What are stored procedure in PostgreSQL?

What are stored procedure in PostgreSQL?

Databases are at the core of most modern web applications, and their efficient handling is crucial for performance and reliability. PostgreSQL, being one of the most powerful and popular open-source relational database systems, offers a range of features to manage data more efficiently. One such feature is stored procedures, which allow for reusable, parameterized queries and operations. This blog post aims to cover stored procedures in PostgreSQL in depth, beginning from their basic definition to advanced use-cases involving parameters.

Understanding Stored Procedures

Stored procedures are an essential part of optimizing database interactions. They let you encapsulate a series of SQL statements into a single routine that you can call from your application code. This makes your database interactions more modular, maintainable, and efficient.

Definition and Characteristics

A stored procedure in PostgreSQL is a set of SQL statements that can be stored in the database. Once stored, you can execute these operations without needing to re-enter the SQL commands. Stored procedures are precompiled, which means the database engine can execute them more quickly since it doesn’t have to parse the SQL anew each time. The primary characteristics of stored procedures include modularity, parameterization, and the ability to include conditional logic and loops.

Differences between Stored Procedures and Functions

Both stored procedures and functions encapsulate a sequence of SQL commands, but there are key differences. Functions in PostgreSQL must return a value, while stored procedures do not need to. Stored procedures can modify database state (e.g., update, delete, or insert records), whereas functions are usually restricted to reading data. Functions can be used in SQL expressions, while stored procedures can’t.

Stored Procedure Syntax Overview

Creating a stored procedure in PostgreSQL involves the CREATE OR REPLACE PROCEDURE statement. The basic syntax is as follows:

CREATE OR REPLACE PROCEDURE procedure_name(parameter_list)
LANGUAGE 'plpgsql'
AS $
-- procedure body here

For official details on syntax, you can visit PostgreSQL Documentation.

Setting up the Environment

Before diving into the creation and use of stored procedures, it’s crucial to have a PostgreSQL environment ready for experimentation.

Installing PostgreSQL

To get started, you’ll need to install PostgreSQL. If you’re on Ubuntu, you can use the following apt commands:

sudo apt update
sudo apt install postgresql postgresql-contrib

For other operating systems, you can check out the official installation guide.

Creating a Sample Database and Tables

Once PostgreSQL is installed, create a sample database and tables to play with. Here’s how you can do it:

\c sampleDB

Basic Stored Procedures

Now that the environment is set up, let’s dive into creating some basic stored procedures.

Creating a Simple Stored Procedure

To create a simple stored procedure for adding a new user, you would write:

LANGUAGE 'plpgsql'
AS $
INSERT INTO users(username) VALUES (username);

Executing a Stored Procedure

You can execute a stored procedure using the CALL statement:

CALL addUser('JohnDoe');

Listing and Viewing Stored Procedures

To list all stored procedures, you can query the pg_catalog.pg_proc table. To view the details of a specific stored procedure, you can use the \df command in the psql terminal.

Parameters in Stored Procedures

Stored procedures in PostgreSQL allow for different types of parameters: input, output, and inout.

Input Parameters

Input parameters are used to pass values into a stored procedure. They are defined in the parameter list of the stored procedure during creation. In the example of addUser, username is an input parameter.

Output Parameters

Output parameters are used to return values from the stored procedure. To declare an output parameter, you can use the OUT keyword. For example:

LANGUAGE 'plpgsql'
AS $
SELECT COUNT(*) INTO count FROM users;

INOUT Parameters

An INOUT parameter is a parameter that can both accept a value and return a value. For example:

LANGUAGE 'plpgsql'
AS $
-- Code to update username and return the new username

By understanding how to use these different types of parameters, you can make your stored procedures in PostgreSQL more flexible and powerful.

Control Structures

Control structures are essential building blocks in PostgreSQL stored procedures, enabling you to add logic and flow control to your code. Understanding how to use these effectively can turn your procedures from simple queries into powerful applications.

Conditional Statements

In PostgreSQL, you can use IF, ELSEIF, and ELSE statements within your stored procedures to perform conditional operations. Here’s a simple example:

DO $
variable INTEGER := 10;
IF variable > 5 THEN
RAISE NOTICE 'Variable is greater than 5';
RAISE NOTICE 'Variable is 5 or less';
END $;

In this code, a RAISE NOTICE will be triggered based on the condition specified.


PostgreSQL supports various kinds of loops like FOR, WHILE, and LOOP. Loops are especially useful for batch processing and repetitive tasks. Here’s how you can implement a simple FOR loop:

DO $
counter INTEGER;
FOR counter IN 1..5 LOOP
RAISE NOTICE 'Counter: %', counter;
END $;

Exception Handling

Stored procedures can include exception-handling logic using BEGIN, EXCEPTION and END. When an error occurs within a block, the control will jump to the EXCEPTION part.

