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5.3. Generated Columns

A generated column is a special column that is always computed from other columns. Thus, it is for columns what a view is for tables. There are two kinds of generated columns: stored and virtual. A stored generated column is computed when it is written (inserted or updated) and occupies storage as if it were a normal column. A virtual generated column occupies no storage and is computed when it is read. Thus, a virtual generated column is similar to a view and a stored generated column is similar to a materialized view (except that it is always updated automatically). PostgreSQL currently implements only stored generated columns.

To create a generated column, use the GENERATED ALWAYS AS clause in CREATE TABLE, for example:

CREATE TABLE people (
    ...,
    height_cm numeric,
    height_in numeric GENERATED ALWAYS AS (height_cm / 2.54) STORED
);

The keyword STORED must be specified to choose the stored kind of generated column. See CREATE TABLE for more details.

A generated column cannot be written to directly. In INSERT or UPDATE commands, a value cannot be specified for a generated column, but the keyword DEFAULT may be specified.

Consider the differences between a column with a default and a generated column. The column default is evaluated once when the row is first inserted if no other value was provided; a generated column is updated whenever the row changes and cannot be overridden. A column default may not refer to other columns of the table; a generation expression would normally do so. A column default can use volatile functions, for example random() or functions referring to the current time; this is not allowed for generated columns.

Several restrictions apply to the definition of generated columns and tables involving generated columns:

  • The generation expression can only use immutable functions and cannot use subqueries or reference anything other than the current row in any way.

  • A generation expression cannot reference another generated column.

  • A generation expression cannot reference a system column, except tableoid.

  • A generated column cannot have a column default or an identity definition.

  • A generated column cannot be part of a partition key.

  • Foreign tables can have generated columns. See CREATE FOREIGN TABLE for details.

Additional considerations apply to the use of generated columns.

  • Generated columns maintain access privileges separately from their underlying base columns. So, it is possible to arrange it so that a particular role can read from a generated column but not from the underlying base columns.

  • Generated columns are, conceptually, updated after BEFORE triggers have run. Therefore, changes made to base columns in a BEFORE trigger will be reflected in generated columns. But conversely, it is not allowed to access generated columns in BEFORE triggers.

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