Emacs Redux

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Using Emacs as a Database Client

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Most people that use Emacs are programmers - that’s a fact! Most programmers have to deal with relational databases - that’s also a fact!

Programmers often interact with the database they have to use via some dedicated client - be it a console or a GUI one. One fairly little known fact about Emacs is that it features a mode that wraps around terminal database clients, called SQLi. The mode allows you to interact with a relational database from the comfort of Emacs. Sure, you can run a terminal client like psql directly from ansi-term (for instance) as well - but if you’re using a client with no readline support (like the default clients for Oracle and DB2) you’ll certainly appreciate SQLi.

Let’s play a bit with SQLi. To create a PostgreSQL connection start by running M-x sql-postgres. You’ll be prompted for username, database, password and host and then you’ll be dropped in a buffer dedicated to the connection you’ve specified. Apart from being able to run all sorts of SQL in that buffer you’ll also be able to send to it SQL from .sql files you’re editing in Emacs.

Let’s see how you can do that in a bit more detail. First you have to associated an SQL file with a connection. While in some .sql file execute M-x sql-set-product and type postgres. Afterwards do M-x sql-set-sqli-buffer and select the name of the connection buffer you want to use (it’s probably called *SQL* if you have only one connection buffer). Now you’ll be able to use commands like sql-send-region (C-c C-r) from the .sql buffer and the code from the region will be executed in the associated connection buffer.

Have a look at the documentation of sql-mode for further details.

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