MongoDB Sort() Method Simplified: A Comprehensive Guide 101

• April 18th, 2022

MongoDB Sort

Databases are the foundation of all digital applications. As a result, it becomes critical to record every minor update in databases to use the information to build mission-critical applications in the future. Any process that involves arranging data into some meaningful information to make it easier to understand, analyze, or visualize is referred to as Data Sorting. When working with data in a Database, sorting is a common method for visualizing data in a way that makes the story the data is telling easier to understand.

Upon a complete walkthrough of this article, you will gain a decent understanding of MongoDB along with its key features. This article will also provide you with a comprehensive guide on the MongoDB Sort() Method and how you can leverage it to sort your data. Read along to learn more about the MongoDB Sort() Method!

Table of Contents

What is MongoDB?

MongoDB Logo
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MongoDB is a well-known Open-Source NoSQL Database written in C++. MongoDB is a Document-oriented database that uses JSON-like documents with a Dynamic Schema to store data. It means that you can store your records without having to worry about the Data Structure, the number of fields or the types of fields used to store values. Documents in MongoDB are similar to JSON objects.

You can change the structure of records (which MongoDB refers to as Documents) by simply adding new fields or deleting existing ones. This feature of MongoDB allows you to easily represent Hierarchical Relationships, Store Arrays, and other more complex Data Structures. Nowadays, many tech giants, including Facebook, eBay, Adobe, and Google, use MongoDB to store their large amounts of data.

Key Features of MongoDB

MongoDB offers a wide range of unique features that make it a better solution in comparison to other conventional databases. Some of these features are discussed below:

  • Schema Less Database: A Schema-Less Database allows various types of Documents to be stored in a single collection(the equivalent of a table). In other words, in the MongoDB database, a single collection can hold multiple Documents, each of which can have a different number of Fields, Content, and Size. It is not necessary for one document to be similar to another which is a prerequisite in Relational Databases. Due to this feature, MongoDB offers great flexibility to the users.
  • Index-based Document: Every field in the Document in a MongoDB database is indexed with Primary and Secondary Indices, which makes it easier to retrieve information from the pool of data. 
  • Scalability: Sharding in MongoDB allows for horizontal scalability. Sharding refers to the process of distributing data across multiple Servers. A large amount of data is partitioned into data chunks using the Shard Key, and these data chunks are evenly distributed across Shards that reside across many Physical Servers.
  • Replication: MongoDB offers high availability of data by creating multiple copies of the data and sending these copies to a different Server so that if one Server fails, the data can still be retrieved from another Server. You can learn more about MongoDB Replication here.

What is Database Sorting?

Sorting a database refers to arranging the records in a specific order in order to make the reported data more usable. You can sort records by selecting a specific field(s) within a record to sort by. An alphabetical sort by the First Name field, for example, will arrange text data in ascending alphabetical (A-Z) order. Database Sorting arranges data in ascending or descending order in relation to data in a specific field. Sorting operations can be performed on a variety of data types, including Strings, Integers, Decimals, and so on.

What is cursor.sort()?

Cursor.sort() can be used to specify the order in which the query returns matching documents. You need to apply sort() to the cursor before obtaining any documents from the database.

The sort parameter consists of field and value pairs, in the following form:

{ field: value }

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How to use the MongoDB Sort() Method?

The MongoDB Sort() Method specifies the order in which a query returns the matching Documents from a Collection. Before retrieving any documents from the database, you must apply this method on the cursor. The MongoDB Sort() Method accepts a Document as a parameter, which contains a Field: Value pair defining the sorting order of the result set. 

A) General Syntax for MongoDB Sort() Method

Syntax for using MongoDB Sort is given below:

db.Collection_Name.sort({filed_name:1 or -1})


{filed_name:1 or -1} depicts a Field:Value pair that defines the sorting order of the result set in the parameter. The value is either 1 or -1, which indicates whether the sorting order should be ascending or descending.

B) Usage Notes for using the MongoDB Sort() Method

Some key pointers that you need to remember while using the MongoDB Sort() Method are as follows:

  • Unless you’re sorting on a field with duplicate values, MongoDB usually performs a Stable Sort. A Stable Sort is a type of sorting that returns the same result every time you perform operations on the same data.
  • You can use the limit() method in conjunction with the MongoDB Sort() method to return the first x documents, where x is the specified limit.
  • In case, Index Scanning fails to find the sorting order, MongoDB employs the Top-K Sorting algorithm to find out the sorting order.

C) Conceptual Example

Let’s understand the working of MongoDB Sort() Method with the help of an example:

Suppose you have a collection named student consisting of the records of 3 students. The records contain a field named “name” with some values for it. The record looks something like this:

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If you want to sort the data by the name field in ascending order. You can use the following query:

db.student.find().sort({name : 1})


Ascending MongoDB Sort
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Now, if you want to sort the name field in descending order, you can use the following query to do the same:

db.student.find().sort({name : -1})


Descending MongoDB Sort
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Note: If you do not specify a sorting preference (i.e. 1 or -1), Documents in a Collection are sorted in ascending order by default.

D) Metadata Sorting

You can use the sort() method to sort the metadata values for a calculated metadata field. In this example, you’ll be using the “food” collection to show that the documents can be sorted using the metadata “textScore”. The field name within the sort() method can be arbitrary since the query system ignores the field name.

This is what the collection looks like:{},{_id:0})

This is the result of the aforementioned query:

MongoDB Sort: Metadata Sorting Query 1
Image Source{$text:{$search: "pizza"}}, {score:{$meta: "textScore"}, _id: 0}).sort({sort_example:{$meta: "textScore"}})
MongoDB Sort: Metadata Sorting Query 2
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In this query, you specified the sort field as “sort_example”. However, this gets ignored since you are sorting metadata. Also, since you are sorting using “textScore” metadata, the resulting data set is sorted in descending order.

E) Sorting with an Index

MongoDB can also perform sort operations on a single-field index in descending or ascending order. In compound indexes, the sort order would determine whether the index can be sorted. The sort keys need to be listed in the same order as defined in the index.

For instance, the compound index (make:1, year:1) can easily be sorted by using “sort({make:1, year:1})” but not on “sort({year:1, make:1})”. Sorting utilizes an index to reduce the resource requirements when executing the query.

You can use the “vehiclesales” collection for the same, with an index called “make_index”:

db.vehiclesales.find({},{_id:0}).sort({make_index: 1})
MongoDB Sort: Sorting with a Query 1
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Here, the index “make_index” can be leveraged to sort the documents. To identify, which index is used, you can append the explain() method to the end of the query, which would result in the following output. From the output, you can identify that “make_index” can be used for the relevant documents.

db.vehiclesales.find({},{_id:0}).sort({make: 1}).explain()
MongoDB Sort: Sorting with a Query 2
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Finally, the query is run without the explain() method to get the output:

db.vehiclesales.find({},{_id:0}).sort({make: 1})
MongoDB Sort: Sorting with a Query 3
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This article introduced you to MongoDB along with the salient features that it offers. Furthermore, it introduced you to the concept of Database Sorting and how you can sort a MongoDB Database using the MongoDB Sort() method.

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