There is no shortage of options for relational database management systems, these days. There’s a wide array of different database configurations to choose from.
Some of the more popular relational database management systems include:
- Oracle Database XE
If you look at that lit, you’ll notice that a number of them end with the same suffix. That’s a testament to the power of SQL, which makes it one of the most popular and widely used database formats on the planet.
To help you master this powerful and versatile programming language, we’ve put together a guide for learning SQL.
Your Guide To Learning SQL
Let’s start our journey of learning SQL by learning about SQL. Having an idea of what’s unique and particular about SQL will help you get started with the programming language once you begin learning SQL in earnest.
What Is SQL?
SQL stands for “Structured Query Language.” SQL is most commonly used for querying databases. It’s considered the standard for relational database management systems (RDMS).
SQL most commonly performs the common CRUD commands – ‘create’, ‘read’, ‘update’, and ‘delete’ It also has a few extra commands, including ‘insert’ and ‘select.’
Benefits Of SQL
Now let’s take a brief look at some of the benefits of SQL. This will help to give you some ideas of why you should choose it over other RDMS programming languages.
Processes Queries Quickly
SQL is designed to interact with databases. That means SQL is particularly useful for retrieving and interacting with large quantities of data, quickly and efficiently.
Most of SQL’s common commands don’t require writing any code. That means you don’t have to be an expert programmer to write, insert into, or update a database with SQL.
Like we pointed out near the beginning, a number of database formats are based on SQL. That means that you’ll be able to use all of those products or programming environments with minimal additional training once you learn how to use SQL.
SQL can be used on virtually any system with a database. You can run SQL on PCs, notebooks, netbooks, servers, or even embedded into applications.
How to Learn SQL
Now that we’ve examined some of the benefits of structured query language, let’s dive and start learning SQL in earnest! There’s no substitution for experience, as the saying goes.
The first step in learning SQL is actually a bit of a preparation. You should take a moment and think about what you’re hoping to learn from SQL before you even attempt to write any code.
Like most programming languages, SQL can be a vast discipline. There are a lot of different aspects about SQL that you can learn and master. The ones you decide to focus on will color the rest of your studies.
Once you have an idea of what you hope to achieve by learning SQL, you can also look into an SQL course. This is the easiest and probably the best way to learn SQL. When you find a high-quality programming course they lay the information you need out in a streamlined, easy-to-understand way.
Having a course to guide you through programming is like having an excellent tutor to help you prepare for mid-terms.
Getting Started With SQL
Learning programming is best as a hands-on exercise. It’s hard to really internalize so many of the abstract concepts when they’re simply floating around in your head. Even more, it’s difficult to imagine why they matter.
Putting SQL into practice is even more important than other more language-based programming languages. This is due to SQL being a language for dealing with relational databases, which are essentially nested spreadsheets. It doesn’t take too many columns, objects, or sheets for a project’s complexity to quickly get out of hand.
The first thing you should do to get started with SQL is to install a SQL environment. There are a lot of them out there. SQL Express is a free version of a SQL server that is powerful and robust enough to get you started on your SQL career.
It’s recommended that you install an integrated development environment (IDE) for SQL, as well. There’s no need to start from scratch when there are so many excellent tools and resources available for SQL.
Some popular IDEs for SQL include:
Create Database & Create Table
Managing and working with databases is the bread-and-butter of SQL. If you want to learn SQL programming, creating your first database and tables is an obvious first step.
SQL has native commands for both functions.
For the purpose of this lesson, we’re using Azure Data Studio. Most of the IDEs for SQL function similarly though, so you should be able to use whatever environment you’re comfortable with.
In Azure Data Studio, begin by starting a ‘New Query’.
Then type the command ‘CREATE DATABASE database_name;’ where ‘database_name’ is the name you choose to call your database. We’re calling our database ‘Azure’ for the sake of this article.
Then run the code.
Keep in mind that SQL uses T-SQL which is case sensitive. Commands need to be written in all caps, so keep that in mind if you have any trouble when compiling your code.
You should see your database listed under ‘Databases’. Now you just need to create something to go in it.
Tables are the basic unit of a SQL database. A table can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be.
It’s also the first hurdle in learning how to program SQL. You might not realize how complicated that a spreadsheet is until you’ve had to code one yourself from scratch.
When you use the CREATE TABLE command, you have to detail all of the properties you need to create.
For the sake of this tutorial, we’re going to create two tables, one for cities and one for countries. Defining these tables is similar to creating JSON objects, for those familiar with that format.
The template of CREATE TABLE is as follows:
CREATE TABLE table_name (
Now let’s take a look at CREATE TABLE in action.
— Table: city
CREATE TABLE city (
id int NOT NULL IDENTITY(1, 1),
city_name char(128) NOT NULL,
lat decimal(9,6) NOT NULL,
long decimal(9,6) NOT NULL,
country_id int NOT NULL,
CONSTRAINT city_pk PRIMARY KEY (id)
The NOT NULL qualifier means that field can’t be left blank.
The IDENTITY is a quality of the column. The (1, 1) tells us that number will increase by 1 each time.
Finally, CONSTRAINT isn’t a column but a rule for the column. In this instance, it means that every city needs to have a unique identity.
That’s it! You’ve created your first database and populated it with its first two tables. Now you can add cities to your table using the INSERT INTO function.
Mastering SQL Programming
SQL programming is a mixture of a programming language and a lexicon. Like learning any language, you don’t learn to speak it overnight. That’s just the first step, too. It’s like the difference between learning a few words in a language and writing elegant poetry in that tongue.
Like any language – especially a programming language – there’s an incredible amount of valuable resources available to help you master SQL.
This is just one more sign that you can go as far as you like with SQL. It’s not hard to get up and running with its basic concepts, though. T
hat’s another of the benefits of using an SQL course. It’ll help you break SQL down into smaller, manageable chunks. For each of the topics or lessons you can flesh out the material as much or as little as you like.
Learning SQL is one of the best skills you can gather to bolster your skillset. The world gets increasingly data-driven with each passing year and that doesn’t show any sign of slowing. There’s a universe of opportunity for aspiring data scientists and database managers.
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