Lecture 32

SQL and SQLite II

MCS 275 Spring 2022
David Dumas

Lecture 0x20

SQL and SQLite II

MCS 275 Spring 2022
David Dumas

Using SQLite

Method 1: From a Python script

        import sqlite3
        con = sqlite3.connect("mydbfile.name") # often .db or .sqlite
        res = con.execute("SELECT * FROM evil_plans WHERE year=2022;")

Method 2: Run sqlite command line shell and type

            .open "mydbfile"
            SELECT * FROM evil_plans WHERE year=2022;

Today, we'll mostly practice making queries and learning more of SQL.

Sample databases

solarsystem.sqlite — Planets orbiting the sun.

todo.sqlite — Task list example.

hyg_data.sqlite — Data on about 100,000 stars adapted from the HYG dataset created by David Nash, which I'll use today.

The first two are in the sample code repo as well. The last one is pretty big, and is only available through the download link above.


Some characteristics of stars in the HYG database:

  • Proper name (proper): Common name, if it has one
  • Right ascension (ra): East-west position in the sky (range 0 to 24)
  • Declination (dec): North-south position in the sky (range -90 to 90)
  • Magnitude (mag): Apparent brightness when viewed from earth (higher = dimmer)
  • Color index (ci): How bluish is the star? (sun=0.656; higher = more blue, lower = more red)


Find and return rows. The most common query.

        SELECT * FROM table_name; -- give me everything
        SELECT * FROM table_name WHERE condition; -- some rows
        SELECT col3, col1 FROM table_name; -- some columns
        SELECT * FROM table_name LIMIT 10; -- at most 10 rows
        SELECT * FROM table_name 
        ORDER BY col2; -- sort by col2, smallest first
        SELECT * FROM table_name
        ORDER BY col2 DESC; -- sort by col2, biggest first

Conditions can be e.g. equalities and inequalities.

WHERE, ORDER BY, LIMIT can be used together, but must appear in that "WOBL" order. (Details.)

SQL conditions

Examples of things that can appear after WHERE:

            col = value  -- Also supports >, >=, <, <=, !=
            col IN (val1, val2, val3)
            col BETWEEN lowval AND highval
            col IS NULL
            col IS NOT NULL
            stringcol LIKE pattern  -- string pattern matching
            condition1 AND condition2
            condition1 OR condition2


            coursetitle LIKE "Introduction to %"
            itemtype LIKE "electrical adapt_r"

In a pattern string:

  • % matches any number of characters (including 0)
  • _ matches any single character

e.g. "%d_g" matches "fossil dig" and "dog" but does not match "hypersonic drag", "dog toy", or "dg".

Getting data from SQLite

After SELECT, where are the data?

execute() doesn't return the rows directly. It returns a Cursor object which is ready to give them to you.

To request rows from a Cursor c, several options:

  • Use it as an iterable (it yields one tuple per row).
  • c.fetchone() returns next row as a tuple.
  • c.fetchall() returns a list of tuples.


Creates a table. The set of tables doesn't change very often in most databases, and this setup step is often performed manually or by a separate program.

        CREATE TABLE [IF NOT EXISTS] table_name (
            col1 TYPE1 [MODIFIERS],
            col2 TYPE2 [MODIFIERS], ... 
        );  -- or you could write it all on one line!

Types include: TEXT, REAL, INTEGER

Modifiers include: UNIQUE, NOT NULL, PRIMARY KEY, and DEFAULT [val]


Creating a table twice generates an error unless IF NOT EXISTS is given.


A unique identifier for each row. Recommended to use INTEGER PRIMARY KEY as type.

Useful to uniquely refer to a row in an UPDATE or DELETE query.

If you don't include one, then SQLite makes one and keeps it hidden.


Add one row to an existing table.

        -- Set every column (need to know column order!)
        INSERT INTO table_name
        VALUES ( val1, val2, val3, val4, val5, val6, val7 );

        -- Set some columns, in an order I specify
        INSERT INTO table_name ( col1, col7, col3 )
        VALUES ( val1, val7, val3 );

Missing columns are set to default values (often null).

Exceptions indicate constraint violations (e.g. typing).

There is also a way to insert many rows at once, taken from the result of another query.

Giving data to SQLite

Don't use string formatting to embed data in a call to execute(). Instead, use ? characters as placeholders and then give a tuple of values in the second argument.

        # do this instead; it keeps data in native types
        # separate from the SQL code
            "INSERT INTO planets VALUES (?,?,?);",
            ("Earth", 1.0, None)

Placeholder gotcha

When calling execute() with placeholders in the SQL statement, the second argument MUST be an iterable of values.

So if you have only one value, you need to wrap it in a list or tuple.

        con.execute("INSERT INTO tab VALUES (?);", 275)  # FAILS
        con.execute("INSERT INTO tab VALUES (?);", [275] )  # OK
        con.execute("INSERT INTO tab VALUES (?);", (275,) ) # OK

These examples assume tab is a table with just one column.


Change values in a row (or rows).

        UPDATE table_name SET col1=val1, col5=val5 WHERE condition;

Warning: Every row meeting the condition is changed!

Also supports ORDER BY and LIMIT.

Use ? placeholders for values when executing from Python.


Remove rows matching a condition.

        DELETE FROM table_name WHERE condition;

Also supports ORDER BY and LIMIT (e.g. to remove n rows with largest values in a given column).

Immediate, irreversible.

Omit WHERE clause to delete all rows.


Deletes an entire table.

        DROP TABLE table_name;           -- no such table = ERROR
        DROP TABLE IF EXISTS table_name; -- no such table = ok

Immediate, irreversible. Think of it as "throw the only copy of this table into a pool of lava". Use caution.

Transaction context manager

You can use a sqlite3 Connection object as a context manager (i.e. in with) to create a transaction.

        with con:
            # Make all the changes necessary to reflect the closing
            # of the Scranton office.

Another connection to the same database will never see it in a state other than "everything in the transaction happened" (if no exceptions) or "nothing in the transaction happened" (if an exception occurs).


Revision history

  • 2022-03-15 Initial publication
  • 2022-04-15 Add note about single placeholder execute gotcha