man pages section 1: User Commands

Exit Print View

Updated: July 2014

sql (1)


sql - execute a command on a database determined by a dburl


sql [options] dburl [commands]

sql [options] dburl < commandfile

#!/usr/bin/sql --shebang [options] dburl


parallel                                                   SQL(1)

     sql - execute a command on a database determined by a dburl

     sql [options] dburl [commands]

     sql [options] dburl < commandfile

     #!/usr/bin/sql --shebang [options] dburl

     GNU sql aims to give a simple, unified interface for
     accessing databases through all the different databases'
     command line clients. So far the focus has been on giving a
     common way to specify login information (protocol, username,
     password, hostname, and port number), size (database and
     table size), and running queries.

     The database is addressed using a DBURL. If commands are
     left out you will get that database's interactive shell.

     GNU sql is often used in combination with GNU parallel.

     dburl    A DBURL has the following syntax: [sql:]vendor://

              See the section DBURL below.

     commands The SQL commands to run. Each argument will have a
              newline appended.

              Example: "SELECT * FROM foo;" "SELECT * FROM bar;"

              If the arguments contain '\n' or '\x0a' this will
              be replaced with a newline:

              Example: "SELECT * FROM foo;\n SELECT * FROM bar;"

              If no commands are given SQL is read from the
              keyboard or STDIN.

              Example: echo 'SELECT * FROM foo;' | sql mysql:///

     --dbsize Size of database. Show the size of the database on
              disk. For Oracle this requires access to read the
              table dba_data_files - the user system has that.

     -h       Print a summary of the options to GNU sql and exit.

     --html   HTML output. Turn on HTML tabular output.

20121122             Last change: 2014-06-17                    1

parallel                                                   SQL(1)

              Show the list of running queries.

              List the databases (table spaces) in the database.

              List the tables in the database.

     -n       Remove headers and footers and print only tuples.
              Bug in Oracle: it still prints number of rows

     -p pass-through
              The string following -p will be given to the
              database connection program as arguments. Multiple
              -p's will be joined with space. Example: pass '-U'
              and the user name to the program:

              -p "-U scott" can also be written -p -U -p scott.

     -r       Try 3 times. Short version of --retries 3.

     --retries ntimes
              Try ntimes times. If the client program returns
              with an error, retry the command. Default is
              --retries 1.

     --sep string
     -s string
              Field separator. Use string as separator between

              Do not use the first line of input (used by GNU sql
              itself when called with --shebang).

              Size of tables. Show the size of the tables in the


20121122             Last change: 2014-06-17                    2

parallel                                                   SQL(1)

     -V       Print the version GNU sql and exit.

     -Y       GNU sql can be called as a shebang (#!) command as
              the first line of a script. Like this:

                #!/usr/bin/sql -Y mysql:///

                SELECT * FROM foo;

              For this to work --shebang or -Y must be set as the
              first option.

     A DBURL has the following syntax: [sql:]vendor://

     To quote special characters use %-encoding specified in (E.g. a
     password containing '/' would contain '%2F').

      sql:sqlite2:////tmp/db.sqlite?SELECT * FROM foo;

     Currently supported vendors: MySQL (mysql), MySQL with SSL
     (mysqls, mysqlssl), Oracle (oracle, ora), PostgreSQL
     (postgresql, pg, pgsql, postgres), PostgreSQL with SSL
     (postgresqlssl, pgs, pgsqlssl, postgresssl, pgssl,
     postgresqls, pgsqls, postgress), SQLite2 (sqlite, sqlite2),
     SQLite3 (sqlite3).

     Aliases must start with ':' and are read from
     /etc/sql/aliases and ~/.sql/aliases. The user's own
     ~/.sql/aliases should only be readable by the user.

     Example of aliases:

20121122             Last change: 2014-06-17                    3

parallel                                                   SQL(1)

      :myalias1 pg://
      :myalias2 ora://
      # Short form of mysql://`whoami`:nopassword@localhost:3306/`whoami`
      :myalias3 mysql:///
      # Short form of mysql://`whoami`:nopassword@localhost:33333/mydb
      :myalias4 mysql://:33333/mydb
      # Alias for an alias
      :m      :myalias4
      # the sortest alias possible
      :       sqlite2:////tmp/db.sqlite
      # Including an SQL query
      :query  sqlite:////tmp/db.sqlite?SELECT * FROM foo;

  Get an interactive prompt
     The most basic use of GNU sql is to get an interactive

     sql sql:oracle://

     If you have setup an alias you can do:

     sql :myora

  Run a query
     To run a query directly from the command line:

     sql :myalias "SELECT * FROM foo;"

     Oracle requires newlines after each statement. This can be
     done like this:

     sql :myora "SELECT * FROM foo;" "SELECT * FROM bar;"

     Or this:

     sql :myora "SELECT * FROM foo;\nSELECT * FROM bar;"

  Copy a PostgreSQL database
     To copy a PostgreSQL database use pg_dump to generate the
     dump and GNU sql to import it:

     pg_dump pg_database | sql

  Empty all tables in a MySQL database
     Using GNU parallel it is easy to empty all tables without
     dropping them:

     sql -n mysql:/// 'show tables' | parallel sql mysql:///
     DELETE FROM {};

20121122             Last change: 2014-06-17                    4

parallel                                                   SQL(1)

  Drop all tables in a PostgreSQL database
     To drop all tables in a PostgreSQL database do:

     sql -n pg:/// '\dt' | parallel --colsep '\|' -r sql pg:///
     DROP TABLE {2};

  Run as a script
     Instead of doing:

     sql mysql:/// < sqlfile

     you can combine the sqlfile with the DBURL to make a UNIX-
     script. Create a script called demosql:

     #!/usr/bin/sql -Y mysql:///

     SELECT * FROM foo;

     Then do:

     chmod +x demosql; ./demosql

  Use --colsep to process multiple columns
     Use GNU parallel's --colsep to separate columns:

     sql -s '\t' :myalias 'SELECT * FROM foo;' | parallel
     --colsep '\t' do_stuff {4} {1}

  Retry if the connection fails
     If the access to the database fails occationally --retries
     can help make sure the query succeeds:

     sql --retries 5 :myalias 'SELECT * FROM really_big_foo;'

  Get info about the running database system
     Show how big the database is:

     sql --db-size :myalias

     List the tables:

     sql --list-tables :myalias

     List the size of the tables:

     sql --table-size :myalias

     List the running processes:

     sql --show-processlist :myalias

20121122             Last change: 2014-06-17                    5

parallel                                                   SQL(1)

     GNU sql is part of GNU parallel. Report bugs to

     When using GNU sql for a publication please cite:

     O. Tange (2011): GNU SQL - A Command Line Tool for Accessing
     Different Databases Using DBURLs, ;login: The USENIX
     Magazine, April 2011:29-32.

     Copyright (C) 2008,2009,2010 Ole Tange

     Copyright (C) 2010,2011 Ole Tange, and
     Free Software Foundation, Inc.

     Copyright (C) 2007,2008,2009,2010,2011 Free Software
     Foundation, Inc.

     This program is free software; you can redistribute it
     and/or modify it under the terms of the GNU General Public
     License as published by the Free Software Foundation; either
     version 3 of the License, or at your option any later

     This program is distributed in the hope that it will be
     useful, but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied
     PURPOSE.  See the GNU General Public License for more

     You should have received a copy of the GNU General Public
     License along with this program.  If not, see

  Documentation license I
     Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this
     documentation under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation
     License, Version 1.3 or any later version published by the
     Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, with
     no Front-Cover Texts, and with no Back-Cover Texts.  A copy
     of the license is included in the file fdl.txt.

  Documentation license II
     You are free:

     to Share to copy, distribute and transmit the work

     to Remix to adapt the work

20121122             Last change: 2014-06-17                    6

parallel                                                   SQL(1)

     Under the following conditions:

              You must attribute the work in the manner specified
              by the author or licensor (but not in any way that
              suggests that they endorse you or your use of the

     Share Alike
              If you alter, transform, or build upon this work,
              you may distribute the resulting work only under
              the same, similar or a compatible license.

     With the understanding that:

     Waiver   Any of the above conditions can be waived if you
              get permission from the copyright holder.

     Public Domain
              Where the work or any of its elements is in the
              public domain under applicable law, that status is
              in no way affected by the license.

     Other Rights
              In no way are any of the following rights affected
              by the license:

              o        Your fair dealing or fair use rights, or
                       other applicable copyright exceptions and

              o        The author's moral rights;

              o        Rights other persons may have either in
                       the work itself or in how the work is
                       used, such as publicity or privacy rights.

     Notice   For any reuse or distribution, you must make clear
              to others the license terms of this work.

     A copy of the full license is included in the file as

     GNU sql uses Perl. If mysql is installed, MySQL dburls will
     work. If psql is installed, PostgreSQL dburls will work.  If
     sqlite is installed, SQLite2 dburls will work.  If sqlite3
     is installed, SQLite3 dburls will work. If sqlplus is
     installed, Oracle dburls will work. If rlwrap is installed,
     GNU sql will have a command history for Oracle.

20121122             Last change: 2014-06-17                    7

parallel                                                   SQL(1)

     ~/.sql/aliases - user's own aliases with DBURLs

     /etc/sql/aliases - common aliases with DBURLs

     See attributes(5) for descriptions of the following

     |Availability   | shell/parallel   |
     |Stability      | Uncommitted      |
     mysql(1), psql(1), rlwrap(1), sqlite(1), sqlite3(1),

     This software was built from source available at  The original
     community source was downloaded from

     Further information about this software can be found on the
     open source community website at

20121122             Last change: 2014-06-17                    8