-- code that might throw an exception
WHEN division_by_zero THEN
RAISE NOTICE 'Division by zero detected';

Transaction Control

Transactional control within stored procedures allows you to commit or rollback changes based on conditions, thus ensuring data integrity.


Within stored procedures, you can use COMMIT to save all the transactional changes and ROLLBACK to undo them. They’re crucial when you want to ensure that a set of operations are atomic.

-- Some SQL operations
COMMIT; -- commits the changes


-- Some SQL operations
ROLLBACK; -- rollbacks the changes


SAVEPOINT allows you to set markers within a transaction, so you can later decide to ROLLBACK to the savepoint instead of rolling back the entire transaction. This offers a fine-grained control over transactions.

SAVEPOINT my_savepoint;
-- Some SQL operations
ROLLBACK TO my_savepoint; -- rollbacks to the savepoint

Transaction Isolation Levels

PostgreSQL offers different transaction isolation levels like READ COMMITTED, REPEATABLE READ, and SERIALIZABLE. These determine how transactions interact with each other and provide varying levels of protection against issues like dirty reads and phantom reads.

Variable Declaration and Dynamic SQL

Now let’s talk about declaring variables and using dynamic SQL within your stored procedures, which add a layer of flexibility and dynamic behavior to your code.

Variable Types and Scoping

You can declare variables using DECLARE keyword within the DO block. PostgreSQL offers various types like INTEGER, VARCHAR, and user-defined types. Variable scoping is limited to the block in which they are defined.

DO $
my_var INTEGER := 10;
-- Do something with my_var
END $;

Using Dynamic SQL

Dynamic SQL allows you to construct SQL queries on the fly and execute them. This can be done using the EXECUTE statement.

DO $
table_name text := 'my_table';
query text;
query := 'SELECT count(*) FROM ' || table_name;
EXECUTE query;
END $;

Security Aspects

Security should be a primary concern when working with stored procedures. Let’s dive into some crucial aspects that you should be aware of.

Ownership and Privilege Control

Access control in PostgreSQL can be managed using roles and permissions. By default, the owner of the stored procedure has all the permissions. You can alter these permissions using the GRANT and REVOKE commands.

GRANT EXECUTE ON FUNCTION my_function() TO some_user;

SQL Injection Protection

To protect against SQL injection, never concatenate or interpolate variables directly into your SQL queries. Instead, use parameterized queries or the built-in quote_ident and quote_literal functions.

EXECUTE 'SELECT * FROM ' || quote_ident(table_name) || ' WHERE column = ' || quote_literal(value);

Performance Considerations

Performance optimization is crucial for maintaining fast and efficient stored procedures.

Compilation and Optimization

Stored procedures in PostgreSQL are precompiled and stored in a parsed form, allowing them to be reused, which boosts performance. However, this can lead to plan caching issues, so you should occasionally force a recompilation.

Cursors and their Impact

Cursors are used for row-by-row processing but can be resource-intensive. Use them judiciously and close them as soon as they are no longer needed to free up resources.

Common Pitfalls and Best Practices

Avoid using heavy operations inside loops and conditional blocks, as this can severely impact performance. Also, try to minimize the number of disk reads and writes for optimal performance.

Debugging and Monitoring

Debugging and monitoring are essential practices for maintaining the health of your stored procedures.

Debugging Tools and Techniques

You can use tools like pg_debugger and techniques like logging to debug your stored procedures.

Monitoring Stored Procedure Performance

Monitoring tools like pg_stat_statements and EXPLAIN ANALYZE can provide insights into your stored procedures’ performance.

Advanced Topics

Advanced features in PostgreSQL stored procedures allow for complex operations and interactions between procedures.

Nested and Recursive Procedures

Stored procedures can call other stored procedures, creating nested or even recursive call structures. While powerful, be cautious as it can lead to stack overflow if not implemented correctly.

Temporary Stored Procedures

You can create temporary stored procedures that only exist for the duration of the session. These are useful for session-specific tasks without affecting the global schema.

System Stored Procedures

PostgreSQL comes with a set of built-in system stored procedures for tasks like database maintenance and metadata retrieval.

Calling Stored Procedures from Applications

You can call stored procedures from application code using libraries that interact with PostgreSQL, such as psycopg2 for Python or pg-promise for Node.js.


Stored procedures in PostgreSQL offer a robust way to encapsulate business logic, control transactions, and optimize performance. Understanding the advanced features and security aspects can go a long way in building scalable and secure database systems.

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