Supported Versions: Current (16) / 15 / 14 / 13 / 12
Development Versions: 17 / devel
Unsupported versions: 11 / 10 / 9.6 / 9.5 / 9.4 / 9.3 / 9.2 / 9.1

38.17. Packaging Related Objects into an Extension #

A useful extension to PostgreSQL typically includes multiple SQL objects; for example, a new data type will require new functions, new operators, and probably new index operator classes. It is helpful to collect all these objects into a single package to simplify database management. PostgreSQL calls such a package an extension. To define an extension, you need at least a script file that contains the SQL commands to create the extension's objects, and a control file that specifies a few basic properties of the extension itself. If the extension includes C code, there will typically also be a shared library file into which the C code has been built. Once you have these files, a simple CREATE EXTENSION command loads the objects into your database.

The main advantage of using an extension, rather than just running the SQL script to load a bunch of loose objects into your database, is that PostgreSQL will then understand that the objects of the extension go together. You can drop all the objects with a single DROP EXTENSION command (no need to maintain a separate uninstall script). Even more useful, pg_dump knows that it should not dump the individual member objects of the extension — it will just include a CREATE EXTENSION command in dumps, instead. This vastly simplifies migration to a new version of the extension that might contain more or different objects than the old version. Note however that you must have the extension's control, script, and other files available when loading such a dump into a new database.

PostgreSQL will not let you drop an individual object contained in an extension, except by dropping the whole extension. Also, while you can change the definition of an extension member object (for example, via CREATE OR REPLACE FUNCTION for a function), bear in mind that the modified definition will not be dumped by pg_dump. Such a change is usually only sensible if you concurrently make the same change in the extension's script file. (But there are special provisions for tables containing configuration data; see Section 38.17.3.) In production situations, it's generally better to create an extension update script to perform changes to extension member objects.

The extension script may set privileges on objects that are part of the extension, using GRANT and REVOKE statements. The final set of privileges for each object (if any are set) will be stored in the pg_init_privs system catalog. When pg_dump is used, the CREATE EXTENSION command will be included in the dump, followed by the set of GRANT and REVOKE statements necessary to set the privileges on the objects to what they were at the time the dump was taken.

PostgreSQL does not currently support extension scripts issuing CREATE POLICY or SECURITY LABEL statements. These are expected to be set after the extension has been created. All RLS policies and security labels on extension objects will be included in dumps created by pg_dump.

The extension mechanism also has provisions for packaging modification scripts that adjust the definitions of the SQL objects contained in an extension. For example, if version 1.1 of an extension adds one function and changes the body of another function compared to 1.0, the extension author can provide an update script that makes just those two changes. The ALTER EXTENSION UPDATE command can then be used to apply these changes and track which version of the extension is actually installed in a given database.

The kinds of SQL objects that can be members of an extension are shown in the description of ALTER EXTENSION. Notably, objects that are database-cluster-wide, such as databases, roles, and tablespaces, cannot be extension members since an extension is only known within one database. (Although an extension script is not prohibited from creating such objects, if it does so they will not be tracked as part of the extension.) Also notice that while a table can be a member of an extension, its subsidiary objects such as indexes are not directly considered members of the extension. Another important point is that schemas can belong to extensions, but not vice versa: an extension as such has an unqualified name and does not exist within any schema. The extension's member objects, however, will belong to schemas whenever appropriate for their object types. It may or may not be appropriate for an extension to own the schema(s) its member objects are within.

If an extension's script creates any temporary objects (such as temp tables), those objects are treated as extension members for the remainder of the current session, but are automatically dropped at session end, as any temporary object would be. This is an exception to the rule that extension member objects cannot be dropped without dropping the whole extension.

38.17.1. Extension Files #

The CREATE EXTENSION command relies on a control file for each extension, which must be named the same as the extension with a suffix of .control, and must be placed in the installation's SHAREDIR/extension directory. There must also be at least one SQL script file, which follows the naming pattern extension--version.sql (for example, foo--1.0.sql for version 1.0 of extension foo). By default, the script file(s) are also placed in the SHAREDIR/extension directory; but the control file can specify a different directory for the script file(s).

The file format for an extension control file is the same as for the postgresql.conf file, namely a list of parameter_name = value assignments, one per line. Blank lines and comments introduced by # are allowed. Be sure to quote any value that is not a single word or number.

A control file can set the following parameters:

directory (string) #

The directory containing the extension's SQL script file(s). Unless an absolute path is given, the name is relative to the installation's SHAREDIR directory. The default behavior is equivalent to specifying directory = 'extension'.

default_version (string) #

The default version of the extension (the one that will be installed if no version is specified in CREATE EXTENSION). Although this can be omitted, that will result in CREATE EXTENSION failing if no VERSION option appears, so you generally don't want to do that.

comment (string) #

A comment (any string) about the extension. The comment is applied when initially creating an extension, but not during extension updates (since that might override user-added comments). Alternatively, the extension's comment can be set by writing a COMMENT command in the script file.

encoding (string) #

The character set encoding used by the script file(s). This should be specified if the script files contain any non-ASCII characters. Otherwise the files will be assumed to be in the database encoding.

module_pathname (string) #

The value of this parameter will be substituted for each occurrence of MODULE_PATHNAME in the script file(s). If it is not set, no substitution is made. Typically, this is set to $libdir/shared_library_name and then MODULE_PATHNAME is used in CREATE FUNCTION commands for C-language functions, so that the script files do not need to hard-wire the name of the shared library.

requires (string) #

A list of names of extensions that this extension depends on, for example requires = 'foo, bar'. Those extensions must be installed before this one can be installed.

no_relocate (string) #

A list of names of extensions that this extension depends on that should be barred from changing their schemas via ALTER EXTENSION ... SET SCHEMA. This is needed if this extension's script references the name of a required extension's schema (using the @extschema:name@ syntax) in a way that cannot track renames.

superuser (boolean) #

If this parameter is true (which is the default), only superusers can create the extension or update it to a new version (but see also trusted, below). If it is set to false, just the privileges required to execute the commands in the installation or update script are required. This should normally be set to true if any of the script commands require superuser privileges. (Such commands would fail anyway, but it's more user-friendly to give the error up front.)

trusted (boolean) #

This parameter, if set to true (which is not the default), allows some non-superusers to install an extension that has superuser set to true. Specifically, installation will be permitted for anyone who has CREATE privilege on the current database. When the user executing CREATE EXTENSION is not a superuser but is allowed to install by virtue of this parameter, then the installation or update script is run as the bootstrap superuser, not as the calling user. This parameter is irrelevant if superuser is false. Generally, this should not be set true for extensions that could allow access to otherwise-superuser-only abilities, such as file system access. Also, marking an extension trusted requires significant extra effort to write the extension's installation and update script(s) securely; see Section 38.17.6.

relocatable (boolean) #

An extension is relocatable if it is possible to move its contained objects into a different schema after initial creation of the extension. The default is false, i.e., the extension is not relocatable. See Section 38.17.2 for more information.

schema (string) #

This parameter can only be set for non-relocatable extensions. It forces the extension to be loaded into exactly the named schema and not any other. The schema parameter is consulted only when initially creating an extension, not during extension updates. See Section 38.17.2 for more information.

In addition to the primary control file extension.control, an extension can have secondary control files named in the style extension--version.control. If supplied, these must be located in the script file directory. Secondary control files follow the same format as the primary control file. Any parameters set in a secondary control file override the primary control file when installing or updating to that version of the extension. However, the parameters directory and default_version cannot be set in a secondary control file.

An extension's SQL script files can contain any SQL commands, except for transaction control commands (BEGIN, COMMIT, etc.) and commands that cannot be executed inside a transaction block (such as VACUUM). This is because the script files are implicitly executed within a transaction block.

