Python API

Connecting to or creating a database

Database objects are constructed by passing in either a path to a file on disk or an existing SQLite3 database connection:

from sqlite_utils import Database

db = Database("my_database.db")

This will create my_database.db if it does not already exist.

If you want to recreate a database from scratch (first removing the existing file from disk if it already exists) you can use the recreate=True argument:

db = Database("my_database.db", recreate=True)

Instead of a file path you can pass in an existing SQLite connection:

import sqlite3

db = Database(sqlite3.connect("my_database.db"))

If you want to create an in-memory database, you can do so like this:

db = Database(memory=True)

Connections use PRAGMA recursive_triggers=on by default. If you don’t want to use recursive triggers you can turn them off using:

db = Database(memory=True, recursive_triggers=False)

Tracing queries

You can use the tracer mechanism to see SQL queries that are being executed by SQLite. A tracer is a function that you provide which will be called with sql and params arguments every time SQL is executed, for example:

def tracer(sql, params):
    print("SQL: {} - params: {}".format(sql, params))

You can pass this function to the Database() constructor like so:

db = Database(memory=True, tracer=tracer)

You can also turn on a tracer function temporarily for a block of code using the with db.tracer(...) context manager:

db = Database(memory=True)
# ... later
with db.tracer(print):
    db["dogs"].insert({"name": "Cleo"})

This example will print queries only for the duration of the with block.

Executing queries

The db.execute() and db.executescript() methods provide wrappers around .execute() and .executescript() on the underlying SQLite connection. These wrappers log to the tracer function if one has been registered.

db = Database(memory=True)
db["dogs"].insert({"name": "Cleo"})
db.execute("update dogs set name = 'Cleopaws'")

Accessing tables

Tables are accessed using the indexing operator, like so:

table = db["my_table"]

If the table does not yet exist, it will be created the first time you attempt to insert or upsert data into it.

You can also access tables using the .table() method like so:

table = db.table("my_table")

Using this factory function allows you to set Table configuration options.

Listing tables

You can list the names of tables in a database using the .table_names() method:

>>> db.table_names()

To see just the FTS4 tables, use .table_names(fts4=True). For FTS5, use .table_names(fts5=True).

You can also iterate through the table objects themselves using the .tables property:

>>> db.tables
[<Table dogs>]

Listing views

.view_names() shows you a list of views in the database:

>>> db.view_names()

You can iterate through view objects using the .views property:

>>> db.views
[<View good_dogs>]

View objects are similar to Table objects, except that any attempts to insert or update data will throw an error. The full list of methods and properties available on a view object is as follows:

  • columns
  • columns_dict
  • count
  • schema
  • rows
  • rows_where(where, where_args, order_by, select)
  • drop()

Listing rows

To iterate through dictionaries for each of the rows in a table, use .rows:

>>> db = sqlite_utils.Database("dogs.db")
>>> for row in db["dogs"].rows:
...     print(row)
{'id': 1, 'age': 4, 'name': 'Cleo'}
{'id': 2, 'age': 2, 'name': 'Pancakes'}

You can filter rows by a WHERE clause using .rows_where(where, where_args):

>>> db = sqlite_utils.Database("dogs.db")
>>> for row in db["dogs"].rows_where("age > ?", [3]):
...     print(row)
{'id': 1, 'age': 4, 'name': 'Cleo'}

To return custom columns (instead of using select *) pass select=:

>>> db = sqlite_utils.Database("dogs.db")
>>> for row in db["dogs"].rows_where(select='name, age'):
...     print(row)
{'name': 'Cleo', 'age': 4}

To specify an order, use the order_by= argument:

>>> for row in db["dogs"].rows_where("age > 1", order_by="age"):
...     print(row)
{'id': 2, 'age': 2, 'name': 'Pancakes'}
{'id': 1, 'age': 4, 'name': 'Cleo'}

You can use order_by="age desc" for descending order.

You can order all records in the table by excluding the where argument:

>>> for row in db["dogs"].rows_where(order_by="age desc"):
...     print(row)
{'id': 1, 'age': 4, 'name': 'Cleo'}
{'id': 2, 'age': 2, 'name': 'Pancakes'}

Retrieving a specific record

You can retrieve a record by its primary key using table.get():

>>> db = sqlite_utils.Database("dogs.db")
>>> print(db["dogs"].get(1))
{'id': 1, 'age': 4, 'name': 'Cleo'}

If the table has a compound primary key you can pass in the primary key values as a tuple:

>>> db["compound_dogs"].get(("mixed", 3))

If the record does not exist a NotFoundError will be raised:

from sqlite_utils.db import NotFoundError

    row = db["dogs"].get(5)
except NotFoundError:
    print("Dog not found")

Creating tables

The easiest way to create a new table is to insert a record into it:

from sqlite_utils import Database
import sqlite3

db = Database(sqlite3.connect("/tmp/dogs.db"))
dogs = db["dogs"]
    "name": "Cleo",
    "twitter": "cleopaws",
    "age": 3,
    "is_good_dog": True,

This will automatically create a new table called “dogs” with the following schema:

    name TEXT,
    twitter TEXT,
    age INTEGER,
    is_good_dog INTEGER

You can also specify a primary key by passing the pk= parameter to the .insert() call. This will only be obeyed if the record being inserted causes the table to be created:

    "id": 1,
    "name": "Cleo",
    "twitter": "cleopaws",
    "age": 3,
    "is_good_dog": True,
}, pk="id")

After inserting a row like this, the dogs.last_rowid property will return the SQLite rowid assigned to the most recently inserted record.

