Resolver mapping template programming guide - AWS AppSync

Resolver mapping template programming guide


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This is a cookbook-style tutorial of programming with the Apache Velocity Template Language (VTL) in AWS AppSync. If you are familiar with other programming languages such as JavaScript, C, or Java, it should be fairly straightforward.

AWS AppSync uses VTL to translate GraphQL requests from clients into a request to your data source. Then it reverses the process to translate the data source response back into a GraphQL response. VTL is a logical template language that gives you the power to manipulate both the request and the response in the standard request/response flow of a web application, using techniques such as:

  • Default values for new items

  • Input validation and formatting

  • Transforming and shaping data

  • Iterating over lists, maps, and arrays to pluck out or alter values

  • Filter/change responses based on user identity

  • Complex authorization checks

For example, you might want to perform a phone number validation in the service on a GraphQL argument, or convert an input parameter to upper case before storing it in DynamoDB. Or maybe you want client systems to provide a code, as part of a GraphQL argument, JWT token claim, or HTTP header, and only respond with data if the code matches a specific string in a list. These are all logical checks you can perform with VTL in AWS AppSync.

VTL allows you to apply logic using programming techniques that might be familiar. However, it is bounded to run within the standard request/response flow to ensure that your GraphQL API is scalable as your user base grows. Because AWS AppSync also supports AWS Lambda as a resolver, you can write Lambda functions in your programming language of choice (Node.js, Python, Go, Java, etc.) if you need more flexibility.


A common technique when learning a language is to print out results (for example, console.log(variable) in JavaScript) to see what happens. In this tutorial, we demonstrate this by creating a simple GraphQL schema and passing a map of values to a Lambda function. The Lambda function prints out the values and then responds with them. This will enable you to understand the request/response flow and see different programming techniques.

Start by creating the following GraphQL schema:

type Query { get(id: ID, meta: String): Thing } type Thing { id: ID! title: String! meta: String } schema { query: Query }

Now create the following AWS Lambda function, using Node.js as the language:

exports.handler = (event, context, callback) => { console.log('VTL details: ', event); callback(null, event); };

In the Data Sources pane of the AWS AppSync console, add this Lambda function as a new data source. Navigate back to the Schema page of the console and click the ATTACH button on the right, next to the get(...):Thing query. For the request template, choose the existing template from the Invoke and forward arguments menu. For the response template, choose Return Lambda result.

Open Amazon CloudWatch Logs for your Lambda function in one location, and from the Queries tab of the AWS AppSync console, run the following GraphQL query:

query test { get(id:123 meta:"testing"){ id meta } }

The GraphQL response should contain id:123 and meta:testing, because the Lambda function is echoing them back. After a few seconds, you should see a record in CloudWatch Logs with these details as well.


VTL uses references, which you can use to store or manipulate data. There are three types of references in VTL: variables, properties, and methods. Variables have a $ sign in front of them and are created with the #set directive:

#set($var = "a string")

Variables store similar types that you’re familiar with from other languages, such as numbers, strings, arrays, lists, and maps. You might have noticed a JSON payload being sent in the default request template for Lambda resolvers:

"payload": $util.toJson($context.arguments)

A couple of things to notice here - first, AWS AppSync provides several convenience functions for common operations. In this example, $util.toJson converts a variable to JSON. Second, the variable $context.arguments is automatically populated from a GraphQL request as a map object. You can create a new map as follows:

#set( $myMap = { "id": $, "meta": "stuff", "upperMeta" : $context.arguments.meta.toUpperCase() } )

You have now created a variable named $myMap, which has keys of id, meta, and upperMeta. This also demonstrates a few things:

  • id is populated with a key from the GraphQL arguments. This is common in VTL to grab arguments from clients.

  • meta is hardcoded with a value, showcasing default values.

  • upperMeta is transforming the meta argument using a method .toUpperCase().

Put the previous code at the top of your request template and change the payload to use the new $myMap variable:

"payload": $util.toJson($myMap)

Run your Lambda function, and you can see the response change as well as this data in CloudWatch logs. As you walk through the rest of this tutorial, we will keep populating $myMap so you can run similar tests.

