Introduction to MongoDB

In this article, I’ll demonstrate how to install Mongo, then start using it to store and query data. I’ll also look at how to interact with a Mongo database from within a Node program, and also highlight some of the differences between Mongo and a traditional relational database (such as MySQL) along the way.

What Is MongoDB?

MongoDB is a document-oriented database. This means that it doesn’t use tables and rows to store its data, but instead collections of JSON-like documents. These documents support embedded fields, so related data can be stored within them.

It is also a schema-less database, so we don’t need to specify the number or type of columns before inserting our data.

Here’s an example of what a MongoDB document might look like:

  _id: ObjectId(3da252d3902a),
  type: "Tutorial",
  title: "An Introduction to MongoDB",
  author: "Codezilla LK",
  tags: [ "mongodb", "compass", "crud" ],
  categories: [
      name: "javascript",
      description: "Tutorialss on client-side and server-side JavaScript programming"
      name: "databases",
      description: "Tutorialss on different kinds of databases and their management"
  content: "MongoDB is a cross-platform, open-source, NoSQL database..."


As you can see, the document has a number of fields (type, title, etc.), which store values (“Tutorial”, “An Introduction to MongoDB” etc.). These values can contain strings, numbers, arrays, arrays of sub-documents (for example, the categories field), geo-coordinates, and more.

The _id field name is reserved for use as a primary key. Its value must be unique in the collection, it’s immutable, and it may be of any type other than an array.

As you might guess, a document in a NoSQL database corresponds to a row in an SQL database. A group of documents together is known as a collection, which is roughly synonymous with a table in a relational database.

Here’s a table summarizing the different terms:

SQL ServerMongoDB

Ok then, let’s go ahead and install MongoDB.

Installing MongoDB

MongoDB comes in various editions. The one we’re interested in is the MongoDB Community Edition.

The project’s home page has excellent documentation on installing Mongo, and I won’t try to replicate that here. Rather, I’ll offer you links to instructions for each of the main operating systems:

Install MongoDB Community Edition on:

If you use a non-Ubuntu-based version of Linux, you can check out this page for installation instructions for other distros. MongoDB is also normally available through the official Linux software channels, but sometimes this will pull in an outdated version.

Post Installation Configuration

Once you have MongoDB installed for your system, you might encounter this error:

					dbpath (/data/db) does not exist.
 Create this directory or give existing directory in --dbpath.


This means that Mongo can’t find (or access) the directory it uses to store its databases. This is pretty easy to remedy:

					sudo mkdir -p /data/db
sudo chown -R `id -un` /data/db


The first command creates the data/db directory. The second set permissions so that Mongo can write to that directory.

Install the Compass GUI

MongoDB also offers a tool called Compass to connect to and manage your databases using a GUI.

If you’re on Windows, Compass can be installed as part of the main Mongo installation (just select the appropriate option from the wizard). Otherwise, you can download Compass for your respective OS here.

This is what it looks like:

MongoDB Compass GUI

Now let’s get acquainted with some MongoDB basics.

Basic Database Operations

Enter the Mongo shell if you haven’t already (by typing mongo into a terminal):

					➜  ~ mongo
MongoDB shell version v4.2.6
connecting to: mongodb://
Implicit session: session { "id" : UUID("ce1f05cc-be65-43bd-87e4-e3c737625626") }
MongoDB server version: 4.2.6


Let’s start off by creating a database to work with. To create a database, MongoDB has a use DATABASE_NAME command:

					> use exampledb
switched to db exampledb


To display all the existing databases, try show dbs:

					> show dbs

admin          0.000GB
config         0.000GB
local          0.000GB


The exampledb isn’t in the list because we need to insert at least one document into the database. To insert a document, you can use db.COLLECTION_NAME.insertOne({“key”:”value”}).

Here’s an example:

					> db.users.insertOne({name: "Bob"})
   "acknowledged" : true,
   "insertedId" : ObjectId("5a52c53b223039ee9c2daaec")


MongoDB automatically creates a new users collection and inserts a document with the key-value pair ‘name’:’Bob’. The ObjectId returned is the ID of the document inserted. MongoDB creates a unique ObjectId for each document on creation, and it becomes the default value of the _id field.

Now we should be able to see our database:

					>show dbs
admin          0.000GB
config         0.000GB
exampledb      0.000GB
local          0.000GB


Similarly, you can confirm that the collection was created using the show collections command:

					> show collections


We’ve created a database, added a collection named users, and inserted a document into it. Now let’s try dropping it. To drop an existing database, use the dropDatabase() command, as exemplified below:

{ "dropped" : "exampledb", "ok" : 1 }


show dbs confirms that the database was indeed dropped:

					> show dbs
admin          0.000GB
config         0.000GB
local          0.000GB


For more database operations, please consult the MongoDB reference page on database commands.

So guys, then we’ll discuss more about Mongo DB in next week’s article.

To be Continued…


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