The dogs.last_pk property will return the last inserted primary key value, if you specified one. This can be very useful when writing code that creates foreign keys or many-to-many relationships.

Custom column order and column types

The order of the columns in the table will be derived from the order of the keys in the dictionary, provided you are using Python 3.6 or later.

If you want to explicitly set the order of the columns you can do so using the column_order= parameter:

    "id": 1,
    "name": "Cleo",
    "twitter": "cleopaws",
    "age": 3,
    "is_good_dog": True,
}, pk="id", column_order=("id", "twitter", "name"))

You don’t need to pass all of the columns to the column_order parameter. If you only pass a subset of the columns the remaining columns will be ordered based on the key order of the dictionary.

Column types are detected based on the example data provided. Sometimes you may find you need to over-ride these detected types - to create an integer column for data that was provided as a string for example, or to ensure that a table where the first example was None is created as an INTEGER rather than a TEXT column. You can do this using the columns= parameter:

    "id": 1,
    "name": "Cleo",
    "age": "5",
}, pk="id", columns={"age": int, "weight": float})

This will create a table with the following schema:

    [name] TEXT,
    [age] INTEGER,
    [weight] FLOAT

Explicitly creating a table

You can directly create a new table without inserting any data into it using the .create() method:

    "id": int,
    "name": str,
    "weight": float,
}, pk="id")

The first argument here is a dictionary specifying the columns you would like to create. Each column is paired with a Python type indicating the type of column. See Adding columns for full details on how these types work.

This method takes optional arguments pk=, column_order=, foreign_keys=, not_null=set() and defaults=dict() - explained below.

Compound primary keys

If you want to create a table with a compound primary key that spans multiple columns, you can do so by passing a tuple of column names to any of the methods that accept a pk= parameter. For example:

    "id": int,
    "breed": str,
    "name": str,
    "weight": float,
}, pk=("breed", "id"))

This also works for the .insert(), .insert_all(), .upsert() and .upsert_all() methods.

Specifying foreign keys

Any operation that can create a table (.create(), .insert(), .insert_all(), .upsert() and .upsert_all()) accepts an optional foreign_keys= argument which can be used to set up foreign key constraints for the table that is being created.

If you are using your database with Datasette, Datasette will detect these constraints and use them to generate hyperlinks to associated records.

The foreign_keys argument takes a list that indicates which foreign keys should be created. The list can take several forms. The simplest is a list of columns:


The library will guess which tables you wish to reference based on the column names using the rules described in Adding foreign key constraints.

You can also be more explicit, by passing in a list of tuples:

    ("author_id", "authors", "id")

This means that the author_id column should be a foreign key that references the id column in the authors table.

You can leave off the third item in the tuple to have the referenced column automatically set to the primary key of that table. A full example:

    {"id": 1, "name": "Sally"},
    {"id": 2, "name": "Asheesh"}
], pk="id")
    {"title": "Hedgehogs of the world", "author_id": 1},
    {"title": "How to train your wolf", "author_id": 2},
], foreign_keys=[
    ("author_id", "authors")

Table configuration options

The .insert(), .upsert(), .insert_all() and .upsert_all() methods each take a number of keyword arguments, some of which influence what happens should they cause a table to be created and some of which affect the behavior of those methods.

You can set default values for these methods by accessing the table through the db.table(...) method (instead of using db["table_name"]), like so:

table = db.table(
    not_null={"name", "score"},
    column_order=("id", "name", "score", "url")
# Now you can call .insert() like so:
table.insert({"id": 1, "name": "Tracy", "score": 5})

The configuration options that can be specified in this way are pk, foreign_keys, column_order, not_null, defaults, batch_size, hash_id, alter, ignore, replace, extracts, conversions, columns. These are all documented below.

Setting defaults and not null constraints

Each of the methods that can cause a table to be created take optional arguments not_null=set() and defaults=dict(). The methods that take these optional arguments are:

  • db.create_table(...)
  • table.create(...)
  • table.insert(...)
  • table.insert_all(...)
  • table.upsert(...)
  • table.upsert_all(...)

You can use not_null= to pass a set of column names that should have a NOT NULL constraint set on them when they are created.

You can use defaults= to pass a dictionary mapping columns to the default value that should be specified in the CREATE TABLE statement.

Here’s an example that uses these features:

    [{"id": 1, "name": "Sally", "score": 2}],
    not_null={"name", "score"},
    defaults={"score": 1},
db["authors"].insert({"name": "Dharma"})

# Outputs:
# [{'id': 1, 'name': 'Sally', 'score': 2},
#  {'id': 3, 'name': 'Dharma', 'score': 1}]
# Outputs:
# CREATE TABLE [authors] (
#     [name] TEXT NOT NULL,
# )

Bulk inserts

If you have more than one record to insert, the insert_all() method is a much more efficient way of inserting them. Just like insert() it will automatically detect the columns that should be created, but it will inspect the first batch of 100 items to help decide what those column types should be.

Use it like this:

    "id": 1,
    "name": "Cleo",
    "twitter": "cleopaws",
    "age": 3,
    "is_good_dog": True,
}, {
    "id": 2,
    "name": "Marnie",
    "twitter": "MarnieTheDog",
    "age": 16,
    "is_good_dog": True,
}], pk="id", column_order=("id", "twitter", "name"))

The column types used in the CREATE TABLE statement are automatically derived from the types of data in that first batch of rows. Any additional columns in subsequent batches will cause a sqlite3.OperationalError exception to be raised unless the alter=True argument is supplied, in which case the new columns will be created.

