8.6. mysql — The MySQL Command-Line Tool

MySQL 5.0

8.6. mysql — The MySQL Command-Line Tool

mysql is a simple SQL shell (with GNU capabilities). It supports interactive and non-interactive use. When used interactively, query results are presented in an ASCII-table format. When used non-interactively (for example, as a filter), the result is presented in tab-separated format. The output format can be changed using command options.

If you have problems due to insufficient memory for large result sets, use the option. This forces mysql to retrieve results from the server a row at a time rather than retrieving the entire result set and buffering it in memory before displaying it. This is done by returning the result set using the C API function in the client/server library rather than .

Using mysql is very easy. Invoke it from the prompt of your command interpreter as follows:



shell>  --password= 

Then type an SQL statement, end it with ‘’, , or and press Enter.

You can execute SQL statements in a script file (batch file) like this:

shell>  <  > 

8.6.1. mysql Options

mysql supports the following options:

  • ,

    Display a help message and exit.

  • Enable automatic rehashing. This option is on by default, which enables table and column name completion. Use to disable rehashing. That causes mysql to start faster, but you must issue the command if you want to use table and column name completion.

  • ,

    Print results using tab as the column separator, with each row on a new line. With this option, mysql does not use the history file.

  • The directory where character sets are installed. See Section 5.11.1, “The Character Set Used for Data and Sorting”.

  • Write column names in results.

  • ,

    Compress all information sent between the client and the server if both support compression.

  • ,

    The database to use. This is useful primarily in an option file.

  • ], ]

    Write a debugging log. The string often is '. The default is .

  • ,

    Print some debugging information when the program exits.

  • Use as the default character set. See Section 5.11.1, “The Character Set Used for Data and Sorting”.

  • Set the statement delimiter. The default is the semicolon character (‘’).

  • ,

    Execute the statement and quit. The default output format is like that produced with . See Section 4.3.1, “Using Options on the Command Line”, for some examples.

  • ,

    Continue even if an SQL error occurs.

  • ,

    Connect to the MySQL server on the given host.

  • ,

    Produce HTML output.

  • ,

    Ignore spaces after function names. The effect of this is described in the discussion for the SQL mode (see Section 5.2.5, “The Server SQL Mode”).

  • Write line numbers for errors. Disable this with .

  • Enable or disable capability for . With no value, the option enables . The option may be given as or to explicitly disable or enable . Enabling has no effect if the server does not also support it.

  • ,

    Enable named mysql commands. Long-format commands are allowed, not just short-format commands. For example, and both are recognized. Use to disable named commands. See Section 8.6.2, “mysql Commands”.

  • ,

    Deprecated form of . See the description for .

  • ,

    Do not beep when errors occur.

  • ,

    Disable named commands. Use the form only, or use named commands only at the beginning of a line ending with a semicolon (‘’). mysql starts with this option enabled by default. However, even with this option, long-format commands still work from the first line. See Section 8.6.2, “mysql Commands”.

  • Deprecated form of . See the option.

  • Do not copy output to a file. Section 8.6.2, “mysql Commands”, discusses tee files further.

  • ,

    Ignore statements except those for the default database named on the command line. This is useful for skipping updates to other databases in the binary log.

  • ]

    Use the given command for paging query output. If the command is omitted, the default pager is the value of your environment variable. Valid pagers are less, more, cat [> filename], and so forth. This option works only on Unix. It does not work in batch mode. To disable paging, use . Section 8.6.2, “mysql Commands”, discusses output paging further.

  • ], ]

    The password to use when connecting to the server. If you use the short option form (), you cannot have a space between the option and the password. If you omit the value following the or option on the command line, you are prompted for one.

    Specifying a password on the command line should be considered insecure. See Section 5.9.6, “Keeping Your Password Secure”.

  • ,

    The TCP/IP port number to use for the connection.

  • Set the prompt to the specified format. The default is . The special sequences that the prompt can contain are described in Section 8.6.2, “mysql Commands”.

  • The connection protocol to use.

  • ,

    Do not cache each query result, print each row as it is received. This may slow down the server if the output is suspended. With this option, mysql does not use the history file.

  • ,

    Write column values without escape conversion. Often used with the option.

  • If the connection to the server is lost, automatically try to reconnect. A single reconnect attempt is made each time the connection is lost. To suppress reconnection behavior, use .

