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5.1.4 • Public • Published


YeSQL meets SQLite: A SQLite Adapter built with InterCourse and BetterSQLite

ICQL is a module written in the spirit of YeSQL. For those readers who are unaware of YeSQL, there is a short Intro to YeSQL; others may want to dive right into the sections on ICQL Installation and ICQL Usage.

ICQL is implemented on top of InterCourse which is an SQL-agnostic library that does the parsing and cataloguing of 'functionality hunks' (i.e. named blocks of code that define how to accomplish tasks).

ICQL takes three pieces: (1) a database adapter (which currently must be better-sqlite3 or something with a compatible API), (2) a path to an SQLite DB file, and (3) a path to an ICQL source file with statement definitions; it then binds together these three pieces to produce an object where the statement definitions have been turned into methods that perform queries against the DB.

ICQL Installation

npm install icql

ICQL Usage


ICQL is specifically geared towards using (1) the SQLite Relational DB by way of (2) the better-sqlite3 library for NodeJS. While it should be not too difficult to (fork and) adapt ICQL to work with other DB engines such as PostgreSQL, no concrete plans exist at the time of this writing. Understand that ICQL is still in its inceptive stage and, as such, may lack important features, contain bugs and experience breaking changes in the future.

FTTB all code examples below will be given in CoffeeScript. JavaScript users will have to mentally supply some parentheses and semicolons.

To use ICQL in your code, import the library and instantiate a db object:

ICQL = require 'icql'
settings = {
  connector:    require 'better-sqlite3'  # must give a `better-sqlite3`-compatible object 
  db_path:      'path/to/my.sqlitedb'     # must indicate where your database file is / will be created 
  icql_path:    'path/to/my.icql' }       # must indicate where your SQL statements file is 
db = ICQL.bind settings                   # create an object with methods to query against your SQLite DB 


After doing db = ICQL.bind settings the new db object contains all the methods you defined in your *icql file. Each method will be either a procedure or a query, the difference being that

  • procedures consists of any number of SQL statements that do not produce any output; these may be used to create, modify and drop tables and views, insert and delete data and so on; on the other hand,

  • queries consist of a single SQL select statement with any number of resulting records.

Here are two simple ICQL definitions:

procedure drop_tables:
  drop table if exists foo;
  drop table if exists bar;
query fetch_products( price_max ):
  select * from products where price <= $price_max;
query fetch_products( price_min, price_max ):
  select * from products where price between price_min and $price_max;

Owing to the synchronous nature of BetterSQLite, all procedures and queries are synchronous; that means you can simply write stuff like

db = ...

without promises / callbacks / whatever async. That's great (and works out fine because SQLite is a single-thread, in-process DB engine, so asynchronicity doesn't buy you anything within a single-threaded event-based VM like NodeJS).

Queries return an iterator, so you can use a for/of loop in JavaScript or a for/from loop in CoffeeScript to iterate over all results:

// JS
for ( row of db.fetch_products { price_max: 400, } ) {
  do_something_with( row ); }
# CS 
for row from db.fetch_products { price_max: 400}
  do_something_with row

Under the hood, the equivalent of the following is performed:

query_entry = db.$.sql.fetch_products[ 'price_max' ]
query_text  = query_entry.text
# In case of statements without results: 
db.$.execute query_text
# In case of statements with results: 
statement   = db.$.prepare query_text
iterator    = statement.iterate { price_max: 400}
for row from iterator: ...

db.$, the 'Special' Attribute

The db object as constructed above will have a an attribute, db.$, called 'special', which in turn contains a number of members that are used internally and may be occasionally be useful for the user:

  • db.$.limit(), db.$.single_row(), db.$.first_row(), db.$.single_value(), db.$.first_value(), db.$.all_rows(), db.$.all_first_values() and db.$.first_values() are discussed in Query Modifiers, below.

  • db.$.load path—load an extension.

  • db.$.read path—execute SQL statements in a file.

  • db.$.prepare sql—prepare a statement. Returns a better-sqlite3 statement instance.

  • db.$.execute sql—execute any number of SQL statements.

  • db.$.query sql, P...—perform a single select statement. Returns an iterator over the result set's rows. When the sql text has placeholders, accepts additional values.

  • db.$.settings—the settings that the db object was instantiated with.

  • db.$.db—the underlying better-sqlite3 object that is used to implement all functionality.

  • db.$.sql—an object with metadata that describes the result of parsing the definition source file.

  • db.$.as_identifier text—format a string so that it can be used as an identifier in an SQL statement (even when it contains spaces or quotes).

  • db.$.catalog()—return an iterator over all entries in sqlite_master; allows to inspect the database for all tables, views, and indexes.

  • db.$.clear()—drop all tables, views and indexes from the database.

  • db.$.escape_text x—turn text x into an SQL string literal.

  • db.$.list_as_json x—turn list x into a JSON array literal.

  • db.$.as_sql x—express value x as SQL literal.

  • db.$.interpolate sql, Q—interpolate values found in object Q into string sql.

Writing ICQL Statements

TBW; see the demo and the InterCourse docs.

SQL Fragments

Possible to define fragments, i.e. possibly incomplete SQL snippets that may contain placeholders. For each fragment, a namesake method will be created that accepts an object with named values where applicable; when called, method does not execute a statement but returns that SQL snippet with values filled out as literals. Observe that the SQL interpolation routine differs a little from what better-sqlite3 offers; in particular, booleans true, false will be turned into integers 0, 1, and lists will be expressed as JSON array literals. In the future, we will try to align ICQL and Sqlite3 value interpolation and allow to define custom conversions.

Definition Types

  • procedure—does not return anything and may contain any number of SQL statements.

  • query—returns a JS iterator (to be used in a JS for/of or CS for/from loop). These can be used with any kind of select statement (trivially including those statements that return no rows at all).

Query Modifiers

Query modifiers are convenience methods to transform the result set. Because they exhaust the iterator that is returned from a query, only a single method may be used; if you have to iterate more than once over a given result set, use db.$.all_rows db.my_query ....

  • db.$.limit n, iterator—returns an iterator over the first n rows;
  • db.$.all_rows iterator—returns a list of all rows;
  • db.$.single_row iterator—like first_row, but throws on undefined;
  • db.$.first_row iterator—returns first row, or undefined;
  • db.$.single_value iterator—like first_value, but throws on undefined;
  • db.$.first_value iterator—returns first field of first row, or undefined.
  • db.$.first_values iterator—returns an iterator over the first field of all rows.
  • db.$.all_first_values iterator—returns a list with the values of the first field of each row. Useful to turn queries like select product_id from products order by price desc limit 100 into a flat list of values.

A Short Intro to YeSQL

YeSQL originated, I believe, at some point in time in the 2010s as a reaction on the then-viral NoSQL fad (see the yesql library for Clojure from 2013 which may or may not have started the 'YeSQL' meme). The claims of the NoSQL people basically was (and is) that classical (read 'mainframe', 'dinosaur', 'dusty') Relational Database Management Systems (RDBMSs) (and the premises they were built on) is outmoded in a day and age where horizontal scaling of data sources and agility is everything (I'm shortcutting this a lot, but this is not a primer on the Relational Model or NoSQL).

Where NoSQL was right is where they claimed that (1) key/value stores are not necessarily best implemented on top of a relational DB, and (2) one popular responses to the Object-Relational Impedance Mismatch, namely Object/Relational Mappers (ORMs), are often a pain to work with, especially when queries grow beyond the level of complexity of select * from products order by price limit 10;.

Aside: Why You Don't Want to Use an ORM

Anyone who has tried an ORM before knows that an ORM will not save you from having to know and to write SQL; instead, you will have to learn a new dialect of SQL that comes with significantly more punctuation to write, more edge cases to be aware of, and more complexities in setting up, configuring and using it when compared to the traditional sending-strings-of-SQL-to-the-DB approach. For those who insist that 'but I want to write my queries in my day-to-day programming language' I say that sure, you can totally do that, but then you'll have to use the syntax of that language as a matter of course, too. Turns out it's hard to come up with a way to express SQL-ish statements in C-like syntaxes in a way that does not look like willfully obfuscated code. Below is one (I find: typical) example from a leading ORM project for Python. If you insist on using an ORM, you will have to turn this simple SQL statement ...

    users.fullname || ', ' || addresses.email_address as title
    where true
      and ( users.id = addresses.user_id )
      and ( users.name between 'm' and 'z' )
      and ( addresses.email_address like '%@aol.com' or addresses.email_address like '%@msn.com' );

... into this contraption:

select([(users.c.fullname + ", " + addresses.c.email_address).
      users.c.id == addresses.c.user_id,
      users.c.name.between('m', 'z'),

Observe how all those A and B terms have to be re-written as and_( A, B ), how the SQL keywords between and like get suddenly turned into method calls on columns (wat?). In this particular framework, you will have to dot-chain every term to the preceding one, producing one long spaghetti of code. Frankly, no gains to be seen, and it only gets worse and worse from down here. For this particular query, the SQL from clause is proudly auto-supplied by the ORM; in case you have to make that it explicit, though, you have to tack on something like


How this is any better than from users, addresses totally escapes me.


  • provide a way to use JS arrays for SQL values tuples, as in select * from t where x in ( 2, 3, 5 );
  • provide a way to notate formats, use raw SQL strings with placeholders, ex. select * from t where x in $tuple:mylist;, select * from $name:mytable;. This could also be used to provide special behavior e.g. for the limit clause: in PostgreSQL, when $x in select + from t limit $x is null, no limit is enforced; however, in SQLite, one has to provide -1 (or another negative integer) to achieve the same. Likewise, true and false have to be converted to 1 and 0 in SQLite, names in dynamic queries have to be quoted and escaped, &c. See https://www.npmjs.com/package/puresql for some ideas for formats; we'll probably favor English names over symbols since so many SQLish dialects already use so many conflicting sigils like @ and so on. Named formats could also be provided by user.
  • user defined functions?
  • pragmas?
  • services like the not-entirely obvious way to get table names with columns out of SQLite (which relies on joining rows from sqlite_master with rows from pragma_table_info(...))?
  • provide a path to build dynamic SQL; see https://github.com/ianstormtaylor/pg-sql-helpers for some ideas.
  • ??? introduce single-level namespaces for constructs ???
  • allow default values for parameters so we can avoid to always having to define 1 method for a query with a $limit and another 1 method for another query that looks exactly the same except for the missing $limit.—How does that work with method overloading as implemented, if at all? Any precedences in existing languages?
  • reduce boilerplate for insert procedures and fragments, etc.
  • implement inheritance for ICQL declarations
  • remove better-sqlite3 dependency, consumers will have to pass in a DB instance


npm i icql

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