///Creating a PostgreSQL and MySQL driver

Creating a PostgreSQL and MySQL driver


Although both MySQL and PostgreSQL claim to be SQL compliant, there are some differences in the syntax of the CREATE TABLE command:

  • Does not like IF NOT EXISTS on CREATE TABLE.
  • Does not like ticks around table or column names, wants either nothing or double quotes.
  • Does not like UNIQUE to specify a unique key, wants a separate ADD CONSTRAINT statement instead.
  • Does not like KEY to specify an index, wants a separate CREATE INDEX statement instead.
  • Does not like a column type of DATETIME, wants TIMESTAMP instead.
  • Does not like a column type of TINYINT, will accept SMALLINT instead.
  • Does not like a column type of MEDIUMINT, will accept BIGINT instead.
  • Does not like a column type of DOUBLE, will accept DOUBLE PRECISION instead.
  • Does not like size after integer column type.
  • Does not like the qualifier UNSIGNED or ZEROFILL on any numeric column type.
  • Does not like ‘0000-00-00 00:00:00’ as the default for TIMESTAMP columns, will only accept a valid date and time.
  • Does not like TINYTEXT, MEDIUMTEXT or LONGTEXT, wants nothing but TEXT instead.

This means that the following in MySQL:


`field1` varchar(8) NOT NULL default '',
`field2` tinyint(4) unsigned default NULL,
`field3` smallint(3) unsigned default NULL,
`field4` mediumint(8) unsigned default NULL,
`field5` double default NULL,
`field6` datetime NOT NULL default '0000-00-00 00:00:00',
PRIMARY KEY (`field1`),
UNIQUE KEY (`field2`),
KEY `field2` (`field3`)

will have to be changed to work in PostgreSQL, as follows:

CREATE TABLE tablename (

field1 varchar(8) NOT NULL default '',
field2 smallint default NULL,
field3 smallint default NULL,
field4 bigint default NULL,
field5 double precision default NULL,
field6 timestamp NOT NULL default '2000-01-01 00:00:00',
PRIMARY KEY (field1)
ALTER TABLE tablename ADD CONSTRAINT tablename_field2_key UNIQUE (field2);
CREATE INDEX tablename_index(n) ON tablename (field3);

SQL queries

As well as differences in the syntax for creating tables there is also a difference in the syntax of various SQL queries.


The following in MySQL:

SELECT CONCAT(first_name, ' ', last_name) AS person_name FROM ....

has to be converted to the following in PostgreSQL:

SELECT first_name || last_name AS person_name FROM ....

I can deal with this difference by including a new function in the PostgreSQL class to perform the necessary conversion, thus enabling me to leave the original MySQL syntax intact.


The following query produces ERROR: JOIN/ON clause refers to "a", which is not part of JOIN.

SELECT a.a_id, b.b_id, b.b_desc, x.a_id

FROM a, b
LEFT JOIN x ON (x.b_id = b.b_id AND x.a_id = a.a_id)
WHERE (a.a_id = 'whatever')

This was cured by changing it to the following:

SELECT a.a_id, b.b_id, b.b_desc, x.a_id

FROM a, b
LEFT JOIN x ON (x.b_id = b.b_id AND x.a_id = 'whatever')
WHERE (a.a_id = 'whatever')

This error seems rather dubious to me as it may not be possible to have every part of the ON clause limited to the two tables ‘b’ and ‘x’. Provided that at least one JOIN condition specifies those two tables then any other JOIN condition should not be so limited. In the above example I was able to get around the problem by specifying a literal instead of a column name, but this may not be possible in all circumstances.

In another script I also found that changing the order of the table names in the FROM clause produced the same error. Thus FROM b,a fails while FROM a,b works. MySQL would appear to be more intelligent as it uses the ON conditions to work out how to read the joined table rather than insisting that any table name in the ON condition is either the table immediately following the JOIN clause or the table immediately preceding the JOIN clause. This means, for example, that using PostgreSQL I would not be unable to perform a JOIN on anything other than the last table specified in the FROM clause. The following code would therefore be invalid in PostgreSQL:

SELECT a.a_id, b.b_id, b.b_desc, x.a_id, z.z_desc  

FROM a, b
LEFT JOIN z ON (z.z_id = a.z_id)
LEFT JOIN x ON (x.b_id = b.b_id AND x.a_id = 'whatever')
WHERE (a.a_id = 'whatever')

However, this same code DOES work in MySQL, so it’s a simple matter to convert all JOIN statements so they work with both databases.


The following query produces ERROR: column "a.a_desc" must appear in the GROUP BY clause or be used in an aggregate function.