The function can accept an iterator or generator of rows and will commit them according to the batch size. The default batch size is 100, but you can specify a different size using the batch_size parameter:

    "id": 1,
    "name": "Name {}".format(i),
} for i in range(10000)), batch_size=1000)

You can skip inserting any records that have a primary key that already exists using ignore=True. This works with both .insert({...}, ignore=True) and .insert_all([...], ignore=True).

You can delete all the existing rows in the table before inserting the new records using truncate=True. This is useful if you want to replace the data in the table.

Insert-replacing data

If you want to insert a record or replace an existing record with the same primary key, using the replace=True argument to .insert() or .insert_all():

    "id": 1,
    "name": "Cleo",
    "twitter": "cleopaws",
    "age": 3,
    "is_good_dog": True,
}, {
    "id": 2,
    "name": "Marnie",
    "twitter": "MarnieTheDog",
    "age": 16,
    "is_good_dog": True,
}], pk="id", replace=True)


Prior to sqlite-utils 2.x the .upsert() and .upsert_all() methods did this. See Upserting data for the new behaviour of those methods in 2.x.

Updating a specific record

You can update a record by its primary key using table.update():

>>> db = sqlite_utils.Database("dogs.db")
>>> print(db["dogs"].get(1))
{'id': 1, 'age': 4, 'name': 'Cleo'}
>>> db["dogs"].update(1, {"age": 5})
>>> print(db["dogs"].get(1))
{'id': 1, 'age': 5, 'name': 'Cleo'}

The first argument to update() is the primary key. This can be a single value, or a tuple if that table has a compound primary key:

>>> db["compound_dogs"].update((5, 3), {"name": "Updated"})

The second argument is a dictonary of columns that should be updated, along with their new values.

You can cause any missing columns to be added automatically using alter=True:

>>> db["dogs"].update(1, {"breed": "Mutt"}, alter=True)

Deleting a specific record

You can delete a record using table.delete():

>>> db = sqlite_utils.Database("dogs.db")
>>> db["dogs"].delete(1)

The delete() method takes the primary key of the record. This can be a tuple of values if the row has a compound primary key:

>>> db["compound_dogs"].delete((5, 3))

Deleting multiple records

You can delete all records in a table that match a specific WHERE statement using table.delete_where():

>>> db = sqlite_utils.Database("dogs.db")
>>> # Delete every dog with age less than 3
>>> db["dogs"].delete_where("age < ?", [3]):

Calling table.delete_where() with no other arguments will delete every row in the table.

Upserting data

Upserting allows you to insert records if they do not exist and update them if they DO exist, based on matching against their primary key.

For example, given the dogs database you could upsert the record for Cleo like so:

    "id": 1,
    "name": "Cleo",
    "twitter": "cleopaws",
    "age": 4,
    "is_good_dog": True,
}, pk="id", column_order=("id", "twitter", "name"))

If a record exists with id=1, it will be updated to match those fields. If it does not exist it will be created.

Any existing columns that are not referenced in the dictionary passed to .upsert() will be unchanged. If you want to replace a record entirely, use .insert(doc, replace=True) instead.

Note that the pk and column_order parameters here are optional if you are certain that the table has already been created. You should pass them if the table may not exist at the time the first upsert is performed.

An upsert_all() method is also available, which behaves like insert_all() but performs upserts instead.


.upsert() and .upsert_all() in sqlite-utils 1.x worked like .insert(..., replace=True) and .insert_all(..., replace=True) do in 2.x. See issue #66 for details of this change.

Working with lookup tables

A useful pattern when populating large tables in to break common values out into lookup tables. Consider a table of Trees, where each tree has a species. Ideally these species would be split out into a separate Species table, with each one assigned an integer primary key that can be referenced from the Trees table species_id column.

Creating lookup tables explicitly

Calling db["Species"].lookup({"name": "Palm"}) creates a table called Species (if one does not already exist) with two columns: id and name. It sets up a unique constraint on the name column to guarantee it will not contain duplicate rows. It then inserts a new row with the name set to Palm and returns the new integer primary key value.

If the Species table already exists, it will insert the new row and return the primary key. If a row with that name already exists, it will return the corresponding primary key value directly.

If you call .lookup() against an existing table without the unique constraint it will attempt to add the constraint, raising an IntegrityError if the constraint cannot be created.

If you pass in a dictionary with multiple values, both values will be used to insert or retrieve the corresponding ID and any unique constraint that is created will cover all of those columns, for example:

    "latitude": 49.1265976,
    "longitude": 2.5496218,
    "species": db["Species"].lookup({
        "common_name": "Common Juniper",
        "latin_name": "Juniperus communis"

Populating lookup tables automatically during insert/upsert

A more efficient way to work with lookup tables is to define them using the extracts= parameter, which is accepted by .insert(), .upsert(), .insert_all(), .upsert_all() and by the .table(...) factory function.

extracts= specifies columns which should be “extracted” out into a separate lookup table during the data insertion.

It can be either a list of column names, in which case the extracted table names will match the column names exactly, or it can be a dictionary mapping column names to the desired name of the extracted table.

To extract the species column out to a separate Species table, you can do this:

# Using the table factory
trees = db.table("Trees", extracts={"species": "Species"})
    "latitude": 49.1265976,
    "longitude": 2.5496218,
    "species": "Common Juniper"

# If you want the table to be called 'species', you can do this:
trees = db.table("Trees", extracts=["species"])

# Using .insert() directly
    "latitude": 49.1265976,
    "longitude": 2.5496218,
    "species": "Common Juniper"
}, extracts={"species": "Species"})

Working with many-to-many relationships

sqlite-utils includes a shortcut for creating records using many-to-many relationships in the form of the table.m2m(...) method.

