In the last post we’ve highlighted some tips when developing functions and/or procedures in PostgreSQL’s PL/pgSQL. Especially the Compile-Time and Run-Time checks can save you a lot of work and give you important hints while developing your code. But still, at least when compared to other languages, the possibilities for debugging your code in PL/pgSQL are quite limited in vanilla PostgreSQL. Once more, extension to the rescue: There are plenty of extensions out there, and some of them are targeting the development experience with PL/pgSQL. In this post we’ll look at plpgsql_check.

Standard warning: When it comes to extensions outside of PostgreSQL core, always make sure that the extension you want to use is actively maintained. This is not an issue for plpgsql_check, but it might be for others. If is not maintained anymore, either maintain it on your own or look for other solutions for your requirement.

Getting plpgsql_check onto the system is straight forward (I am using the current development version here, please use a version from the release page for real systems):

[email protected]:/home/postgres/ [150] git clone https://github.com/okbob/plpgsql_check.git
[email protected]:/home/postgres/ [150] cd plpgsql_check/
[email protected]:/home/postgres/plpgsql_check/ [150] make USE_PGXS=1 clean
[email protected]:/home/postgres/plpgsql_check/ [150] make USE_PGXS=1 install

From there on it is the standard way for installing extensions:

[email protected]:/home/postgres/plpgsql_check/ [150] psql
psql (15.0 dbi services build)
Type "help" for help.

postgres=# select * from pg_available_extensions where name like '%check%';
     name      | default_version | installed_version |                  comment                   
---------------+-----------------+-------------------+--------------------------------------------
 amcheck       | 1.3             |                   | functions for verifying relation integrity
 plpgsql_check | 2.2             |                   | extended check for plpgsql functions
(2 rows)

postgres=# create extension plpgsql_check;
CREATE EXTENSION
postgres=# \dx
                        List of installed extensions
     Name      | Version |   Schema   |             Description              
---------------+---------+------------+--------------------------------------
 plpgsql       | 1.0     | pg_catalog | PL/pgSQL procedural language
 plpgsql_check | 2.2     | public     | extended check for plpgsql functions
(2 rows)

postgres=# 

What can we do with it? Suppose the following table and function:

postgres=# create table t ( a int, b int );
CREATE TABLE
postgres=# create function f1() returns int as
postgres-# $$
postgres$# begin
postgres$#   select c from t limit 1;
postgres$# end; $$ language plpgsql;
CREATE FUNCTION

As there is no column “c” this for sure fails during execution:

postgres=# select f1();
ERROR:  column "c" does not exist
LINE 1: select c from t limit 1
               ^
QUERY:  select c from t limit 1
CONTEXT:  PL/pgSQL function f1() line 3 at SQL statement

Using the extension we can catch such kind of issues before it fails later on in production:

postgres=# select * from plpgsql_check_function_tb('f1()');
 functionid | lineno |   statement   | sqlstate |          message          | detail | hint | level | position |          query          | context 
------------+--------+---------------+----------+---------------------------+--------+------+-------+----------+-------------------------+---------
 f1         |      3 | SQL statement | 42703    | column "c" does not exist |        |      | error |        8 | select c from t limit 1 | 
(1 row)

Another example is this:

postgres=# create or replace function f1() returns int as
$$
begin
  select b from t;
end; $$ language plpgsql;
CREATE FUNCTION
postgres=# select * from plpgsql_check_function_tb('f1()');
 functionid | lineno |   statement   | sqlstate |                 message                  | detail | hint | level | position | query | context 
------------+--------+---------------+----------+------------------------------------------+--------+------+-------+----------+-------+---------
 f1         |      3 | SQL statement | 42601    | query has no destination for result data |        |      | error |          |       | 
(1 row)

postgres=# 

Or this:

postgres=# create or replace function f1() returns int as
$$
declare
  i int;
begin
  select b into i from t;
end; $$ language plpgsql;
CREATE FUNCTION
postgres=# select * from plpgsql_check_function_tb('f1()');
 functionid | lineno | statement | sqlstate |                    message                     | detail | hint |     level     | position | query | context 
------------+--------+-----------+----------+------------------------------------------------+--------+------+---------------+----------+-------+---------
 f1         |        |           | 2F005    | control reached end of function without RETURN |        |      | error         |          |       | 
 f1         |      3 | DECLARE   | 00000    | never read variable "i"                        |        |      | warning extra |          |       | 
(2 rows)

