Now that we have created our
sql_book database, we have the 'outer shell' of our building. Our building doesn't currently have any rooms however, so if we were to fill that building with stuff, that stuff wouldn't be any more organised inside the building than outside of it. We need to add some rooms so that we can organise our stuff properly, or in SQL terms we need to add tables.
Database tables, sometimes referred to as relations, and the relationships between those tables are what really provide the structure we need to house our data. Tables can be used to represent real world abstractions of business logic of an application, such as a customer or an order. Once created, these tables can be used to store our data relevant to that particular abstraction.
To create a table we can use the
CREATE TABLE SQL statement. In its most simple form, it's very similar to the
CREATE DATABASE SQL statement we looked at in the previous chapter:
CREATE TABLE some_table();
The only difference is the use of
TABLE instead of
DATABASE and the empty parentheses at the end of the table name. If we issued this command, it would create a table called
some_table in the database that we're currently connected to; such a table wouldn't be of much use to us however, since it wouldn't have any columns. Without columns we wouldn't be able to use the table to store any data. Columns are what we use to give tables their structure.
To create a table with columns, we need to place column definitions in between the parentheses. Each column definition is generally written on a separate line, separated by a comma. The basic format of a
CREATE TABLE statement is:
CREATE TABLE table_name ( column_1_name column_1_data_type [constraints, ...], column_2_name column_2_data_type [constraints, ...], . . . constraints );
The brackets (
) in the above example indicate optional parts of the
CREATE TABLE command, and the ellipses (
...) indicate that there can be more than one constraint.
Column names and data types are a required part of each column definition; constraints are optional. We'll look at constraints in more detail later in the book, but one thing to note from the above format is that constraints can be defined either at the column level or at the table level.
sql_book database we want to store a list of users; for each user we want to store an
id for that user, their
username, and whether their account is
enabled or not. In order to have somewhere to contain these different pieces of user data, we need to create a table with an appropriate column for each piece of data.
Below is the SQL statement to create a table, named users, using the
CREATE TABLE statement:
CREATE TABLE users ( id serial UNIQUE NOT NULL, username char(25), enabled boolean DEFAULT TRUE );
Let's break this down a little to understand exactly what's going on here:
CREATE TABLE: Firstly,
CREATE TABLE usersis the primary command.
users: The name of the table that will be created.
id, username, enabled: These are the three columns of the table.
boolean: These are the data types of the columns. We will look at data types shortly.
NOT NULL: These are constraints. We'll talk about these later in this chapter.
DEFAULT TRUE: Specifies a default value for the column. We'll revisit this later.
Issue the command while connected to the
sql_book database via the psql console. You should receive the following response:
sql_book database, we should now have a
users table with three columns:
enabled. When defining those columns in our table creation statement, as well as specifying the column name, we specified a data type for each column, and a constraint for two of them. Let's explore what those two things mean a little more.
The three columns we created,
enabled, were all created with different data types,
boolean respectively. A data type classifies particular values that are allowed for that column. This can help protect our database from data of an invalid type being entered. We'll look at this in a bit more detail later, when we start adding data to our table.
The table below lists some common data types. We'll be using a number of these in the rest of the book and you will encounter others as you continue to use SQL.
|Column Data Type||Description|
|serial||This data type is used to create identifier columns for a PostgreSQL database. These identifiers are integers, auto-incrementing, and cannot contain a null value.|
|char(N)||This data type specifies that information stored in a column can contain strings of up to N characters in length. If a string less than length N is stored, then the remaining string length is filled with space characters.|
|varchar(N)||This data type specifies that information stored in a column can contain strings of up to N characters in length. If a string less than length N is stored, then the remaining string length isn't used.|
|boolean||This is a data type that can only contain two values "true" or "false". In PostgreSQL, boolean values are often displayed in a shorthand format, t or f|
|integer or INT||An integer is simply a "whole number." An example might be 1 or 50, -50, or 792197 depending on what storage type is used.|
|decimal(precision, scale)||The decimal type takes two arguments, one being the total number of digits in the entire number on both sides of the decimal point (the precision), the second is the number of the digits in the fractional part of the number to the right of the decimal point (the scale).|
|timestamp||The timestamp type contains both a simple date and time in YYYY-MM-DD HH:MM:SS format.|
|date||The date type contains a date but no time.|
As of v. 10, PostgreSQL added the standard (ANSI/ISO SQL:2003)
IDENTITY syntax to handle auto-incrementing key values. The use of
serial is no longer recommended for new (production) applications. This is for some (fairly technical) reasons, which one of the developers of the newer syntax explains here.
