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A year from now you’ll wish you started today — Karen Lamb

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MySQL Quick Start and Cheat Sheet

Although my favorite SQL database is PostgreSQL due to its feature-rich capabilities and amazing performance, MySQL still has its benefits, especially in the replication side. In fact, Google Cloud SQL is only compatible with MySQL right now. If they offered PostgreSQL, I would not be writing this. But I’ll stop now on opinions. Let’s do a quick start, and compile a cheat sheet afterwards. Also, check out some tips I learned including some best practices. ## Quick Start

service mysql start     # start mysql if not started
mysql -u root -p        # login with password prompt

Setup User and Database

ALTER USER 'root'@'localhost' IDENTIFIED BY 'new_password'; -- change root pass

USE cats;
CREATE USER 'jump'@'localhost' IDENTIFIED BY 'secret'; -- create a new user
GRANT ALL ON cats.* TO 'jump'@'localhost';             -- grant privileges
FLUSH PRIVILEGES;                                      -- refresh privileges
SHOW GRANTS;                                           -- show users and grants

Create Tables

  id              INT unsigned NOT NULL AUTO_INCREMENT, -- Unique ID
  name            VARCHAR(150) NOT NULL,                -- Name of the cat
  owner           VARCHAR(150) NOT NULL,                -- Owner of the cat
  birth           DATE NOT NULL,                        -- Birthday of the cat
  PRIMARY KEY     (id)                                  -- make id primary key

ALTER TABLE cats ADD gender CHAR(1) AFTER name;
ALTER TABLE cats DROP gender;



INSERT INTO cats ( name, owner, birth) VALUES
  ( 'Sandy', 'Lennon', '2015-01-03' ),
  ( 'Cookie', 'Casey', '2013-11-13' ),
  ( 'Charlie', 'River', '2016-05-21' );
SELECT name FROM cats WHERE owner = 'Casey';

DELETE FROM cats WHERE name='Cookie';

Cheat Sheet

Common Shell Commands

# run the mysql client
mysql -h [host] -u [user] -p 
mysql -h [host] -u [user] -p [database]

# export data
mysqldump -u [user] -p [database] > data_backup.sql

Common MySQL Commands

\s;                 -- show status
SHOW VARIABLES;     -- show configuration params
SHOW PROCESSLIST;   -- show running queries

SELECT @@version;   -- mysql version
SELECT @@datadir;   -- location of db files
SELECT @@hostname;  -- current hostname
SELECT USER();      -- current user
SELECT DATABASE();  -- current database

USE db_name;
DESCRIBE table_name;

Common Admin Commands

-- list all mysql users in database
SELECT host, user FROM mysql.user;  

-- show grant for all users

CREATE USER 'username'@'hostname' IDENTIFIED BY 'password';

GRANT ALL ON db_name.* TO 'username'@'hostname' IDENTIFIED BY 'password';

-- refresh privileges

DROP USER 'username'@'hostname';

Common Data Types

integers int(5)  
floats float(12,3) Will round your values
money decimal(10,2) Up to 10 digits. 2 points
date date  
datetime timestamp(8) (8)YYYYMMDD, (12)YYYYMMDDHHMMSS
string varchar(20)  
large text blob  
enum enum('blue','red','gray') Not recommended to use

Common Functions

NOW() datetime input
strcomp(str1,str2) Compare string
password(str) Encry password
curdate() Get date
curtime() Get time

Common CRUD

INSERT INTO people VALUES ('MyName', '2002­08­31');             
INSERT INTO people (name, company_id, created_at) -- copy rows from same tbl
    SELECT name, 50, NOW() FROM people WHERE company_id = 49; 

SELECT * FROM tbl;                              -- All values 
SELECT * FROM tbl WHERE rec_name = "value";     -- Some values
SELECT * FROM tbl WHERE rec1 = "value1"         -- Multiple critera
    AND rec2 = "val2"; 

SELECT column_name FROM table;                    -- Selecting specific columns
SELECT DISTINCT column_name FROM table;           -- Retrieving unique outputs
SELECT col1, col2 FROM table ORDER BY col2;       -- Sorting
SELECT col1, col2 FROM table ORDER BY col2 DESC;  -- Sorting Backward
SELECT COUNT(*) FROM table;                       -- Counting Rows
SELECT owner, COUNT(*) FROM table GROUP BY owner; -- Grouping with Counting
SELECT MAX(col_name) AS label FROM table;         -- Maximum value

