makeAddPgTableOrderByPlugin (graphile-utils v4.4.5+)

WARNING: this plugin generator doesn't currently have any tests, so it's status is experimental. If you can spare the time to write some tests (or sponsor me to do so) then we can promote it to stable.

PostGraphile adds orderBy arguments to various of the table collection fields it builds so that you can control the order in which you receive the results. By default we add the table's columns (or, if --no-ignore-indexes is enabled, only the columns that are indexed) in both ascending and descending order. For example, you could request the list of all forums ordered from newest to oldest:

query ForumsNewestToOldest {
  allForums(orderBy: [CREATED_AT_DESC]) {
    nodes {

Sometimes, however, you want to order by something a little more complex than the fields on that table; maybe you want to order by a field on a related table, or by a computation, or something else.

This plugin generator helps you build new orderBy enum values so that you can sort more flexibly (though you should keep in mind that they are enum values so they cannot accept arguments). Let's make this clearer with an example:


To sort a list of forums (stored in the table app_public.forums) by the date of their latest post (posts are stored in app_public.posts) you might create a plugin like this:

/* TODO: test this plugin works! */
module.exports = makeAddPgTableOrderByPlugin(
  ({ pgSql: sql }) => {
    const sqlIdentifier = sql.identifier(Symbol("lastPostInForum"));
    return orderByAscDesc(
      ({ queryBuilder }) => sql.fragment`(
        select ${sqlIdentifier}.created_at
        from app_public.posts as ${sqlIdentifier}
        where ${sqlIdentifier}.forum_id = ${queryBuilder.getTableAlias()}.id
        order by ${sqlIdentifier}.created_at desc
        limit 1

(Note: we used the orderByAscDesc helper to easily create the _ASC and _DESC variants without needing redundant code.)

The above plugin adds the LAST_POST_CREATED_AT_ASC and LAST_POST_CREATED_AT_DESC enum values to the ForumOrderBy enum, so you can now order forums by these values from another table, e.g.:

query ForumsOrderedByMostRecentPost {
  allForums(orderBy: [LAST_POST_CREATED_AT_DESC]) {
    nodes {

Function signature


The signature of the makeAddPgTableOrderByPlugin function is:

function makeAddPgTableOrderByPlugin(
  schemaName: string,
  tableName: string,
  ordersGenerator: (build: Build) => MakeAddPgTableOrderByPluginOrders,
  hint = `Adding orders with makeAddPgTableOrderByPlugin to "${schemaName}"."${tableName}"`
): Plugin;

interface MakeAddPgTableOrderByPluginOrders {
  [orderByEnumValue: string]: {
    value: {
      alias?: string;
      specs: Array<OrderSpec>;
      unique: boolean;

type OrderSpec = [string | SQL, boolean] | [string | SQL, boolean, boolean];

The OrderSpec here is a 2- or 3-tuple, with the following entries:

  1. the first entry (string | SQL) is the value to order by; if a string then it's assumed to be a column from the table, otherwise it must be an SQL fragment from pg-sql2.
  2. whether the order should be ascending (true) or descending (false).
  3. whether nulls appear before or after non-null values in the sort ordering. Pass true for nulls first, false for nulls last, and nothing/null for default behaviour.

The unique key specifies whether the order is unique (true) or not (false) ─ if in doubt, pass false and PostGraphile will make it unique by adding the primary key as the last sort field invisibly.

MakeAddPgTableOrderByPluginOrders is a hash (POJO ─ plain old JavaScript object) which maps from the name of the enum value to a GraphQLEnumValueConfig spec. We have a defined format for the value of an orderBy enum as shown above. In addition to the value entry detailed above, you could also provide a description or deprecationReason (both strings).


We also expose the orderByAscDesc helper which makes it easier to build the _ASC and _DESC orders which are typically identical except for name and reversed sort:

export function orderByAscDesc(
  baseName: string,
  columnOrSqlFragment: string | SQL,
  uniqueOrOptions: boolean | OrderByAscDescOptions = false
): MakeAddPgTableOrderByPluginOrders;

The baseName will have _ASC and _DESC appended for the two enum values this function creates.

columnOrSqlFragment is where the order value is specified, it becomes the first entry in the OrderSpec tuple defined above.

uniqueOrOptions define 1) whether the sort order is unique, and 2) how to sort null values when sorting by ascending and descending order. Only set uniqueOrOptions (or unique) to true if you can guarantee that the sort order is unique.

As of v4.12, you can also customize how nulls are sorted:

export type NullsSortMethod =
  | "first"
  | "last"
  | "first-iff-ascending"
  | "last-iff-ascending"
  | undefined;

export interface OrderByAscDescOptions {
  unique?: boolean;
  nulls?: NullsSortMethod;

The nulls option extends the ORDER BY clause of the SQL query with either NULLS FIRST or NULLS LAST according to the following rules:

  • "first": specify NULLS FIRST for both ascending and descending;
  • "last": specify NULLS LAST for both ascending and descending;
  • "first-iff-ascending": specify NULLS FIRST when ordering by ascending, and NULLS LAST when ordering by descending;
  • "last-iff-ascending": specify NULLS LAST when ordering by ascending, and NULLS FIRST when ordering by descending;
  • (default) undefined: omit both NULLS FIRST and NULLS LAST in the order by clause for both ascending and descending, thus using the default ordering behavior.

For example, you may wish to create a plugin to sort movies by either top-rated or lowest-rated first (meaning the average of the movie's reviews):

const customOrderBy = orderByAscDesc(
  helpers => {
    const { queryBuilder } = helpers;

    const orderByFrag = sql.fragment`(
      select avg(${sqlIdentifier}.rating)
      from app_public.movie_reviews as ${sqlIdentifier}
      where ${sqlIdentifier}.movie_id = ${queryBuilder.getTableAlias()}.id

    return orderByFrag;
  { nulls: "last" }

To get the top-rated movies, one would then use the RATING_DESC option in the GraphQL query. However, by default, RATING_DESC would put movies with no reviews (and thus an average of null) first, followed by the sorted movies. A movie with no ratings is not exactly what one thinks of when one hears "top-rated"! By specifying { nulls: 'last' }, however, PostGraphile knows that this orderBy plugin should still show the movies without any reviews, but just put them at the end of the list.