A PostgreSQL database cluster contains one or more named databases. Users and groups of users are shared across the entire cluster, but no other data is shared across databases. Any given client connection to the server can access only the data in a single database, the one specified in the connection request.
Users of a cluster do not necessarily have the privilege to
access every database in the cluster. Sharing of user names
means that there cannot be different users named, say,
joe in two databases in the same
cluster; but the system can be configured to allow
joe access to only some of the databases.
A database contains one or more named schemas, which in turn contain tables. Schemas
also contain other kinds of named objects, including data types,
functions, and operators. The same object name can be used in
different schemas without conflict; for example, both
myschema can contain tables named
mytable. Unlike databases, schemas are not
rigidly separated: a user can access objects in any of the
schemas in the database they are connected to, if they have
privileges to do so.
There are several reasons why one might want to use schemas:
To allow many users to use one database without interfering with each other.
To organize database objects into logical groups to make them more manageable.
Third-party applications can be put into separate schemas so they do not collide with the names of other objects.
Schemas are analogous to directories at the operating system level, except that schemas cannot be nested.
To create a schema, use the CREATE SCHEMA command. Give the schema a name of your choice. For example:
CREATE SCHEMA myschema;
To create or access objects in a schema, write a qualified name consisting of the schema name and table name separated by a dot:
This works anywhere a table name is expected, including the table modification commands and the data access commands discussed in the following chapters. (For brevity we will speak of tables only, but the same ideas apply to other kinds of named objects, such as types and functions.)
Actually, the even more general syntax
can be used too, but at present this is just for pro forma compliance with the SQL standard. If you write a database name, it must be the same as the database you are connected to.
So to create a table in the new schema, use:
CREATE TABLE myschema.mytable ( ... );
To drop a schema if it's empty (all objects in it have been dropped), use:
DROP SCHEMA myschema;
To drop a schema including all contained objects, use:
DROP SCHEMA myschema CASCADE;
See Section 5.13 for a description of the general mechanism behind this.
Often you will want to create a schema owned by someone else (since this is one of the ways to restrict the activities of your users to well-defined namespaces). The syntax for that is:
You can even omit the schema name, in which case the schema name will be the same as the user name. See Section 5.8.6 for how this can be useful.
Schema names beginning with
are reserved for system purposes and cannot be created by
In the previous sections we created tables without specifying any schema names. By default such tables (and other objects) are automatically put into a schema named “public”. Every new database contains such a schema. Thus, the following are equivalent:
CREATE TABLE products ( ... );
CREATE TABLE public.products ( ... );
Qualified names are tedious to write, and it's often best not to wire a particular schema name into applications anyway. Therefore tables are often referred to by unqualified names, which consist of just the table name. The system determines which table is meant by following a search path, which is a list of schemas to look in. The first matching table in the search path is taken to be the one wanted. If there is no match in the search path, an error is reported, even if matching table names exist in other schemas in the database.
The ability to create like-named objects in different
schemas complicates writing a query that references precisely
the same objects every time. It also opens up the potential for
users to change the behavior of other users' queries,
maliciously or accidentally. Due to the prevalence of
unqualified names in queries and their use in PostgreSQL internals, adding a schema to
search_path effectively trusts all
CREATE privilege on
that schema. When you run an ordinary query, a malicious user
able to create objects in a schema of your search path can take
control and execute arbitrary SQL functions as though you
The first schema named in the search path is called the
current schema. Aside from being the first schema searched, it
is also the schema in which new tables will be created if the
CREATE TABLE command does not
specify a schema name.
To show the current search path, use the following command:
In the default setup this returns:
search_path -------------- "$user", public
The first element specifies that a schema with the same name as the current user is to be searched. If no such schema exists, the entry is ignored. The second element refers to the public schema that we have seen already.
The first schema in the search path that exists is the default location for creating new objects. That is the reason that by default objects are created in the public schema. When objects are referenced in any other context without schema qualification (table modification, data modification, or query commands) the search path is traversed until a matching object is found. Therefore, in the default configuration, any unqualified access again can only refer to the public schema.
To put our new schema in the path, we use:
SET search_path TO myschema,public;
(We omit the
$user here because
we have no immediate need for it.) And then we can access the
table without schema qualification:
DROP TABLE mytable;
myschema is the
first element in the path, new objects would by default be
created in it.
We could also have written:
SET search_path TO myschema;
Then we no longer have access to the public schema without explicit qualification. There is nothing special about the public schema except that it exists by default. It can be dropped, too.
See also Section 9.25 for other ways to manipulate the schema search path.
