Getting started with sql

Learn how to get started with the SQL version of drift, or how to migrate an existing project to drift.

The regular getting started guide explains how to get started with drift by declaring both tables and queries in Dart. This version will focus on how to use drift with SQL instead.

A complete cross-platform Flutter app using drift is also available here.

Adding the dependency

First, lets add drift to your project's pubspec.yaml. At the moment, the current version of drift is Drift version and the latest version of drift_dev is Generator version.

  drift: ^2.6.0
  sqlite3_flutter_libs: ^0.5.0
  path_provider: ^2.0.0
  path: ^1.8.3

  drift_dev: ^2.6.0
  build_runner: ^2.3.3

If you're wondering why so many packages are necessary, here's a quick overview over what each package does:

  • drift: This is the core package defining most apis
  • sqlite3_flutter_libs: Ships the latest sqlite3 version with your Android or iOS app. This is not required when you're not using Flutter, but then you need to take care of including sqlite3 yourself. For an overview on other platforms, see platforms.
  • path_provider and path: Used to find a suitable location to store the database. Maintained by the Flutter and Dart team
  • drift_dev: This development-only dependency generates query code based on your tables. It will not be included in your final app.
  • build_runner: Common tool for code-generation, maintained by the Dart team

Some versions of the Flutter tool create a broken settings.gradle on Android, which can cause problems with drift/native.dart. If you get a "Failed to load dynamic library" exception, see this comment.

Declaring tables and queries

To declare tables and queries in sql, create a file called tables.drift next to your Dart files (for instance in lib/database/tables.drift).

You can put CREATE TABLE statements for your queries in there. The following example creates two tables to model a todo-app. If you're migrating an existing project to drift, you can just copy the CREATE TABLE statements you've already written into this file.

-- this is the tables.drift file
    title TEXT,
    body TEXT,
    category INT REFERENCES categories (id)

CREATE TABLE categories (
    description TEXT
) AS Category; -- see the explanation on "AS Category" below

/* after declaring your tables, you can put queries in here. Just
   write the name of the query, a colon (:) and the SQL: */
todosInCategory: SELECT * FROM todos WHERE category = ?;

/* Here's a more complex query: It counts the amount of entries per
category, including those entries which aren't in any category at all. */
    (SELECT COUNT(*) FROM todos WHERE category = AS amount
  FROM categories c
  SELECT null, (SELECT COUNT(*) FROM todos WHERE category IS NULL);

Generating matching code

After you declared the tables, lets generate some Dart code to actually run them. Drift needs to know which tables are used in a database, so we have to write a small Dart class that drift will then read. Lets create a file called database.dart next to the tables.drift file you wrote in the previous step.

import 'dart:io';

import 'package:drift/drift.dart';
// These imports are used to open the database
import 'package:drift/native.dart';
import 'package:path_provider/path_provider.dart';
import 'package:path/path.dart' as p;

part 'database.g.dart';

  // relative import for the drift file. Drift also supports `package:`
  // imports
  include: {'tables.drift'},
class AppDb extends _$AppDb {
  AppDb() : super(_openConnection());

  int get schemaVersion => 1;

LazyDatabase _openConnection() {
  // the LazyDatabase util lets us find the right location for the file async.
  return LazyDatabase(() async {
    // put the database file, called db.sqlite here, into the documents folder
    // for your app.
    final dbFolder = await getApplicationDocumentsDirectory();
    final file = File(p.join(dbFolder.path, 'db.sqlite'));

    return NativeDatabase.createInBackground(file);

To generate the database.g.dart file which contains the _$AppDb superclass, run flutter pub run build_runner build on the command line.

What drift generates

Let's take a look at what drift generated during the build:

  • Generated data classes (Todo and Category) - these hold a single row from the respective table.
  • Companion versions of these classes. Those are only relevant when using the Dart apis of drift, you can learn more here.
  • A CountEntriesResult class, it holds the result rows when running the countEntries query.
  • A _$AppDb superclass. It takes care of creating the tables when the database file is first opened. It also contains typesafe methods for the queries declared in the tables.drift file:
    • a Selectable<Todo> todosInCategory(int) method, which runs the todosInCategory query declared above. Drift has determined that the type of the variable in that query is int, because that's the type of the category column we're comparing it to. The method returns a Selectable to indicate that it can both be used as a regular query (Selectable.get returns a Future<List<Todo>>) or as an auto-updating stream (by using .watch instead of .get()).
    • a Selectable<CountEntriesResult> countEntries() method, which runs the other query when used.

By the way, you can also put insert, update and delete statements in a .drift file - drift will generate matching code for them as well.

Learning more

Now that you know how to use drift together with sql, here are some further guides to help you learn more: