How to simplify SQLite operations by GreenDAO ORM Android 09.03.2017

There are several ways to persist data on Android

In this tutorial you will learn how to use SQLite database easier and simplifying the database-related boilerplate code to a minimum and abstracting the relational database operations with GreenDAO.

GreenDAO is an object/relational mapping (ORM) tool for Android. To start using it in your project, all you have to do is to define your data model. GreenDAO then generates all the DAOs (Data Access Object) and database helper classes automatically for you.

How to simplify SQLite operations by GreenDAO ORM

You don’t actually need to bother how to populate the database and how the relations work, because GreenDAO handles it for you. All you need to know is what you want to keep in your DB.

GreenDAO is one of the many existing Android ORM database libraries. The main advantage of GreenDAO over other Android ORM database libraries, is its high performance. According to their report, GreenDAO outperforms all the other compared ORM libraries.

GreenDAO's features at a glance

  • Maximum performance (probably the fastest ORM for Android).
  • Easy to use powerful APIs covering relations and joins.
  • Minimal memory consumption.
  • Small library size (<100KB) to keep your build times low and to avoid the 65k method limit.
  • Database encryption: GreenDAO supports SQLCipher to keep your user’s data safe.
  • Strong community: More than 5.000 GitHub stars show there is a strong and active community.

In order to use GreenDAO in your Android project, you need to add the GreenDAO Gradle plugin and add the GreenDAO library.

Add following snippet to Gradle project

buildscript {
    repositories {
    dependencies {
        classpath 'org.greenrobot:greendao-gradle-plugin:3.2.1'

Add following snippet to Gradle module

apply plugin: ''
apply plugin: 'org.greenrobot.greendao'

android {

greendao {
    schemaVersion 1

dependencies {
    compile 'org.greenrobot:greendao:3.2.0'

The following core classes are the essential interface to GreenDAO

  • DaoMaster. The entry point for using GreenDAO. DaoMaster holds the database object (SQLiteDatabase) and manages DAO classes (not objects) for a specific schema. It has static methods to create the tables or drop them. Its inner classes OpenHelper and DevOpenHelper are SQLiteOpenHelper implementations that create the schema in the SQLite database.
  • DaoSession. Manages all available DAO objects for a specific schema, which you can acquire using one of the getter methods. DaoSession provides also some generic persistence methods like insert, load, update, refresh and delete for entities. Lastly, a DaoSession objects also keeps track of an identity scope. For more details, have a look at the session documentation.
  • DAOs. Data access objects (DAOs) persists and queries for entities. For each entity, GreenDAO generates a DAO. It has more persistence methods than DaoSession, for example: count, loadAll, and insertInTx.
  • Entities. Persistable objects. Usually, entities are objects representing a database row using standard Java properties (like a POJO or a JavaBean).

Let’s have a look now on how to create a model class (Entities) to be used with GreenDAO. In our example, we want to store information about movies such as their title, their year of release and a list of their actors. Therefore, we create two data model classes: Movie and Actor. Each class has to be annotated by the @Entity annotation for GreenDAO to recognize it.


public class Movie {
    private Long id;

    private String title;

    private int year;

    @ToMany(referencedJoinProperty = "movieId")
    private List<Actor> actors;


public class Actor {
    private Long id;

    private String firstName;
    private String lastName;

    @Index(name = "AGE_IDX")
    private int age;

    private Long movieId;

To explain some of the annotations used

  • @Id selects a long/Long property as the entity ID and a primary key.
  • @Property allows to redefine the default column name for the property (by default it is transformed e.g. from yearOfRelease to YEAR_OF_RELEASE).
  • @NotNull adds a NOT NULL constrain to the database column (useful for primitive data types).
  • @Transient marks the property to be excluded from the database (e.g. for temporary data).
  • @Index create an index on the property.

To define relations between tables/model classes, annotations @ToOne and @ToMany can be used. You just need to specify the joinProperty or referencedJoinProperty respectively.

In order to be able to work with the database objects, the datamodel module has to be compiled first. Press Ctrl + F9 or select Build > Make Project. By doing that, all the DAO classes and helper classes get created.

Let's initialize DaoMaster and DaoSession as singleton.

public class MyApplication extends Application {
    private DaoSession daoSession;

    public void onCreate() {
        DaoMaster.DevOpenHelper helper = new DaoMaster.DevOpenHelper(this, "movies");
        Database db = helper.getWritableDb();
        daoSession = new DaoMaster(db).newSession();

    public DaoSession getDaoSession() {
        return daoSession;

And add correct application tag in AndroidManifest.xml


After that, operations of inser, list, delete into the database is very simple:

public class MainActivity extends AppCompatActivity {
    long movieNum = 0, actorNum = 0;
    DaoSession daoSession;

    protected void onCreate(Bundle savedInstanceState) {

        daoSession = ((MyApplication)getApplication()).getDaoSession();

    public void createMovie(View v) {
        // create Movie object
        movieNum += 1;
        Movie movie1 = new Movie(null, "Movie" + String.valueOf(movieNum));
        long movieID = daoSession.getMovieDao().insert(movie1);

        // create Actor objects
        List<Actor> actors = new ArrayList<>(2);
        actorNum += 1;
        Actor actor1 = new Actor(null, "Name " + String.valueOf(actorNum), 
                 "LastName " + String.valueOf(actorNum), 24, movieID);

        actorNum += 1;
        Actor actor2 = new Actor(null, "Name " + String.valueOf(actorNum), 
                 "LastName " + String.valueOf(actorNum), 24, movieID);

        // add actors to movie

    public void listMovies(View v) {
        List<Movie> movies = daoSession.getMovieDao().loadAll();
        List<String> actorsList = new ArrayList<>();

        for (Movie m : movies) {
            for (Actor a : m.getActors()) {
                actorsList.add(a.getFirstName() + " " + a.getLastName());
            String actors = TextUtils.join(", ", actorsList);
            Log.d("TAG", String.format("%s (%s)", m.getTitle(), actors));

    public void deleteMovies(View v) {

Querying the database is made simple with the QueryBuilder. An example shows creating a query using join for get only Movie objects with Actor with age bigger than 20.

QueryBuilder<Movie> queryBuilder = daoSession.getMovieDao().queryBuilder();
queryBuilder.join(Actor.class, ActorDao.Properties.MovieId)
List<Movie> joined = queryBuilder.list();

An example shows how to select Movie object and update value

Movie movie = daoSession.getMovieDao()
        .queryBuilder().where(MovieDao.Properties.Title.eq("Movie 1"));

movie.setTitle("The Shawshank Redemption");

An example shows how to delete Movie object and related Actor


How to view and edit SQLite database from browser

For this task we'll use Android-Debug-Database. Android Debug Database is a powerful library for debugging databases and shared preferences in Android applications.

What can Android Debug Database do?

  • See all the databases.
  • See all the data in the shared preferences used in your application.
  • Run any sql query on the given database to update and delete your data.
  • Directly edit the database values.
  • Directly edit shared preferences.
  • Delete database rows and shared preferences.
  • Search in your data.
  • Sort data.
  • Download database.

Add this to your app's build.gradle.

debugCompile ''

Use debugCompile so that it will only compile in your debug build and not in your release apk.

That's all, just start the application, you will see in the logcat an entry like follows :

  • D/DebugDB: open http://XXX.XXX.X.XXX:8080 in your browser
  • You can also always get the debug address url from your code by calling the method DebugDB.getAddressLog();

To view data from Android Default Emulator run following commands from terminal

# list devices
adb devices

# forward port
adb -s emulator-5554 forward tcp:8080 tcp:8080

# open in browser
chromium http://localhost:8080