Chunkr (Chunkr v0.2.0) View Source

An Elixir keyset-based pagination library for Ecto.

Keyset vs. Offset vs. Cursor-based pagination

The alternative—offset-based pagination—has a couple of serious drawbacks:

  • It's inefficient. The further you "page" into the result set, the less efficient your database queries will be because the database has to query for all the results, then count through and discard rows until it reaches the desired offset.
  • It's inconsistent. Records created or deleted while your user paginates can cause some results to either be duplicated or to be entirely missing from what is returned. Depending on your use case, this could significantly undermine your user's trust or just be awkward.

Offset-based pagination is generally simpler to implement because, based on the desired page number and page size, the offset of the next batch can be trivially calculated and incorporated into the next query.

With keyset-based pagination, rather than tracking how far into the result set you've traversed (and then hoping records don't change out from under you), we instead track the value of one or more fields in the first and last record of the batch. Then, to get the next (or previous) batch, we query with a WHERE clause that excludes records up to those values. Not only does the database not have to pull irrelevant records only to count through them and eventually discard many of them, but this approach also isn't negatively affected by records being created or removed during pagination.

All of this makes keyset pagination far more appealing than offset-based pagination. The gotcha, however, is that it's more troublesome to set up these queries by hand. Fortunately, we've now made it easy to incorporate keyset pagionation into your Elixir/Ecto apps. You're going to love it.

For more about the benefits of keyset pagination, see


Some people refer to keyset-based pagination as "cursor-based" pagination, which is valid. However, "cursor" pagination does not necessarily imply keyset pagination since offset pagination can also be implemented using cursors. Regardless of keyset vs. offset, cursor-based pagination generally means that the values (either a page number & page size or actual values pulled from a record) are encoded together into an obfuscated form (e.g. Base64 encoded).

Use cases

Chunkr can help you implement APIs supporting infinite-scroll style interfaces, GraphQL pagination, pagination per the Relay spec, REST APIs, etc.


Add chunkr to your list of dependencies in mix.exs:

def deps do
    {:chunkr, "~> 0.1.0"}


1. Set up your pagination strategies…

defmodule MyApp.PaginationPlanner do
  use Chunkr.PaginationPlanner

  paginate_by :account_creation_date do
    sort :desc, as(:user).inserted_at

  paginate_by :profile_name do
    sort :asc, fragment("coalesce(?, 'zzzzzzzz')", as(:profile).username)
    sort :asc, fragment("coalesce(?, 'zzzzzzzz')", as(:user).email_address)
    sort :asc, as(:user).id, type: :binary_id

The paginate_by/1 macro sets up a named pagination strategy, and each call to sort establishes a field to sort by when using this strategy. Results will be ordered by the first specified sort clause, with the next clause acting as a tie-breaker, and so on. Note that the final field provided must be unique in order to provide consistent/deterministic results. Also note that we're coalescing values. Otherwise, any NULL values encountered while filtering against the cursor will simply be dropped and left out of the paginated result set (SQL cannot reasonably compare NULL to an actual value using operators like < and >, so it simply drops them).

You'll notice that we must always use Ecto's as clause in order to identify where to find the field in question. This takes advantage of Ecto's late bindings in referencing a query that is yet to be established (you can use many different queries with a single pagination strategy defined here so long as each query provides each of the referenced bindings).

The result of registering these pagination strategies is that at compile-time we automatically define functions necessary to take a query and extend it for the desired pagination strategy. This involves dynamically implementing a function to order the results, functions to filter results against any supplied cursor, and a function to automatically retrieve both the records themselves as well as all fields necessary to generate the required cursors.

2. Add chunkr to your Ecto.Repo:

defmodule MyApp.Repo do
  use Ecto.Repo,
    otp_app: :my_app,
    adapter: Ecto.Adapters.Postgres

  use Chunkr, planner: MyApp.PaginationPlanner

This adds the convenience functions paginate/4 and paginate!/4 to your Repo.

3. Paginate your queries!

query = from u in User, as: :user, join: ap in assoc(u, :account_profile), as: :profile

first_page = MyApp.Repo.paginate!(query, :profile_name, first: 25)

next_page = MyApp.Repo.paginate!(query, :profile_name, first: 25, after: first_page.end_cursor)

Here we're using the :profile_name pagination strategy established above, and we're providing all of the named bindings required by that strategy (in this case :profile and :user).

See further documentation at Chunkr.PaginatedQueries.

Link to this section Summary

Link to this section Functions

Link to this function

paginate(queryable, strategy, sort_dir, options)

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paginate(any(), any(), Chunkr.Opts.sort_dir(), keyword()) ::
  {:error, String.t()} | {:ok, Chunkr.Page.t()}

Paginates a query.

Extends the provided query with the necessary filtering, ordering, and cursor field selection for the sake of pagination, then executes the query and returns a Chunkr.Page or results.


  • :max_limit — The maximum number or results the user can request for this query. The default is 100.
  • :first — Retrieve the first n results; must be between 0 and :max_limit.
  • :last — Retrieve the last n results; must be between 0 and :max_limit.
  • :after — Return results starting after the provided cursor; optionally pairs with :first.
  • :before — Return results ending at the provided cursor; optionally pairs with :last.
Link to this function

paginate!(queryable, strategy, sort_dir, opts)

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paginate!(any(), atom(), Chunkr.Opts.sort_dir(), keyword()) :: Chunkr.Page.t()

Same as paginate/4, but raises an error for invalid input.