An extension's SQL script files can also contain lines beginning with \echo, which will be ignored (treated as comments) by the extension mechanism. This provision is commonly used to throw an error if the script file is fed to psql rather than being loaded via CREATE EXTENSION (see example script in Section 38.17.7). Without that, users might accidentally load the extension's contents as loose objects rather than as an extension, a state of affairs that's a bit tedious to recover from.

If the extension script contains the string @extowner@, that string is replaced with the (suitably quoted) name of the user calling CREATE EXTENSION or ALTER EXTENSION. Typically this feature is used by extensions that are marked trusted to assign ownership of selected objects to the calling user rather than the bootstrap superuser. (One should be careful about doing so, however. For example, assigning ownership of a C-language function to a non-superuser would create a privilege escalation path for that user.)

While the script files can contain any characters allowed by the specified encoding, control files should contain only plain ASCII, because there is no way for PostgreSQL to know what encoding a control file is in. In practice this is only an issue if you want to use non-ASCII characters in the extension's comment. Recommended practice in that case is to not use the control file comment parameter, but instead use COMMENT ON EXTENSION within a script file to set the comment.

38.17.2. Extension Relocatability #

Users often wish to load the objects contained in an extension into a different schema than the extension's author had in mind. There are three supported levels of relocatability:

  • A fully relocatable extension can be moved into another schema at any time, even after it's been loaded into a database. This is done with the ALTER EXTENSION SET SCHEMA command, which automatically renames all the member objects into the new schema. Normally, this is only possible if the extension contains no internal assumptions about what schema any of its objects are in. Also, the extension's objects must all be in one schema to begin with (ignoring objects that do not belong to any schema, such as procedural languages). Mark a fully relocatable extension by setting relocatable = true in its control file.

  • An extension might be relocatable during installation but not afterwards. This is typically the case if the extension's script file needs to reference the target schema explicitly, for example in setting search_path properties for SQL functions. For such an extension, set relocatable = false in its control file, and use @extschema@ to refer to the target schema in the script file. All occurrences of this string will be replaced by the actual target schema's name (double-quoted if necessary) before the script is executed. The user can set the target schema using the SCHEMA option of CREATE EXTENSION.

  • If the extension does not support relocation at all, set relocatable = false in its control file, and also set schema to the name of the intended target schema. This will prevent use of the SCHEMA option of CREATE EXTENSION, unless it specifies the same schema named in the control file. This choice is typically necessary if the extension contains internal assumptions about its schema name that can't be replaced by uses of @extschema@. The @extschema@ substitution mechanism is available in this case too, although it is of limited use since the schema name is determined by the control file.

In all cases, the script file will be executed with search_path initially set to point to the target schema; that is, CREATE EXTENSION does the equivalent of this:

SET LOCAL search_path TO @extschema@, pg_temp;

This allows the objects created by the script file to go into the target schema. The script file can change search_path if it wishes, but that is generally undesirable. search_path is restored to its previous setting upon completion of CREATE EXTENSION.

The target schema is determined by the schema parameter in the control file if that is given, otherwise by the SCHEMA option of CREATE EXTENSION if that is given, otherwise the current default object creation schema (the first one in the caller's search_path). When the control file schema parameter is used, the target schema will be created if it doesn't already exist, but in the other two cases it must already exist.

If any prerequisite extensions are listed in requires in the control file, their target schemas are added to the initial setting of search_path, following the new extension's target schema. This allows their objects to be visible to the new extension's script file.

For security, pg_temp is automatically appended to the end of search_path in all cases.

Although a non-relocatable extension can contain objects spread across multiple schemas, it is usually desirable to place all the objects meant for external use into a single schema, which is considered the extension's target schema. Such an arrangement works conveniently with the default setting of search_path during creation of dependent extensions.

