Boosting Efficiency: Streamline Your PostgreSQL Workflows with Script Variables

2024-02-24
Using Script Variables in psql Setting Variables

There are three main ways to set variables in psql:

  1. Command-line arguments: When launching psql, you can pass variables directly using the -v flag:
psql -v table_name=users -v limit=10 -h localhost -U postgres my_database

This example sets three variables: table_name, limit, and database connection details.

  1. \set meta-command: Within your psql script, use the \set command to define variables:
\set table_name 'products'
\set min_price 50

SELECT * FROM :table_name WHERE price >= :min_price;

Here, table_name and min_price are defined and used in the subsequent SELECT statement.

  1. \gset meta-command: This advanced option allows capturing values from a query and assigning them to variables:
\gset prefix my_count SELECT COUNT(*) FROM customers;

SELECT "Total Customers: ":my_count;

This example retrieves the customer count using \gset and prefixes it with "Total Customers:" before displaying it.

Using Variables in SQL Statements

Once defined, you can reference variables within your SQL statements using the following syntax:

  • :variable_name: This is the preferred method for most scenarios.
  • 'variable_name': Use single quotes only if the variable itself contains quotes or special characters.

Here are examples demonstrating variable usage:

SELECT * FROM :table_name WHERE id = :specific_id;

UPDATE :table_name SET name = :new_name WHERE id = :update_id;

INSERT INTO :table_name (column1, column2) VALUES (:value1, :value2);

Remember, variables cannot be used within single quotes directly. If your variable needs to be part of a string literal, include the quotes within the variable definition itself, using escaped quotes:

\set column_name 'description'
SELECT * FROM :table_name WHERE :column_name = '\'This is a description\'';
Related Issues and Solutions

Variable scope: Variables defined with \set are local to the current psql session and disappear upon exiting. Consider using PL/pgSQL functions for persistent variables within stored procedures.

Security: Be cautious when using user-provided input in variables, as it can lead to SQL injection vulnerabilities. Use prepared statements or parameterized queries to sanitize user input before using it in SQL statements.

Error handling: Ensure proper error handling when using variables, especially when retrieving values from queries using \gset.

By understanding these concepts and following best practices, you can effectively leverage script variables in psql to enhance the flexibility, maintainability, and security of your PostgreSQL scripts.


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