Here’s how to create two new records and connect them via a many-to-many table in a single line of code:

db["dogs"].insert({"id": 1, "name": "Cleo"}, pk="id").m2m(
    "humans", {"id": 1, "name": "Natalie"}, pk="id"

Running this example actually creates three tables: dogs, humans and a many-to-many dogs_humans table. It will insert a record into each of those tables.

The .m2m() method executes against the last record that was affected by .insert() or .update() - the record identified by the table.last_pk property. To execute .m2m() against a specific record you can first select it by passing its primary key to .update():

    "humans", {"id": 2, "name": "Simon"}, pk="id"

The first argument to .m2m() can be either the name of a table as a string or it can be the table object itself.

The second argument can be a single dictionary record or a list of dictionaries. These dictionaries will be passed to .upsert() against the specified table.

Here’s alternative code that creates the dog record and adds two people to it:

db = Database(memory=True)
dogs = db.table("dogs", pk="id")
humans = db.table("humans", pk="id")
dogs.insert({"id": 1, "name": "Cleo"}).m2m(
    humans, [
        {"id": 1, "name": "Natalie"},
        {"id": 2, "name": "Simon"}

The method will attempt to find an existing many-to-many table by looking for a table that has foreign key relationships against both of the tables in the relationship.

If it cannot find such a table, it will create a new one using the names of the two tables - dogs_humans in this example. You can customize the name of this table using the m2m_table= argument to .m2m().

It it finds multiple candidate tables with foreign keys to both of the specified tables it will raise a sqlite_utils.db.NoObviousTable exception. You can avoid this error by specifying the correct table using m2m_table=.

Using m2m and lookup tables together

You can work with (or create) lookup tables as part of a call to .m2m() using the lookup= parameter. This accepts the same argument as table.lookup() does - a dictionary of values that should be used to lookup or create a row in the lookup table.

This example creates a dogs table, populates it, creates a characteristics table, populates that and sets up a many-to-many relationship between the two. It chains .m2m() twice to create two associated characteristics:

db = Database(memory=True)
dogs = db.table("dogs", pk="id")
dogs.insert({"id": 1, "name": "Cleo"}).m2m(
    "characteristics", lookup={
        "name": "Playful"
    "characteristics", lookup={
        "name": "Opinionated"

You can inspect the database to see the results like this:

>>> db.table_names()
['dogs', 'characteristics', 'characteristics_dogs']
>>> list(db["dogs"].rows)
[{'id': 1, 'name': 'Cleo'}]
>>> list(db["characteristics"].rows)
[{'id': 1, 'name': 'Playful'}, {'id': 2, 'name': 'Opinionated'}]
>>> list(db["characteristics_dogs"].rows)
[{'characteristics_id': 1, 'dogs_id': 1}, {'characteristics_id': 2, 'dogs_id': 1}]
>>> print(db["characteristics_dogs"].schema)
CREATE TABLE [characteristics_dogs] (
    [characteristics_id] INTEGER REFERENCES [characteristics]([id]),
    [dogs_id] INTEGER REFERENCES [dogs]([id]),
    PRIMARY KEY ([characteristics_id], [dogs_id])

Adding columns

You can add a new column to a table using the .add_column(col_name, col_type) method:

db["dogs"].add_column("instagram", str)
db["dogs"].add_column("weight", float)
db["dogs"].add_column("image", "BLOB")
db["dogs"].add_column("website") # str by default

You can specify the col_type argument either using a SQLite type as a string, or by directly passing a Python type e.g. str or float.

The col_type is optional - if you omit it the type of TEXT will be used.

SQLite types you can specify are "TEXT", "INTEGER", "FLOAT" or "BLOB".

If you pass a Python type, it will be mapped to SQLite types as shown here:

float: "FLOAT"
int: "INTEGER"
bool: "INTEGER"
str: "TEXT"
bytes: "BLOB"
datetime.datetime: "TEXT" "TEXT"
datetime.time: "TEXT"

# If numpy is installed
np.int8: "INTEGER"
np.int16: "INTEGER"
np.int32: "INTEGER"
np.int64: "INTEGER"
np.uint8: "INTEGER"
np.uint16: "INTEGER"
np.uint32: "INTEGER"
np.uint64: "INTEGER"
np.float16: "FLOAT"
np.float32: "FLOAT"
np.float64: "FLOAT"

You can also add a column that is a foreign key reference to another table using the fk parameter:

db["dogs"].add_column("species_id", fk="species")

This will automatically detect the name of the primary key on the species table and use that (and its type) for the new column.

You can explicitly specify the column you wish to reference using fk_col:

db["dogs"].add_column("species_id", fk="species", fk_col="ref")

You can set a NOT NULL DEFAULT 'x' constraint on the new column using not_null_default:

db["dogs"].add_column("friends_count", int, not_null_default=0)

Adding columns automatically on insert/update

You can insert or update data that includes new columns and have the table automatically altered to fit the new schema using the alter=True argument. This can be passed to all four of .insert(), .upsert(), .insert_all() and .upsert_all(), or it can be passed to db.table(table_name, alter=True) to enable it by default for all method calls against that table instance.

db["new_table"].insert({"name": "Gareth"})
# This will throw an exception:
db["new_table"].insert({"name": "Gareth", "age": 32})
# This will succeed and add a new "age" integer column:
db["new_table"].insert({"name": "Gareth", "age": 32}, alter=True)
# You can see confirm the new column like so:
# Outputs this:
# {'name': <class 'str'>, 'age': <class 'int'>}

# This works too:
new_table = db.table("new_table", alter=True)
new_table.insert({"name": "Gareth", "age": 32, "shoe_size": 11})

Adding foreign key constraints

The SQLite ALTER TABLE statement doesn’t have the ability to add foreign key references to an existing column.

