A Multi-DBMS SQL Script Processor

execsql.py is a Python program that applies a SQL script stored in a text file to a PostgreSQL, MS-Access, SQLite, MS-SQL-Server, MySQL, MariaDB, or Firebird database, or an ODBC DSN. execsql.py also supports a set of special commands (metacommands) that can import and export data, copy data between databases, and conditionally execute SQL statements and metacommands. These metacommands make up a control language that works the same across all supported database management systems (DBMSs). The metacommands are embedded in SQL comments, so they will be ignored by other script processors (e.g., psql for Postgres and sqlcmd for SQL Server). The metacommands make up a toolbox that can be used to create both automated and interactive data processing applications; some of these uses are illustrated in the examples.


You can use execsql to:

  • Import data from text files or spreadsheets into a database.
  • Export tables and views to text files, OpenDocument spreadsheets, HTML, JSON, LaTeΧ, or to nine other tabular formats (see Example 8).
  • Copy data between different databases, even databases using different DBMSs.
  • Display tables or views on the terminal or in a GUI dialog window.
  • Export data using template processors to produce non-tabular output with customized format and contents.
  • Conditionally execute different SQL commands and metacommands based on the DBMS in use, the database in use, data values, user input, and other conditions. Conditional execution can be used with the INCLUDE and EXECUTE SCRIPT metacommands to implement loops (see Example 6).
  • Prompt the user to select files or directories, answer questions, or enter data values.
  • Allow the user to visually compare two tables or views.
  • Write messages to the console or to a file during the processing of a SQL script. These messages can be used to display the progress of the script or create a custom log of the operations that have been carried out or results obtained. Status messages and data exported in text format can be combined in a single text file. Data tables can be exported in a text format that is compatible with Markdown pipe tables, so that script output can be converted into a variety of document formats (see Example 8 and Example 11).

Different DBMSs and DBMS-specific client programs provide different and incompatible extensions to SQL, ordinarily to allow interactions with the file system and to allow conditional tests and looping. Some DBMSs do not have any native extensions of this sort. execsql provides these features, as well as features for user interaction, in an identical fashion for all supported DBMSs. This allows standardization of the SQL scripting language used for different types of database management systems.

execsql’s features for conditional tests, looping, and sub-scripts allow the script author to write modular, maintainable, and re-usable code.

execsql is inherently a command-line program that can operate in a completely non-interactive mode (except, in some cases, for password prompts). Therefore, it is suitable for incorporation into a toolchain controlled by a shell script (on Linux), batch file (on Windows), or other system-level scripting application. However, several metacommands can be used to generate interactive prompts and data displays, so execsql scripts can be written to provide some user interactivity.

In addition, execsql automatically maintains a log that documents key information about each run of the program, including the databases that are used, the scripts that are run, and the user’s choices in response to interactive prompts. Together, the script and the log provide documentation of all actions carried out that may have altered data.

Documentation Guide

The sections of the execsql documentation fall into several categories, described in the following sections. The documentation tracks the latest version on Bibucket, which may be more recent than the version available from the Python Package Index (PyPi).

Getting Started

These documentation sections contain information that most users will need to read in order to start using execsql.

Syntax and Options: Command-line arguments and flags.
Requirements: Other Python packages that may be needed.

Tips and Guidance

These documentation sections include information that is pertinent to specific DBMSs and may improve your understanding and usage of execsql’s features. If you are encountering unexpected behavior, information in these sections may be of assistance.

Usage Notes: Important but not necessarily essential information about execsql’s operation.
SQL Syntax Notes: Details about handling of SQL statements.
Logging: A description of the automatically maintained log file.
Character Encoding: Information on handling of different character encodings.
Using Script Files: Recommendations (really, advocacy) for the use of script files.
Documentation: Information to support the creation of comprehensive documentation.
Debugging: Metacommands to assist with SQL script debugging.


These documentation sections contain detailed descriptions of specific execsql features. These sections may be consulted repeatedly when writing SQL scripts. Some tips and guidance are also included within the reference information.

Configuration Files: Fire-and-forget control over execsql’s environment and operation.
Substitution Variables: Text substitutions to customize any part of a script.
Metacommands: Import and export data, interact with the user, and dynamically control script flow.


This section contains examples of execsql’s usage, focusing primarily on metacommands. The code snippets in these examples can generally be easily modified for use in other applications.

Examples: Code snippets to illustrate execsql usage.