Skip to main content
Version: 4.12.0

Usage - Schema Only

The PostGraphile middleware gives you a lot of excellent features for running your own GraphQL server. However, if you want to execute a PostGraphile query in Node.js without having to go through HTTP you can use some other exported functions that PostGraphile provides.

To see an example, check out the Graphile Cookbook Schema Only Example.

If you're looking for Apollo Client SSR support for PostGraphile without a network roundtrip, check out GraphileApolloLink in Graphile Starter.

The first function you will need is createPostGraphileSchema (or watchPostGraphileSchema if you want to get a new schema each time the database is updated) which creates your PostGraphile GraphQL schema by introspecting your database.

The function takes very similar arguments to the postgraphile middleware.

process.env.DATABASE_URL || 'postgres:///'
.then(schema => { ... })
.catch(error => { ... })

Now that you have your schema, in order to execute a GraphQL query you must supply an (authenticated) pgClient on the context object. The preferred way to do this is via the asynchronous withPostGraphileContext function. The context object will contain a PostgreSQL client which has its own transaction with the correct permission levels for the associated user.

const { Pool } = require('pg');
const { graphql } = require('graphql');
const { withPostGraphileContext } = require('postgraphile');

const myPgPool = new Pool({ ... });

export async function performQuery(
) {
return await withPostGraphileContext(
pgPool: myPgPool,
jwtToken: jwtToken,
jwtSecret: "...",
pgDefaultRole: "..."
async context => {
// Execute your GraphQL query in this function with the provided
// `context` object, which should NOT be used outside of this
// function.
return await graphql(
schema, // The schema from `createPostGraphileSchema`
{ ...context }, // You can add more to context if you like

(The await keywords after the return statements aren't required, they're just there to clarify the results are promises.)

API: createPostGraphileSchema(pgConfig, schemaName, options)

This function takes three arguments (all are optional) and returns a promise to a GraphQLSchema object.

The returned GraphQLSchema will not be updated when your database changes - if you require "watch" functionality, please use watchPostGraphileSchema instead (see below). The below options are valid for [email protected].

  • pgConfig: An object or string that will be passed to the [pg][] library and used to connect to a PostgreSQL backend. If you already have a client or pool instance, when using this function you may also pass a pg client or a pg-pool instance directly instead of a config.
  • schemaName: A string which specifies the PostgreSQL schema that PostGraphile will use to create a GraphQL schema. The default schema is the public schema. May be an array for multiple schemas.
  • options: An object containing other miscellaneous options. Most options are shared with the postgraphile middleware function. Options could be:
    • ownerConnectionString: Connection string to use to connect to the database as a privileged user (e.g. for setting up watch fixtures, logical decoding, etc).
    • subscriptions: Enable GraphQL websocket transport support for subscriptions (you still need a subscriptions plugin currently)
    • live: [EXPERIMENTAL] Enables live-query support via GraphQL subscriptions (sends updated payload any time nested collections/records change)
    • websockets: Choose which websocket transport libraries to use. Use commas to define multiple. Defaults to ['v0', 'v1'] if subscriptions or live are true, [] otherwise
    • websocketOperations: Toggle which GraphQL websocket transport operations are supported: 'subscriptions' or 'all'. Defaults to subscriptions
    • pgDefaultRole: The default Postgres role to use. If no role was provided in a provided JWT token, this role will be used.
    • dynamicJson: By default, JSON and JSONB fields are presented as strings (JSON encoded) from the GraphQL schema. Setting this to true (recommended) enables raw JSON input and output, saving the need to parse / stringify JSON manually.
    • setofFunctionsContainNulls: If none of your RETURNS SETOF compound_type functions mix NULLs with the results then you may set this false to reduce the nullables in the GraphQL schema.
    • classicIds: Enables classic ids for Relay support. Instead of using the field name nodeId for globally unique ids, PostGraphile will instead use the field name id for its globally unique ids. This means that table id columns will also get renamed to rowId.
    • disableDefaultMutations: Setting this to true will prevent the creation of the default mutation types & fields. Database mutation will only be possible through Postgres functions.
    • ignoreRBAC: Set false (recommended) to exclude fields, queries and mutations that are not available to any possible user (determined from the user in connection string and any role they can become); set this option true to skip these checks and create GraphQL fields and types for everything. The default is true, in v5 the default will change to false.
    • ignoreIndexes: Set false (recommended) to exclude filters, orderBy, and relations that would be expensive to access due to missing indexes. Changing this from true to false is a breaking change, but false to true is not, so we recommend you start with it set to false. The default is true, in v5 the default may change to false.
    • includeExtensionResources: By default, tables and functions that come from extensions are excluded from the generated GraphQL schema as general applications don't need them to be exposed to the end user. You can use this flag to include them in the generated schema (not recommended).
    • appendPlugins: An array of Graphile Engine schema plugins to load after the default plugins.
    • prependPlugins: An array of Graphile Engine schema plugins to load before the default plugins (you probably don't want this).
    • replaceAllPlugins: The full array of Graphile Engine schema plugins to use for schema generation (you almost definitely don't want this!).
    • skipPlugins: An array of Graphile Engine schema plugins to skip.
    • readCache: A file path string or an object. Reads cached values to improve startup time (you may want to do this in production).
    • writeCache: A file path string. Writes computed values to local cache file so startup can be faster (do this during the build phase).
    • jwtSecret: The secret for your JSON web tokens. This will be used to verify tokens in the Authorization header, and signing JWT tokens you return in procedures.
    • jwtPublicKey: The public key to verify the JWT when signed with RS265 or ES256 algorithms.
    • jwtSignOptions: Options with which to perform JWT signing - see
    • jwtPgTypeIdentifier: The Postgres type identifier for the compound type which will be signed as a JWT token if ever found as the return type of a procedure. Can be of the form: my_schema.my_type. You may use quotes as needed: "my-special-schema".my_type.
    • legacyRelations: Some one-to-one relations were previously detected as one-to-many - should we export 'only' the old relation shapes, both new and old but mark the old ones as 'deprecated' (default), or 'omit' (recommended) the old relation shapes entirely.
    • legacyJsonUuid: ONLY use this option if you require the v3 typenames 'Json' and 'Uuid' over 'JSON' and 'UUID'.
    • simpleCollections: Should we use relay pagination, or simple collections? "omit" (default) - relay connections only, "only" (not recommended) - simple collections only (no Relay connections), "both" - both.

