What's new in SQLite 3.37

Unlike 3.35, release 3.37 didn't bring many changes. But among them is one of the most important in the history of SQLite: the "strict" table mode, in which the engine makes sure that the data in the column matches the type.

Perhaps now SQLite will no longer be called "the JavaScript of the DBMS world" ツ But let's take it one piece at a time.

The problem with types

SQLite supports 5 data types:

  • INTEGER — integers,
  • REAL — real numbers,
  • TEXT — strings,
  • BLOB — binary data,
  • NULL — empty value.

But, unlike other DBMSs, SQLite can store any type of data in a given cell — regardless of the column type.

Note. SQLite stores the type not only on the column itself, but also on each value in that column. That is why a given column can store values of different types without any problems. The type on the column is used as a hint: when inserting, SQLite tries to cast the value to the column type, but when it fails, it will save the value "as is".

On the one hand, it is convenient for exploratory data analysis — you can import everything first, and then use SQL to deal with problematic values. Any other DBMS will give an error when importing and force you to crunch the data with scripts or manually.

On the other hand, it causes a constant flow of criticism against SQLite: you can write things into the production database that you will never be able to sort out.

And now, in version 3.37, the problem is solved!

STRICT tables

Now the table can be declared "strict". Strict tables do not allow saving arbitrary data:

create table employees (
    id integer primary key,
    name text,
    salary integer
insert into employees (id, name, salary)
values (22, 'Emma', 'hello');
-- Error: stepping, cannot store TEXT value in INTEGER column employees.salary (19)

Emma clearly has a problem with her salary, which is what SQLite indicates. Someone has been waiting for this for twenty years ツ

At the same time, the engine still tries to convert the value to the column type, and if it succeeds — there will be no error:

insert into employees (id, name, salary)
values (22, 'Emma', '85');

select * from employees;
 id  name   salary 
 22  Emma   85     

See STRICT Tables for details.

The ANY datatype

ANY type provides the means to save arbitrary values into STRICT tables:

create table employees (
    id integer primary key,
    name text,
    stuff any
) strict;

insert into employees (id, name, stuff)
(21, 'Emma', 84),
(22, 'Grace', 'hello'),
(23, 'Henry', randomblob(8));

select id, name, typeof(stuff) from employees;
 id  name   typeof(stuff) 
 21  Emma   integer       
 22  Grace  text          
 23  Henry  blob          

The STRICT table stores ANY value without any transformations. In a regular table, ANY works almost the same way, but converts strings to numbers whenever possible.

See The ANY datatype for details.

table_list pragma

table_list pragma statement lists tables and views in the database:

pragma table_list;
 schema         name         type   ncol  wr  strict 
 main    expenses            table  4     0   0      
 main    employees           table  5     0   0      
 main    sqlite_schema       table  5     0   0      
 temp    sqlite_temp_schema  table  5     0   0      

Previously, one had to query the sqlite_schema table for this. The pragma is more convenient.

See PRAGMA table_list for details.

CLI changes

The CLI tool (sqlite.exe) now supports switching between multiple database connections using the dot command .connection:

sqlite> .connection
ACTIVE 0: :memory:
sqlite> .open employees.ru.db
sqlite> .connection
ACTIVE 0: employees.ru.db
sqlite> .connection 1
sqlite> .open employees.en.db
sqlite> .connection
       0: employees.ru.db
ACTIVE 1: employees.en.db

See Working With Multiple Database Connections for details.

Also, there is now a --safe launch option. It disables commands that can make changes anywhere other than a specific database. Safe mode disables .open, .shell, .import and other "dangerous" commands.

See The --safe command-line option for details.

And a few more little things

  • The query scheduler ignores order by on subqueries unless they change the overall semantics of the query.
  • Function generate_series(start, stop, step) always requires the start parameter (stop and step remain optional).
  • Some changes in C API.

Overall, a great release! Strict tables offer a long-awaited alternative to flexible typing, any type makes flexibility explicit, and table_list pragma is just nice to have.

SQLite 3.37 Release Notes

★ Subscribe to keep up with new posts.