The project is in a healthy, maintained state
SQL with a simple interface. Postgres only.
 Project Readme


The simple-sql gem defines a module Simple::SQL, which you can use to execute SQL statements on a Postgresql database. Care has been taken to provide the simplest interface we could come up with.

Note: Databases other than Postgresql are not supported, and there are no plans to do so. If you deem that necessary, feel free to fork this code into a simple-sql-<yourdatabase> gem to provide the same or a similar interface.


The gem is available on rubygems as simple-sql. To use it add the following line to your Gemfile and bundle us usual:

gem 'simple-sql' # + version


Connecting to a database

Before you can send SQL commands to a database you need to connect first. simple-sql gives you the following options:

  1. Use the current ActiveRecord connection: when running inside a Rails application you typically have a connection to Postgresql configured already. In that case you don't need to do anything; simple-sql will just use the current database connection.

    This is usually the right thing, especially since simple-sql, when called from inside a controller action, is using the connection valid in the current context.

  2. Explicitely connect on standalone applications you need to connect to a Postgresql server. Note that in this case there are no pooled connections! simple-sql is not thread-/fiber-safe in this mode.

    You can explictely connect to a server by calling

      ::Simple::SQL.connect! "postgres://user:password@server[:port]/database"

    Alternatively, you can have simple-sql figure out the details automatically:


    In that case we try to find connection parameters in the following places:

    • the DATABASE_URL environment value
    • the config/database.yml file from the current directory, taking RAILS_ENV/RACK_ENV into account.

Using placeholders

Note: whenever you run a query simple-sql takes care of sending query parameters over the wire properly. That means that you use placeholders $1, $2, etc. to use these inside your queries; the following is a correct example:

Simple::SQL.all "SELECT * FROM users WHERE email=$1", "foo@bar.local"

Also note that it is not possible to use an array as the argument for the IN(?) SQL construct. Instead you want to use ANY, for example:

Simple::SQL.all "SELECT * FROM users WHERE id = ANY($1)", [1,2,3]

Simple::SQL.all: Fetching all results of a query

Simple::SQL.all runs a query, with optional arguments, and returns the result. Usage example:

Simple::SQL.all "SELECT id, email FROM users WHERE id = ANY($1)", [1,2,3]

If the SQL query returns rows with one column, this method returns an array of these values. Otherwise it returns an array of arrays.


Simple::SQL.all("SELECT id FROM users")        # returns an array of id values, but
Simple::SQL.all("SELECT id, email FROM users") # returns an array of arrays `[ <id>, <email> ]`.

If a block is passed to SQL.all, each row is yielded into the block:

Simple::SQL.all "SELECT id, email FROM users" do |id, email|
  # do something

Simple::SQL.ask: getting the first result

Simple::SQL.ask runs a query, with optional arguments, and returns the first result row or nil, if there was no result.

Simple::SQL.ask "SELECT id, email FROM users WHERE id = ANY($1) LIMIT 1", [1,2,3]

If the SQL query returns rows with one column, this method returns the column value of the first row; otherwise it returns an array (or nil if there was no result).


Simple::SQL.ask "SELECT id FROM users WHERE email=$1", "foo@local"         # returns a number (or `nil`) and
Simple::SQL.ask "SELECT id, email FROM users WHERE email=$?", "foo@local"  # returns an array `[ <id>, <email> ]` (or `nil`)

Simple::SQL.ask/Simple::SQL.all: fetching hashes

While ask and all convert each result row into an Array, sometimes you might want to use Hashes or similar objects instead. To do so, you use the into: keyword argument:

# returns a single Hash (or nil)
Simple::SQL.ask("SELECT id FROM users", into: Hash) 

If you want the returned record to be in a structure which is not a Hash, you can use the into: <klass> option. The following would return an array of up to two OpenStruct objects:

sql = "SELECT id, email FROM users WHERE id = ANY($1) LIMIT 1", 
Simple::SQL.all sql, [1,2,3], into: OpenStruct

This supports all target types that take a contructor which acceps Hash arguments.

It also supports a :struct argument, in which case simple-sql creates uses a Struct-class. Struct classes are reused when possible, and are maintained by Simple::SQL.

sql = "SELECT id, email FROM users WHERE id = ANY($1) LIMIT 1", 
Simple::SQL.all sql, [1,2,3], into: :struct

Transaction support

simple-sql has limited support for nested transactions. When running with a ActiveRecord connection, we use ActiveRecord's transaction implementation (which uses savepoints for nested transactions, so you might be able to rollback from inside a nested transaction).

When connecting via Simple::SQL.connect! we do not support the same level of nesting support (yet). You can still nest transactions, but raising an error terminates all current transactions.


simple-sql builds a logger which logs all queries. The logger, by default, is created to write to STDERR; to get another logger use code like

Simple::SQL.logger = Rails.logger

Bugs and Limitations

1. Multiple connections

It is currently not possible to run SQL queries against a database which is not connected via ActiveRecord::Base.connection.

2. Postgresql only

Only Postgresql is supported.

3. Limited support for types

This gem does not use pg's support for encoding and decoding types, since that might probably interfere with how ActiveRecord is setting up the pg gem.

It therefore assumes ActiveRecord is used in the same project, which sets up pg to not decode data in any meaningful way, and provides some code to decode the data returned from the database. Only a handful of types is currently supported by the Decoder - it is fairly easy to add new types, though.

4. text arrays

The library used to parse array results seems to be buggy if the array contains strings containing the "`" character.


  1. createdb simple-sql-test
  2. bundle install
  3. bin/rspec

Test again