An introduction to PostgreSQL


JavaScript Object Notation (JSON) and PostgreSQL's JSONB, a special binary representation of JSON, are popular for storing and manipulating unstructured data. While JSON stores data in text format, JSONB stores it in a decomposed binary format, making it slower to insert but faster to query. For example, after creating a table with a JSON/JSONB data type:

  id serial PRIMARY KEY,
  profile JSONB

You can query it using the following syntax:

INSERT INTO users (profile) VALUES ('{"name": "John", "age": 30,"interests": ["cycling", "hiking"]}');

Because JSONB is quite popular, I'll discuss it in more detail in a practical example later in this article. For now suffice it to say that while JSON preserves the exact input format (such as whitespace and the order of keys) and is generally faster to store because of minimal processing, JSONB gives you several advantages in terms of efficient indexing and fast data access as well as a wider array of operators and functions for manipulating JSON data, making JSONB preferable when you need to frequently update or query JSON elements.


Arrays in PostgreSQL are used to store multiple values in a single column. They can be particularly useful in various scenarios but come with their own set of considerations. For example, it might be tempting to simplify the model when you have a one-to-many relationship where the "many" side contains a small, fixed number of related items. Using an array in such a scenario avoids the need for additional join tables. Arrays can also improve efficiency when you frequently need to retrieve all related items simultaneously without performing a join operation. This can be especially beneficial when the array elements are often accessed together. Moreover, arrays can store not only simple types such as integers and strings but also composite types, allowing for the representation of complex and nested structures within a single column.

However, queries with arrays can quickly become complex and less intuitive. Also, updating individual elements of an array is more complex than updating values in a normalized table. While indexes can be created on array columns, they may not always be as effective as indexes on regular columns, especially for complex queries involving array elements. Therefore you should consider these trade-offs carefully.

A table with an array data type can be created as follows:

  id serial PRIMARY KEY,
  tags text[]

The values themselves are inserted using the following syntax:

INSERT INTO posts (tags) VALUES (ARRAY['science', 'technology','education']);

Spatial Data Types

When you deal with maps, suddenly a whole class of questions becomes relevant, starting from the simple (e.g., "What is the distance between these two places?") to the more complex (e.g., "What points of interest can be found in a given area?"). PostgreSQL contains a collection of spatial data types to handle these issues. While this topic deserves a separate article, I'll cover the basics here.

To store spatial data, you must create tables with spatial columns, for example:

CREATE TABLE spatial_data (
  location GEOMETRY(POINT, 4326)

This SQL statement creates a table with a POINT type geometry column, specifying spatial reference identifier (SRID) 4326, commonly used for geographic coordinate systems. To insert a point into the location column using the ST_GeomFromText function, which converts text to a spatial data type, type:

INSERT INTO spatial_data (location) VALUES (ST_GeomFromText('POINT(-71.060316 48.432044)', 4326));

Apart from the ST_GeomFromText, PostgreSQL offers other functions such as ST_Area to calculate the area of a polygon and ST_Distance to compute the shortest distance between two geometries. PostgreSQL also supports many useful geospatial data types such as MULTIPOLYGON, which can represent disjointed territories of a single entity, like islands that are part of a country along with a mainland.

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