The search path works in the same way for data type names, function names, and operator names as it does for table names. Data type and function names can be qualified in exactly the same way as table names. If you need to write a qualified operator name in an expression, there is a special provision: you must write
This is needed to avoid syntactic ambiguity. An example is:
SELECT 3 OPERATOR(pg_catalog.+) 4;
In practice one usually relies on the search path for operators, so as not to have to write anything so ugly as that.
By default, users cannot access any objects in schemas they
do not own. To allow that, the owner of the schema must grant
USAGE privilege on the schema.
To allow users to make use of the objects in the schema,
additional privileges might need to be granted, as appropriate
for the object.
A user can also be allowed to create objects in someone
else's schema. To allow that, the
CREATE privilege on the schema needs to be
granted. Note that by default, everyone has
privileges on the schema
This allows all users that are able to connect to a given
database to create objects in its
public schema. Some usage patterns call for
revoking that privilege:
REVOKE CREATE ON SCHEMA public FROM PUBLIC;
(The first “public” is the schema, the second “public” means “every user”. In the first sense it is an identifier, in the second sense it is a key word, hence the different capitalization; recall the guidelines from Section 4.1.1.)
In addition to
user-created schemas, each database contains a
pg_catalog schema, which contains the system
tables and all the built-in data types, functions, and
pg_catalog is always
effectively part of the search path. If it is not named
explicitly in the path then it is implicitly searched
before searching the
path's schemas. This ensures that built-in names will always be
findable. However, you can explicitly place
pg_catalog at the end of your search path if
you prefer to have user-defined names override built-in
Since system table names begin with
pg_, it is best to avoid such names to ensure
that you won't suffer a conflict if some future version defines
a system table named the same as your table. (With the default
search path, an unqualified reference to your table name would
then be resolved as the system table instead.) System tables
will continue to follow the convention of having names
pg_, so that they
will not conflict with unqualified user-table names so long as
users avoid the
Schemas can be used to organize your data in many ways. There are a few usage patterns easily supported by the default configuration, only one of which suffices when database users mistrust other database users:
Constrain ordinary users to user-private schemas. To
implement this, issue
ON SCHEMA public FROM PUBLIC, and create a schema
for each user with the same name as that user. If
affected users had logged in before this, consider
auditing the public schema for objects named like objects
that the default search path starts with
$user, which resolves to the user name.
Therefore, if each user has a separate schema, they
access their own schemas by default.
Remove the public schema from each user's default
search path using
. Everyone retains the
ability to create objects in the public schema, but only
qualified names will choose those objects. While
qualified table references are fine, calls to functions
in the public schema will be
unsafe or unreliable. Also, a user holding the
search_path = "$user"
CREATEROLE privilege can
undo this setting and issue arbitrary queries under the
identity of users relying on the setting. If you create
functions or extensions in the public schema or grant
CREATEROLE to users not
warranting this almost-superuser ability, use the first
Remove the public schema from
ensuing user experience matches the previous pattern. In
addition to that pattern's implications for functions and
CREATEROLE, this trusts
database owners like
CREATEROLE. If you create functions or
extensions in the public schema or assign the
CREATEDB privilege or
individual database ownership to users not warranting
almost-superuser access, use the first pattern
Keep the default. All users access the public schema implicitly. This simulates the situation where schemas are not available at all, giving a smooth transition from the non-schema-aware world. However, any user can issue arbitrary queries under the identity of any user not electing to protect itself individually. This pattern is acceptable only when the database has a single user or a few mutually-trusting users.
For any pattern, to install shared applications (tables to be used by everyone, additional functions provided by third parties, etc.), put them into separate schemas. Remember to grant appropriate privileges to allow the other users to access them. Users can then refer to these additional objects by qualifying the names with a schema name, or they can put the additional schemas into their search path, as they choose.
In the SQL standard, the notion of objects in the same
schema being owned by different users does not exist. Moreover,
some implementations do not allow you to create schemas that
have a different name than their owner. In fact, the concepts
of schema and user are nearly equivalent in a database system
that implements only the basic schema support specified in the
standard. Therefore, many users consider qualified names to
really consist of
. This is how
PostgreSQL will effectively
behave if you create a per-user schema for every user.
Also, there is no concept of a
public schema in the SQL standard. For maximum
conformance to the standard, you should not use the
Of course, some SQL database systems might not implement schemas at all, or provide namespace support by allowing (possibly limited) cross-database access. If you need to work with those systems, then maximum portability would be achieved by not using schemas at all.
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