It’s possible to add these references through very careful manipulation of SQLite’s sqlite_master table, using PRAGMA writable_schema.

sqlite-utils can do this for you, though there is a significant risk of data corruption if something goes wrong so it is advisable to create a fresh copy of your database file before attempting this.

Here’s an example of this mechanism in action:

    {"id": 1, "name": "Sally"},
    {"id": 2, "name": "Asheesh"}
], pk="id")
    {"title": "Hedgehogs of the world", "author_id": 1},
    {"title": "How to train your wolf", "author_id": 2},
db["books"].add_foreign_key("author_id", "authors", "id")

The table.add_foreign_key(column, other_table, other_column) method takes the name of the column, the table that is being referenced and the key column within that other table. If you ommit the other_column argument the primary key from that table will be used automatically. If you omit the other_table argument the table will be guessed based on some simple rules:

  • If the column is of format author_id, look for tables called author or authors
  • If the column does not end in _id, try looking for a table with the exact name of the column or that name with an added s

This method first checks that the specified foreign key references tables and columns that exist and does not clash with an existing foreign key. It will raise a sqlite_utils.db.AlterError exception if these checks fail.

To ignore the case where the key already exists, use ignore=True:

db["books"].add_foreign_key("author_id", "authors", "id", ignore=True)

Adding multiple foreign key constraints at once

The final step in adding a new foreign key to a SQLite database is to run VACUUM, to ensure the new foreign key is available in future introspection queries.

VACUUM against a large (multi-GB) database can take several minutes or longer. If you are adding multiple foreign keys using table.add_foreign_key(...) these can quickly add up.

Instead, you can use db.add_foreign_keys(...) to add multiple foreign keys within a single transaction. This method takes a list of four-tuples, each one specifying a table, column, other_table and other_column.

Here’s an example adding two foreign keys at once:

    ("dogs", "breed_id", "breeds", "id"),
    ("dogs", "home_town_id", "towns", "id")

This method runs the same checks as .add_foreign_keys() and will raise sqlite_utils.db.AlterError if those checks fail.

Adding indexes for all foreign keys

If you want to ensure that every foreign key column in your database has a corresponding index, you can do so like this:


Dropping a table or view

You can drop a table or view using the .drop() method:


Transforming a table

The SQLite ALTER TABLE statement is limited. It can add columns and rename tables, but it cannot drop columns, change column types, change NOT NULL status or change the primary key for a table.

The table.transform() method can do all of these things, by implementing a multi-step pattern described in the SQLite documentation:

  1. Start a transaction
  2. CREATE TABLE tablename_new_x123 with the required changes
  3. Copy the old data into the new table using INSERT INTO tablename_new_x123 SELECT * FROM tablename;
  4. DROP TABLE tablename;
  5. ALTER TABLE tablename_new_x123 RENAME TO tablename;
  6. Commit the transaction

The .transform() method takes a number of parameters, all of which are optional.

To alter the type of a column, use the types= argument:

# Convert the 'age' column to an integer, and 'weight' to a float
table.transform(types={"age": int, "weight": float})

The rename= parameter can rename columns:

# Rename 'age' to 'initial_age':
table.transform(rename={"age": "initial_age"})

To drop columns, pass them in the drop= set:

# Drop the 'age' column:

To change the primary key for a table, use pk=. This can be passed a single column for a regular primary key, or a tuple of columns to create a compound primary key. Passing pk=None will remove the primary key and convert the table into a rowid table.

# Make `user_id` the new primary key

You can change the NOT NULL status of columns by using not_null=. You can pass this a set of columns to make those columns NOT NULL:

# Make the 'age' and 'weight' columns NOT NULL
table.transform(not_null={"age", "weight"})

If you want to take existing NOT NULL columns and change them to allow null values, you can do so by passing a dictionary of true/false values instead:

# 'age' is NOT NULL but we want to allow NULL:
table.transform(not_null={"age": False})

# Make age allow NULL and switch weight to being NOT NULL:
table.transform(not_null={"age": False, "weight": True})

The defaults= parameter can be used to set or change the defaults for different columns:

# Set default age to 1:
table.transform(defaults={"age": 1})

# Now remove the default from that column:
table.transform(defaults={"age": None})

The column_order= parameter can be used to change the order of the columns. If you pass the names of a subset of the columns those will go first and columns you omitted will appear in their existing order after them.

# Change column order
table.transform(column_order=("name", "age", "id")

You can use .transform() to remove foreign key constraints from a table.

This example drops two foreign keys - the one from to and the one from places.continent to

    drop_foreign_keys=("country", "continent")

Custom transformations with .transform_sql()

The .transform() method can handle most cases, but it does not automatically upgrade indexes, views or triggers associated with the table that is being transformed.

If you want to do something more advanced, you can call the table.transform_sql(...) method with the same arguments that you would have passed to table.transform(...).

This method will return a list of SQL statements that should be executed to implement the change. You can then make modifications to that SQL - or add additional SQL statements - before executing it yourself.

