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How to use INFORMATION_SCHEMA in Snowflake?

How to use INFORMATION_SCHEMA in Snowflake?

Discover the power of INFORMATION_SCHEMA in Snowflake with our comprehensive guide.

In the world of data management and analysis, Snowflake has emerged as a powerful platform that provides a scalable and efficient solution. One of the key features of Snowflake is its built-in support for INFORMATION_SCHEMA, a system catalog that gives insight into the database's structure and objects. In this article, we will explore how to effectively use INFORMATION_SCHEMA in Snowflake to enhance your data querying and analysis capabilities.

Understanding INFORMATION_SCHEMA in Snowflake

Before we delve into the details of using INFORMATION_SCHEMA in Snowflake, let's first understand what it is and why it is important. In simple terms, INFORMATION_SCHEMA is a schema that contains metadata about all the objects in the database. It provides a high-level view of the database structure, allowing users to easily access information about tables, views, columns, and more.

This schema plays a crucial role in Snowflake as it acts as a central repository of metadata, making it easier to navigate the database and understand its underlying structure. Whether you are a data analyst, developer, or administrator, having a good understanding of INFORMATION_SCHEMA can greatly simplify your workflow.

When working with INFORMATION_SCHEMA in Snowflake, it's essential to understand the key components that make up this schema. Here are a few important views that you should be familiar with:

Definition and Importance of INFORMATION_SCHEMA

INFORMATION_SCHEMA is a standard SQL schema defined by the SQL-92 standard. It provides a set of views that contain valuable metadata about the database objects. These views can be queried to retrieve information about tables, columns, indexes, constraints, and many other database artifacts.

The importance of INFORMATION_SCHEMA cannot be overstated. It acts as an interface to retrieve metadata, ensuring data consistency and simplifying the process of data exploration and analysis. With INFORMATION_SCHEMA, you can get detailed information about the database structure without the need for complex queries or manual inspection of the database objects.


When working with INFORMATION_SCHEMA in Snowflake, it's essential to understand the key components that make up this schema. Here are a few important views that you should be familiar with:

  1. TABLES: This view provides information about all the tables in the database, such as table name, schema, and table type.
  2. The TABLES view in INFORMATION_SCHEMA is a treasure trove of information for database users. It allows you to easily access details about the tables in the database, including their names, schemas, and types. This information can be invaluable when trying to understand the structure of the database or when querying specific tables for data analysis.

  3. COLUMNS: As the name suggests, this view contains details about the columns in the tables. It includes information like column name, data type, default value, and nullability.
  4. The COLUMNS view in INFORMATION_SCHEMA provides comprehensive information about the columns present in the database tables. It includes details such as the column name, data type, default value, and nullability. This information is crucial for understanding the structure and characteristics of the data stored in the tables. It allows users to make informed decisions when designing queries or performing data analysis.

  5. VIEWS: This view gives insights into the views present in the database. It provides information about the view name, its defining SQL statement, and the owner of the view.
  6. The VIEWS view in INFORMATION_SCHEMA offers valuable insights into the views present in the database. It provides information about the view name, its defining SQL statement, and the owner of the view. This information can be useful when trying to understand the underlying logic behind the views or when troubleshooting issues related to view definitions.

  7. SCHEMATA: The SCHEMATA view gives information about all the schemas in the database. It includes details like schema name, owner, and permissions.
  8. The SCHEMATA view in INFORMATION_SCHEMA provides a comprehensive overview of all the schemas present in the database. It includes details such as the schema name, owner, and permissions. This information is essential for understanding the organization and ownership of the database objects. It allows users to navigate through the different schemas and access the relevant tables, views, and other objects.

By leveraging the power of INFORMATION_SCHEMA in Snowflake, users can gain a deeper understanding of the database structure and easily retrieve metadata about the objects. This can greatly simplify tasks such as data exploration, analysis, and troubleshooting, ultimately improving productivity and efficiency.

Setting Up Snowflake for INFORMATION_SCHEMA

Before we start leveraging the power of INFORMATION_SCHEMA, we need to ensure that Snowflake is properly configured. Here are the steps to set up Snowflake for INFORMATION_SCHEMA:

Prerequisites for Using INFORMATION_SCHEMA

Before diving into the setup process, make sure you have the necessary prerequisites in place. You should have a Snowflake account with appropriate access privileges, and you should be familiar with SQL syntax and basic database concepts.

Having a Snowflake account is essential as it provides you with a secure and scalable cloud data platform. With Snowflake, you can easily store, analyze, and share data across your organization.

Understanding SQL syntax is crucial as it allows you to interact with Snowflake and perform various operations on your data. Whether you're querying data, creating tables, or managing access privileges, SQL is the language you'll be using.

Having a basic understanding of database concepts is also important. This includes knowing what a database is, how tables are structured, and how data is organized and stored. This knowledge will help you navigate Snowflake and make the most out of INFORMATION_SCHEMA.

Steps to Configure Snowflake for INFORMATION_SCHEMA

Now let's go through the steps to configure Snowflake for INFORMATION_SCHEMA:

  1. Connect to your Snowflake account using your preferred tool, such as Snowflake Web UI, SnowSQL, or any other SQL client.
  2. Connecting to your Snowflake account is the first step towards setting up INFORMATION_SCHEMA. Snowflake provides multiple tools for connecting to your account, giving you the flexibility to choose the one that suits your needs.

    The Snowflake Web UI is a user-friendly web-based interface that allows you to interact with your Snowflake account using a browser. It provides a visual way to execute SQL queries, manage databases and tables, and monitor query performance.

