field or change the field type.
  • UPGRADE lets you implement your own strategy (probably an ALTER TABLE statement) by overriding the onUpgrade() method in the DatabaseHelper class.

Dump to CSV

Finally, stORM can automatically backup your database to CSV files and restore it from the same. This is used by the BACKUP_RESTORE UpgradeStrategy. You can also manually dump to CSV or restore from CSV by calling methods directly on your DatabaseHelper class. Example:


You can browse the CSV files using adb shell under /data/data/your_app_package/files. Be aware that any byte[] fields are Base64 encoded, and fields of type double are encoded using their exact hex representation. See the code in BlobConverter.fromString() and DoubleConverter.fromString() if you want to read and parse these values independently of stORM.

Coming soon: ContentProvider

Another pain point for many developers is creating a ContentProvider. Stay tuned for a way to generate ContentProvider contract stubs and implementations also.

Source code


The issue tracker is open…


Posted in Android | 37 Comments »

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