Noob-type question:

Say I have two tables, candies and colors. The colors table holds just code/value pairs like 01 yellow, 02 blue, 03 green, etc. and is referenced in the candies table by code.

How do I query the candies table for all blue candies without an explicit join? For two years now I've been writing these queries with joins, like:

SELECT * FROM candies a JOIN colors o ON(a.color_code = o.color_code)
WHERE o.color_value = 'blue';

I'm certain every time that I'm bringing a gun to a knife fight, but my googling has been fruitless.


  • What are you trying to accomplish by avoiding an explicit join? May 1 '11 at 22:06
  • 1
    @Catcall - I suppose I've always assumed the foreign key constraint provides for more than just referential integrity, that applying the constraint lends the user some query-construction advantage that I just couldn't figure out. Just assumed I haven't been taking full advantage of the FK relationship. May 3 '11 at 13:14
  • You said, "Just assumed I haven't been taking full advantage of the FK relationship." And you're planning to learn to take full advantage by not using explicit joins? Don't do that. Explicit joins are a lot more flexible than implicit joins. It's worth your time to learn how they work. May 3 '11 at 13:42

"I'm certain every time that I'm bringing a gun to a knife fight, but my googling has been fruitless." What makes you think that? RDBMSs are built to 'join'

If your aim is to make you SQL more readable then you might prefer the 'using' syntax:

SELECT * FROM candies JOIN colors USING(color_code) WHERE color_value = 'blue';

alternatively, seeing as you are hard-coding 'blue' into your query, you could consider hard-coding the code instead:

SELECT * FROM candies WHERE color_code = '02';

but this will decrease readability unless in your real-world scenario the codes are descriptive (eg 'BLU' for blue)

  • Thanks for pointing me toward the 'using' syntax. That is tidier. Using the code from the code/value pairs works out fine except when building reports, especially on aggregate values. Again, I must have been overestimating the power of the FK relationship. May 3 '11 at 13:20

You can write it as:

  candies ca
  ca.color_code = (
    select co.color_code
    from colors co
    where co.color_value = 'blue'

but there shouldn't be any difference. Actually the join approach is a bit more robust.

What's more - consider getting rid of the colors table at all, and using just color_values instead of codes. It's actually more efficient.

  • Or use enums if the colors don't change that often.
    – DrColossos
    Apr 28 '11 at 20:04
  • @DrColossus enums are a pain unless they change very rarely. Things will get a little better in 9.1 Apr 29 '11 at 11:19
  • Thanks for the suggestions. I worry that I might have oversimplified my example as the colors are, in real life, geographic polygons and multi-polygons. Not sure it would make sense to store their geometry-type values repeatedly. May 3 '11 at 13:27
  • Well, neither do I, since I don't know your data distribution and statistics.
    – user1593
    May 3 '11 at 13:34

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