What is PathSpec

In framework, PathSpec represents a path to a component within a complex data object. It generates uniform references in hierarchical datamap components. It is an abstract path concept and has its specification. It currently has two concrete forms in, but PathSpec itself should not be language-specific.

  1. The PathSpec path can be represented as a string, current example usages of its string form can be found in Validation annotation, where the PathSpec string is used in annotation and the Annotation Reader would interpret it.

  2. The PathSpec path also have a binded java class: This java class can be passed as arguments in Framework. Its Java class form is now mainly used for Projection in framework. The PathSpec java class has convenient method to return the correct pathspec string by calling toString(), which returns the string form.

For example: given a data schema

record User {
  firstName: string
  birthday: optional Date
  isActive: boolean = true
  address: record Address {
    state: string
    zipcode: string

both /address/zipcode and new PathSpec("addressa", "zipcodeb") are pathspecs referring to the inner zipcode field.


Specifying Projections

PathSpec’s java class binding can be used for projection. Users can get PathSpec object that represents the fields in data object. For example, it could be obtained from generated RecordTemplate subclasses using the .fields() method. For example:

PathSpec pathSpec = Foo.fields().bar();

More concrete examples can be found here in the wiki.

This capability is provided by auto-generated code, as data object representation for data in Pegasus schema should extend, and will define a inner class called “fields”, which extended By passing PathSpec object to the reqeust builder, the PathSpec is then used by MaskCreator to create a MaskTree. Thus, PathSpec can be used to control the projection behavior.

Request Validation

PathSpec’s string form is used for Request Validation in Resource. A string path can be added in annotation such as “CreateOnly” and “ReadOnly”. For example:

@CreateOnly({"/id", "/EXIF"})
public class PhotoResource extends CollectionResourceTemplate<Long, Photo>
    // ...

This string is then parsed by RestLiAnnotationReader, and DataSchemaUtil will do corresponding validation against this path within the DataMap.

You can also invoke RestliDataValidator and pass PathSpec string to it.’s testCustomValidatorMap() is such an example


    Map<String, List<String>> annotations = new HashMap<>();
    annotations.put("createOnly", Arrays.asList("stringB", 
        "intB", "UnionFieldWithInlineRecord/com.linkedin.restli.examples.greetings.api.myRecord/foo2", "MapWithTyperefs/*/id"));
    annotations.put("readOnly", Arrays.asList("stringA", 
        "intA", "UnionFieldWithInlineRecord/com.linkedin.restli.examples.greetings.api.myRecord/foo1", "ArrayWithInlineRecord/*/bar1", "validationDemoNext/stringB", "validationDemoNext/UnionFieldWithInlineRecord"));

    validator = new RestLiDataValidator(annotations, ValidationDemo.class, ResourceMethod.CREATE, validatorClassMap);

PathSpec Syntax in its string form

Each PathSpec has a corresponding string form. PathSpec has been defined as a path to a component within a complex data object path. This provides a way to traverse the Pegasus data object. The abstract data object, in most case, is a form of DataMap internally in framework, but PathSpec should be meaningful for the same data object in other forms, for example, it could provide path reference to a json representing the data object.

The PathSpec string format is represented by separators('/') and segments in between.


The path segment can use the “attribute” syntax to carry meaningful attributes. These attributes added to the string form using ‘?’ and ‘&’ separators. Users can add any attributes but for some types, there are reserved attributes. For example, for array type, one can specify start and count attributes and these two attributes are used in specifying the projections for array.


For collection types, such as maps and arrays, the path segment could also be replaced by the wildcard. A wildcard means that this segment path string can be replaced by any applicable segment string, for example.


Above examples points to the innerRecordField field of the map value in a map schema. map is a collection schema type, here * wildcarded its keys.

Pegasus schema has defined various kinds of types, the full specification about the supported types can be found from the document Data Schema And Templates. There are mainly following supported types in Pegasus and following sections list the example PathSpecs.

Primitive type fields

Primitive types includes type such as bytes, string, boolean, double, float, long, int. In the reocrd form, they came with a name to the field in record, so the reference to the primitive types, in most cases are just a PathSpec string which specify the field name of this type.

For example for a Pegasus pdl schema file as such

namespace com.linkedin.pegasus.examples

 * example Pegasus schema of a record containing primitive types
record RecordTest {
  intField: int
  intOptionalField: optional int
  intDefaultField: int = 17
  intDefaultOptionalField: optional int = 42
  longField: long
  floatField: float
  doubleField: double
  booleanField: boolean
  stringField: string
  bytesField: bytes

The example PathSpec for above fields in this record example would be


Record type fields

If a field in a record is of another record type, in this case you have “nested field”, then again the reference for the nested path component is the record’s field name,

For example the above PDL schema example now hava a record field,

namespace com.linkedin.pegasus.examples

 * example Pegasus schema of a record containing record field
record RecordTest {
  recordField: RecordBar

And that record expands to

namespace com.linkedin.pegasus.examples

record RecordBar {
  location: string

Then the PathSpec reference to the nested field “location” is


Map and Array type fields

Map and Array are two collection type used in Pagasus.

Map type

The map has a key followed by the value referenced. Recall PathSpec’s semantic is a reference to a component within a complex data object. The map entries were referenced by their keys.

For example, here is a example PathSpec that can be used to traverse the map.


