How caching works in tidywikidatar


In order to reduce load on Wikidata’s server and to speed up the processing of data, tidywikidatar makes extensive use of local caching.

What data are cached locally

There are a few types of data that are cached locally:

To reduce space used for local caching and speed up processing time, it is possible to store only labels and information available in a given language when relevant.

Caching with SQLite

In tidywikidatar, it is possible to enable caching with:


If you do not include further parameters, by default tidywikidatar will use a local SQLite database for caching.

You can choose in which folder the SQLite database will be stored with tw_set_cache_folder(); if not already existing, you can create that folder with tw_create_cache_folder().

tw_set_cache_folder(path = fs::path(

Caching with other database backends

Support for other database backends is now available. They can be accessed most easily using the following approach, having ensured that the relevant driver (and odbc package) have previously been installed:

tw_enable_cache(SQLite = FALSE)
  driver = "MySQL",
  host = "localhost",
  port = 3306,
  database = "tidywikidatar",
  user = "secret_username",
  pwd = "secret_password"

# for testing, consider running a local database e.g. with:
# docker run --name tidywikidatar_db -p 3306:3306 -e MYSQL_ROOT_PASSWORD=secret_root_password -e MYSQL_USER=secret_username -e MYSQL_PASSWORD=secret_password -e MYSQL_DATABASE=tidywikidatar mysql:latest

It is also technically possible to pass directly a connection generated with DBI::dbConnect() to each function.

Name of tables in cached databases

Each database has a table for each language and type of content. For example, item information retrieved with tw_get(id = "Q180099", language = "en") will be stored in a table called tw_item_en.

The name of the table is unique and is generated by tw_get_cache_table_name(). For example:

tw_get_cache_table_name(type = "item", language = "en")
#> [1] "tw_item_en"

Column types and indexing

Due to limited familiarity with different database backends and limited time for testing, the creation of database tables is left to the default values of DBI::dbWriteTable(). For occasional use, this should not be an issue. However, when the local cache reaches millions rather than only thousands of rows, response time from a MySql database can take a few seconds, rather than a fraction of a second as would be expected. To deal with this, new functions for adding indexing to cache tables have been introduced, tw_check_cache_index(), tw_index_cache_item(), and tw_index_cache_search(). It is possible to apply this to all existing functions of a given type as outlined below. This speeds up retrieval time dramatically on MySql databases; impact on other types of databases has not been thoroughly tested.

db <- tw_connect_to_cache()

tables_v <- DBI::dbListTables(conn = db)

# for search cache tables
  .x = tables_v[stringr::str_starts(string = tables_v, "tw_search_item")],
  .f = function(x) {
    tw_index_cache_search(table_name = x)

# for item cache tables
  .x = tables_v[stringr::str_starts(string = tables_v, "tw_item")],
  .f = function(x) {
    tw_index_cache_item(table_name = x)