You can also set properties_ on your variables. These could be simple strings, arrays, or JSON:

#set($myMap.myProperty = "ABC") #set($myMap.arrProperty = ["Write", "Some", "GraphQL"]) #set($myMap.jsonProperty = { "AppSync" : "Offline and Realtime", "Cognito" : "AuthN and AuthZ" })

Quiet references

Because VTL is a templating language, by default, every reference you give it will do a .toString(). If the reference is undefined, it prints the actual reference representation, as a string. For example:

#set($myValue = 5) ##Prints '5' $myValue ##Prints '$somethingelse' $somethingelse

To address this, VTL has a quiet reference or silent reference syntax, which tells the template engine to suppress this behavior. The syntax for this is $!{}. For example, if we changed the previous code slightly to use $!{somethingelse}, the printing is suppressed:

#set($myValue = 5) ##Prints '5' $myValue ##Nothing prints out $!{somethingelse}

Calling methods

In an earlier example, we showed you how to create a variable and simultaneously set values. You can also do this in two steps by adding data to your map as shown following:

#set ($myMap = {}) #set ($myList = []) ##Nothing prints out $!{myMap.put("id", "first value")} ##Prints "first value" $!{myMap.put("id", "another value")} ##Prints true $!{myList.add("something")}

HOWEVER there is something to know about this behavior. Although the quiet reference notation $!{} allows you to call methods, as above, it won’t suppress the returned value of the executed method. This is why we noted ##Prints "first value" and ##Prints true above. This can cause errors when you’re iterating over maps or lists, such as inserting a value where a key already exists, because the output adds unexpected strings to the template upon evaluation.

The workaround to this is sometimes to call the methods using a #set directive and ignore the variable. For example:

#set ($myMap = {}) #set($discard = $myMap.put("id", "first value"))

You might use this technique in your templates, as it prevents the unexpected strings from being printed in the template. AWS AppSync provides an alternative convenience function that offers the same behavior in a more succinct notation. This enables you to not have to think about these implementation specifics. You can access this function under $util.quiet() or its alias $util.qr(). For example:

#set ($myMap = {}) #set ($myList = []) ##Nothing prints out $util.quiet($myMap.put("id", "first value")) ##Nothing prints out $util.qr($myList.add("something"))


As with many programming languages, strings can be difficult to deal with, especially when you want to build them from variables. There are some common things that come up with VTL.

Suppose you are inserting data as a string to a data source like DynamoDB, but it is populated from a variable, like a GraphQL argument. A string will have double quotation marks, and to reference the variable in a string you just need "${}" (so no ! as in quiet reference notation). This is similar to a template literal in JavaScript:

#set($firstname = "Jeff") $!{myMap.put("Firstname", "${firstname}")}

You can see this in DynamoDB request templates, like "author": { "S" : "${}"} when using arguments from GraphQL clients, or for automatic ID generation like "id" : { "S" : "$util.autoId()"}. This means that you can reference a variable or the result of a method inside a string to populate data.

You can also use public methods of the Java String class, such as pulling out a substring:

#set($bigstring = "This is a long string, I want to pull out everything after the comma") #set ($comma = $bigstring.indexOf(',')) #set ($comma = $comma +2) #set ($substring = $bigstring.substring($comma)) $util.qr($myMap.put("substring", "${substring}"))

String concatenation is also a very common task. You can do this with variable references alone or with static values:

#set($s1 = "Hello") #set($s2 = " World") $util.qr($myMap.put("concat","$s1$s2")) $util.qr($myMap.put("concat2","Second $s1 World"))


Now that you have created variables and called methods, you can add some logic to your code. Unlike other languages, VTL allows only loops, where the number of iterations is predetermined. There is no do..while in Velocity. This design ensures that the evaluation process always terminates, and provides bounds for scalability when your GraphQL operations execute.

