Paginating table query results - Amazon DynamoDB
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Paginating table query results

DynamoDB paginates the results from Query operations. With pagination, the Query results are divided into "pages" of data that are 1 MB in size (or less). An application can process the first page of results, then the second page, and so on.

A single Query only returns a result set that fits within the 1 MB size limit. To determine whether there are more results, and to retrieve them one page at a time, applications should do the following:

  1. Examine the low-level Query result:

    • If the result contains a LastEvaluatedKey element and it's non-null, proceed to step 2.

    • If there is not a LastEvaluatedKey in the result, there are no more items to be retrieved.

  2. Construct a new Query request, with the same parameters as the previous one. However, this time, take the LastEvaluatedKey value from step 1 and use it as the ExclusiveStartKey parameter in the new Query request.

  3. Run the new Query request.

  4. Go to step 1.

In other words, the LastEvaluatedKey from a Query response should be used as the ExclusiveStartKey for the next Query request. If there is not a LastEvaluatedKey element in a Query response, then you have retrieved the final page of results. If LastEvaluatedKey is not empty, it does not necessarily mean that there is more data in the result set. The only way to know when you have reached the end of the result set is when LastEvaluatedKey is empty.

You can use the Amazon CLI to view this behavior. The Amazon CLI sends low-level Query requests to DynamoDB repeatedly, until LastEvaluatedKey is no longer present in the results. Consider the following Amazon CLI example that retrieves movie titles from a particular year.

aws dynamodb query --table-name Movies \ --projection-expression "title" \ --key-condition-expression "#y = :yyyy" \ --expression-attribute-names '{"#y":"year"}' \ --expression-attribute-values '{":yyyy":{"N":"1993"}}' \ --page-size 5 \ --debug

Ordinarily, the Amazon CLI handles pagination automatically. However, in this example, the Amazon CLI --page-size parameter limits the number of items per page. The --debug parameter prints low-level information about requests and responses.

If you run the example, the first response from DynamoDB looks similar to the following.

2017-07-07 11:13:15,603 - MainThread - botocore.parsers - DEBUG - Response body: b'{"Count":5,"Items":[{"title":{"S":"A Bronx Tale"}}, {"title":{"S":"A Perfect World"}},{"title":{"S":"Addams Family Values"}}, {"title":{"S":"Alive"}},{"title":{"S":"Benny & Joon"}}], "LastEvaluatedKey":{"year":{"N":"1993"},"title":{"S":"Benny & Joon"}}, "ScannedCount":5}'

The LastEvaluatedKey in the response indicates that not all of the items have been retrieved. The Amazon CLI then issues another Query request to DynamoDB. This request and response pattern continues, until the final response.

2017-07-07 11:13:16,291 - MainThread - botocore.parsers - DEBUG - Response body: b'{"Count":1,"Items":[{"title":{"S":"What\'s Eating Gilbert Grape"}}],"ScannedCount":1}'

The absence of LastEvaluatedKey indicates that there are no more items to retrieve.


The Amazon SDKs handle the low-level DynamoDB responses (including the presence or absence of LastEvaluatedKey) and provide various abstractions for paginating Query results. For example, the SDK for Java document interface provides java.util.Iterator support so that you can walk through the results one at a time.

For code examples in various programming languages, see the Amazon DynamoDB Getting Started Guide and the Amazon SDK documentation for your language.

You can also reduce page size by limiting the number of items in the result set, with the Limit parameter of the Query operation.

For more information about querying with DynamoDB, see Query operations in DynamoDB.