If an extension references objects belonging to another extension, it is recommended to schema-qualify those references. To do that, write @extschema:name@ in the extension's script file, where name is the name of the other extension (which must be listed in this extension's requires list). This string will be replaced by the name (double-quoted if necessary) of that extension's target schema. Although this notation avoids the need to make hard-wired assumptions about schema names in the extension's script file, its use may embed the other extension's schema name into the installed objects of this extension. (Typically, that happens when @extschema:name@ is used inside a string literal, such as a function body or a search_path setting. In other cases, the object reference is reduced to an OID during parsing and does not require subsequent lookups.) If the other extension's schema name is so embedded, you should prevent the other extension from being relocated after yours is installed, by adding the name of the other extension to this one's no_relocate list.

38.17.3. Extension Configuration Tables #

Some extensions include configuration tables, which contain data that might be added or changed by the user after installation of the extension. Ordinarily, if a table is part of an extension, neither the table's definition nor its content will be dumped by pg_dump. But that behavior is undesirable for a configuration table; any data changes made by the user need to be included in dumps, or the extension will behave differently after a dump and restore.

To solve this problem, an extension's script file can mark a table or a sequence it has created as a configuration relation, which will cause pg_dump to include the table's or the sequence's contents (not its definition) in dumps. To do that, call the function pg_extension_config_dump(regclass, text) after creating the table or the sequence, for example

CREATE TABLE my_config (key text, value text);
CREATE SEQUENCE my_config_seq;

SELECT pg_catalog.pg_extension_config_dump('my_config', '');
SELECT pg_catalog.pg_extension_config_dump('my_config_seq', '');

Any number of tables or sequences can be marked this way. Sequences associated with serial or bigserial columns can be marked as well.

When the second argument of pg_extension_config_dump is an empty string, the entire contents of the table are dumped by pg_dump. This is usually only correct if the table is initially empty as created by the extension script. If there is a mixture of initial data and user-provided data in the table, the second argument of pg_extension_config_dump provides a WHERE condition that selects the data to be dumped. For example, you might do

CREATE TABLE my_config (key text, value text, standard_entry boolean);

SELECT pg_catalog.pg_extension_config_dump('my_config', 'WHERE NOT standard_entry');

and then make sure that standard_entry is true only in the rows created by the extension's script.

For sequences, the second argument of pg_extension_config_dump has no effect.

More complicated situations, such as initially-provided rows that might be modified by users, can be handled by creating triggers on the configuration table to ensure that modified rows are marked correctly.

You can alter the filter condition associated with a configuration table by calling pg_extension_config_dump again. (This would typically be useful in an extension update script.) The only way to mark a table as no longer a configuration table is to dissociate it from the extension with ALTER EXTENSION ... DROP TABLE.

Note that foreign key relationships between these tables will dictate the order in which the tables are dumped out by pg_dump. Specifically, pg_dump will attempt to dump the referenced-by table before the referencing table. As the foreign key relationships are set up at CREATE EXTENSION time (prior to data being loaded into the tables) circular dependencies are not supported. When circular dependencies exist, the data will still be dumped out but the dump will not be able to be restored directly and user intervention will be required.

Sequences associated with serial or bigserial columns need to be directly marked to dump their state. Marking their parent relation is not enough for this purpose.

38.17.4. Extension Updates #

One advantage of the extension mechanism is that it provides convenient ways to manage updates to the SQL commands that define an extension's objects. This is done by associating a version name or number with each released version of the extension's installation script. In addition, if you want users to be able to update their databases dynamically from one version to the next, you should provide update scripts that make the necessary changes to go from one version to the next. Update scripts have names following the pattern extension--old_version--target_version.sql (for example, foo--1.0--1.1.sql contains the commands to modify version 1.0 of extension foo into version 1.1).

Given that a suitable update script is available, the command ALTER EXTENSION UPDATE will update an installed extension to the specified new version. The update script is run in the same environment that CREATE EXTENSION provides for installation scripts: in particular, search_path is set up in the same way, and any new objects created by the script are automatically added to the extension. Also, if the script chooses to drop extension member objects, they are automatically dissociated from the extension.

If an extension has secondary control files, the control parameters that are used for an update script are those associated with the script's target (new) version.

