Views in SQL : Comprehensive Guide

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore "Views in SQL". We will understand what views are, the different types of views, provide examples, discuss the advantages of using views, best practices of Using Views in SQL and delve into materialized views in SQL.

Views in SQL

What are Views in SQL ?

In SQL, a view is a virtual table created from the result of a SELECT query. Unlike physical tables, views do not store any data themselves but provide a way to present data stored in one or more tables in a structured and organized manner. Views act as a layer of abstraction over the underlying tables, allowing users to interact with the data without needing to understand the complexities of the database schema.

Creating a View in SQL

Let’s start with a basic example of creating a view. Suppose we have a database with a table named employees, and we want to create a view that displays only the names and salaries of employees:

Employees Table

1John Doe50000.00
2Jane Smith55000.00
3Bob Johnson60000.00
4Alice Brown52000.00
5Charlie Wilson58000.00

View Creation Query

CREATE VIEW employee_names_salaries AS
SELECT employee_name, salary
FROM employees;

Now, you can query the view employee_names_salaries as if it were a regular table:

SELECT * FROM employee_names_salaries;
John Doe50000.00
Jane Smith55000.00
Bob Johnson60000.00
Alice Brown52000.00
Charlie Wilson58000.00

Types of Views in SQL

There are two main types of views in SQL: simple views and complex views.

Simple Views in SQL

Simple views are based on a single table and do not involve any complex operations. They are essentially a way to filter columns or rows from a single table.

Example: Suppose you have a table products and you want to create a view that displays only the product names and their prices:

products Table

101Widget A19.99
102Widget B24.99
103Widget C29.99
104Gadget X49.99
105Gadget Y39.99

Creating the Simple View

CREATE VIEW product_names_prices AS
SELECT product_name, price
FROM products;

Fetching data from Simple View

SELECT * FROM product_names_prices;
Widget A19.99
Widget B24.99
Widget C29.99
Gadget X49.99
Gadget Y39.99

Complex Views in SQL(Indexed Views)

Complex views, also known as indexed views, are built upon multiple tables or involve more complex operations like joins or aggregation functions. They can be used to simplify complex queries or provide a consolidated view of data from multiple tables.

Example: Imagine you have two tables, orders and order_items, and you want to create a view that shows the total revenue generated by each order:

orders Table


order_items Table


Creating a Complex View

This view displays the total revenue generated by each order by joining the orders and order_items tables and performing aggregation.

CREATE VIEW order_revenue AS
SELECT o.order_id, SUM(oi.quantity * oi.price) AS total_revenue
FROM orders o
JOIN order_items oi ON o.order_id = oi.order_id
GROUP BY o.order_id;

Fetching data from the Complex View

SELECT * FROM order_revenue;

Advantages of Using Views in SQL

Using views in SQL offers several advantages:

1. Data Abstraction

Views provide a level of abstraction, allowing users to work with a simplified representation of the data, which can hide complex underlying schema details.

2. Data Security

Views can restrict access to certain columns or rows, enhancing data security. Users can be granted access to views while their access to underlying tables is restricted.

3. Simplified Queries

Views simplify complex queries by predefining relationships and calculations, making it easier for users to retrieve the data they need without writing complex SQL statements.

4. Code Reusability

Views promote code reusability by encapsulating frequently used query logic. Instead of writing the same query repeatedly, users can simply query the view.

5. Performance Optimization

In some cases, complex views can improve query performance by precomputing and storing results. This leads us to the concept of materialized views.

Best Practices for Using Views in SQL

Using views in SQL can greatly improve database management and simplify complex query operations. To make the most of views and ensure efficient database design, consider the following best practices:

  1. Use Descriptive Names: Choose meaningful and descriptive names for your views. A well-named view makes it easier for other developers (and your future self) to understand its purpose.
  2. Document Views: Provide documentation or comments explaining the purpose of the view, the tables it’s based on, and any specific use cases. This documentation can be crucial for others who work with the database.
  3. Avoid Nesting Views: While SQL allows you to create views based on other views, excessive nesting can lead to performance issues and make the system harder to maintain. Try to keep view nesting to a minimum.
  4. Limit Complexity: Keep views as simple as possible. Avoid overly complex queries in views, especially those with multiple joins or subqueries. Instead, break down complex logic into smaller, more manageable views or use stored procedures.
  5. Consider Security: Use views to enforce security policies. Restrict access to sensitive data by granting permissions only on views, not on the underlying tables. This way, you have fine-grained control over data access.
  6. Updateable Views with CARE: Be cautious when creating updateable views (views that allow data modification). Ensure that the view’s underlying tables and columns are correctly set up for data modification, and be aware of potential cascading updates.
  7. Use Views for Reusability: Create views for frequently used queries or reports. This promotes code reusability, reduces duplication, and simplifies query writing.
  8. Performance Considerations: Understand that views may not always provide optimal performance, especially if they involve complex joins or calculations. Profile your queries to ensure they perform well.
  9. Indexing: Consider indexing columns used frequently in views, especially for materialized views. Indexes can significantly improve query performance.
  10. Regular Maintenance: If using materialized views, establish a regular refresh schedule to keep the data up-to-date. Consider using automated jobs or triggers to manage this.
  11. Testing and Validation: Test views thoroughly, especially if they are used in production. Validate that the data returned by views is accurate and that the views perform as expected.
  12. Version Control: Include views in your database version control system. This ensures that changes to views are tracked and can be rolled back if necessary.
  13. Performance Monitoring: Monitor the performance of your views, especially if they are central to your application. Use database profiling and monitoring tools to identify and address performance bottlenecks.

