Table of Contents


Before we get started with SQL, let's learn how to create tables and columns.

As an example, we are going to create a users table with the following columns:

  • id - this is going to be the primary ID of the table and would be the unique identifier of each user.
  • username - this column would hold the username of our users
  • name - here, we will store the full name of the users
  • status - here, we will store the status of a user, which would indicate if a user is active or not.

You need to specify the data type of each column.

In our case it would be like this:

  • id - Intiger
  • username - Varchar
  • name - Varchar
  • status - Number

Data types

The most common data types that you would come across are:

  • CHAR(size): Fixed-length character string with a maximum length of 255 bytes.
  • VARCHAR(size): Variable-length character string. Max size is specified in parenthesis.
  • TEXT(size): A string with a maximum length of 65,535 bytes.
  • INTEGER(size) or INT(size): A medium integer.
  • BOOLEAN or BOOL: Holds a true or false value.
  • DATE: Holds a date.

Let's have the following users table as an example:

  • id: We would want to set the ID to INT.
  • name: The name should fit in a VARCHAR column.
  • about: As the about section could be longer, we could set the column data type to TEXT.
  • birthday: For the birthday column of the user, we could use DATE.

For more information on all data types available, make sure to check out the official documentation here.

Creating a database

As we briefly covered in the previous chapter, before you could create tables, you would need to create a database by running the following:

  • First access MySQL:
mysql -u root -p
  • Then create a database called demo_db:

Note: the database name needs to be unique, if you already have a database named demo_db you would receive an error that the database already exists.

You can consider this database as the container where we would create all of the tables in.

Once you've created the database, you need to switch to that database:

USE demo_db;

You can think of this as accessing a directory in Linux with the cd command. With USE, we switch to a specific database.

Alternatively, if you do not want to 'switch' to the specific database, you would need to specify the so-called fully qualified table name. For example, if you had a users table in the demo_db, and you wanted to select all of the entries from that table, you could use one of the following two approaches:

  • Switch to the demo_db first and then run a select statement:
USE demo_db;
SELECT username FROM demo_db.users;
  • Alternatively, rather than using the USE command first, specify the database name followed by the table name separated with a dot: db_name.table_name:
SELECT username FROM demo_db.users;

We are going to cover the SELECT statement more in-depth in the following chapters.

Creating tables

In order to create a table, you need to use the CREATE TABLE statement followed by the columns that you want to have in that table and their data type.

Let's say that we wanted to create a users table with the following columns:

  • id: An integer value
  • username: A varchar value
  • about: A text type
  • birthday: Date
  • active: True or false

The query that we would need to run to create that table would be:

    id INT,
    username VARCHAR(255),
    about TEXT,
    birthday DATE,
    active BOOL

Note: You need to select a database first with the USE command as mentioned above. Otherwise you will get the following error: `ERROR 1046 (3D000): No database selected.

To list the available tables, you could run the following command:



| Tables_in_demo_db |
| users             |

Dropping tables

You can drop or delete tables by using the DROP TABLE statement.

Let's test that and drop the table that we've just created:


The output that you would get would be:

Query OK, 0 rows affected (0.03 sec)

And now, if you were to run the SHOW TABLES; query again, you would get the following output:

Empty set (0.00 sec)

Allowing NULL values

By default, each column in your table can hold NULL values. In case that you don't wanted to allow NULL values for some of the columns in a specific table, you need to specify this during the table creation or later on change the table to allow that.

For example, let's say that we want the username column to be a required one, we would need to alter the table create statement and include NOT NULL right next to the username column like this:

    id INT,
    username VARCHAR(255) NOT NULL,
    about TEXT,
    birthday DATE,
    active BOOL

That way, when you try to add a new user, MySQL will let you know that the username column is required.

Specifying a primary key

The primary key column, which in our case is the id column, is a unique identifier for our users.

We want the id column to be unique, and also, whenever we add new users, we want the ID of the user to autoincrement for each new user.

This can be achieved with a primary key and AUTO_INCREMENT. The primary key column needs to be NOT NULL as well.

If we were to alter the table creation statement, it would look like this:

    username VARCHAR(255) NOT NULL,
    about TEXT,
    birthday DATE,
    active BOOL

Updating tables

In the above example, we created a new table and then dropped it as it was empty. However, in a real-life scenario, this would really be the case.

So whenever you need to add or remove a new column from a specific table, you would need to use the ALTER TABLE statement.

Let's say that we wanted to add an email column with type varchar to our users table.

The syntax would be:

ALTER TABLE users ADD email VARCHAR(255);

After that, if you were to describe the table, you would see the new column:



| Field    | Type         | Null | Key | Default |
| id       | int          | NO   | PRI | NULL    |
| username | varchar(255) | NO   |     | NULL    |
| about    | text         | YES  |     | NULL    |
| birthday | date         | YES  |     | NULL    |
| active   | tinyint(1)   | YES  |     | NULL    |
| email    | varchar(255) | YES  |     | NULL    |

If you wanted to drop a specific column, the syntax would be:

ALTER TABLE table_name DROP COLUMN column_name;

Note: keep in mind that this is a permanent change, and if you have any critical data in the specific column, it would be deleted instantly.

You can use the ALTER TABLE statement to also change the data type of a specific column. For example, you could change the about column from TEXT to LONGTEXT type, which could hold longer strings.

Note: Important thing to keep in mind is that if a specific table already holds a particular type of data value like an integer, you can't alter it to varchar, for example. Only if the column does not contain any values, then you could make the change.