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Corticon Studio: Rule Modeling Guide : Collections : Advanced collection sorting syntax

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Advanced collection sorting syntax

Collection syntax contains some subtleties worth learning. It is helpful when writing collection expressions to step through them, left to right, as though you were reading a sentence. This helps you better understand how the pieces combine to create the full expression. It also helps you to know what else you can safely add to the expression to increase its utility. Let's try this approach in order to dissect the following expression:
Collection1 -> sortedBy(attribute1) -> last.attribute2
1. Collection1
This expression returns the collection {e1, e2, e3, e4, e5,…en} where ex is an element (an entity) in Collection1. We already know that alias Collection1 represents the entire collection.
2. Collection1 -> sortedBy(attribute1)
This expression returns the collection {e1, e2, e3, e4, e5,…en} arranged in ascending order based on the values of attribute1 (which we call the index).
3. Collection1 -> sortedBy(attribute1) -> last
returns {en} where en is the last element in Collection1 when sorted by attribute1
This expression returns a specific entity (element) from Collection1. It does not return a specific value, but once we have identified a specific entity, we can easily reference the value of any attribute it contains, as in the following:
4. Collection1 -> sortedBy(attribute1) -> last.attribute2
which returns {en.attribute2}
Entity Context
The complete expression not only returns a specific value, but just as importantly, it also returns the entity to which the value belongs. This entity context is important because it allows us to do things to the entity itself, like assign a value to one of its attributes. For example:
Collection1 -> sortedBy(attribute1) -> last.attribute2=‘xyz’
The above expression will assign the value of xyz to attribute2 of the entity whose attribute1 is highest in Collection1. Contrast this with the following:
Collection1.attribute1 -> sortedBy(attribute1) -> last
which returns a single integer value, like 14.
Notice that all we have now is a number, a value. We have lost the entity context, so we can't do anything to the entity that owns the attribute with value of 14. In many cases, this is just fine. Take for example:
Collection1.attribute1 -> sortedBy(attribute1) -> last > 10
In this expression, it is not important that we know which element has the highest value of attribute1, all we want to know is if the highest value (whomever it belongs to) is greater than 10.
Understanding the subtleties of collection syntax and the concept of entity context is important because it helps us to use the returned entities or values correctly. For example:
Return the lower of the following two values:
*The age of the oldest child in the family
What is really being compared here? Do we care which child is oldest? Do we need to know his or her name? No. We simply need to compare the age of that child (whichever one is oldest) with the value of 12. So this is the expression that models this logic:
family.age -> sortedByDesc(age) -> first.min(12)
The Minimum value (Collection) operator, as we know, is an operator that acts upon numeric data types (Integer or Decimal). And since we also know that family.age -> sortedByDesc(age) -> first returns a number, then it is legal and valid to use .min at the end of this expression.
What about this scenario: Name the youngest child Junior.
family -> sortedByDesc(age) ->‘Junior’
Now we want to return a specific entity – that of the youngest child – and assign to its name a value of Junior. We need to keep the entity context in order to make this assignment, and the expression above accomplishes this.