Hi, welcome to the twelve-minute quick-start tutorial.

Connecting to a database#

At first you need to import the dataset package :)

import dataset

To connect to a database you need to identify it by its URL, which basically is a string of the form "dialect://user:password@host/dbname". Here are a few examples for different database backends:

# connecting to a SQLite database
db = dataset.connect('sqlite:///mydatabase.db')

# connecting to a MySQL database with user and password
db = dataset.connect('mysql://user:password@localhost/mydatabase')

# connecting to a PostgreSQL database
db = dataset.connect('postgresql://scott:tiger@localhost:5432/mydatabase')

It is also possible to define the URL as an environment variable called DATABASE_URL so you can initialize database connection without explicitly passing an URL:

db = dataset.connect()

Depending on which database you’re using, you may also have to install the database bindings to support that database. SQLite is included in the Python core, but PostgreSQL requires psycopg2 to be installed. MySQL can be enabled by installing the mysql-db drivers.

Storing data#

To store some data you need to get a reference to a table. You don’t need to worry about whether the table already exists or not, since dataset will create it automatically:

# get a reference to the table 'user'
table = db['user']

Now storing data in a table is a matter of a single function call. Just pass a dict to insert. Note that you don’t need to create the columns name and age – dataset will do this automatically:

# Insert a new record.
table.insert(dict(name='John Doe', age=46, country='China'))

# dataset will create "missing" columns any time you insert a dict with an unknown key
table.insert(dict(name='Jane Doe', age=37, country='France', gender='female'))

Updating existing entries is easy, too:

table.update(dict(name='John Doe', age=47), ['name'])

The list of filter columns given as the second argument filter using the values in the first column. If you don’t want to update over a particular value, just use the auto-generated id column.

Using Transactions#

You can group a set of database updates in a transaction. In that case, all updates are committed at once or, in case of exception, all of them are reverted. Transactions are supported through a context manager, so they can be used through a with statement:

with dataset.connect() as tx:
    tx['user'].insert(dict(name='John Doe', age=46, country='China'))

You can get same functionality by invoking the methods begin(), commit() and rollback() explicitly:

db = dataset.connect()
    db['user'].insert(dict(name='John Doe', age=46, country='China'))

Nested transactions are supported too:

db = dataset.connect()
with db as tx1:
    tx1['user'].insert(dict(name='John Doe', age=46, country='China'))
    with db as tx2:
        tx2['user'].insert(dict(name='Jane Doe', age=37, country='France', gender='female'))

Inspecting databases and tables#

When dealing with unknown databases we might want to check their structure first. To start exploring, let’s find out what tables are stored in the database:

>>> print(db.tables)

Now, let’s list all columns available in the table user:

>>> print(db['user'].columns)
[u'id', u'country', u'age', u'name', u'gender']

Using len() we can get the total number of rows in a table:

>>> print(len(db['user']))

Reading data from tables#

Now let’s get some real data out of the table:

users = db['user'].all()

If we simply want to iterate over all rows in a table, we can omit all():

for user in db['user']:

We can search for specific entries using find() and find_one():

# All users from China
chinese_users = table.find(country='China')

# Get a specific user
john = table.find_one(name='John Doe')

# Find multiple at once
winners = table.find(id=[1, 3, 7])

# Find by comparison operator
elderly_users = table.find(age={'>=': 70})
possible_customers = table.find(age={'between': [21, 80]})

# Use the underlying SQLAlchemy directly
elderly_users = table.find(table.table.columns.age >= 70)

See Advanced filters for details on complex filters.

Using distinct() we can grab a set of rows with unique values in one or more columns:

# Get one user per country

Finally, you can use the row_type parameter to choose the data type in which results will be returned:

import dataset
from stuf import stuf

db = dataset.connect('sqlite:///mydatabase.db', row_type=stuf)

Now contents will be returned in stuf objects (basically, dict objects whose elements can be accessed as attributes (item.name) as well as by index (item['name']).

Running custom SQL queries#

Of course the main reason you’re using a database is that you want to use the full power of SQL queries. Here’s how you run them with dataset:

result = db.query('SELECT country, COUNT(*) c FROM user GROUP BY country')
for row in result:
   print(row['country'], row['c'])

The query() method can also be used to access the underlying SQLAlchemy core API, which allows for the programmatic construction of more complex queries:

table = db['user'].table
statement = table.select(table.c.name.like('%John%'))
result = db.query(statement)

Limitations of dataset#

The goal of dataset is to make basic database operations simpler, by expressing some relatively basic operations in a Pythonic way. The downside of this approach is that as your application grows more complex, you may begin to need access to more advanced operations and be forced to switch to using SQLAlchemy proper, without the dataset layer (instead, you may want to play with SQLAlchemy’s ORM).

When that moment comes, take the hit. SQLAlchemy is an amazing piece of Python code, and it will provide you with idiomatic access to all of SQL’s functions.

Some of the specific aspects of SQL that are not exposed in dataset, and are considered out of scope for the project, include:

  • Foreign key relationships between tables, and expressing one-to-many and many-to-many relationships in idiomatic Python.

  • Python-wrapped JOIN queries.

  • Creating databases, or managing DBMS software.

  • Support for Python 2.x

There’s also some functionality that might be cool to support in the future, but that requires significant engineering:

  • Async operations

  • Database-native UPSERT semantics