In classes that mixin the Neo4j::ActiveNode or Neo4j::ActiveRel modules, properties must be declared using the property class method. It requires a single argument, a symbol that will correspond with the getter and setter as well as the property in the database.

class Post
  include Neo4j::ActiveNode

  property :title

Two options are also available to both node and relationship models. They are:

  • type, to specify the expected class of the stored value in Ruby
  • default, a default value to set when the property is nil

Finally, you can serialize properties as JSON with the serialize class method.

In practice, you can put it all together like this:

class Post
  include Neo4j::ActiveNode

  property :title, type: String, default: 'This ia new post'
  property :links

  serialize :links

You will now be able to set the title property through mass-assignment ( 'My Title')) or by calling the title= method. You can also give a hash of links ({ homepage: '', twitter: '' }) to the links property and it will be saved as JSON to the db.


The ActiveNode and ActiveRel modules in the neo4j gem are based off of ActiveModel. Because of this you can use any validations defined by ActiveModel as well as create your own in the same style. For the best documentation on validations, see the Active Record Validations page. The neo4j gem isn’t based off of ActiveRecord aside from being inspired by it, but they both use ActiveModel under the covers.

One validation to note in particular is validates_uniqueness_of. Whereas most validations work only on the model in memory, this validation requires connecting to the database. The neo4j gem implements it’s own version of validates_uniqueness_of for Neo4j.

Undeclared Properties

Neo4j, being schemaless as far as the database is concerned, does not require that property keys be defined ahead of time. As a result, it’s possible (and sometimes desirable) to set properties on the node that are not also defined on the database. By including the module Neo4j::UndeclaredProperties no exceptions will be thrown if unknown attributes are passed to selected methods.

class Post
  include Neo4j::ActiveNode
  include Neo4j::UndeclaredProperties

  property :title

Post.create(title: 'My Post', secret_val: 123)
post = Post.first
post.secret_val #=> NoMethodError: undefined method `secret_val`
post[:secret_val] #=> 123...

In this case, simply adding the secret_val property to your model will make it available through the secret_val method. The module supports undeclared properties in the following methods: new, create, [], []=, update_attribute, update_attribute!, update_attributes and their corresponding aliases.

Types and Conversion

The type option has some interesting qualities that are worth being aware of when developing. It defines the type of object that you expect when returning the value to Ruby, _not_ the type that will be stored in the database. There are a few types available by default.

  • String
  • Integer
  • BigDecimal
  • Date
  • Time
  • DateTime
  • Boolean (TrueClass or FalseClass)

Declaring a type is not necessary and, in some cases, is better for performance. You should omit a type declaration if you are confident in the consistency of data going to/from the database.

class Post
  include Neo4j::ActiveNode

  property :score, type: Integer
  property :created_at, type: DateTime

In this model, the score property’s type will ensure that String interpretations of numbers are always converted to Integer when you return the property in Ruby. As an added bonus, it will convert before saving to the database because Neo4j is capable of storing Ints natively, so you won’t have to convert every time. DateTimes, however, are a different beast, because Neo4j cannot handle Ruby’s native formats. To work around this, type converter knows to change the DateTime object into an Integer before saving and then, when loading the node, it will convert the Integer back into a DateTime.

This magic comes with a cost. DateTime conversion in particular is expensive and if you are obsessed with speed, you’ll find that it slows you down. A tip for those users is to set your timestamps to type: Integer and you will end up with Unix timestamps that you can manipulate if/when you need them in friendlier formats.

Custom Converters

It is possible to define custom converters for types not handled natively by the gem.

class RangeConverter
  class << self
    def primitive_type

    def convert_type

    def to_db(value)

    def to_ruby(value)
      ends = value.to_s.split('..').map { |d| Integer(d) }
    alias_method :call, :to_ruby

  include Neo4j::Shared::Typecaster

This would allow you to use property :my_prop, type: Range in a model. Each method and the alias_method call is required. Make sure the module inclusion happens at the end of the file.

primitive_type is used to fool ActiveAttr’s type converters, which only recognize a few basic Ruby classes.

convert_type must match the constant given to the type option.

to_db provides logic required to transform your value into the class defined by primitive_type. It will store the object in the database as this type.

to_ruby provides logic to transform the DB-provided value back into the class expected by code using the property. It shuld return an object of the type set in convert_type.

Note the alias_method to make to_ruby respond to call. This is to provide compatibility with the ActiveAttr dependency.

An optional method, converted?(value) can be defined. This should return a boolean indicating whether a value is already of the expected type for Neo4j.