For the purposes of working through this book however, and for learning PostgreSQL in general, this isn't something that you need to worry about. The code examples in this book were created under version 9 of PostgreSQL, and versions prior to v10 are still in widespread use (the default version on AWS Cloud9 is 9.6.1, for example). Furthermore, the way in which we use
serial in the book isn't impacted by the compatibility and permission management issues which
IDENTITY seeks to address.
While data types are a mandatory part of a column definition, constraints are optional. They are extremely useful however, and more often than not you'll want to add some kind of constraint to your columns.
One of the key functions of a database is to maintain the integrity and quality of the data that it is storing. Keys and Constraints are rules that define what data values are allowed in certain columns. They are an important database concept and are part of a database's schema definition. Defining Keys and Constraints is part of the database design process and ensures that the data within a database is reliable and maintains its integrity. Constraints can apply to a specific column, an entire table, more than one table, or an entire schema.
The creation statement for the
users table specified some properties, or constraints for each column. Let's go over those now:
id column also has a
UNIQUE constraint, which prevents any duplicate values from being entered into that column.
NOT NULL: The
id column also has a
NOT NULL constraint, which essentially means that when adding data to the table a value MUST be specified for this column; it cannot be left empty.
enabled column has an extra property
DEFAULT with a value of
TRUE. If no value is set in this field when a record is created then the value of
TRUE is set in that field.
We talk more about
NOT NULL and
DEFAULT when we look at adding data into this table later in the book.
We haven't run into keys just yet, but we will later on. They come into play when we have to set up relationships between different database tables. They're also useful for keeping track of unique rows within a database table. We'll explore keys and constraints in more detail later on.
In a large database with lots of different tables, we might want to view a list of all the tables that exist in the database. We can use the
\dt meta-command to show us a list of all the tables, or relations, in the database.
If we issue this meta-command when connected to our
sql_book database, there is only one row with our table
users since that's the only table we have so far created.
List of relations Schema | Name | Type | Owner --------+-------+-------+----------- public | users | table | User (1 row)
\dt meta-command is useful for quickly viewing a list of all the tables in a database, but the information it provides is fairly limited. What if we want to see more detailed information about a particular table, such as the names of its columns, and the column data types and properties?
For this kind of more detailed information we can use the
\d meta-command. This lets us describe a table. Thus, we can use
\d users to see information on the
users table. In the output below, each row is a column in the
users table, along with that column's data type and properties.
Table "public.users" Column | Type | Modifiers ----------+---------------+---------------------------------------------------- id | integer | not null default nextval('users_id_seq'::regclass) username | character(25) | enabled | boolean | default true Indexes: "users_id_key" UNIQUE CONSTRAINT, btree (id)
Note: the output of
\d varies between versions of PostgreSQL. The look is basically the same, but the column names may be different, and there may be other columns present.
You might notice that the
Type for our
id column is
integer. This might seem a bit strange given that our table creation statement specified a type of
serial is a special data type available in PostgreSQL. It uses the
integer data type along with a
DEFAULT constraint and a function called
nextval which keeps a track of the current highest value and increments this by one to be used as the next value. We'll be looking at some other functions in more detail later in this book.
You might also have noticed that our table has an index
users_id_key; this index was created when we added the
UNIQUE constraint. Indexes are a deep topic, and not one that we'll be covering in this book. For the purposes of our
sql_book database, it is useful to think of indexes as a way of storing a quick-reference to values in a particular column. We'll see a basic example of how they work in the context of a
UNIQUE constraint when we look at inserting data to our table later in the book.
One thing to note about the information returned by the
\d meta-commands is that, although the information is displayed in a tabular format, it relates only to the schema of the database not the data. Remember that a database's schema is what provides the structure we need to house our data.
When we've previously spoken about creating the schema for a database, we've explained that we use one of the SQL sub-languages, DDL, to do this. There are actually parts of a database's schema that are controlled and managed by another of SQL's sub-languages, DCL (Data Control Language).
DCL is concerned with controlling who is allowed to perform certain actions within a database, or in other words with the 'security' of a database. Although we won't look at DCL in detail in this book, it's worth understanding that the 'security settings' determined by DCL are also part of the database's schema. We can see a clue to this if we look at the information returned by the
\dt meta command. When we use
\dt, we see a table of information,
All of these aspects of the database's schema could be used by DCL to allow or restrict access to certain parts of the database or specific tables. The value in the
Owner column in particular is very much a DCL concern; for example you could add a restriction to a table so that other users can add, read, update and delete data from the table but only the owner can alter the structure of the table or delete the table entirely. You can perhaps think of this in terms of different users having different permissions in the database.
