Creating, dropping, and altering tables in SQLite

In this part of the SQLite tutorial, we will cover the data definition language (DDL) of the SQLite database. The DDL consists of SQL statements that define the database schema. The schema is the database structure described in a formal language. In relational databases, the schema defines the tables, views, indexes, relationships, or triggers.

The SQLite supports the following three DDL statements:

In SQLite, the CREATE statement is used to create tables, indexes, views, and triggers. The ALTER TABLE statement changes the structure of a table. The DROP statement removes tables, indexes, views, or triggers.

Creating tables

The CREATE statement is used to create tables. It is also used to create indexes, views, and triggers.

To create a table, we give a name to a table and to its columns. Each column can have one of these data types:

sqlite> CREATE TABLE Testing(Id INTEGER);
sqlite> .schema Testing
CREATE TABLE Testing(Id INTEGER);

We create a simple Testing table with the CREATE TABLE statement. The .schema command shows the formal definition of the table.

sqlite> CREATE TABLE Testing(Id INTEGER);
Error: table Testing already exists

If we try to create a table that already exists, we get an error. Therefore the CREATE TABLE statement has an optional IF NOT EXISTS clause. With this clause nothing is done and we receive no error.

sqlite> CREATE TABLE IF NOT EXISTS Testing(Id INTEGER);

We get no error message for trying to create a table that already exists.

The CREATE TABLE ... AS statement enables to create a new table based on a SELECT statement.

sqlite> CREATE TABLE Cars2 AS SELECT * FROM Cars;

The above statement creates an identical table to the Cars table using a specific SELECT statement.

sqlite> ATTACH DATABASE 'test2.db' AS 'test2';
sqlite> .databases
seq  name             file                                                      
---  ---------------  ----------------------------------------------------------
0    main             /home/janbodnar/programming/sqlite/test.db                
2    test2            /home/janbodnar/programming/sqlite/test2.db 

We add a new database to the current database connection with the ATTACH DATABASE statement. The first database is called main and the new database is called test2.

sqlite> CREATE TABLE test2.Cars(Id INTEGER PRIMARY KEY, Name TEXT, Price INTEGER);
sqlite> INSERT INTO test2.Cars VALUES(1, 'Porsche', 107699); 
sqlite> SELECT * FROM main.Cars WHERE Id=1;
Id          Name        Price     
----------  ----------  ----------
1           Audi        52642   
sqlite> SELECT * FROM test2.Cars WHERE Id=1;
Id          Name        Price     
----------  ----------  ----------
1           Porsche     107699   

Since we have two databases it is mandatory to specify the database name if we want to create a table in the test2 database. The database name precedes the table name. In this case, if the database name is not specified, the main is automatically chosen.

sqlite> CREATE TEMPORARY TABLE Cars(Id INTEGER PRIMARY KEY, Name TEXT, Price INTEGER);
sqlite> INSERT INTO temp.Cars VALUES (1, 'Kia', 24300); 
sqlite> .databases
seq  name             file                                                      
---  ---------------  ----------------------------------------------------------
0    main             /home/janbodnar/programming/sqlite/test.db                
1    temp                                                                       
2    test2            /home/janbodnar/programming/sqlite/test2.db               
sqlite> SELECT * FROM temp.Cars WHERE Id=1;
Id          Name        Price     
----------  ----------  ----------
1           Kia         24300     

With the TEMPORARY keyword, we create a temporary database. A temporary database is destroyed each time the database connection is closed. The name of the temporary database is temp.

Dropping tables

The DROP statement is used to delete a table from a database.

sqlite> .tables
Cars     Friends  Testing
sqlite> DROP TABLE Testing;
sqlite> .tables
Cars     Friends

We show the available tables with the .tables command. The DROP TABLE statement removes the Testing table from the database.

sqlite> DROP TABLE Testing;
Error: no such table: Testing

Trying to drop a table that does not exist leads to an error. With the IF EXISTS clause we can avoid this error.

sqlite> DROP TABLE IF EXISTS Testing;

This statement will drop the Testing table only if it exists.

sqlite> DROP TABLE IF EXISTS test2.Cars;

This SQL statement deletes the Cars table from the test2 database.

ALTER TABLE

SQLite supports a limited subset of the ALTER TABLE statement. This statement in SQLite allows a user to rename a table or to add a new column to an existing table. It is not possible to rename a column, remove a column, or add or remove constraints from a table.

sqlite> CREATE TABLE Names(Id INTEGER, Name TEXT);

Let us create a table called Names that we want to rename.

sqlite> ALTER TABLE Names RENAME TO NamesOfFriends;

We rename the table to NamesOfFriends.

sqlite> .schema NamesOfFriends
CREATE TABLE "NamesOfFriends"(Id INTEGER, Name TEXT);

We verify the schema of the renamed table.

Say we wanted to add a new column to the table.

sqlite> ALTER TABLE NamesOfFriends ADD COLUMN Email TEXT;

The SQL statement adds a new column named Email to the table.

sqlite> .schema NamesOfFriends
CREATE TABLE "NamesOfFriends"(Id INTEGER, Name TEXT, Email TEXT);

Here we see the new structure of the table.

In this part of the SQLite tutorial, we were creating, dropping, and altering tables.