Extracting columns into a separate table

The table.extract() method can be used to extract specified columns into a separate table.

Imagine a Trees table that looks like this:

id TreeAddress Species
1 52 Vine St Palm
2 12 Draft St Oak
3 51 Dark Ave Palm
4 1252 Left St Palm

The Species column contains duplicate values. This database could be improved by extracting that column out into a separate Species table and pointing to it using a foreign key column.

The schema of the above table is:

    [TreeAddress] TEXT,
    [Species] TEXT

Here’s how to extract the Species column using .extract():


After running this code the table schema now looks like this:

    [TreeAddress] TEXT,
    [Species_id] INTEGER,
    FOREIGN KEY(Species_id) REFERENCES Species(id)

A new Species table will have been created with the following schema:

CREATE TABLE [Species] (
    [Species] TEXT

The .extract() method defaults to creating a table with the same name as the column that was extracted, and adding a foreign key column called tablename_id.

You can specify a custom table name using table=, and a custom foreign key name using fk_column=. This example creates a table called tree_species and a foreign key column called tree_species_id:

db["Trees"].extract("Species", table="tree_species", fk_column="tree_species_id")

The resulting schema looks like this:

    [TreeAddress] TEXT,
    [tree_species_id] INTEGER,
    FOREIGN KEY(tree_species_id) REFERENCES tree_species(id)

CREATE TABLE [tree_species] (
    [Species] TEXT

You can also extract multiple columns into the same external table. Say for example you have a table like this:

id TreeAddress CommonName LatinName
1 52 Vine St Palm Arecaceae
2 12 Draft St Oak Quercus
3 51 Dark Ave Palm Arecaceae
4 1252 Left St Palm Arecaceae

You can pass ["CommonName", "LatinName"] to .extract() to extract both of those columns:

db["Trees"].extract(["CommonName", "LatinName"])

This produces the following schema:

    [TreeAddress] TEXT,
    [CommonName_LatinName_id] INTEGER,
    FOREIGN KEY(CommonName_LatinName_id) REFERENCES CommonName_LatinName(id)
CREATE TABLE [CommonName_LatinName] (
    [CommonName] TEXT,
    [LatinName] TEXT

The table name CommonName_LatinName is derived from the extract columns. You can use table= and fk_column= to specify custom names like this:

db["Trees"].extract(["CommonName", "LatinName"], table="Species", fk_column="species_id")

This produces the following schema:

    [TreeAddress] TEXT,
    [species_id] INTEGER,
    FOREIGN KEY(species_id) REFERENCES Species(id)
CREATE TABLE [Species] (
    [CommonName] TEXT,
    [LatinName] TEXT

You can use the rename= argument to rename columns in the lookup table. To create a Species table with columns called name and latin you can do this:

    ["CommonName", "LatinName"],
    rename={"CommonName": "name", "LatinName": "latin"}

This produces a lookup table like so:

CREATE TABLE [Species] (
    [name] TEXT,
    [latin] TEXT

Setting an ID based on the hash of the row contents

Sometimes you will find yourself working with a dataset that includes rows that do not have a provided obvious ID, but where you would like to assign one so that you can later upsert into that table without creating duplicate records.

In these cases, a useful technique is to create an ID that is derived from the sha1 hash of the row contents.

sqlite-utils can do this for you using the hash_id= option. For example:

db = sqlite_utils.Database("dogs.db")
db["dogs"].upsert({"name": "Cleo", "twitter": "cleopaws"}, hash_id="id")


[{'id': 'f501265970505d9825d8d9f590bfab3519fb20b1', 'name': 'Cleo', 'twitter': 'cleopaws'}]

If you are going to use that ID straight away, you can access it using last_pk:

dog_id = db["dogs"].upsert({
    "name": "Cleo",
    "twitter": "cleopaws"
}, hash_id="id").last_pk
# dog_id is now "f501265970505d9825d8d9f590bfab3519fb20b1"

Creating views

The .create_view() method on the database class can be used to create a view:

db.create_view("good_dogs", """
    select * from dogs where is_good_dog = 1

This will raise a sqlite_utils.utils.OperationalError if a view with that name already exists.

You can pass ignore=True to silently ignore an existing view and do nothing, or replace=True to replace an existing view with a new definition if your select statement differs from the current view:

db.create_view("good_dogs", """
    select * from dogs where is_good_dog = 1
""", replace=True)

Storing JSON

SQLite has excellent JSON support, and sqlite-utils can help you take advantage of this: if you attempt to insert a value that can be represented as a JSON list or dictionary, sqlite-utils will create TEXT column and store your data as serialized JSON. This means you can quickly store even complex data structures in SQLite and query them using JSON features.

For example:

    "name": "The Bigfoot Discovery Museum",
    "url": ""
    "hours": {
        "Monday": [11, 18],
        "Wednesday": [11, 18],
        "Thursday": [11, 18],
        "Friday": [11, 18],
        "Saturday": [11, 18],
        "Sunday": [11, 18]
    "address": {
        "streetAddress": "5497 Highway 9",
        "addressLocality": "Felton, CA",
        "postalCode": "95018"
    select json_extract(address, '$.addressLocality')
    from niche_museums
# Returns [('Felton, CA',)]

Converting column values using SQL functions

Sometimes it can be useful to run values through a SQL function prior to inserting them. A simple example might be converting a value to upper case while it is being inserted.

The conversions={...} parameter can be used to specify custom SQL to be used as part of a INSERT or UPDATE SQL statement.

