paul bennett

Archive for the ‘SQL’ Category

1. Produce terminal-friendly output

Occasionally you may be using the command line and find yourself limited by the size of either the table you’re getting results from or by the size of the terminal window you’re using. (I find the DPS window particularly resistant to resizing.

You can get results in this format
column1_name: data
column2_name: data

instead of the default tabular layout by using the \G flag at the end of your select statement:

select * from my_table where id = "3"\G

2. Better, more flexible result ordering

Recently I found myself a bit hamstrung by the way a table had been designed. I wanted chronological ordering, but the default ordering by date wasn’t ordering the results exactly chronologically.

I found that I could use functions in the ‘order by’ component of my selects to get better ordering

select * from my_table order by concat(entry_date, entry_time);

(group by could also be used to similar effect)

3. Logging your command line session

Occasionally you may end a command line MySQL session and then think “Argh – I wish I’d saved that query!”. MySQL has a handy logging feature which writes your session (input and output) to a file so you can pull out those tricky queries and keep them for future reference. To do so, log in using the -tee flag:

mysql -u username -p -tee=/path/to/your/log.file

Obviously you need write access to the folder you’re writing to. If the file doesn’t exist, MySQL will create it for you.

Beware: if the file already exists, MySQL will overwrite it with the new session data.

4.  Loading .CSV file data into a table using the command line

MySQL has a very simple way to load .csv file data into tables. Once you have the syntax down, I find this a lot easier and ess error-prne than commonly used web-based or GUI tools.

Syntax I’ve used is:

load data infile '/path/to/your.csv' into table my_tables fields terminated by ',' optionally enclosed by '"' lines terminated by '\n';

Works a treat.

5. Cloning tables

This is really simple, but is something I use a lot to create development tables with live data (when necessary).

create table my_new_table as select * from my_old_table;

This does exactly what it looks like – creates an exact renamed copy of the original table (my_old_table in this instance).

Beware: keys and indexes aren’t recreated – you’ll need to add these back in manually.

What about you  – any handy MySQL tricks to share?


Join tutorials always tell you how to join tables in the same database, but what if you need to join tables which sit in different databases?

Turns out this is nice and simple[1] (in MySQL, your db engine may vary):

SELECT this-db.table-one.column-one, other-db.table-two.column-two
FROM this-db.table-one
LEFT JOIN other-db.table-two
ON =

Simply put, the ‘dot operator’ lets you specify database as a parent of table in the same way you normally specify table as a parent to a column.

[1] assuming the account you use to connect to the database has rights across both databases. If not you’ll need to set up an account which does.

We’re planning on upgrading from an archaic mysql engine (3.58) to the latest, shiny release version (5.1), so I’ve undertaking a code review of some of our administration applications to see what this unearthed.

Turns out the password hashing for the MySQL native PASSWORD() function changed in version 4.1, so our login system won’t work in 5.1. Great.

Turns out we’ll be able to skirt around this by making sdure this line is in the new my.cnf file:

old-passwords = 1

It’s great this was thought of, as PASSWORD() is a one-way, irreversible function, so authentication will fail for any old application using it when it is run on mysql >= 4.1.

thanks to []


Need to improve your MySQL skills? I recommend:
High Performance MySQL: Optimization, Backups, Replication, and More


MySQL’s REGEXP function is handy when you need to search for specific text strings within a textual column, but over large record sets, it’s performance can be less than fantastic.

Recently I had a situation at work where I needed to do a first name / last name search across a single name field. Due to poor database design, the name field was in the form “lastname, first names”. Initially I used REGEXP to come up with something like this:

Select table1.some-data, table2.some-other-data
table1, table2
where REGEXP "^[ a-z]{0,},[ a-z]{0,}'.$firstName.'[ a-z]{0,}$"
and REGEXP "^[ a-z]{0,}'.$lastName.'[ a-z]{0,},[ a-z]{0,}$"
table1.key = table2.foreignKey

Our testing showed that this query produced a good quality result for name searches, but I had a gut feeling it would slow the database server considerably when under a bit of load.

Testing using JMeter confirmed this hunch and I was faced with the task of optimising the query without affecting the quality of the results.

What to do? What would give the pattern-matching punch of REGEXP without killing the server?

Enter the LIKE function. I’ve used LIKE before but didn’t realise how powerful (and fast) it was. After a bit of tweaking I cam up with the following:

Select table1.some-data, table2.some-other-data
table1, table2
where LIKE "%,%'.$firstName.'%"
and LIKE "%'.$lastName.'%,%"
table1.key = table2.foreignKey

I had (falsely) thought initially that LIKE‘s wild card characters (the “%” in the query) could only occur at the start or end of a query, but it turns out they can be used for all sorts of pattern matching goodness. The query using LIKE turned out the same results as the query using REGEXP, only it was at least 10 times faster.

The downside with LIKE‘s pattern matching (which didn’t affect my query) is that it’s wild card will match any character, whereas REGEXP can be tuned using normal regular expressions to providfe much more granular query control.

If you just need fast, ‘any character’ pattern matching though, LIKE is your friend.

Another MySQL timesaver:
INSERT INTO Sales(TransId, Status, Amount)
VALUES(123, 'Pending', 20)

Via Particletree


Need to improve your MySQL skills? I recommend:
High Performance MySQL: Optimization, Backups, Replication, and More

I really wish I’d known this a long, long time ago:

insert into `mytable` (fname, lname, address) values ("john", "doe", "123 some st"), ("jane", "doe", "456 other st")

This wee gem allows an application to add multiple rows to a table in one simple query.

Say goodbye to those processor intensive loops…

“You can’t create a table when it already exists. Moron.”