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PostgreSQL Reference Manual - Volume 1 - SQL Language Reference
by The PostgreSQL Global Development Group
Paperback (6"x9"), 716 pages
ISBN 0954612027
RRP £32.00 ($49.95)

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6.1.4 Serial Types

The data types serial and bigserial are not true types, but merely a notational convenience for setting up unique identifier columns (similar to the AUTO_INCREMENT property supported by some other databases). In the current implementation, specifying

CREATE TABLE tablename (
    colname SERIAL
);

is equivalent to specifying:

CREATE SEQUENCE tablename_colname_seq;
CREATE TABLE tablename (
    colname integer NOT NULL
                    DEFAULT nextval('tablename_colname_seq')
);
ALTER SEQUENCE tablename_colname_seq OWNED BY tablename.colname;

Thus, we have created an integer column and arranged for its default values to be assigned from a sequence generator. A NOT NULL constraint is applied to ensure that a null value cannot be explicitly inserted, either. (In most cases you would also want to attach a UNIQUE or PRIMARY KEY constraint to prevent duplicate values from being inserted by accident, but this is not automatic.) Lastly, the sequence is marked as “owned by” the column, so that it will be dropped if the column or table is dropped.

Note: Prior to PostgreSQL 7.3, serial implied UNIQUE. This is no longer automatic. If you wish a serial column to be in a unique constraint or a primary key, it must now be specified, same as with any other data type.

To insert the next value of the sequence into the serial column, specify that the serial column should be assigned its default value. This can be done either by excluding the column from the list of columns in the INSERT statement, or through the use of the DEFAULT key word.

The type names serial and serial4 are equivalent: both create integer columns. The type names bigserial and serial8 work just the same way, except that they create a bigint column. bigserial should be used if you anticipate the use of more than 231 identifiers over the lifetime of the table.

The sequence created for a serial column is automatically dropped when the owning column is dropped. You can drop the sequence without dropping the column, but this will force removal of the column default expression.

ISBN 0954612027PostgreSQL Reference Manual - Volume 1 - SQL Language ReferenceSee the print edition