SELECT a.a_id, a.a_desc, COUNT(b.a_id) AS child_count 

LEFT JOIN b ON (b.a_id=a.a_id)
GROUP BY a.a_id

This is perfectly valid in MySQL as it does not insist that the GROUP BY clause contains the names of ALL selected columns. This gives performance advantages for common queries. This seems reasonable to me as on table ‘a’ the column ‘a_id’ is the primary key while ‘a_desc’ is merely a textual description and therefore irrelevant as far as any grouping is concerned.

PostgreSQL is not so forgiving, therefore every column in the SELECT clause must also appear in the GROUP BY clause, as in the following:

SELECT a.a_id, a.a_desc, COUNT(b.a_id) AS b_count 

LEFT JOIN b ON (b.a_id=a.a_id)
GROUP BY a.a_id, a.a_desc

Just as with the JOIN the solution is to amend the SQL statement until it works with both databases.


In standard SQL there are two forms of the INSERT command:

INSERT INTO tablename VALUES ('value1','value2',...) 

INSERT INTO tablename (col1,col2,...) VALUES ('value1','value2',...)

What I like about MySQL is that it also allows UPDATE-style syntax, as follows:

UPDATE tablename SET col1='value1', col2='value2', ...

INSERT INTO tablename SET col1='value1', col2='value2', ...

I prefer this approach as it keeps column names and values together instead of in two separate lists. This seems such a common sense idea that I’m surprised it is not part of the standard already. Why allow 2 formats for INSERT and a completely different 3rd one for UPDATE?

Even though PostgreSQL is not so accommodating, the fact in my infrastructure all QUERY statements are constructed and issued within the relevant database driver means that I can customise each driver according to the whims of the individual database. The remainder of my infrastructure remains totally oblivious to the internal workings of any individual driver.


MySQL makes it very easy to use a technical key in any table. All the DBA need do is include the AUTO_INCREMENT keyword in the table definition, as in the following:


`id` int(10) unsigned NOT NULL auto_increment,
`desc` varchar(40) default NULL,

Although the term AUTO_INCREMENT does not exist in PostgreSQL, it has the equivalent in SERIAL, as in the following:


id serial NOT NULL,
desc varchar(40),

The only other difference is the method used to obtain the last number issued. In MySQL there is a simple function:

$id = mysql_insert_id($link);

With PostgreSQL the same can be achieved with:

$query = "SELECT currval('" .$tablename .'_' .$pkey ."_seq')";

$result = pg_query($link, $query) or trigger_error($this, E_USER_ERROR);
$id = pg_fetch_result($result, 0, 0);

This is because the SERIAL keyword makes use of a counter with the default name of <tablename>_<fieldname>_seq. This can be accessed using the currval() and nextval() functions.

Administrative programs

Although both MySQL and PostgreSQL come with command line interfaces I think that as we are now in the 21st century the vast majority of developers would insist on a set of proper GUI tools.

MySQL has the following:

PostgreSQL has the following:

  • pgAdmin – a multi-platform GUI tool.
  • phpPgAdmin – a web-based tool written in PHP.

These are all freely available, although there are also commercial products available for both databases.

In my personal opinion the tools for PostgreSQL are second rate when compared with those for MySQL. I particularly dislike the feature in phpPgAdmin for executing SQL statements. You type in the statement, hit "Go", and nothing happens. This is because it has opened up a second browser window for the input of SQL commands, and all results appear in the first window. Very user-unfriendly!

Connecting to a Database

MySQL has tables within databases while PostgreSQL has tables within schemas within databases. Every database has a default "public" schema, while other schemas can be created on demand. It is possible for the same table name to exist within different schemas within the same database.

With MySQL once you have established a connection you may access any table within any database. One database is nominated as the "default" or "current" database by using the mysqli_select_db function, in which case any table names within that database do not have to be qualified. Tables in other databases can only be accessed by qualifying them with the database name, as in dbname.tablename.

With PostgreSQL a connection is limited to a single database, and you may only access tables that belong to schemas within that particular database. You can make a particular schema "default" or "current" by issuing an SQL query to set the schema search_path. Tables in other schemas can only be accessed by qualifying them with the schema name, as in schema.tablename.

I personally like to create a separate database for each of my software subsystems as it makes backups and restores that much easier, so the ability to swap a MySQL "database" for a PostgreSQL "schema" is very convenient.

In order to make my code access database tables through PostgreSQL I made the following changes to my code:

This is a small include file which exists outside the web root, and which contains the details necessary to connect to the database. It has been changed from this:


$dbhost = 'localhost';
$dbusername = '****';
$dbuserpass = '****';

to this:


$PGSQL_dbname = '****';
$dbhost = 'localhost';
$dbusername = '****';
$dbuserpass = '****';

The global variable $dbms identifies which class file to access before creating the Data Access Object that will be responsible for all communication with the database. This is documented in my FAQ.

