Defql: SQL Queries as Elixir Functions

23 January 2017 - Reading time: 3 minutes

Elixir world is functional. There are no objects or instances at all. In this case, I asked myself a question.

Do I need ORM?

My answer to this question is no.

I need data. Pure data that comes straight from the database. Another question, that comes to my mind.

Do I need a DSL for querying database?

Another negative answer.

We have a great language created for querying database. SQL, remember?

What if I could create an elixir function that has an SQL body? What if I could use this function exactly like any other Elixir function? It would be great, wouldn’t it?

We can archive that using Elixir’s very powerful macro system. However, this is also a good way to learn how Elixir’s macros work.

To archive that I’ve started writing Defql. Defql is an Elixir package that provides a simple way to define functions with SQL language. How does it work?

Querying Database

This package provides the defquery macro. With it, you can define the function that contains an SQL query. For example:

defmodule UserQuery do
  use Defql

  defquery get_by_blocked(blocked) do
    "SELECT * FROM users WHERE blocked = $blocked"

Looks very clean, it’s easy to read, and the best part of it, is that it supports parameters. Brilliant!

Calling that function is also very simple. Depending on given parameter we will get blocked or unblocked users.

UserQuery.get_user(false) # => {:ok, []}
UserQuery.get_user(true) # => {:ok, []}

Now we can easy query our database, and get a result.

What about INSERT, UPDATE, and DELETE? Good question! You can create those queries with defquery, but there is another method.


This package also contains other macros. Take a look at this example:

defmodule UserQuery do
  use Defql

  defselect get(conds), table: :users
  definsert add(params), table: :users
  defupdate update(params, conds), table: :users
  defdelete delete(conds), table: :users

What will they do ? Those macros will create common CRUD functions. So you don’t have to write each query with SQL. Simple one are created for you like this. How can I invoke them ? Here is example:

UserQuery.get(id: "3") # => {:ok, [%{...}]}
UserQuery.add(name: "Smbdy") # => {:ok, [%{...}]}
UserQuery.update([name: "Other"],[id: "2"]) # => {:ok, [%{...}]}
UserQuery.delete(id: "2") # => {:ok, [%{...}]}


Configuration is also an easy task. Right now you can use it in two ways.

With existing Ecto connection:

config :defql, connection: [
  adapter: Defql.Adapter.Ecto.Postgres,
  repo: Taped.Repo

As a standalone connection:

config :defql, connection: [
  hostname: "localhost",
  username: "username",
  password: "password",
  database: "my_db",
  pool: DBConnection.Poolboy,
  pool_size: 1

What is missing ?

Of course, it’s a very early stage, but postgres support works well. There are few things that are missing:

  • MySQL support
  • Support IN with array %{id: [1,2,3]}
  • Cleanup ECTO adapter
  • Support database errors


Using Defql we have a very clear, simple and powerful way to interact with a database.