Knowledge Base

Achieving longestPath Using Cypher

While Cypher is optimized for finding the shortest path between two nodes, with such functionality as shortestPath(), it does not have the same sort of function for longest path. In some cases, you may want this, and not the shortest route.

Root to leaf in a tree

If you had a tree structure you wanted to do the longest path between a root node and a leaf node, and you don’t know how many there are in between:

MATCH p=(parent:Root)-[r:HAS_CHILD*1..10]->(child:Node)

The problem with this is that it will give you all paths, one for each hop, until you get to the leaf node. What you want is just the longest path to see how the parent and leaf child are connected. To do this efficiently, do the following:

MATCH p=(parent:Root)-[:HAS_CHILD*1..10]->(child:Node)
WHERE NOT (child)-[:HAS_CHILD]->()

What the above query is doing: The variable length 1..10 will find all paths (there should be only one), for any Parent-Child path that spans at most 10 hops. The WHERE clause is needed to filter the paths to only those where the leaf child nodes have no outgoing :HAS_CHILD relationships (i.e. it finds the end of the chain).

Longest path when there are multiple paths present

If not using an acyclic tree structure, you may have several paths between two nodes, and you may want to get just the longest. We can do this by ordering by path length and only taking the longest path:

MATCH p=(start:Node)-[:REL*1..10]->(end:Node)
WHERE id(start) = 123 AND id(end) = 456
ORDER BY length(p) DESC

Tips for making these queries more efficient

With a fairly well connected graph, variable-length path queries like this may get increasingly expensive. Here are some tips to keep these performant.

  1. Constrain relationship type and direction - If possible, use only the relevant types needed, and use a directed relationship. This may cut down on the paths followed during expansion.

  2. Supply an upper bound for the variable-length pattern - Patterns without bounds may get out of hand in a well connected graph. Setting an upper bound can help constrain the work the query needs to perform.

  3. Use all() or none() in the WHERE clause following the MATCH - If predicates need to be evaluated during expansion, and they must apply to all nodes or relationships in the path, use all() or none() on the nodes or relationships from the path to evaluate during expansion rather than filtering after all paths are found.

  4. Use APOC path expanders for special cases or restrictions - For certain restrictions, such as not repeating nodes during expansion, you may want to use path expander procs from APOC Procedures to enforce different configurations of uniqueness during expansion.