SQL - Use The Index - Deepstash
SQL - Use The Index

SQL - Use The Index


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Index Overview

Index Overview

What is it?:

  • A stand-alone database structure
  • Redundant information, well ordered, that acts as a map/reference to the table

What is it good for?:

  • Makes the SELECT/retrieval queries fast

Does it have any disadvantage?:

  • It requires disk space
  • It requires RAM to take advantage of it entirely
  • Causes maintenance overhead for write operations with each INSERT/UPDATE/DELETE

Creating index syntax in POSTGRESQL:

CREATE INDEX e_idx ON users (email)


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Single vs Concatenated Indexes

Single vs Concatenated Indexes


  • Single Index = Single-Column Index
  • Concatenated Index = Multi-Column Index

How indexes work:

  • Index is used to find data fast, therefore it looks for the WHERE clause that defines the search condition

When to use Single-Column Indexes:

  • When most of the time that indexed column is used in the WHERE clause

Index on (x)

SELECT * FROM table WHERE x = 11

When to use Multi-Column Indexes:

  • When more columns are used in the WHERE clause

Index on (t, x):

SELECT * FROM table WHERE t = 9 and x = 11


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Order in Multi-Column Index Matters

Order in Multi-Column Index Matters

Order of the columns matter.

The index is useless if the first column doesn't appear in the WHERE clause.

Example 1:

An index on (t, x) will not be used in this query:

  • SELECT * FROM table WHERE x = 11

Example 2:

However an index on (x, t) will be used in both of these queries:

SELECT * FROM table WHERE x = 11


SELECT * FROM table WHERE t = 9 and x = 11


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Functions on Indexes

Functions on Indexes

Wrapping the indexed column in a function nullifies the index almost completely. 


CREATE INDEX e_idx ON users (email) 



FROM users  

WHERE UPPER(email) = 'email@mail.com'

This will read the full index end to end which is only slightly better than reading full table. 


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Index on Text Columns

Index on Text Columns

When it can be used:

1. Exact matches:

  • SELECT * FROM table WHERE x = 'sql'

2. Using wild card character (% or _) at the end:

  • SELECT * FROM table WHERE x LIKE 'sq%'

3. Less effective, but still useful, using wild card character in the middle:

  • SELECT * FROM table WHERE x LIKE 's_l'

When it is useless:

When wild card character is used in the beginning:

  • SELECT * FROM table WHERE x LIKE '%ex'


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What to keep in mind?

What to keep in mind?

  • Avoid using functions in WHERE clause on indexes when it is not needed
  • Use LIMIT when partial results are needed
  • Order of columns in Multi-Column Indexes is important
  • Extra conditions in WHERE clause can ruin the use of index-only scan, which doesn't access the actual table at all. Even if the filter limits the results more, it requires more processing
  • Use LIKE filters wisely as explained in the previous idea


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