Tag Archives: SQL

For everyone working with spatial databases in QGIS there comes a time when “Add PostGIS/SpatiaLite Layer” and “RT Sql Layer” start to be annoying. You always have to retype or copy-paste your SQL queries into the user interface if you need to change the tiniest thing in the layer’s definition.

This is where “Fast SQL Layer” can be a real time saver. Fast SQL Layer is a new plugin for QGIS by Pablo T. Carreira. It basically adds an SQL console for loading layers from PostGIS/SpatiaLite into QGIS. And it even comes with syntax highlighting!


Fast SQL Layer comes with one dependency: Pygments, which is used for syntax highlighting.

On Ubuntu, all you have to do is install it with apt-get:

sudo apt-get install python-pygments

For Windows with OSGeo4W, @Mike_Toews posted this on gis.stackexchange:

I downloaded and extracted Pygments-1.4.tar.gz, then in an OSGeo4W shell within the Pygments-1.4 directory, type python build then python install


When you activate the plugin in plugin manager, a dock widget will appear which contains the console and some fields for specifying the database connection that should be used. Then, you can simply write your SQL query and load the results with one click.

Fast SQL plugin

In this example, I renamed “gid” to “id”, but you can actually edit the values in the drop down boxes to adjust the column names for id and geometry:

A second layer loaded using Fast SQL plugin

It certainly needs some polishing on the user interface side but I really like it.

Do you need a random sample of features in a Postgres table? Here is an example of how to select 1,000 random features from a table:

WHERE attribute = 'myValue'
ORDER BY random()
LIMIT 1000;

Maybe this is a bit off-topic, but I just spent quite some time on this and I need to write it down so I can look it up again later :)

These are instructions for Ubuntu running Postgres 8.4. By default, Postgres ships without PL/Python so we need to get it first:

sudo apt-get install postgresql-plpython-8.4

Next, we need to create the language for our database. I’m using PgAdmin3. From there, I ran:

CREATE PROCEDURAL LANGUAGE 'plpython' HANDLER plpython_call_handler;

This should have been it. Let’s try with a simple function:

CREATE FUNCTION replace_e_to_a(text) RETURNS text AS
import re
Text1 = re.sub(''e'', ''a'',args[0])
return Text1
LANGUAGE 'plpython';

SELECT replace_e_to_a('Meee');

… should return ‘Maaa’.

Now for the juicy part: Let’s create an INSERT trigger function!

First, let’s have a look at the corresponding table structure. We have two tables “user_data” and “user_keywords”. “user_data” is the table that’s being filled with information from external functions. “user_keywords” has to be kept up-to-date. It is supposed to count the appearance of keywords on a per-user base.

user_data                                   user_keywords
user_id, event_id, keywords                 user_id, keyword,   count
1,       1,        'music,rock'             1,       'music',   2
1,       2,        'music,classic'          1,       'rock',    1
                                            1,       'classic', 1

First, the keyword list has to be split. Then a row has to be inserted for new keywords (compare insert_plan) and the counter has to be increased for existing keywords (update_plan).

The values that are about to be inserted can be accessed via TD[“new”][“column_name”].

CREATE FUNCTION update_keyword_count() RETURNS trigger AS '

keywords = TD["new"]["keywords"]
user = TD["new"]["user_id"]

insert_plan = plpy.prepare("INSERT INTO user_keywords (keyword, count, user_id) VALUES ($1, $2, $3)", ["text", "int", "int"])

update_plan = plpy.prepare("UPDATE user_keywords SET count = $3 WHERE user_id = $1 AND keyword = $2", ["int", "text", "int"])

for keyword in keywords.split(","):
  select_cnt_rows = plpy.prepare("SELECT count(*) AS cnt FROM user_keywords WHERE user_id = $1 AND keyword = $2", ["int", "text"])
  cnt_rows = plpy.execute(select_cnt_rows, [user, keyword])

  select_plan = plpy.prepare("SELECT count AS cnt FROM user_keywords WHERE user_id = $1 AND keyword = $2", ["int", "text"])
  results = plpy.execute(select_plan, [user, keyword])

  if cnt_rows[0]["cnt"] == 0:
   rv = plpy.execute(insert_plan, [keyword, 1, user])
   rv = plpy.execute(update_plan, [user, keyword, results[0]["cnt"]+1])

' LANGUAGE plpython;

Now, we need to wire it up by defining the trigger:

CREATE TRIGGER update_keywords
EXECUTE PROCEDURE update_keyword_count();

… Wasn’t that bad ;)

GeoServer has always been good at simply publishing database tables. But anything more complex (e.g. pre-filtering data in a table, joining two tables together, or generating values on the fly) could be painful. With Geoserver 2.1 one can finally create a layer directly from an SQL query.

"Create New SQL View" interface

Even dynamic queries are possible, e.g.

select gid, state_name, the_geom from pgstates where persons between %low% and %high%

To select for example all states with 2 to 5 millions inhabitants, the following parameters can be added to the normal GetMap request:


Find more information on SQL layers in Geoserver 2.1 documentation.

Sometimes, we just want to visualize the contents of a PostGIS table containing some x/y data but no actual geometries in QGIS. But there the problems arise: We don’t have the right to add a geometry column, the table doesn’t have a suitable ID or OIDs (QGIS demands a unique integer ID) and we can’t or don’t want to mess with the database anyway. Loading the table with “Add PostGIS Layer” will result in a non-spatial layer (or fail if you use an older QGIS versions).

RT Sql Layer Plugin to the rescue!

I presented this plugin in a previous post. It allows you to execute any SQL SELECT statement, even really complex ones. Luckily, this time we don’t need anything fancy, only the two functions row_number() and makepoint():

  row_number() over (order by col1)::int AS my_id,
  x, y, 
  makepoint(x,y) as the_geom
from my_table
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