You can specify an upper case conversion for a specific column like so:

    "name": "The Bigfoot Discovery Museum"
}, conversions={"name": "upper(?)"})

# list(db["example"].rows) now returns:

The dictionary key is the column name to be converted. The value is the SQL fragment to use, with a ? placeholder for the original value.

A more useful example: if you are working with SpatiaLite you may find yourself wanting to create geometry values from a WKT value. Code to do that could look like this:

import sqlite3
import sqlite_utils
from shapely.geometry import shape
import requests

# Open a database and load the SpatiaLite extension:
import sqlite3

conn = sqlite3.connect("places.db")

# Use sqlite-utils to create a places table:
db = sqlite_utils.Database(conn)
places = db["places"].create({"id": int, "name": str,})

# Add a SpatiaLite 'geometry' column:
db.execute("select InitSpatialMetadata(1)")
    "SELECT AddGeometryColumn('places', 'geometry', 4326, 'MULTIPOLYGON', 2);"

# Fetch some GeoJSON from Who's On First:
geojson = requests.get(

# Convert to "Well Known Text" format using shapely
wkt = shape(geojson["geometry"]).wkt

# Insert the record, converting the WKT to a SpatiaLite geometry:
    {"name": "Wales", "geometry": wkt},
    conversions={"geometry": "GeomFromText(?, 4326)"},


If you have loaded an existing table or view, you can use introspection to find out more about it:

>>> db["PlantType"]
<Table PlantType (id, value)>

The .exists() method can be used to find out if a table exists or not:

>>> db["PlantType"].exists()
>>> db["PlantType2"].exists()

The .count property shows the current number of rows (select count(*) from table):

>>> db["PlantType"].count
>>> db["Street_Tree_List"].count

The .columns property shows the columns in the table or view:

>>> db["PlantType"].columns
[Column(cid=0, name='id', type='INTEGER', notnull=0, default_value=None, is_pk=1),
 Column(cid=1, name='value', type='TEXT', notnull=0, default_value=None, is_pk=0)]

The .columns_dict property returns a dictionary version of this with just the names and types:

>>> db["PlantType"].columns_dict
{'id': <class 'int'>, 'value': <class 'str'>}

The .pks property returns a list of strings naming the primary key columns for the table:

>>> db["PlantType"].pks

The .foreign_keys property shows if the table has any foreign key relationships. It is not available on views.

>>> db["Street_Tree_List"].foreign_keys
[ForeignKey(table='Street_Tree_List', column='qLegalStatus', other_table='qLegalStatus', other_column='id'),
 ForeignKey(table='Street_Tree_List', column='qCareAssistant', other_table='qCareAssistant', other_column='id'),
 ForeignKey(table='Street_Tree_List', column='qSiteInfo', other_table='qSiteInfo', other_column='id'),
 ForeignKey(table='Street_Tree_List', column='qSpecies', other_table='qSpecies', other_column='id'),
 ForeignKey(table='Street_Tree_List', column='qCaretaker', other_table='qCaretaker', other_column='id'),
 ForeignKey(table='Street_Tree_List', column='PlantType', other_table='PlantType', other_column='id')]

The .schema property outputs the table’s schema as a SQL string:

>>> print(db["Street_Tree_List"].schema)
CREATE TABLE "Street_Tree_List" (
  "qLegalStatus" INTEGER,
  "qSpecies" INTEGER,
  "qAddress" TEXT,
  "SiteOrder" INTEGER,
  "qSiteInfo" INTEGER,
  "PlantType" INTEGER,
  "qCaretaker" INTEGER,
  "qCareAssistant" INTEGER,
  "PlantDate" TEXT,
  "PlotSize" TEXT,
  "PermitNotes" TEXT,
  "XCoord" REAL,
  "YCoord" REAL,
  "Latitude" REAL,
  "Longitude" REAL,
  "Location" TEXT
FOREIGN KEY ("PlantType") REFERENCES [PlantType](id),
    FOREIGN KEY ("qCaretaker") REFERENCES [qCaretaker](id),
    FOREIGN KEY ("qSpecies") REFERENCES [qSpecies](id),
    FOREIGN KEY ("qSiteInfo") REFERENCES [qSiteInfo](id),
    FOREIGN KEY ("qCareAssistant") REFERENCES [qCareAssistant](id),
    FOREIGN KEY ("qLegalStatus") REFERENCES [qLegalStatus](id))

The .indexes property shows you all indexes created for a table. It is not available on views.

>>> db["Street_Tree_List"].indexes
[Index(seq=0, name='"Street_Tree_List_qLegalStatus"', unique=0, origin='c', partial=0, columns=['qLegalStatus']),
 Index(seq=1, name='"Street_Tree_List_qCareAssistant"', unique=0, origin='c', partial=0, columns=['qCareAssistant']),
 Index(seq=2, name='"Street_Tree_List_qSiteInfo"', unique=0, origin='c', partial=0, columns=['qSiteInfo']),
 Index(seq=3, name='"Street_Tree_List_qSpecies"', unique=0, origin='c', partial=0, columns=['qSpecies']),
 Index(seq=4, name='"Street_Tree_List_qCaretaker"', unique=0, origin='c', partial=0, columns=['qCaretaker']),
 Index(seq=5, name='"Street_Tree_List_PlantType"', unique=0, origin='c', partial=0, columns=['PlantType'])]

The .triggers property lists database triggers. It can be used on both database and table objects.