Loops are created with a #foreach and require you to supply a loop variable and an iterable object such as an array, list, map, or collection. A classic programming example with a #foreach loop is to loop over the items in a collection and print them out, so in our case we pluck them out and add them to the map:

#set($start = 0) #set($end = 5) #set($range = [$start..$end]) #foreach($i in $range) ##$util.qr($myMap.put($i, "abc")) ##$util.qr($myMap.put($i, $i.toString()+"foo")) ##Concat variable with string $util.qr($myMap.put($i, "${i}foo")) ##Reference a variable in a string with "${varname}" #end

This example shows a few things. The first is using variables with the range [..] operator to create an iterable object. Then each item is referenced by a variable $i that you can operate with. In the previous example, you also see Comments that are denoted with a double pound ##. This also showcases using the loop variable in both the keys or the values, as well as different methods of concatenation using strings.

Notice that $i is an integer, so you can call a .toString() method. For GraphQL types of INT, this can be handy.

You can also use a range operator directly, for example:

#foreach($item in [1..5]) ... #end


You have been manipulating a map up to this point, but arrays are also common in VTL. With arrays you also have access to some underlying methods such as .isEmpty(), .size(), .set(), .get(), and .add(), as shown below:

#set($array = []) #set($idx = 0) ##adding elements $util.qr($array.add("element in array")) $util.qr($myMap.put("array", $array[$idx])) ##initialize array vals on create #set($arr2 = [42, "a string", 21, "test"]) $util.qr($myMap.put("arr2", $arr2[$idx])) $util.qr($myMap.put("isEmpty", $array.isEmpty())) ##isEmpty == false $util.qr($myMap.put("size", $array.size())) ##Get and set items in an array $util.qr($myMap.put("set", $array.set(0, 'changing array value'))) $util.qr($myMap.put("get", $array.get(0)))

The previous example used array index notation to retrieve an element with arr2[$idx]. You can look up by name from a Map/dictionary in a similar way:

#set($result = { "Author" : "Nadia", "Topic" : "GraphQL" }) $util.qr($myMap.put("Author", $result["Author"]))

This is very common when filtering results coming back from data sources in Response Templates when using conditionals.

Conditional checks

The earlier section with #foreach showcased some examples of using logic to transform data with VTL. You can also apply conditional checks to evaluate data at runtime:

#if(!$array.isEmpty()) $util.qr($myMap.put("ifCheck", "Array not empty")) #else $util.qr($myMap.put("ifCheck", "Your array is empty")) #end

The above #if() check of a Boolean expression is nice, but you can also use operators and #elseif() for branching:

#if ($arr2.size() == 0) $util.qr($myMap.put("elseIfCheck", "You forgot to put anything into this array!")) #elseif ($arr2.size() == 1) $util.qr($myMap.put("elseIfCheck", "Good start but please add more stuff")) #else $util.qr($myMap.put("elseIfCheck", "Good job!")) #end

These two examples showed negation(!) and equality (==). We can also use ||, &&, >, <, >=, <=, and !=.

#set($T = true) #set($F = false) #if ($T || $F) $util.qr($myMap.put("OR", "TRUE")) #end #if ($T && $F) $util.qr($myMap.put("AND", "TRUE")) #end

Note: Only Boolean.FALSE and null are considered false in conditionals. Zero (0) and empty strings (“”) are not equivalent to false.


No programming language would be complete without some operators to perform some mathematical actions. Here are a few examples to get you started:

#set($x = 5) #set($y = 7) #set($z = $x + $y) #set($x-y = $x - $y) #set($xy = $x * $y) #set($xDIVy = $x / $y) #set($xMODy = $x % $y) $util.qr($myMap.put("z", $z)) $util.qr($myMap.put("x-y", $x-y)) $util.qr($myMap.put("x*y", $xy)) $util.qr($myMap.put("x/y", $xDIVy)) $util.qr($myMap.put("x|y", $xMODy))

Using loops and conditionals together

It is very common when transforming data in VTL, such as before writing or reading from a data source, to loop over objects and then perform checks before performing an action. Combining some of the tools from the previous sections gives you a lot of functionality. One handy tool is knowing that #foreach automatically provides you with a .count on each item:

