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Complete SQL Tutorial for Beginners in 2024

SQL (Structured Query Language) has been around for decades and is a powerful language used to manage and manipulate data. If you’ve wanted to learn SQL but don’t know where to start, you’ve come to the right place! This ultimate guide to SQL is the perfect step-by-step SQL tutorial for beginners in 2024. You’ll learn SQL basics, how to write queries, and more advanced topics such as managing databases, creating tables, and using views through this SQL server tutorial. With the help of this guide, you’ll be able to confidently use SQL to store and retrieve data for your projects. So, let’s get started!

What is the Difference Between SQL and NoSQL?

SQL (Structured Query Language) is a server language used to store and manage data. It’s often used in conjunction with relational databases, which store data in tables with columns and rows. 

SQL is a type of database management language (DBML) that is structured, meaning that it follows a set format and rules. There are several different types of DBMLs, including SQL, NoSQL, and NewSQL. NoSQL is a type of DBML that does not include SQL. It’s a more open-ended language, meaning it can be applied to various data models, unlike SQL, which is more structured and works best with relational data models. NewSQL, on the other hand, is a more modern version of SQL that includes some updates, such as new data types.

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Setting up a Database for your Project

The first step in any SQL tutorial is learning to set up a database for your project. If you’re using a cloud database service such as Firebase, you don’t need to set up your own database. But if you’re working on a project that requires a local database, there are a few things you need to do. 

  • First, open your command line and navigate to your project’s directory using the “cd” command (e.g., cd Desktop/myProject/). 
  • Create a database using the following SQL query: CREATE DATABASE ‘myDatabaseName’.
  • You can then close the command line and open your preferred SQL editor, such as Visual Studio Code or SQL Server Management Studio.

Once you have set up your database, now you can get behind SQL basics and try around different queries and commands to see them in action in real time. 

How to Write SQL Queries

Now, let’s talk about how to write basic SQL queries. 

Every SQL query has three basic parts: The SELECT clause, the FROM clause, and the WHERE clause. 

The SELECT clause is where you specify which data you’d like to retrieve. The FROM clause specifies the tables from where you can retrieve the data. The WHERE clause specifies which conditions the data must meet to be included in the results.

Here’s an example of a simple SELECT query: 

SELECT * FROM ‘customers’; 

This query will pull all customers from the ‘customers’ table. Here’s another example: 

SELECT ‘firstName’, ‘lastName’ FROM ‘customers’ WHERE ‘customers’. ’state’ = ‘Texas’; 

This query will select the firstName and lastName fields from the ‘customers’ table and only include customers who live in Texas.

You can build on these basic queries and execute more complex and interlinked commands as well, depending on what you wish to achieve. However, the basic structure of all of those SQL queries will also be the same as described above. The syntax remains the same!

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The Basics of Creating Tables, Views, and Indexes

Now that we have briefly gone through some SQL basics, especially executing queries, let’s take this SQL tutorial to the next level and talk about tables, views, and indexes. Starting with tables. 

Creating tables in SQL is easy – you just need to use the CREATE TABLE query and specify the table name and its columns. For example: 

CREATE TABLE ‘customers’ ( ‘id’ INT PRIMARY KEY, ‘firstName’ VARCHAR(40) NOT NULL, ‘lastName’ VARCHAR(40) NOT NULL, ‘state’ VARCHAR(40) NOT NULL, ‘emailAddress’ VARCHAR(40) NOT NULL ) 

Here is a breakdown of the query mentioned above: 

  • Using the query, we are creating a table by the name ‘customers’.
  • The table has the following attributes (or columns):

1. Id – with data type as ‘int’. This attribute is also a Primary Key, which means that one cannot leave this detail empty while filling the table and also that this attribute will be used while referencing this table from some other table. 

2.firstName – with data type as ‘varchar’ with a maximum length of 40 characters. This attribute is set as Not Null, which implies that this field also cannot be left empty. 

3. Likewise, lastName, state, and emailAddress are three more attributes with the same properties as the firstName attribute.

