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How to use INFORMATION_SCHEMA in PostgreSQL?

How to use INFORMATION_SCHEMA in PostgreSQL?

Learn how to harness the power of PostgreSQL's INFORMATION_SCHEMA to explore and analyze your database structure.

PostgreSQL is a powerful and feature-rich open-source database management system that is widely used for handling data in various applications. One of the key components that PostgreSQL offers is the INFORMATION_SCHEMA, which provides valuable insights into the database's schema and its objects. In this article, we will dive into the world of INFORMATION_SCHEMA in PostgreSQL and explore its various applications and benefits.

Understanding INFORMATION_SCHEMA in PostgreSQL

Before we delve into the practical aspects of using INFORMATION_SCHEMA in PostgreSQL, let's first understand what it is and how it works. Essentially, INFORMATION_SCHEMA is a system catalog schema that stores metadata about a PostgreSQL database, including information about tables, views, columns, constraints, and more. It acts as a bridge between the user and the database, allowing easy access to the database's schema and its objects.

By querying the INFORMATION_SCHEMA, users can retrieve useful information about the structure and organization of the database, such as table names, column names, data types, and various constraints. This information can be immensely beneficial in scenarios such as data analysis, database administration, and application development.


To put it simply, INFORMATION_SCHEMA is a predefined schema in PostgreSQL that consists of a collection of views, tables, and routines. These objects contain metadata about the database, allowing users to retrieve information about the underlying schema and its objects.

For example, the information_schema.tables view provides information about all the tables in the database, including their names, owners, and creation dates. Similarly, the information_schema.columns view provides details about the columns in each table, such as their names, data types, and whether they are nullable or not.

Importance of INFORMATION_SCHEMA in PostgreSQL

The INFORMATION_SCHEMA plays a crucial role in PostgreSQL by providing a consistent and standardized way to access database metadata. It promotes efficiency and ease of use by providing a single interface to retrieve information about the database structure, regardless of the specific implementation or version of PostgreSQL being used.

With INFORMATION_SCHEMA, users can extract vital details about the database schema without directly querying the system catalogs, which can be complex and error-prone. This abstraction layer offered by INFORMATION_SCHEMA simplifies the task of retrieving information and enhances the portability of applications across different database systems.

Moreover, INFORMATION_SCHEMA is not limited to just querying metadata. It also allows users to modify certain aspects of the database structure, such as adding or dropping constraints, altering column data types, and more. This flexibility makes it a powerful tool for both querying and managing the database schema.


Before we can start utilizing the capabilities of INFORMATION_SCHEMA in PostgreSQL, we need to ensure that our PostgreSQL installation is properly configured and ready to support its usage. Let's take a look at the necessary installation requirements and the step-by-step installation process.

Installation Requirements

Installing INFORMATION_SCHEMA in PostgreSQL requires an existing PostgreSQL database instance. Ensure that you have PostgreSQL installed and running on your system. If not, download and install the latest version of PostgreSQL from the official PostgreSQL website.

Step-by-Step Installation Process

Once you have a PostgreSQL instance up and running, follow these steps to enable and configure INFORMATION_SCHEMA:

  1. Connect to your PostgreSQL database using your preferred client interface or the psql command-line tool.
  2. Create a new user or use an existing superuser account with sufficient privileges to modify the database schema and run queries.
  3. Run the following SQL command to enable the INFORMATION_SCHEMA extension:

With these steps completed, your PostgreSQL installation is now equipped to utilize the capabilities of the INFORMATION_SCHEMA.

Now, let's delve into some additional details about the INFORMATION_SCHEMA and its significance in PostgreSQL.

The INFORMATION_SCHEMA is a system catalog that provides a wealth of information about the structure and contents of a PostgreSQL database. It offers a standardized way to access metadata, such as table names, column names, data types, and more. This information can be invaluable for various tasks, including database administration, query optimization, and application development.

By enabling the INFORMATION_SCHEMA extension, you gain access to a set of predefined views and tables that expose this metadata. These views and tables can be queried just like any other table in your database, allowing you to retrieve detailed information about your database objects.

For example, you can use the INFORMATION_SCHEMA to retrieve a list of all tables in a database, along with their corresponding column names and data types. This can be particularly useful when you need to analyze the structure of your database or generate dynamic SQL statements based on the available tables and columns.

Additionally, the INFORMATION_SCHEMA provides views that expose information about database constraints, indexes, views, and more. This allows you to gather insights into the relationships between your database objects and perform advanced analysis or troubleshooting tasks.

Overall, the INFORMATION_SCHEMA is a powerful tool that enhances the capabilities of PostgreSQL by providing a standardized way to access and query metadata. By following the installation process outlined above, you can unlock the full potential of INFORMATION_SCHEMA and leverage its benefits in your PostgreSQL environment.