The new global variable $PGSQL_dbname identifies the database name to be used in the pg_connect function.

2. Database Class (dml..class.inc)
Each database class has a function which connects to the relevant server. The code in the MySQL class is as follows: function connect ($dbname=null)

// establish a connection to the database


global $dbhost, $dbusername, $dbuserpass;

$this->errors = array();

$this->dbname = $dbname;

static $dbconn;

if (!$dbconn) {

$dbconn = mysqli_connect($dbhost, $dbusername, $dbuserpass);

$this->dbconnect = $dbconn;

} // if

if (!$dbconn) {

return FALSE;

} elseif ($dbname) {

if (!mysqli_select_db($dbconn, $dbname)) {

return FALSE;

} // if

} // if

return TRUE;

} // connect

The code in the PostgreSQL class is as follows:

function connect ($schema=null)

// establish a connection to the database


global $dbhost, $dbusername, $dbuserpass, $PGSQL_dbname;

$this->errors = array();

$this->dbname = $PGSQL_dbname;

static $dbconn;

if (!$dbconn) {

$string = "host=$dbhost user=$dbusername password=$dbuserpass dbname=$PGSQL_dbname ";

$dbconn = pg_connect($string);

$this->dbconnect = $dbconn;

} // if

if (!$dbconn) {

return FALSE;

} elseif ($schema) {

$this->query = "SET search_path TO $schema";

$result = pg_query($dbconn, $this->query) or trigger_error($this, E_USER_ERROR);

return TRUE;

} // if

return TRUE;

} // connect

As you can see a schema in PostgreSQL maps easily to a database in MySQL.


The software that I write is not intended for just one customer who is locked into a single RDBMS. Instead it can be used by virtually any customer using the RDBMS of their choice. How is this possible? I deliberately designed and built my infrastructure around the 3 Tier Architecture which breaks down application code into three distinct areas of responsibility:

  • Presentation logic = User Interface, displaying data to the user, accepting input from the user.
  • Business logic = Business Rules, handles data validation and task-specific behaviour.
  • Data Access logic = Database Communication, constructing SQL queries and executing them via the relevant API.

It is only the Data Access layer which communicates with the database, therefore it should be possible to communicate with another database simply by changing the component which exists within this layer. I have already produced two versions of my Data Access Object for MySQL:

  • One for versions up to 4.0 which uses the original mysql_* functions.
  • Another for version 4.1 and above which uses the ‘improved’ mysqli_* functions.

The purpose of this article is to document my experiences while producing a DAO for a totally different RDBMS, in this case for PostgreSQL (version 8.0.3).


In theory it should be a relatively simple exercise to switch from one SQL database to another. As is usual in this universe there is a big difference between theory and practice. Although all the database vendors ‘supposedly’ follow the same standards, they all seem to have followed different interpretations of those standards, followed by different implementations, all of which are capped off with different proprietary extensions. This makes the developer’s job of switching database vendors more complicated than it need be, but by following some simple steps it is possible to take that mountain and turn it back into a mole hill:

  • When it comes to database capabilities it is better to stick to the lowest common denominator and avoid those custom extensions which are unique to a particular vendor’s database. Some people say that if you are paying money for a database with fancy extensions then it is a waste of money not to use them. But by locking yourself into a particular vendor’s product you may actually be th owing money down the drain as you are effectively making it impossible to switch to a cheaper database from a different vendor.
  • By having all the database access code isolated in a single component, a database driver, instead of having it spread throughout the system means that you only have to change that one component instead of the whole system. Although the internals of each database driver are totally unique they all share the same API’s, therefore the remainder of the system is totally unaffected when one driver is swapped for another.

I have included a version of my PostgreSQL driver with my sample application, so you now have the option of running it with either MySQL or PostgreSQL.

NOTE: All testing was done against PostgreSQL version 8.0.3 running on Windows XP using PHP versions 4.3.11 and 5.0.4.

2010-05-25T23:07:21+00:00 September 20th, 2005|MySQL|0 Comments

About the Author:

I have been a software engineer, both designing and developing, since 1977. I have worked with a variety of 2nd, 3rd and 4th generation languages on a mixture of mainframes, mini- and micro-computers. I have worked with flat files, indexed files, hierarchical databases, network databases and relational databases. The user interfaces have included punched card, paper tape, teletype, block mode, CHUI, GUI and web. I have written code which has been procedural, model-driven, event-driven, component-based and object oriented. I have built software using the 1-tier, 2-tier, 3-tier and Model-View-Controller (MVC) architectures. After working with COBOL for 16 years I switched to UNIFACE in 1993, starting with version 5, then progressing through version 6 to version 7. In the middle of 2002 I decided to teach myself to develop web applications using PHP and MySQL.

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