We've covered quite a lot of ground in this chapter; let's quickly recap some of the main points.
CREATE TABLESQL command
Here are some of the commands we looked at:
|CREATE TABLE users..||Creates a new table called users|
|\dt||Shows the tables in the current database|
|\d users||Shows the schema of the table users|
In the next chapter, we'll continue learning about DDL, and try our hand at altering a database and its tables.
From the Terminal, create a database called
encyclopedia and connect to it via the psql console.
This can be achieved by using PostgreSQL client applications, first
createdb and then
$ createdb encyclopedia $ psql -d encyclopedia
Once connected to the new database, your prompt should look like this:
Create a table called
countries. It should have the following columns:
idcolumn of type
namecolumn of type
capitalcolumn of type
populationcolumn of type
name column should have a
UNIQUE constraint. The
capital columns should both have
NOT NULL constraints.
CREATE TABLE countries ( id serial, name varchar(50) UNIQUE NOT NULL, capital varchar(50) NOT NULL, population integer );
Create a table called
famous_people. It should have the following columns:
idcolumn that contains auto-incrementing values
namecolumn. This should contain a string up to 100 characters in length
occupationcolumn. This should contain a string up to 150 characters in length
date_of_birthcolumn that should contain each person's date of birth in a string of up to 50 characters
deceasedcolumn that contains either
The table should prevent
NULL values being added to the
name column. If the value of the
deceased column is absent or unknown then
false should be used.
CREATE TABLE famous_people ( id serial, name varchar(100) NOT NULL, occupation varchar(150), date_of_birth varchar(50), deceased boolean DEFAULT false );
Create a table called
animals that could contain the sample data below:
|Name||Binomial Name||Max Weight (kg)||Max Age (years)||Conservation Status|
|Killer Whale||Orcinus orca||6,000||60||DD|
|Golden Eagle||Aquila chrysaetos||6.35||24||LC|
Please note that this exercise, and others in this book, use the English numerical format in the exercise description.
CREATE TABLE animals ( id serial, name varchar(100) NOT NULL, binomial_name varchar(100) NOT NULL, max_weight_kg decimal(8,3), max_age_years integer, conservation_status char(2) );
You could also use
varchar for the
conservation_status column. It is quite common to see
char used when the length of the string in the column will always be the same. This convention is due to the fact that in some RDBMSes the use of
char confers performance advantages, though this is not the case in PostgreSQL.
max_weight_kg we need to set two values; the 'precision', which is the total number of digits on both sides of the decimal point, and the 'scale', which is the number of digits to the right of the decimal point.
List all of the tables in the
List of relations Schema | Name | Type | Owner --------+---------------+-------+------- public | animals | table | karl public | countries | table | karl public | famous_people | table | karl (3 rows)
Display the schema for the
Table "public.animals" Column | Type | Modifiers --------------------+------------------------+------------------------------------------------------ id | integer | not null default nextval('animals_id_seq'::regclass) name | character varying(100) | not null binomial_name | character varying(100) | not null max_weight_kg | numeric(8,3) | max_age_years | integer | conservation_status | character(2) |
Create a database called
ls_burger and connect to it.
CREATE DATABASE ls_burger;
You are now connected to database "ls_burger" as user "user". ls_burger=#
You could use either
\c to connect to the database
Create a table in the
ls_burger database called
orders. The table should have the following columns:
idcolumn, that should contain an auto-incrementing integer value.
customer_namecolumn, that should contain a string of up to 100 characters
burgercolumn, that should hold a string of up to 50 characters
sidecolumn, that should hold a string of up to 50 characters
drinkcolumn, that should hold a string of up to 50 characters
order_totalcolumn, that should hold a numeric value in dollars and cents. Assume that all orders will be less than $100.
order_total columns should always contain a value.
CREATE TABLE orders ( id serial, customer_name varchar(100) NOT NULL, burger varchar(50), side varchar(50), drink varchar(50), order_total decimal(4,2) NOT NULL );
order_total column, our
decimal needs a precision of
4, since the maximum value of an order is theoretically $99.99. The scale is
2, since the two digits to the right of the decimal represent the number of cents.