  • , ,

    Allow only those and statements that specify which rows to modify by using key values. If you have set this option in an option file, you can override it by using on the command line. See Section 8.6.5, “mysql Tips”, for more information about this option.

  • Do not send passwords to the server in old (pre-4.1.1) format. This prevents connections except for servers that use the newer password format.

  • Cause warnings to be shown after each statement if there are any. This option applies to interactive and batch mode. This option was added in MySQL 5.0.6.

  • Ignore signals (typically the result of typing Control-C).

  • ,

    Silent mode. Produce less output. This option can be given multiple times to produce less and less output.

  • ,

    Do not write column names in results.

  • ,

    Do not write line numbers for errors. Useful when you want to compare result files that include error messages.

  • ,

    For connections to , the Unix socket file to use, or, on Windows, the name of the named pipe to use.

  • Options that begin with specify whether to connect to the server via SSL and indicate where to find SSL keys and certificates. See Section, “SSL Command Options”.

  • ,

    Display output in table format. This is the default for interactive use, but can be used to produce table output in batch mode.

  • Append a copy of output to the given file. This option does not work in batch mode. in Section 8.6.2, “mysql Commands”, discusses tee files further.

  • ,

    Flush the buffer after each query.

  • ,

    The MySQL username to use when connecting to the server.

  • ,

    Verbose mode. Produce more output about what the program does. This option can be given multiple times to produce more and more output. (For example, produces table output format even in batch mode.)

  • ,

    Display version information and exit.

  • ,

    Print query output rows vertically (one line per column value). Without this option, you can specify vertical output for individual statements by terminating them with .

  • ,

    If the connection cannot be established, wait and retry instead of aborting.

  • ,

    Produce XML output.

You can also set the following variables by using = syntax:

  • The number of seconds before connection timeout. (Default value is .)

  • The maximum packet length to send to or receive from the server. (Default value is 16MB.)

  • The automatic limit for rows in a join when using . (Default value is 1,000,000.)

  • The buffer size for TCP/IP and socket communication. (Default value is 16KB.)

  • The automatic limit for statements when using . (Default value is 1,000.)

It is also possible to set variables by using = or = syntax. This syntax is deprecated.

On Unix, the mysql client writes a record of executed statements to a history file. By default, the history file is named and is created in your home directory. To specify a different file, set the value of the environment variable.

If you do not want to maintain a history file, first remove if it exists, and then use either of the following techniques:

  • Set the variable to . To cause this setting to take effect each time you log in, put the setting in one of your shell's startup files.

  • Create as a symbolic link to :


    You need do this only once.

8.6.2. mysql Commands

mysql sends each SQL statement that you issue to the server to be executed. There is also a set of commands that mysql itself interprets. For a list of these commands, type or at the prompt:


List of all MySQL commands:
Note that all text commands must be first on line and end with ';'
?         (\?) Synonym for `help'.
clear     (\c) Clear command.
connect   (\r) Reconnect to the server. Optional arguments are db and host.
delimiter (\d) Set statement delimiter. NOTE: Takes the rest of the line as
               new delimiter.
edit      (\e) Edit command with $EDITOR.
ego       (\G) Send command to mysql server, display result vertically.
exit      (\q) Exit mysql. Same as quit.
go        (\g) Send command to mysql server.
help      (\h) Display this help.
nopager   (\n) Disable pager, print to stdout.
notee     (\t) Don't write into outfile.
pager     (\P) Set PAGER [to_pager]. Print the query results via PAGER.
print     (\p) Print current command.
prompt    (\R) Change your mysql prompt.
quit      (\q) Quit mysql.
rehash    (\#) Rebuild completion hash.
source    (\.) Execute an SQL script file. Takes a file name as an argument.
status    (\s) Get status information from the server.
system    (\!) Execute a system shell command.
tee       (\T) Set outfile [to_outfile]. Append everything into given
use       (\u) Use another database. Takes database name as argument.
charset   (\C) Switch to another charset. Might be needed for processing binlog with multi-byte charsets.
warnings  (\W) Show warnings after every statement.
nowarning (\w) Don't show warnings after every statement.

For server side help, type 'help contents'

Each command has both a long and short form. The long form is not case sensitive; the short form is. The long form can be followed by an optional semicolon terminator, but the short form should not.

If you provide an argument to the command, mysql uses it as a search string to access server-side help from the contents of the MySQL Reference Manual. For more information, see Section 8.6.3, “mysql Server-Side Help”.

