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SQLpy - it's just SQL

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With SQLpy you can work directly with advanced SQL from the comfort of your Python code. Write SQL in .sql files and Python in .py files, with all the correct highlighting, linting and maintainability that comes with it.

  • Write and run the exact SQL code you want
  • Use advanced SQL techniques such as
    • CTEs
    • subqueries
    • recursion
    • distinct on, partition over (), etc...
  • Dynamically build SQL queries for different purposes
  • Use the latest features available in your database system

Party like it's ANSI 1999!

SQL has been around since the mid 1970's in RDMS systems as the bedrock of many critical systems and applications. SQL is easy to start with but is quickly perceived as complex when you go beyond "SELECT * FROM table;". Especially in the age of web applications where the persistence layer (both relational and No-SQL) have been treated as simple stores of data, and are often behind abstraction to bring data in and out of your application. But when you need to do something a bit more custom with your data, you often find yourself reaching to SQL.

However there has not really been a simple and straightforward way to do this directly from the application code itself for large projects. Having SQL strings dotted all over source files does not help maintainability or readability.

The solution to using SQL directly from your application code is to... use SQL directly from your application code! Following from the original insight of YeSQL, and learning from anosql, SQLpy is the solution for working directly with SQL in Python projects.

Why SQLpy? Read more on background here: SQLpy Blog


$ pip install sqlpy

You'll also need a Database DBAPI driver. See compatibility.


Full documentation can be found at readthedocs.

Getting started is simple! All you need is a SQL database running and accessible to you. Let's assume a PostgreSQL database for our example.

Assume we have a database table hello with the following data.

id message







First install sqlpy and psycopg2

$ pip install sqlpy psycopg2

Create a queries.sql file in your project directory, containing the following. (The name of the SQL snippet is how to link the query to the Python code.)

Set up the application and run


[(1, u'hello'), (2, u'SQLpy'), (3, u'PostgreSQL!')]

You can also pass variables to the query via format strings %s or pyformat strings %(name)s and an argument tuple or dictionary respectively.

Database Compatibility/Limitations

SQLpy was written as a lightweight helper around your already existing Python DB API 2.0 library, with no assumptions made about the underlying library of choice.

As long as you write valid SQL for your database system and Python DB API library, then you should have no problems.

For example PostgreSQL implements the RETURNING clause, this may be called something else or not implemented in a different system. So if you are using a With RETURNING query, then make sure you have the correct SQL syntax for your system.

Other explicit compatibility points detailed below.


The Python DB API specifies 5 types of parameter style
  • qmark: Question mark style, e.g. ...WHERE name=?
  • numeric: Numeric, positional style, e.g. ...WHERE name=:1
  • named: Named style, e.g. ...WHERE name=:name
  • format: ANSI C printf format codes, e.g. ...WHERE name=%s
  • pyformat: Python extended format codes, e.g. ...WHERE name=%(name)s

SQLpy supports all of the positional paramstyles, for all query types other than BUILT, since the SQL code is simply passed straight through to the DB API library.

As of version 0.2.0 SQLpy only supports pyformat as the named paramstyle for BUILT query types.

Below is a non-exhaustive, possibly incomplete, probably out of date list, of popular Python DB API libaries and their paramstyle support.

paramstyle library
format, pyformat


format, pyformat


format, pyformat


format, pyformat


format, pyformat








numeric, named



PostgreSQL/psycopg 2.7+ Only

Due to SQL parameter escaping (see Bobby Tables), many DB API libraries won't allow you to correctly pass in variables to set idendity values in your query. These are things like column names in the SELECT, or ORDER BY clauses. The psycopg libary for PostgreSQL provides the quote_ident() function to solve this. To use it, pass a tuple of strings to your SQLpy function where the SQL contains a {} replacement field for each tuple item.

It is also possible to define identifiers in multiple parts of the query by passing a named identifier group(s) in a dictionary. This allows multiple identifiers to be contained within the same format token slot.


Tests are provided through the excellent pytest, and CI via Travis CI. SQLpy is tested against a real PostgreSQL database loaded with the pagila dataset.

To run the test suite locally without a database, simply run make test from the root of the project. To run with a database (given you have one accessible to you):
  • load the pagila data by copying the commands in the before_script block in the .travis.yml file.
  • modify the file to enable running of the skipped test blocks and add any credentials to the db_cur() fixture.
  • run with make test as before


Team work makes the dream work!

We welcome contributions! You can open an Issue to report a bug or ask a question. If you would like to submit changes for review, please follow these steps:

  1. Fork the repository
  2. Make your changes
  3. Install the requirements in dev-requirements.txt
  4. Submit a pull request after running make check (ensure it does not error!)