Write Transactions - iOS SDK

Realm Database uses a highly efficient storage engine to persist objects. You can create objects in a realm, update objects in a realm, and eventually delete objects from a realm. Because these operations modify the state of the realm, we call them writes.

Realm handles writes in terms of transactions. A transaction is a list of read and write operations that Realm treats as a single indivisible operation. In other words, a transaction is all or nothing: either all of the operations in the transaction succeed or none of the operations in the transaction take effect.


All writes must happen in a transaction.

A realm allows only one open transaction at a time. Realm blocks other writes on other threads until the open transaction is complete. Consequently, there is no race condition when reading values from the realm within a transaction.

When you are done with your transaction, Realm either commits it or cancels it:

  • When Realm commits a transaction, Realm writes all changes to disk. For synced realms, Realm queues the change for synchronization with MongoDB Realm.
  • When Realm cancels a write transaction or an operation in the transaction causes an error, all changes are discarded (or "rolled back").

Realm guarantees that transactions are ACID compliant. This means that all committed write operations are guaranteed to be valid and that clients don't see transient states in the event of a system crash.

  • Realm establishes atomicity by grouping operations in transactions and rolling back all operations in a transaction if any of them fail.
  • Realm establishes consistency and avoids data corruption by validating changes against the schema. If the result of any write operation is not valid, Realm cancels and rolls back the entire transaction.
  • Realm establishes isolation by allowing only one writer at a time. This ensures thread safety between transactions.
  • Finally, Realm establishes durability by writing to disk immediately when a transaction is committed. In the event of an app crash, for example, the changes are not lost or corrupted.

Realm represents each transaction as a callback function that contains zero or more read and write operations. To run a transaction, define a transaction callback and pass it to the realm's write method. Within this callback, you are free to create, read, update, and delete on the realm. If the code in the callback throws an exception when Realm runs it, Realm cancels the transaction. Otherwise, Realm commits the transaction immediately after the callback.

Concurrency Concerns

Since transactions block each other, it is best to avoid opening transactions on both the UI thread and a background thread. If you are using Sync, avoid opening transactions on the UI thread altogether, as Realm processes synchronizations on a background thread. If a background transaction blocks your UI thread's transaction, your app may appear unresponsive.


The following code shows how to run a transaction with the realm's write method. If the code in the callback throws an exception, Realm cancels the transaction. Otherwise, Realm commits the transaction.


Realm always delivers notifications asynchronously, so they never block the UI thread. However, there are situations when the UI must reflect changes instantly. If you update the UI directly at the same time as the write, the eventual notification could double that update. This could lead to your app crashing due to inconsistent state between the UI and the backing data store. To avoid this, you can write without sending a notification to a specific handler. We call this type of transaction an interface-driven write.


Say we decide to manage a table view's data source manually, because our app design requires an instantaneous response to UI-driven table updates. As soon as a user adds an item to the table view, we insert it to our data source, which writes to the realm but also immediately kicks off the animation. However, when Realm delivers the change notification for this insertion a little later, it indicates that an object has been added. But we already updated the table view for it! Rather than writing complicated code to handle this case, we can use interface-driven writes to prevent a specific notification handler from firing for that specific write.

Interface-driven writes, also known as silent writes, are especially useful when using fine-grained collection notifications with a synchronized realm realm. While you use interface-driven writes for the current user's updates and update the UI immediately, the sync process can use standard notifications to update the UI.

See also:
Give Feedback

On this page

  • Realm is ACID Compliant
  • Run a Transaction
  • Interface-Driven Writes