ALTER EXTENSION is able to execute sequences of update script files to achieve a requested update. For example, if only foo--1.0--1.1.sql and foo--1.1--2.0.sql are available, ALTER EXTENSION will apply them in sequence if an update to version 2.0 is requested when 1.0 is currently installed.

PostgreSQL doesn't assume anything about the properties of version names: for example, it does not know whether 1.1 follows 1.0. It just matches up the available version names and follows the path that requires applying the fewest update scripts. (A version name can actually be any string that doesn't contain -- or leading or trailing -.)

Sometimes it is useful to provide downgrade scripts, for example foo--1.1--1.0.sql to allow reverting the changes associated with version 1.1. If you do that, be careful of the possibility that a downgrade script might unexpectedly get applied because it yields a shorter path. The risky case is where there is a fast path update script that jumps ahead several versions as well as a downgrade script to the fast path's start point. It might take fewer steps to apply the downgrade and then the fast path than to move ahead one version at a time. If the downgrade script drops any irreplaceable objects, this will yield undesirable results.

To check for unexpected update paths, use this command:

SELECT * FROM pg_extension_update_paths('extension_name');

This shows each pair of distinct known version names for the specified extension, together with the update path sequence that would be taken to get from the source version to the target version, or NULL if there is no available update path. The path is shown in textual form with -- separators. You can use regexp_split_to_array(path,'--') if you prefer an array format.

38.17.5. Installing Extensions Using Update Scripts #

An extension that has been around for awhile will probably exist in several versions, for which the author will need to write update scripts. For example, if you have released a foo extension in versions 1.0, 1.1, and 1.2, there should be update scripts foo--1.0--1.1.sql and foo--1.1--1.2.sql. Before PostgreSQL 10, it was necessary to also create new script files foo--1.1.sql and foo--1.2.sql that directly build the newer extension versions, or else the newer versions could not be installed directly, only by installing 1.0 and then updating. That was tedious and duplicative, but now it's unnecessary, because CREATE EXTENSION can follow update chains automatically. For example, if only the script files foo--1.0.sql, foo--1.0--1.1.sql, and foo--1.1--1.2.sql are available then a request to install version 1.2 is honored by running those three scripts in sequence. The processing is the same as if you'd first installed 1.0 and then updated to 1.2. (As with ALTER EXTENSION UPDATE, if multiple pathways are available then the shortest is preferred.) Arranging an extension's script files in this style can reduce the amount of maintenance effort needed to produce small updates.

If you use secondary (version-specific) control files with an extension maintained in this style, keep in mind that each version needs a control file even if it has no stand-alone installation script, as that control file will determine how the implicit update to that version is performed. For example, if foo--1.0.control specifies requires = 'bar' but foo's other control files do not, the extension's dependency on bar will be dropped when updating from 1.0 to another version.

38.17.6. Security Considerations for Extensions #

Widely-distributed extensions should assume little about the database they occupy. Therefore, it's appropriate to write functions provided by an extension in a secure style that cannot be compromised by search-path-based attacks.

An extension that has the superuser property set to true must also consider security hazards for the actions taken within its installation and update scripts. It is not terribly difficult for a malicious user to create trojan-horse objects that will compromise later execution of a carelessly-written extension script, allowing that user to acquire superuser privileges.

If an extension is marked trusted, then its installation schema can be selected by the installing user, who might intentionally use an insecure schema in hopes of gaining superuser privileges. Therefore, a trusted extension is extremely exposed from a security standpoint, and all its script commands must be carefully examined to ensure that no compromise is possible.

Advice about writing functions securely is provided in Section below, and advice about writing installation scripts securely is provided in Section Security Considerations for Extension Functions #

SQL-language and PL-language functions provided by extensions are at risk of search-path-based attacks when they are executed, since parsing of these functions occurs at execution time not creation time.

The CREATE FUNCTION reference page contains advice about writing SECURITY DEFINER functions safely. It's good practice to apply those techniques for any function provided by an extension, since the function might be called by a high-privilege user.