Once you’ve created the table, you can insert data into it using the INSERT INTO query, like

INSERT INTO ‘customers’ (‘id’, ‘firstName’, ‘lastName’, ‘state’, ‘emailAddress’) VALUES (1, ‘John’, ‘Doe’, ‘Texas’, ‘john.doe@example.com’); 

You can also delete tables by using the DROP TABLE query like so: DROP TABLE ‘customers’; 

Now, let’s talk about views. Views are basically tables that exist only in SQL’s memory. Views are helpful because they can be used to manipulate data without actually modifying the original data. 

Let’s say you have a table with customers’ information called ‘customers’, and you want to know the average age of all customers. To do this, you can create a view called ‘averageAge’ that sums up the ages of all customers and divides the total by the number of customers.

Likewise, you can also create indexes. Indexes can be thought of as a tool to retrieve data from the database in a faster manner. The users cannot see the indexes, they are just in order to speed up searches/queries. You can do this by using the following syntax: 

CREATE INDEX index_name ON table_name (column1, column2, …);

Advanced topics in SQL: Using Transactions and Stored Procedures

Transactions allow you to group multiple SQL queries together so that they only succeed or fail as a whole. This is useful if you need to run multiple queries because they might interact with each other and cause problems if they’re not grouped together. 

You can start a transaction using the BEGIN TRANSACTION query and end it using the COMMIT TRANSACTION query. You can also use the ROLLBACK TRANSACTION query to end the transaction and discard any changes. 

You can use a stored procedure if you need to group multiple queries together. Just like you would use a function in other programming languages, a stored procedure is a piece of code you can use in SQL. You can create a stored procedure using the CREATE PROCEDURE query and end it using the DROP PROCEDURE query.

How to Optimize your SQL Queries for Better Performance

Now that you know SQL basics and how to write queries, let’s talk about how to optimize your SQL queries for better performance. 

  • Ensure your data is organized and your tables aren’t too large. Large tables can cause your queries to run slowly, as well as cause potential issues with your database. 
  • Make sure that your indexes are created correctly. If your data is relational, then indexes can help speed up your queries. 
  • Since the database engine processes SQL queries, make sure that your database engine is optimized and fast. Optimize your database engine by adjusting its settings, such as the number of concurrent connections, thread settings, and CPUs.

SQL Resources for Beginners

Now that you’ve reached the end of this SQL guide, you’re well on your way to becoming an SQL pro! If you’d like to continue learning, there are a few resources that you can check out. The first one is named “Learn SQL the Hard Way”. This resource is a complete step-by-step guide that teaches you everything you need about SQL. It even includes exercises at the end of each chapter to help you practice what you’ve learned. Another great resource is the “W3Schools SQL Tutorial”. This website also has a comprehensive SQL tutorial that’s easy to understand and follow. 

In Conclusion

We gave you a complete yet brief overview of SQL in this article. The idea is to help you get started in your SQL journey so that you get comfortable handling projects. After all, SQL (or database management, in general) sits at the core of any software development endeavor. This is especially true if you’re aspiring to become a full stack developer – because then, you would be expected to know and be comfortable working on front-end and back-end, as well as performing database management activities. 

At upGrad, we understand the importance of full-stack development in today’s day and age and also believe that a well-rounded full-stack developer needs proper training and practice on all important fronts. In line with that, we have launched a 13-month Executive Post Graduate Program in Software Development – Full Stack Development. The course takes you through the world of full-stack development, accompanied by industry experts and leaders. 

Check out the course for more details, and get yourself enrolled soon! 

What is SQL used for?

SQL is a database management language used for managing and manipulating data stored in structured formats – i.e., tables. This common database language greatly assists in inputting and retrieving valuable data from databases.

Is there any alternative to SQL?

Different tools are built on top of SQL, but SQL remains the core of managing structured data. While there are no alternatives to SQL in terms of interacting with relational databases, many alternatives are available to incorporate SQL in your applications easily. These include HaskellDB, ScalaQL, etc.

Can someone without a computer background understand SQL?

SQL is highly intuitive and easy to learn. With some disciplined practice, you can easily start working with SQL and keep learning it, regardless of your academic background, as long as you have the motivation and will to do it.

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