Foreign Key Displays

For foreign keys, I like to see what references what, It's easy to find but the challenge is to decide how to display.

The cute

Showing a result with the mysql client:

prompt> call show_fk('t2');
+-------------+-----------------+------------+
| referencing | constraint_name | referenced |
+-------------+-----------------+------------+
| t2          | mx              | t3         |
| s1          |                 | s1         |
| s2          |                 | s2         |
|             |                 |            |
| t2          | t2_ibfk_1       | t1         |
| s1          |                 | s1         |
+-------------+-----------------+------------+
6 rows in set (0.08 sec)

Query OK, 6 rows affected (0.08 sec)

That is, for table T2, I show the table name and foreign-key name and referenced-table name, then the columns of that table in the order they appear in the foreign key, then if there is another foreign key repeat after a blank line.

Here is a long but simple stored procedure that produces such a display.

DROP PROCEDURE show_fk;
CREATE PROCEDURE show_fk(ref_table_name VARCHAR(128))
BEGIN
 DECLARE d_table_name VARCHAR(128);
 DECLARE d_column_name VARCHAR(128);
 DECLARE d_ordinal_position INT;
 DECLARE d_constraint_name VARCHAR(128);
 DECLARE d_referenced_table_name VARCHAR(128);
 DECLARE d_referenced_column_name VARCHAR(128);
 DECLARE counter INT DEFAULT 0;
 DECLARE err INT DEFAULT 0;
 DECLARE x CURSOR FOR
 SELECT table_name, column_name, ordinal_position,
 constraint_name,
 referenced_table_name, referenced_column_name
 FROM information_schema.key_column_usage
 WHERE table_name = ref_table_name AND referenced_column_name IS NOT NULL
 ORDER BY constraint_name, ordinal_position;
 DECLARE CONTINUE HANDLER FOR NOT FOUND SET err = 1;
 DECLARE CONTINUE HANDLER FOR SQLEXCEPTION set err = 1;
 CREATE TEMPORARY TABLE fks (referencing VARCHAR(128),
                             constraint_name VARCHAR(128),
                             referenced VARCHAR(128));
 OPEN x;
 WHILE err = 0 DO
   FETCH x INTO d_table_name,d_column_name, d_ordinal_position,
              d_constraint_name,
              d_referenced_table_name, d_referenced_column_name;
   IF err = 0 THEN
     IF counter <> 0 AND d_ordinal_position = 1 THEN
       INSERT INTO fks VALUES ('', '', '');
     END IF;
     IF d_ordinal_position = 1 THEN
       INSERT INTO fks VALUES (d_table_name, d_constraint_name, d_referenced_table_name);
     END IF;
     INSERT INTO fks VALUES (d_column_name, '', d_referenced_column_name);
     SET counter = counter + 1;
   END IF;
 END WHILE;
 CLOSE x;
 SELECT * FROM fks;
 DROP TABLE fks;
END;
CALL show_fk('t2');

This is vaguely like an entity-relationship diagram, but with tables rather than pictures.

The flaws are: (1) it needs extra privileges, (2) it mixes different object types. So let's look at the simpler and more common type of display.

The usual

Everything necessary can come from information_schema.key_column_usage.

For example, there's a GUI that displays with these columns:

Name | Schema | Table | Column |Referenced Schema | Referenced Table | Referenced Column

That's easy to reproduce with

SELECT constraint_name AS `Name`,
 table_schema AS `Schema`,
 table_name AS `Table`,
 column_name AS `Column`,
 referenced_table_schema AS `Referenced Schema`,
 referenced_table_name AS `Referenced Table`,
 referenced_column_name AS `Referenced Column`
FROM information_schema.key_column_usage
WHERE referenced_column_name IS NOT NULL
ORDER BY constraint_name, ordinal_position;

Or if that takes too long to type, make a view.

There's another GUI that displays with these columns:

Key name | Columns | Reference Table | Foreign Columns | On UPDATE | On DELETE

(The "On UPDATE" and "On DELETE" values would have to come from information_schema.referential_constraints.)

The objection that I'd make is that such headers are not standard. So anybody who knows the actual column names has to do a double take, wondering whether the first column is the same as "constraint_name" or something exotic, and so on. Use of multiple different names for the same thing is poetry not programming.

The new

So I think this display, which admittedly makes cosmetic changes (replacing '_' with ' ' and changing upper case to mixed case and emphasizing one column) is better:

I've made it so that can come from user statements or from the explorer. The source code is downloadable now and the released executables will come soon.

, January 1, 2023. Category: Standard SQL, Uncategorized.

About pgulutzan

Co-author of four computer books. Software Architect at MySQL/Sun/Oracle from 2003-2011, and at HP for a little while after that. Currently with Ocelot Computer Services Inc. in Edmonton Canada.