Note that the above PathSpec is referring to the component key-ed by the key in the map. If the value is of a primitive type, the above PathSpec can be implicitly used to refer to the primitive type value.

If you want to specifically refer to all the key fields, the syntax is to use the keyword “$key”


if the value held in the map is a record type and you want to refer to that record, the PathSpec could be


Another common use case is that you want to use wildcard (represented by symbol “*” ) to “select all keys”, if the interested path is to a field for all entries in this map, then it would be


It is worth noting that in Pegasus, the map keys are always of string types.

Here is an concrete example of a record, containing a map field, and that map field’s map has value of record type. The example also defines a “recordInlineMap” field for similar demonstration purpose

namespace com.linkedin.pegasus.examples

 * a record containing a map field, which holds values of record type
record RecordWithMapFields {

  recordMap: map[string, RecordBar]

  recordInlineMap: map[string, record RecordInMap {
    f: int

The PathSpec to refer to the record field, and the inline map field, are

Array type

Array type is somewhat similar to Map type in the sense that the length might not be definite. For example it could be defined as such

namespace com.linkedin.pegasus.examples

 * a record containing an array field, which holds values of record type
record RecordWithArrayFields {

  recordArray: array[RecordBar]

  recordInlineArray: array[record RecordInArray {
    f: int

Then similarly if you are interested in some fields only, you can use wildCard to select all elements so you can refer to a field


One big difference between Array and Map is that in Array, we support reference to the range. It is achieved by using the ‘start’ and ‘count’ attributes.

Say you want to select some elements in within a range in the array, you can do so by using the “start” and “count” attribute,


It is worth noting that single element indexing in Array’s PathSpec is currently not defined yet. For example indexing the first element of an array is currently not defined. Alternatively this can be achieved by using the range PathSpec.

/recordArray/0 # This sytanx is not defined yet
/recordArray?start=0&count=1 # This syntax has been defined

Union and UnionArray, Alias and Alias in Unions


The use case for the PathSpec for union would be a path to one of the types within the union.

Here is an example of a record containa a union field, and that union is with a null type

namespace com.linkedin.pegasus.examples

 * a record that has a field contains a union with null type
record UnionExample {

  unionWithNull: union[
    map[string, long],

The PathSpecs for types within the uinos are


Union can be used as Array’s item type. A common use case is a reference to all the same type within an union.

namespace com.linkedin.pegasus.examples

 * a record that has a field contains a union array
record UnionArrayExample {

  unionArray: array[union[
    map[string, string],

In this example, the union also contains array and map, and the reference to them would be


If the schema defines more than one array or more than one map in the union, they need to have defined alias for each (see Alias usage in next section).


Alias are used for refer to types (such as record type) that cannot be directly defined in the field due to same name conflict. Here is an example PDL with name “AliasTest” in “AliasTest.pdl”

namespace com.linkedin.pegasus.examples

 * Aliase examples
@aliases = ["com.linkedin.pegasus.examples.AliasTest2"]
record AliasTest {
  a1: AliasTest
  a2: AliasTest

Here the AliasTest2 is an alias for another record with same name “AliasTest” in “AliasTest2.pdl”

Then here are the PathSpec can be used

Alias in Unions

It is worth mentioning that in most cases you will want to use alias in Union. For example in Union you can define two arrays with

namespace com.linkedin.pegasus.examples

record RecordWithAliasedUnion {

  result: union[
    message: string,

    successResults: array[string],

    failureResults: array[string]

  unionArray: array[union[

    successResults: array[string],

    failureResults: array[string]

Then the PathSpec will be


TypeRef and Fixed

The reference to TypeRef and fixed are following a similar rule: Use its name in the field.


The “TypeRef” itself can be treated as just another type, so should use field name to refer to its path.

For example

namespace com.linkedin.pegasus.examples

record TyperefTest {

  intRefField: optional typeref IntRef = int
  intRefField2: IntRef

  bar1: typeref RecordBarRef = RecordBar
  bar2: RecordBarRef

  barRefMap: map[string, RecordBarRef]

The paths to the example integer fields here (used TypeRef) are


And for Record field reference within TypeRefed field


In the Map type example



Fixed type can be defined in a separate file and then refered in another schema by name, for example in schema files:

namespace com.linkedin.pegasus.example

fixed FixedMD5 16

Then FixedMD5 can be used as a type.

namespace com.linkedin.pegasus.examples

 * a record containing a map field, which holds values of union of fix type and inline fix type
record RecordExampleForFixType {

  unionMap: map[string, union[fixed InlineFixedField 1, FixedMD5]]

As above example shows, when fixed type are defined inline, they will still have field name, so the PathSpec reference to it uses this name, therefore below are PathSpec to the types in the UnionMap defined in this record


PathSpec Syntax in its java binded class form

All auto-generated RecordTemplate class has a static nested class Fields which extends PathSpec. To find out, after you build the project, you can check such RecordTemplate classes in GeneratedDataTemplate folder and to find following codes.

  public static class Fields extends PathSpec

Check example code here.

Therefore it is very easy to get the PathSpec java binded class. Let’s say you have a Foo schema which has bar fields. You can get the PathSpec by following

PathSpec pathSpec = Foo.fields().bar();

This has also been documented in How to Use Projections in Java

More resources and examples

More example can be referred from our Framework test code example. is a very useful file that shows and tests what string should look like for the fields defined.