Materialized Views in SQL

A materialized view, sometimes referred to as a snapshot or indexed view, is a type of view that stores the results of a query in a physical form, such as a table. Materialized views are particularly useful for improving query performance in scenarios where expensive calculations or aggregations are frequently needed.

To create a materialized view, you use the CREATE MATERIALIZED VIEW statement instead of the regular CREATE VIEW statement. Here’s an example of creating a materialized view that stores the total revenue generated by each order:

CREATE MATERIALIZED VIEW order_revenue_materialized AS
SELECT o.order_id, SUM(oi.quantity * oi.price) AS total_revenue
FROM orders o
JOIN order_items oi ON o.order_id = oi.order_id
GROUP BY o.order_id;

Materialized views are updated periodically, typically through a refresh process, to ensure that the data remains up-to-date. Users can query materialized views just like regular tables, but the data they retrieve is precomputed and optimized for performance.

Regular (non-materialized) Views vs Materialized Views in SQL

AspectRegular (Non-Materialized) ViewsMaterialized Views
Data StorageDo not store data physically.Store data physically as tables.
Data FreshnessAlways reflect the current data from underlying tables.May not always reflect the current data; need periodic refreshes.
Query PerformanceQuery performance depends on the complexity of the underlying query.Improved query performance, as data is precomputed and indexed.
Storage OverheadMinimal storage overhead since they don’t store data themselves.Additional storage is required as they store data as tables.
MaintenanceNo need for data refresh or maintenance.Require periodic refreshes to update the data.
Query FlexibilityHighly flexible and dynamic, as they always reflect current data.Less flexible, as they may not always reflect the most recent data.
Use CasesSuitable for simplifying complex queries or providing a logical view of data.Ideal for optimizing query performance, especially for complex and costly calculations.
ExamplesViews for filtering columns or rows from a table.Materialized views for precomputing aggregates, frequently used reports, or improving query speed.
Creation SyntaxCreated using CREATE VIEW statement.Created using CREATE MATERIALIZED VIEW statement.
Overhead for Complex QueriesPerformance may degrade for complex queries, as calculations are done on-the-fly.Complex queries are typically faster, as results are precomputed.

Conclusion : Views in SQL

In this comprehensive guide, we have explored “Views in SQL” and covered various important aspects of this database concept. Here’s a brief recap of the main points discussed:

  1. What are Views in SQL?: Views in SQL are virtual tables created from the result of SELECT queries. They offer a way to present data stored in one or more tables in an organized manner, acting as a layer of abstraction over the underlying tables.
  2. Creating Views: We provided an example of creating a view, demonstrating how to create a view that displays specific columns from an employees table.
  3. Types of Views in SQL: There are two main types of views: simple views and complex views (indexed views). Simple views filter columns or rows from a single table, while complex views involve multiple tables and complex operations like joins and aggregations.
  4. Advantages of Using Views in SQL: We discussed the advantages of using views, including data abstraction, data security, simplified queries, code reusability, and performance optimization.
  5. Best Practices for Using Views in SQL: We provided a set of best practices to follow when working with views, emphasizing the importance of naming conventions, documentation, simplicity, and security considerations.
  6. Materialized Views in SQL: Materialized views, or indexed views, were introduced as a way to store precomputed results physically. We discussed their advantages in terms of query performance and their need for periodic refresh.
  7. Comparison of Regular Views and Materialized Views: We compared regular (non-materialized) views with materialized views in a tabular format, highlighting their differences in terms of data storage, data freshness, query performance, and use cases.

By understanding these concepts and following best practices, you can effectively use views in SQL to simplify database interactions, enhance security, and optimize query performance in your database applications.

Related Article: 7 Types of Join in SQL

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