#foreach ($item in $arr2) #set($idx = "item" + $foreach.count) $util.qr($myMap.put($idx, $item)) #end

For example, maybe you want to just pluck out values from a map if it is under a certain size. Using the count along with conditionals and the #break statement allows you to do this:

#set($hashmap = { "DynamoDB" : "", "Amplify" : "", "DynamoDB2" : "", "Amplify2" : "" }) #foreach ($key in $hashmap.keySet()) #if($foreach.count > 2) #break #end $util.qr($myMap.put($key, $hashmap.get($key))) #end

The previous #foreach is iterated over with .keySet(), which you can use on maps. This gives you access to get the $key and reference the value with a .get($key). GraphQL arguments from clients in AWS AppSync are stored as a map. They can also be iterated through with .entrySet(), which you can then access both keys and values as a Set, and either populate other variables or perform complex conditional checks, such as validation or transformation of input:

#foreach( $entry in $context.arguments.entrySet() ) #if ($entry.key == "XYZ" && $entry.value == "BAD") #set($myvar = "...") #else #break #end #end

Other common examples are automatically populating default information, like the initial object versions when synchronizing data (very important in conflict resolution) or the default owner of an object for authorization checks - Mary created this blog post, so:

#set($myMap.owner ="Mary") #set($myMap.defaultOwners = ["Admins", "Editors"])


Now that you are more familiar with performing logical checks in AWS AppSync resolvers with VTL, take a look at the context object:

$util.qr($myMap.put("context", $context))

This contains all of the information that you can access in your GraphQL request. For a detailed explanation, see the context reference.


So far in this tutorial all information from your Lambda function has been returned to the GraphQL query with a very simple JSON transformation:


The VTL logic is just as powerful when you get responses from a data source, especially when doing authorization checks on resources. Let’s walk through some examples. First try changing your response template like so:

#set($data = { "id" : "456", "meta" : "Valid Response" }) $util.toJson($data)

No matter what happens with your GraphQL operation, hardcoded values are returned back to the client. Change this slightly so that the meta field is populated from the Lambda response, set earlier in the tutorial in the elseIfCheck value when learning about conditionals:

#set($data = { "id" : "456" }) #foreach($item in $context.result.entrySet()) #if($item.key == "elseIfCheck") $util.qr($data.put("meta", $item.value)) #end #end $util.toJson($data)

$context.result is a map, so you can use entrySet() to perform logic on either the keys or the values returned. Because $context.identity contains information on the user that performed the GraphQL operation, if you return authorization information from the data source, then you can decide to return all, partial, or no data to a user based on your logic. Change your response template to look like the following:

#if($context.result["id"] == 123) $util.toJson($context.result) #else $util.unauthorized() #end

If you run your GraphQL query, the data will be returned as normal. However, if you change the id argument to something other than 123 (query test { get(id:456 meta:"badrequest"){} }), you will get an authorization failure message.

You can find more examples of authorization scenarios in the authorization use cases section.

Template sample

If you followed along with the tutorial, you may have built out this template step by step. In case you haven’t, we include it below to copy for testing.