If you cannot set the search_path to contain only secure schemas, assume that each unqualified name could resolve to an object that a malicious user has defined. Beware of constructs that depend on search_path implicitly; for example, IN and CASE expression WHEN always select an operator using the search path. In their place, use OPERATOR(schema.=) ANY and CASE WHEN expression.

A general-purpose extension usually should not assume that it's been installed into a secure schema, which means that even schema-qualified references to its own objects are not entirely risk-free. For example, if the extension has defined a function myschema.myfunc(bigint) then a call such as myschema.myfunc(42) could be captured by a hostile function myschema.myfunc(integer). Be careful that the data types of function and operator parameters exactly match the declared argument types, using explicit casts where necessary. Security Considerations for Extension Scripts #

An extension installation or update script should be written to guard against search-path-based attacks occurring when the script executes. If an object reference in the script can be made to resolve to some other object than the script author intended, then a compromise might occur immediately, or later when the mis-defined extension object is used.

DDL commands such as CREATE FUNCTION and CREATE OPERATOR CLASS are generally secure, but beware of any command having a general-purpose expression as a component. For example, CREATE VIEW needs to be vetted, as does a DEFAULT expression in CREATE FUNCTION.

Sometimes an extension script might need to execute general-purpose SQL, for example to make catalog adjustments that aren't possible via DDL. Be careful to execute such commands with a secure search_path; do not trust the path provided by CREATE/ALTER EXTENSION to be secure. Best practice is to temporarily set search_path to 'pg_catalog, pg_temp' and insert references to the extension's installation schema explicitly where needed. (This practice might also be helpful for creating views.) Examples can be found in the contrib modules in the PostgreSQL source code distribution.

Cross-extension references are extremely difficult to make fully secure, partially because of uncertainty about which schema the other extension is in. The hazards are reduced if both extensions are installed in the same schema, because then a hostile object cannot be placed ahead of the referenced extension in the installation-time search_path. However, no mechanism currently exists to require that. For now, best practice is to not mark an extension trusted if it depends on another one, unless that other one is always installed in pg_catalog.

38.17.7. Extension Example #

Here is a complete example of an SQL-only extension, a two-element composite type that can store any type of value in its slots, which are named k and v. Non-text values are automatically coerced to text for storage.

The script file pair--1.0.sql looks like this:

-- complain if script is sourced in psql, rather than via CREATE EXTENSION
\echo Use "CREATE EXTENSION pair" to load this file. \quit

CREATE TYPE pair AS ( k text, v text );

CREATE FUNCTION pair(text, text)
RETURNS pair LANGUAGE SQL AS 'SELECT ROW($1, $2)::@extschema@.pair;';


-- "SET search_path" is easy to get right, but qualified names perform better.
AS 'SELECT ROW(lower($1.k), lower($1.v))::@extschema@.pair;'
SET search_path = pg_temp;

CREATE FUNCTION pair_concat(pair, pair)
AS 'SELECT ROW($1.k OPERATOR(pg_catalog.||) $2.k,
               $1.v OPERATOR(pg_catalog.||) $2.v)::@extschema@.pair;';

The control file pair.control looks like this:

# pair extension
comment = 'A key/value pair data type'
default_version = '1.0'
# cannot be relocatable because of use of @extschema@
relocatable = false

While you hardly need a makefile to install these two files into the correct directory, you could use a Makefile containing this:

DATA = pair--1.0.sql

PG_CONFIG = pg_config
PGXS := $(shell $(PG_CONFIG) --pgxs)
include $(PGXS)

This makefile relies on PGXS, which is described in Section 38.18. The command make install will install the control and script files into the correct directory as reported by pg_config.

Once the files are installed, use the CREATE EXTENSION command to load the objects into any particular database.

Submit correction

If you see anything in the documentation that is not correct, does not match your experience with the particular feature or requires further clarification, please use this form to report a documentation issue.