Now that we have set up PostgreSQL with INFORMATION_SCHEMA, let's explore the various ways to access and query the INFORMATION_SCHEMA.

But before we dive into the different commands, let's take a moment to understand what INFORMATION_SCHEMA actually is. In PostgreSQL, INFORMATION_SCHEMA is a system catalog that provides a wealth of metadata about the database objects, such as tables, views, columns, constraints, and more. It serves as a valuable resource for retrieving information about the structure and organization of your database.

Basic Commands for Accessing INFORMATION_SCHEMA

To retrieve information from the INFORMATION_SCHEMA, you can use simple SQL commands to query the catalog views and tables contained within the schema.

For example, to obtain a list of all tables in your PostgreSQL database, you can execute the following query:

SELECT table_nameFROM information_schema.tablesWHERE table_schema = 'public';

Similarly, you can use queries to retrieve valuable information about columns, views, constraints, and more from the INFORMATION_SCHEMA. Experiment with different queries to extract the information you need for your particular use case.

Common Errors and Troubleshooting

While working with INFORMATION_SCHEMA in PostgreSQL, it's essential to be aware of potential errors and troubleshooting techniques. Some common issues that users encounter when accessing the INFORMATION_SCHEMA include permissions-related problems, undefined catalog queries, and mismatched data types.

If you encounter errors or unexpected results when querying the INFORMATION_SCHEMA, ensure that the user account has sufficient privileges to access the required views and tables. Additionally, double-check your queries for any potential syntax errors or inconsistencies in table and column names.

Another common error is forgetting to specify the correct schema when querying the INFORMATION_SCHEMA. Make sure you include the appropriate table_schema condition in your queries to ensure you are retrieving the desired information.

If you're still experiencing difficulties, consult the official PostgreSQL documentation or seek assistance from the PostgreSQL community forums to find specific solutions to your problems. The PostgreSQL community is known for its helpful and knowledgeable members who are always ready to lend a hand.

Exploring the Components of INFORMATION_SCHEMA

Now that we are well-versed in accessing and querying the INFORMATION_SCHEMA, let's dive deeper into its various components and understand how they can assist us in gaining insights into the database structure.


The tables contained within the INFORMATION_SCHEMA provide valuable information about the schema's tables, including their names, data types, and associated metadata. By querying these tables, users can retrieve a comprehensive view of the database's tables and their attributes.

For example, to retrieve information about all the columns in a specific table, you can query the columns table within the INFORMATION_SCHEMA using the table_name and table_schema columns.


Similar to tables, the views within the INFORMATION_SCHEMA offer an insightful perspective on the database's views and their properties. By querying these views, users can obtain crucial details about the underlying SQL statements used to define the views and the referenced tables or views.

For instance, to extract information about the definition of a specific view, you can query the views table within the INFORMATION_SCHEMA using the view_definition column.

Querying Data using INFORMATION_SCHEMA

Now that we have a good understanding of the various components of INFORMATION_SCHEMA, let's explore how we can leverage this schema to construct meaningful queries and optimize the data retrieval process.

Constructing Queries with INFORMATION_SCHEMA

One of the primary use cases of INFORMATION_SCHEMA is to construct dynamic SQL queries based on the metadata obtained from the schema. By querying the relevant tables and views within the INFORMATION_SCHEMA, users can generate SQL statements dynamically to retrieve data from the database tables based on specific conditions or criteria.

For example, you can generate a query to fetch all the column names from a specific table and use the result dynamically in your application logic to perform further operations on the retrieved data.

Optimizing Queries for Better Performance

While accessing the INFORMATION_SCHEMA, it's crucial to optimize your queries to improve performance and reduce unnecessary overhead. Be mindful of the amount of data being retrieved, as querying the INFORMATION_SCHEMA can potentially impact the performance of your PostgreSQL database.

Consider applying filters and selecting only the required columns when querying the INFORMATION_SCHEMA to reduce the query's computational complexity. Additionally, ensure that your database schema is properly indexed to optimize query execution.

By adopting these best practices, you can maximize the efficiency and performance of your queries while utilizing the capabilities of INFORMATION_SCHEMA in PostgreSQL.

In conclusion, INFORMATION_SCHEMA is a valuable asset in a PostgreSQL database, offering valuable insights into the database schema and its objects. By leveraging the power of the INFORMATION_SCHEMA, users gain an enhanced understanding of the database structure and retrieve crucial metadata. Armed with this knowledge, developers and database administrators can streamline their processes, optimize performance, and build robust applications. Utilize the information provided in this article to unleash the full potential of INFORMATION_SCHEMA in your PostgreSQL endeavors.

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