    SnowSQL is a command-line tool that provides a command-line interface (CLI) for interacting with Snowflake. It allows you to execute SQL queries, import and export data, and automate tasks using scripts.

    Regardless of the tool you choose, make sure you have the necessary credentials to connect to your Snowflake account.

  3. Create a database if you haven't already done so. The database will be used to enable INFORMATION_SCHEMA.
  4. Creating a database is an important step in configuring Snowflake for INFORMATION_SCHEMA. A database in Snowflake is a container for organizing and managing your data. It provides a logical separation of data and allows you to control access privileges at the database level.

    To create a database, you can use SQL statements like CREATE DATABASE. Specify a name for your database and any optional parameters, such as the default collation or time zone.

    Once you have created a database, you can use it to enable INFORMATION_SCHEMA and start exploring the metadata of your Snowflake account.

  5. Grant the necessary privileges to the user account for accessing INFORMATION_SCHEMA and performing operations on it.
  6. Granting privileges is a crucial step in configuring Snowflake for INFORMATION_SCHEMA. Privileges determine what actions a user can perform on objects within Snowflake, such as databases, schemas, tables, and views.

    To grant privileges for accessing INFORMATION_SCHEMA, you need to specify the user account and the privileges you want to grant. This can be done using SQL statements like GRANT.

    For example, you can grant the SELECT privilege on INFORMATION_SCHEMA to a user account, allowing them to query the metadata views and retrieve information about the objects in the account.

    By granting the necessary privileges, you enable users to leverage the power of INFORMATION_SCHEMA and gain insights into the structure and organization of their Snowflake account.

By following these steps, you can successfully set up Snowflake for INFORMATION_SCHEMA and unlock the full potential of metadata exploration and analysis. With INFORMATION_SCHEMA, you can query the metadata views to retrieve information about databases, schemas, tables, columns, and more. This allows you to gain a deeper understanding of your data and make informed decisions based on its structure and organization.


Now that we have set up Snowflake for INFORMATION_SCHEMA, let's explore how to effectively query the system catalog to retrieve valuable information.

Basic Query Structure

Querying INFORMATION_SCHEMA is straightforward. You can use standard SQL SELECT statements to retrieve the required information. Here's an example of a basic query:


This query retrieves all the tables present in the database along with relevant information like table name, schema, and type.

Advanced Query Techniques

While basic queries can provide useful insights, Snowflake's querying capabilities with INFORMATION_SCHEMA go beyond the basics. You can leverage advanced techniques to filter and aggregate the metadata to get precisely the information you need. Here are a few examples:

  • Filtering based on specific criteria: You can use WHERE clauses to filter the results based on specific conditions. For example, you can retrieve all the tables in a particular schema by using the condition WHERE TABLE_SCHEMA = 'my_schema';
  • Grouping and aggregating metadata: Snowflake allows you to use GROUP BY and aggregate functions to group and summarize metadata. For instance, you can find the count of columns in each table by using the query SELECT TABLE_NAME, COUNT(*) FROM INFORMATION_SCHEMA.COLUMNS GROUP BY TABLE_NAME;


INFORMATION_SCHEMA not only helps in querying metadata but can also assist in managing data within Snowflake databases.

Data Modification Techniques

Snowflake provides various techniques to modify data using INFORMATION_SCHEMA. One such technique is utilizing the views in INFORMATION_SCHEMA to generate DDL statements for modifying tables or views. For example, you can retrieve the CREATE TABLE statement for a specific table using the query:


Similarly, you can leverage the COLUMN_USAGE view to get insights into the columns referenced by views or procedures and modify them as needed.

Data Retrieval and Management

INFORMATION_SCHEMA is not just limited to retrieving metadata; it also facilitates data management tasks. You can use the views in INFORMATION_SCHEMA to extract data from tables or views, enabling efficient data retrieval. For example, you can retrieve all the records from a specific table using a simple SELECT statement:

SELECT * FROM my_schema.my_table;

Moreover, INFORMATION_SCHEMA can help you understand the relationships between tables, allowing you to efficiently manage data dependencies and ensure data integrity.

Troubleshooting Common Issues with INFORMATION_SCHEMA

While INFORMATION_SCHEMA in Snowflake is a powerful tool, occasionally, you may encounter issues or errors. Let's explore some common problems and their potential solutions.

Identifying Common Errors

When working with INFORMATION_SCHEMA, it's essential to be aware of common errors that may occur. These errors can include incorrect syntax, missing privileges, or invalid queries. Familiarizing yourself with these errors can significantly speed up the troubleshooting process.

Solutions for Common Problems

Here are a few common problems you may encounter while working with INFORMATION_SCHEMA, along with their potential solutions:

  • Missing privileges: If you encounter "Insufficient privileges" errors, ensure that the user account has the necessary privileges to query INFORMATION_SCHEMA views. Grant the required privileges using the GRANT statement.
  • Incorrect syntax: Double-check your query syntax to ensure it follows the standard SQL syntax and is compatible with Snowflake.
  • Invalid queries: Verify that your queries are accessing the correct views and are correctly referring to the database objects.

By understanding these common problems and their solutions, you can quickly troubleshoot and overcome any obstacles that may arise while working with INFORMATION_SCHEMA.

In conclusion, INFORMATION_SCHEMA plays a vital role in Snowflake, providing a wealth of metadata about the database objects. By harnessing the power of INFORMATION_SCHEMA, you can enhance your data querying and management capabilities, leading to more efficient analysis and better-informed decision-making. With a clear understanding of the key components and proper configuration, you can unlock the full potential of INFORMATION_SCHEMA in Snowflake and take your data management skills to new heights.

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