Request Template

#set( $myMap = { "id": $, "meta": "stuff", "upperMeta" : "$context.arguments.meta.toUpperCase()" } ) ##This is how you would do it in two steps with a "quiet reference" and you can use it for invoking methods, such as .put() to add items to a Map #set ($myMap2 = {}) $util.qr($myMap2.put("id", "first value")) ## Properties are created with a dot notation #set($myMap.myProperty = "ABC") #set($myMap.arrProperty = ["Write", "Some", "GraphQL"]) #set($myMap.jsonProperty = { "AppSync" : "Offline and Realtime", "Cognito" : "AuthN and AuthZ" }) ##When you are inside a string and just have ${} without ! it means stuff inside curly braces are a reference #set($firstname = "Jeff") $util.qr($myMap.put("Firstname", "${firstname}")) #set($bigstring = "This is a long string, I want to pull out everything after the comma") #set ($comma = $bigstring.indexOf(',')) #set ($comma = $comma +2) #set ($substring = $bigstring.substring($comma)) $util.qr($myMap.put("substring", "${substring}")) ##Classic for-each loop over N items: #set($start = 0) #set($end = 5) #set($range = [$start..$end]) #foreach($i in $range) ##Can also use range operator directly like #foreach($item in [1...5]) ##$util.qr($myMap.put($i, "abc")) ##$util.qr($myMap.put($i, $i.toString()+"foo")) ##Concat variable with string $util.qr($myMap.put($i, "${i}foo")) ##Reference a variable in a string with "${varname)" #end ##Operators don't work #set($x = 5) #set($y = 7) #set($z = $x + $y) #set($x-y = $x - $y) #set($xy = $x * $y) #set($xDIVy = $x / $y) #set($xMODy = $x % $y) $util.qr($myMap.put("z", $z)) $util.qr($myMap.put("x-y", $x-y)) $util.qr($myMap.put("x*y", $xy)) $util.qr($myMap.put("x/y", $xDIVy)) $util.qr($myMap.put("x|y", $xMODy)) ##arrays #set($array = ["first"]) #set($idx = 0) $util.qr($myMap.put("array", $array[$idx])) ##initialize array vals on create #set($arr2 = [42, "a string", 21, "test"]) $util.qr($myMap.put("arr2", $arr2[$idx])) $util.qr($myMap.put("isEmpty", $array.isEmpty())) ##Returns false $util.qr($myMap.put("size", $array.size())) ##Get and set items in an array $util.qr($myMap.put("set", $array.set(0, 'changing array value'))) $util.qr($myMap.put("get", $array.get(0))) ##Lookup by name from a Map/dictionary in a similar way: #set($result = { "Author" : "Nadia", "Topic" : "GraphQL" }) $util.qr($myMap.put("Author", $result["Author"])) ##Conditional examples #if(!$array.isEmpty()) $util.qr($myMap.put("ifCheck", "Array not empty")) #else $util.qr($myMap.put("ifCheck", "Your array is empty")) #end #if ($arr2.size() == 0) $util.qr($myMap.put("elseIfCheck", "You forgot to put anything into this array!")) #elseif ($arr2.size() == 1) $util.qr($myMap.put("elseIfCheck", "Good start but please add more stuff")) #else $util.qr($myMap.put("elseIfCheck", "Good job!")) #end ##Above showed negation(!) and equality (==), we can also use OR, AND, >, <, >=, <=, and != #set($T = true) #set($F = false) #if ($T || $F) $util.qr($myMap.put("OR", "TRUE")) #end #if ($T && $F) $util.qr($myMap.put("AND", "TRUE")) #end ##Using the foreach loop counter - $foreach.count #foreach ($item in $arr2) #set($idx = "item" + $foreach.count) $util.qr($myMap.put($idx, $item)) #end ##Using a Map and plucking out keys/vals #set($hashmap = { "DynamoDB" : "", "Amplify" : "", "DynamoDB2" : "", "Amplify2" : "" }) #foreach ($key in $hashmap.keySet()) #if($foreach.count > 2) #break #end $util.qr($myMap.put($key, $hashmap.get($key))) #end ##concatenate strings #set($s1 = "Hello") #set($s2 = " World") $util.qr($myMap.put("concat","$s1$s2")) $util.qr($myMap.put("concat2","Second $s1 World")) $util.qr($myMap.put("context", $context)) { "version" : "2017-02-28", "operation": "Invoke", "payload": $util.toJson($myMap) }

Response Template

#set($data = { "id" : "456" }) #foreach($item in $context.result.entrySet()) ##$context.result is a MAP so we use entrySet() #if($item.key == "ifCheck") $util.qr($data.put("meta", "$item.value")) #end #end ##Uncomment this out if you want to test and remove the below #if check ##$util.toJson($data) #if($context.result["id"] == 123) $util.toJson($context.result) #else $util.unauthorized() #end