5.3 Functionality missing from MySQL

The following functionality is missing in the current version of MySQL. For a prioritized list indicating when new extensions may be added to MySQL, you should consult the online MySQL TODO list. That is the latest version of the TODO list in this manual. F List of things we want to add to MySQL in the future (The TODO).

5.3.1 Sub-selects

The following will not yet work in MySQL:

SELECT * FROM table1 WHERE id IN (SELECT id FROM table2);
SELECT * FROM table1 WHERE id NOT IN (SELECT id FROM table2);

However, in many cases you can rewrite the query without a sub select:

SELECT table1.* FROM table1,table2 WHERE table1.id=table2.id;
SELECT table1.* FROM table1 LEFT JOIN table2 ON table1.id=table2.id where table2.id IS NULL

For more complicated sub queries you can create temporary tables to hold the sub query.

MySQL only supports INSERT ... SELECT ... and REPLACE ... SELECT ... Independent sub-selects will be probably be available in 3.24.0. You can now use the function IN() in other contexts, however.


MySQL doesn't yet support the Oracle SQL extension: SELECT ... INTO TABLE .... MySQL supports instead the ANSI SQL syntax INSERT INTO ... SELECT ..., which is basically the same thing.

Alternatively, you can use SELECT INTO OUTFILE... or CREATE TABLE ... SELECT to solve your problem.

5.3.3 Transactions

Transactions are not supported. MySQL shortly will support atomic operations, which are like transactions without rollback. With atomic operations, you can execute a group of INSERT/SELECT/whatever commands and be guaranteed that no other thread will interfere. In this context, you won't usually need rollback. Currently, you can prevent interference from other threads by using the LOCK TABLES and UNLOCK TABLES commands. LOCK TABLES.

5.3.4 Stored procedures and triggers

A stored procedure is a set of SQL commands that can be compiled and stored in the server. Once this has been done, clients don't need to keep reissuing the entire query but can refer to the stored procedure. This provides better performance because the query has to be parsed only once and less information needs to be sent between the server and the client. You can also raise the conceptual level by having libraries of functions in the server.

A trigger is a stored procedure that is invoked when a particular event occurs. For example, you can install a stored procedure that is triggered each time a record is deleted from a transaction table and that automatically deletes the corresponding customer from a customer table when all his transactions are deleted.

The planned update language will be able to handle stored procedures, but without triggers. Triggers usually slow down everything, even queries for which they are not needed.

To see when MySQL might get stored procedures, see F List of things we want to add to MySQL in the future (The TODO).

5.3.5 Foreign Keys

Note that foreign keys in SQL are not used to join tables, but are used mostly for checking referential integrity. If you want to get results from multiple tables from a SELECT statement, you do this by joining tables!

SELECT * from table1,table2 where table1.id = table2.id;

JOIN. 8.3.5 Using foreign keys

The FOREIGN KEY syntax in MySQL exists only for compatibility with other SQL vendors' CREATE TABLE commands; it doesn't do anything. The FOREIGN KEY syntax without ON DELETE ... is mostly used for documentation purposes. Some ODBC applications may use this to produce automatic WHERE clauses, but this is usually easy to override. FOREIGN KEY is sometimes used as a constraint check, but this check is unnecessary in practice if rows are inserted into the tables in the right order. MySQL only supports these clauses because some applications require them to exist (regardless of whether or not they work!).

In MySQL, you can work around the problem of ON DELETE ... not being implemented by adding the appropriate DELETE statement to an application when you delete records from a table that has a foreign key. In practice this is as quick (in some cases quicker) and much more portable than using foreign keys.

In the near future we will extend the FOREIGN KEY implementation so that at least the information will be saved in the table specification file and may be retrieved by mysqldump and ODBC. Reasons NOT to use foreign keys

There are so many problems with FOREIGN KEYs that we don't know where to start:

  • Foreign keys make life very complicated, because the foreign key definitions must be stored in a database and implementing them would destroy the whole ``nice approach'' of using files that can be moved, copied and removed.
  • The speed impact is terrible for INSERT and UPDATE statements, and in this case almost all FOREIGN KEY checks are useless because you usually insert records in the right tables in the right order, anyway.
  • There is also a need to hold locks on many more tables when updating one table, because the side effects can cascade through the entire database. It's MUCH faster to delete records from one table first and subsequently delete them from the other tables.
  • You can no longer restore a table by doing a full delete from the table and then restoring all records (from a new source or from a backup).
  • If you have foreign keys you can't dump and restore tables unless you do so in a very specific order.
  • It's very easy to do ``allowed'' circular definitions that make the tables impossible to recreate each table with a single create statement, even if the definition works and is usable.

The only nice aspect of FOREIGN KEY is that it gives ODBC and some other client programs the ability to see how a table is connected and to use this to show connection diagrams and to help in building applicatons.

MySQL will soon store FOREIGN KEY definitions so that a client can ask for and receive an answer how the original connection was made. The current `.frm' file format does not have any place for it.


MySQL doesn't support views, but this is on the TODO.

5.3.7 `--' as the start of a comment

Some other SQL databases use `--' to start comments. MySQL has `#' as the start comment character, even if the mysql command line tool removes all lines that start with `--'. You can also use the C comment style /* this is a comment */ with MySQL. 7.28 Comment syntax.

MySQL 3.23.3 and above supports the `--' comment style only if the comment is followed by a space. This is because this degenerate comment style has caused many problems with automatically generated SQL queries that have used something like the following code, where we automatically insert the value of the payment for !payment!:

UPDATE tbl_name SET credit=credit-!payment!

What do you think will happen when the value of payment is negative?

Because 1--1 is legal in SQL, we think it is terrible that `--' means start comment.

In MySQL 3.23 you can however use: 1-- This is a comment

The following discussing only concerns you if you are running an MySQL version earlier than 3.23:

If you have a SQL program in a text file that contains `--' comments you should use:

shell> replace " --" " #" < text-file-with-funny-comments.sql \
         | mysql database

instead of the usual:

shell> mysql database < text-file-with-funny-comments.sql

You can also edit the command file ``in place'' to change the `--' comments to `#' comments:

shell> replace " --" " #" -- text-file-with-funny-comments.sql

Change them back with this command:

shell> replace " #" " --" -- text-file-with-funny-comments.sql