SELECT pet.name, comment FROM pet, event -- Selecting from multiple tables 
WHERE pet.name = event.name;             


SELECT * FROM table WHERE rec LIKE "blah%"; -- % is wildcard ­
SELECT * FROM table WHERE rec LIKE "_____"; -- Find 5­char values: _ is 1 char
SELECT * FROM table WHERE rec RLIKE "^b$";  -- regex

SELECT * FROM table_1 INNER JOIN table_2 ON conditions;
SELECT * FROM table1 LEFT JOIN table2 ON conditions;

UPDATE table SET column_name = "new_value" 
WHERE record_name = "value";

DELETE FROM table WHERE condition;

DELETE table_1, table2 FROM table_1
INNER JOIN table_2 ON table_1.column_1 = table_2.column_2
WHERE condition;


INNER JOIN returns rows when there is at least one match in both tables based on the condition given

SELECT t1.*, t2.* FROM table1 t1
INNER JOIN table2 t2 ON t1.ID = t2.ID
-- adding alias to header on columns
SELECT  t1.ID AS t1_id, t1.Value AS t1_v, 
        t2.ID t2_id, t2.Value AS t2_v 
FROM table1 t1
INNER JOIN table2 t2 ON t1.ID = t2.ID

LEFT OUTER JOIN returns all the rows from the left table with the matching rows from the right table. If no columns in right matches, it returns NULL.

RIGHT OUTER JOIN returns all the rows from the right table with the matching rows from the left table. If no columns in left matches, it returns NULL.

Common Table Manipulations

CREATE TABLE table_name (field1_name TYPE(SIZE), field2_name TYPE(SIZE));  

DROP TABLE table_name

ALTER TABLE authors 
    ADD     name VARCHAR(255), 
    CHANGE  author_work_id wokr_id INT,
    DROP    nickname,
    CHANGE `count(*)` cnt bigint(21),  ### renaming

-- Adding a column to an already­created table
ALTER TABLE tbl ADD COLUMN [column_create syntax] AFTER col_name;

-- Removing a column

-- Adding index to an existing table;
ALTER TABLE table_name ADD INDEX index_name (col_name);


  • Always use proper datatype. For example, don’t use VARCHAR(20) instead of DATETIME since it will lead to errors and may store invalid data.
  • Use CHAR(1) over VARCHAR(1) when storing a single character to save space.
  • If it’s a fixed length, use CHAR data type. If not, use VARCHAR.
  • When using DATETIME or DATE datatype, always use the YYYY-MM-DD date formate or ISO date format that suits your SQL engine. Avoid regional formats.
  • Make sure you index the columns that are used in the join clauses so the query returns the result fast.
  • Do not use functions over indexed columns since it defeats the purpose of index. For example, instead of left(code,2)='CA' rewrite with code LIKE 'CA%
  • Use SELECT * only when needed. Be explicit and don’t blindly use that.
  • Use ORDER BY only if needed since it is a slow process.
  • Chose proper Database Engine. If you app reads more often than write, choose MyISAM storage engine. If you develop an application that writes data more than reading (for example, bank transactions), choose INNODB storage engine. Choosing the wrong engine affects performance.
  • If you want to check the existence of data, use IF EXISTS(SELECT*...)
  • Code with cache in mind. Instead of WHERE date >= CURDATE(), store date value in a variable in your application code. Running dynamic functions invalidate the cache.
  • Use LIMIT 1 in your query if you’re just looking for 1 unique item. This allows the database to stop scanning once it finds that specific item. SELECT 1 FROM user WHERE state = 'CA' LIMIT 1
  • Indexes are not just for primary or unique keys. If there are any columns you will search by, you should almost always index them.
  • When using JOINS make sure that the columns you join are index in BOTH sides
  • Also, make sure the column you join have the same data type.
  • Use ENUM over VARCHAR if using only few values, ie: active, inactive, pending, expired
  • Unless you have a very specific reason to use a NULL value, you should always set your colums as NOT NULL. If there’s no reason to have 0 vs NULL, you don’t need it - they require additional space and add complexity.
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