In the command, you should avoid the use of the backslash (‘’) character because that is the escape character for MySQL.

The edit, nopager, pager, and system commands work only in Unix.

The command provides some information about the connection and the server you are using. If you are running in mode, also prints the values for the mysql variables that affect your queries.

To log queries and their output, use the tee command. All the data displayed on the screen is appended into a given file. This can be very useful for debugging purposes also. You can enable this feature on the command line with the option, or interactively with the tee command. The tee file can be disabled interactively with the notee command. Executing tee again re-enables logging. Without a parameter, the previous file is used. Note that tee flushes query results to the file after each statement, just before mysql prints its next prompt.

By using the option, it is possible to browse or search query results in interactive mode with Unix programs such as less, more, or any other similar program. If you specify no value for the option, mysql checks the value of the environment variable and sets the pager to that. Output paging can be enabled interactively with the pager command and disabled with nopager. The command takes an optional argument; if given, the paging program is set to that. With no argument, the pager is set to the pager that was set on the command line, or if no pager was specified.

Output paging works only in Unix because it uses the function, which does not exist on Windows. For Windows, the tee option can be used instead to save query output, although this is not as convenient as pager for browsing output in some situations.

Here are a few tips about the pager command:

  • You can use it to write to a file and the results go only to the file:


    You can also pass any options for the program that you want to use as your pager:

  • In the preceding example, note the option. You may find it very useful for browsing wide query results. Sometimes a very wide result set is difficult to read on the screen. The option to less can make the result set much more readable because you can scroll it horizontally using the left-arrow and right-arrow keys. You can also use interactively within less to switch the horizontal-browse mode on and off. For more information, read the less manual page:

  • You can specify very complex pager commands for handling query output:


    In this example, the command would send query results to two files in two different directories on two different filesystems mounted on and , yet still display the results onscreen via less.

You can also combine the tee and pager functions. Have a tee file enabled and pager set to less, and you are able to browse the results using the less program and still have everything appended into a file the same time. The difference between the Unix tee used with the pager command and the mysql built-in tee command is that the built-in tee works even if you do not have the Unix tee available. The built-in tee also logs everything that is printed on the screen, whereas the Unix tee used with pager does not log quite that much. Additionally, tee file logging can be turned on and off interactively from within mysql. This is useful when you want to log some queries to a file, but not others.

The default prompt can be reconfigured. The string for defining the prompt can contain the following special sequences:

Option Description
The server version
The default database
The server host
The current TCP/IP port or socket file
Your username
Your full @ account name
A literal ‘’ backslash character
A newline character
A tab character
A space (a space follows the backslash)
A space
The current time, in 24-hour military time (0-23)
The current time, standard 12-hour time (1-12)
Minutes of the current time
The current year, two digits
The current year, four digits
The full current date
Seconds of the current time
The current day of the week in three-letter format (Mon, Tue, …)
The current month in numeric format
The current month in three-letter format (Jan, Feb, …)
A counter that increments for each statement you issue
The current delimiter. (New in 5.0.25)
Single quote
Double quote

’ followed by any other letter just becomes that letter.

If you specify the command with no argument, mysql resets the prompt to the default of .

You can set the prompt in several ways:

  • Use an environment variable. You can set the environment variable to a prompt string. For example:

  • Use a command-line option. You can set the option on the command line to mysql. For example:

    ([email protected]) [database]>
  • Use an option file. You can set the option in the group of any MySQL option file, such as or the file in your home directory. For example:

    prompt=(\\[email protected]\\h) [\\d]>\\_

    In this example, note that the backslashes are doubled. If you set the prompt using the option in an option file, it is advisable to double the backslashes when using the special prompt options. There is some overlap in the set of allowable prompt options and the set of special escape sequences that are recognized in option files. (These sequences are listed in Section 4.3.2, “Using Option Files”.) The overlap may cause you problems if you use single backslashes. For example, is interpreted as a space rather than as the current seconds value. The following example shows how to define a prompt within an option file to include the current time in format:

    prompt="\\r:\\m:\\s> "
  • Set the prompt interactively. You can change your prompt interactively by using the (or ) command. For example:

    PROMPT set to '(\[email protected]\h) [\d]>\_'
    (@) []>
    (@) []> prompt
    Returning to default PROMPT of mysql>