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A partial object is an object whose state is not fully initialized after being reconstituted from the database and that is disconnected from the rest of its data. The following section will describe why partial objects are problematic and what the approach of Doctrine2 to this problem is.
The partial object problem in general does not apply to
methods or queries where you do not retrieve the query result as
objects. Examples are:
Use of partial objects is tricky. Fields that are not retrieved
from the database will not be updated by the UnitOfWork even if they
get changed in your objects. You can only promote a partial object
to a fully-loaded object by calling
In short, partial objects are problematic because they are usually objects with broken invariants. As such, code that uses these partial objects tends to be very fragile and either needs to know which fields or methods can be safely accessed or add checks around every field access or method invocation. The same holds true for the internals, i.e. the method implementations, of such objects. You usually simply assume the state you need in the method is available, after all you properly constructed this object before you pushed it into the database, right? These blind assumptions can quickly lead to null reference errors when working with such partial objects.
It gets worse with the scenario of an optional association (0..1 to 1). When the associated field is NULL, you don't know whether this object does not have an associated object or whether it was simply not loaded when the owning object was loaded from the database.
These are reasons why many ORMs do not allow partial objects at all and instead you always have to load an object with all its fields (associations being proxied). One secure way to allow partial objects is if the programming language/platform allows the ORM tool to hook deeply into the object and instrument it in such a way that individual fields (not only associations) can be loaded lazily on first access. This is possible in Java, for example, through bytecode instrumentation. In PHP though this is not possible, so there is no way to have secure partial objects in an ORM with transparent persistence.
Doctrine, by default, does not allow partial objects. That means,
any query that only selects partial object data and wants to
retrieve the result as objects (i.e.
raise an exception telling you that partial objects are dangerous.
If you want to force a query to return you partial objects,
possibly as a performance tweak, you can use the
keyword as follows:
You can also get a partial reference instead of a proxy reference by calling:
Partial references are objects with only the identifiers set as they
are passed to the second argument of the
All other fields are null.
Mainly for optimization purposes, but be careful of premature optimization as partial objects lead to potentially more fragile code.