>>> db["authors"].triggers
[Trigger(name='authors_ai', table='authors', sql='CREATE TRIGGER [authors_ai] AFTER INSERT...'),
 Trigger(name='authors_ad', table='authors', sql="CREATE TRIGGER [authors_ad] AFTER DELETE..."),
 Trigger(name='authors_au', table='authors', sql="CREATE TRIGGER [authors_au] AFTER UPDATE")]
>>> db.triggers
... similar output to db["authors"].triggers

The detect_fts() method returns the associated SQLite FTS table name, if one exists for this table. If the table has not been configured for full-text search it returns None.

>> db["authors"].detect_fts()

The .virtual_table_using property reveals if a table is a virtual table. It returns None for regular tables and the upper case version of the type of virtual table otherwise. For example:

>> db["authors"].enable_fts(["name"])
>> db["authors_fts"].virtual_table_using

Rebuilding a full-text search table

You can rebuild a table using the table.rebuild_fts() method. This is useful for if the table configuration changes or the indexed data has become corrupted in some way.


This method can be called on a table that has been configured for full-text search - dogs in this instance - or directly on a _fts table:


This runs the following SQL:

INSERT INTO dogs_fts (dogs_fts) VALUES ("rebuild");

Optimizing a full-text search table

Once you have populated a FTS table you can optimize it to dramatically reduce its size like so:


This runs the following SQL:

INSERT INTO dogs_fts (dogs_fts) VALUES ("optimize");

Creating indexes

You can create an index on a table using the .create_index(columns) method. The method takes a list of columns:


By default the index will be named idx_{table-name}_{columns} - if you want to customize the name of the created index you can pass the index_name parameter:

    ["is_good_dog", "age"],

You can create a unique index by passing unique=True:

db["dogs"].create_index(["name"], unique=True)

Use if_not_exists=True to do nothing if an index with that name already exists.


You can optimize your database by running VACUUM against it like so:


WAL mode

You can enable Write-Ahead Logging for a database with .enable_wal():


You can disable WAL mode using .disable_wal():


You can check the current journal mode for a database using the journal_mode property:

journal_mode = Database("my_database.db").journal_mode

This will usually be wal or delete (meaning WAL is disabled), but can have other values - see the PRAGMA journal_mode documentation.

Suggesting column types

When you create a new table for a list of inserted or upserted Python dictionaries, those methods detect the correct types for the database columns based on the data you pass in.

In some situations you may need to intervene in this process, to customize the columns that are being created in some way - see Explicitly creating a table.

That table .create() method takes a dictionary mapping column names to the Python type they should store:

    "id": int,
    "name": str,
    "weight": float,

You can use the suggest_column_types() helper function to derive a dictionary of column names and types from a list of records, suitable to be passed to table.create().

For example:

from sqlite_utils import Database, suggest_column_types

cats = [{
    "id": 1,
    "name": "Snowflake"
}, {
    "id": 2,
    "name": "Crabtree",
    "age": 4
types = suggest_column_types(cats)
# types now looks like this:
# {"id": <class 'int'>,
#  "name": <class 'str'>,
#  "age": <class 'int'>}

# Manually add an extra field:
types["thumbnail"] = bytes
# types now looks like this:
# {"id": <class 'int'>,
#  "name": <class 'str'>,
#  "age": <class 'int'>,
#  "thumbnail": <class 'bytes'>}

# Create the table
db = Database("cats.db")
db["cats"].create(types, pk="id")
# Insert the records

# list(db["cats"].rows) now returns:
# [{"id": 1, "name": "Snowflake", "age": None, "thumbnail": None}
#  {"id": 2, "name": "Crabtree", "age": 4, "thumbnail": None}]

# The table schema looks like this:
# print(db["cats"].schema)
# CREATE TABLE [cats] (
#    [name] TEXT,
#    [age] INTEGER,
#    [thumbnail] BLOB
# )

Finding SpatiaLite

The find_spatialite() function searches for the SpatiaLite SQLite extension in some common places. It returns a string path to the location, or None if SpatiaLite was not found.

You can use it in code like this:

from sqlite_utils import Database
from sqlite_utils.utils import find_spatialite

db = Database("mydb.db")
spatialite = find_spatialite()
if spatialite:

Registering custom SQL functions

SQLite supports registering custom SQL functions written in Python. The db.register_function() method lets you register these functions, and keeps track of functions that have already been registered.

If you use it as a method it will automatically detect the name and number of arguments needed by the function:

from sqlite_utils import Database

db = Database(memory=True)

def reverse_string(s):
    return "".join(reversed(list(s)))

print(db.execute('select reverse_string("hello")').fetchone()[0])
# This prints "olleh"

You can also use the method as a function decorator like so:

def reverse_string(s):
    return "".join(reversed(list(s)))

print(db.execute('select reverse_string("hello")').fetchone()[0])

Python 3.8 added the ability to register deterministic SQLite functions, allowing you to indicate that a function will return the exact same result for any given inputs and hence allowing SQLite to apply some performance optimizations. You can mark a function as deterministic using deterministic=True, like this:

def reverse_string(s):
    return "".join(reversed(list(s)))

If you run this on a version of Python prior to 3.8 your code will still work, but the deterministic=True parameter will be ignored.

By default registering a function with the same name and number of arguments will have no effect - the Database instance keeps track of functions that have already been registered and skips registering them if @db.register_function is called a second time.

If you want to deliberately replace the registered function with a new implementation, use the replace=True argument:

@db.register_function(deterministic=True, replace=True)
def reverse_string(s):
    return s[::-1]