There also is a profiler which gives you more information where time is spend inside your functions or procedures. Here is a function which does some real (but stupid) work:

postgres=# insert into t select i, i from generate_series(1,1000000) i;
INSERT 0 1000000
postgres=# create or replace function f1() returns int as
$$
declare
  r record;
  i int;
  j int := 0;
begin
  for r in select a from t
  loop
    i := r.a;
  end loop;
  for i in 1..1000000
  loop
    j := j + 1;
  end loop;
  return i;
end; $$ language plpgsql;
CREATE FUNCTION

First, lets confirm we do not have any issues which plpgsql_check is able to detect:

postgres=# select * from plpgsql_check_function_tb('f1()');
 functionid | lineno | statement | sqlstate | message | detail | hint | level | position | query | context 
------------+--------+-----------+----------+---------+--------+------+-------+----------+-------+---------
(0 rows)

Fine, now lets check how time is spend inside the function:

postgres=# set plpgsql_check.profiler to on;
SET
postgres=# select * from f1();
   f1    
---------
 1000000
(1 row)

postgres=# select * from plpgsql_profiler_function_tb('f1()');
 lineno | stmt_lineno |        queryids        | cmds_on_row | exec_stmts | exec_stmts_err | total_time | avg_time | max_time  | processed_rows |           source           
--------+-------------+------------------------+-------------+------------+----------------+------------+----------+-----------+----------------+----------------------------
      1 |             |                        |             |            |                |            |          |           |                | 
      2 |             |                        |             |            |                |            |          |           |                | declare
      3 |             |                        |             |            |                |            |          |           |                |   r record;
      4 |             |                        |             |            |                |            |          |           |                |   i int;
      5 |             |                        |             |            |                |            |          |           |                |   j int := 0;
      6 |           6 |                        |           1 |          1 |              0 |      0.009 |    0.009 | {356.329} | {0}            | begin
      7 |           7 | {5244141801870714068}  |           1 |          1 |              0 |    159.998 |  159.998 | {249.678} | {0}            |   for r in select a from t
      8 |             |                        |             |            |                |            |          |           |                |   loop
      9 |           9 | {4704117640272101272}  |           1 |    1000002 |              0 |      89.68 |    0.001 | {0.236}   | {0}            |     i := r.a;
     10 |             |                        |             |            |                |            |          |           |                |   end loop;
     11 |          11 |                        |           1 |          1 |              0 |     41.715 |   41.715 | {106.642} | {0}            |   for i in 1..1000000
     12 |             |                        |             |            |                |            |          |           |                |   loop
     13 |          13 | {-8156123798940658127} |           1 |    1000000 |              0 |     64.927 |    0.001 | {0.021}   | {0}            |     j := j + 1;
     14 |             |                        |             |            |                |            |          |           |                |   end loop;
     15 |          15 |                        |           1 |          1 |              0 |          0 |        0 | {0}       | {0}            |   return i;
     16 |             |                        |             |            |                |            |          |           |                | end; 
(16 rows)

postgres=# select * from plpgsql_profiler_function_statements_tb('f1()');
 stmtid | parent_stmtid | parent_note | block_num | lineno |       queryid        | exec_stmts | exec_stmts_err | total_time | avg_time | max_time | processed_rows |            stmtname            
--------+---------------+-------------+-----------+--------+----------------------+------------+----------------+------------+----------+----------+----------------+--------------------------------
      0 |               |             |         1 |      6 |                      |          1 |              0 |      0.009 |    0.009 |  356.329 |              0 | statement block
      1 |             0 | body        |         1 |      7 |  5244141801870714068 |          1 |              0 |    159.998 |  159.998 |  249.678 |              0 | FOR over SELECT rows
      2 |             1 | loop body   |         1 |      9 |  4704117640272101272 |    1000002 |              0 |      89.68 |    0.001 |    0.236 |              0 | assignment
      3 |             0 | body        |         2 |     11 |                      |          1 |              0 |     41.715 |   41.715 |  106.642 |              0 | FOR with integer loop variable
      4 |             3 | loop body   |         1 |     13 | -8156123798940658127 |    1000000 |              0 |     64.927 |    0.001 |    0.021 |              0 | assignment
      5 |             0 | body        |         3 |     15 |                      |          1 |              0 |          0 |        0 |        0 |              0 | RETURN

Really nice. This was only about the basics, there is much more information on the GitHub page or on Pavel’s blog, e.g. here.