SQL Queries ohne Datenbank auf CSV-Dateien ausführen mit q

Executing SQL queries without databases on CSV files using q


Have you ever stared at a CSV file on your screen and wished it was a database executing SQL queries? We've often found ourselves wanting not to directly process CSVs but favoring to run SQL queries.


With q [1], conventional SQL queries can be executed on CSVs and other tabular files without connecting to a database or to an SQLite database. If needed, q permits exports to an SQLite database. Q supports all common SQL queries types. It is remarkable that q can be used as a Unix command. By default, q reads from STDIN and writes to STDOUT, which allows piping with other Unix commands.Installation: All major operating systems are supported and can be installed as usual [2]. Disclaimer: We have only tested q via homebrew on macOS.
brew install q


Example 1

Let's take the following table as CSV file:
1,Max Mustermann,1994,brown
2,Lars Agne,1983,blonde
3,Otto Normal,1995,brown
4,Lieschen Müller,1987,black
5,John Doe,1980,brown
We would like to find out how many people have brown hair. This is obviously trivial with such a small table, but in real data sets this would be much more tedious and laborious.
Using q, we directly execute a SQL query on this CSV file to filter by hair color. We expect ; to delimit and that the first line of the CSV describes the column names. Therefore, we use -d to set the delimiter and -H to skip the first line:
$> q -H -d ";" "SELECT COUNT(ID) FROM persons.csv WHERE haircolor = 'brown'"

- Result -

Example 2

Q can also join multiple CSV files on-the-fly. For this purpose, we take this CSV file in addition to the CSV file from example 1 (see above):
Now we want to link both files to output all e-mail addresses of people with brown hair. It would look like this:
$> q -H -d ";" "SELECT persons.name, emails.email FROM persons.csv persons
                   JOIN emails.csv emails ON (persons.id = emails.id)
                   WHERE persons.haircolor = 'brown'"

- Result -
Max Mustermann   max.mustermann@example.com
Otto Normal   otto.normal@example.com
John Doe   john.doe@example.com

Example 3

Since q treats text as data, we can also process output from Unix commands with q. For example, you can do the following in q to list all the current process commands that were started on December 24:
$> ps aux | q -H "SELECT COMMAND FROM - WHERE STARTED = '24Dez20'"

- Result -

Performance and Limitations

The current version of q is significantly faster in running SQL queries on CSV files than comparable Go-based tools, such as Textql and Octosql [3]. We would be interested in comparing q with xsv, which can index and process CSVs.

However, we noticed that q does not allow, for example, to execute FROM on a subquery. Another limitation is that q uses SQLite as its single SQL dialect. Further limitations can be found on q's website [1].

Executing SQL queries without databases on CSV files using q

Further Aspects


Authors: Fionn Fuchs & Maximilian Konzack / Working Student & Software Engineer / Office Leipzig

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