API: watchPostGraphileSchema(pgConfig, schemaName, options, onNewSchema)

This function takes the same options as createPostGraphileSchema; but with one addition: a function onNewSchema that is called every time a new schema is generated, passing the new schema as the first argument. onNewSchema is guaranteed to be called before the watchPostGraphileSchema promise resolves. It resolves to an asynchronus function that can be called to stop listening for schema changes.

async function main() {
let graphqlSchema;
const releaseWatcher = await watchPostGraphileSchema(
(newSchema) => {
console.log("Generated new GraphQL schema");
graphqlSchema = newSchema;
// graphqlSchema is **guaranteed** to be set here.

// ... do stuff with graphqlSchema

await releaseWatcher();

API: withPostGraphileContext(options, callback)

This function sets up a PostGraphile context, calls (and resolves) the callback function within this context, and then tears the context back down again finally resolving to the result of your function (which should be a GraphQLExecutionResult from executing a graphql() query).

  • options: An object of options that are used to create the context object that gets passed into callback.
    • pgPool: A required instance of a Postgres pool from pg-pool. A Postgres client will be connected from this pool.
    • jwtToken: An optional JWT token string. This JWT token represents the viewer of your PostGraphile schema. You might get this from the Authorization header.
    • jwtSecret: see 'jwtSecret' above
    • jwtAudiences: see 'jwtAudiences' above
    • jwtRole: see 'jwtRole' in the library documentation
    • jwtVerifyOptions: see 'jwtVerifyOptions' in the library documentation
    • pgDefaultRole: see 'pgDefaultRole' in the library documentation
    • pgSettings: A plain object specifying custom config values to set in the PostgreSQL transaction (accessed via current_setting('my.custom.setting')) - do NOT provide a function unlike with the library options
  • callback: The function which is called with the context object which was created. Whatever the return value of this function is will be the return value of withPostGraphileContext.

Even lower level access

If you really want to get into the nitty-gritty of what's going on, then take a look at the postgraphile-core and graphile-build-pg modules.

Calling a resolver from a resolver

You can issue GraphQL requests from various contexts, including within a resolver. To do so you need the following:

  • Access to the graphql function from the graphql module
    • In a PostGraphile plugin, if you have access to the build object (which you usually will), you should get this from build.graphql.graphql
    • Failing that, you can import { graphql } from 'graphql' or const { graphql } = require('graphql'), but this has caveats.
  • A reference to the GraphQL schema object. You can get this from many sources:
    • in a resolver, you should extract it from info.schema
    • if you have access to the PostGraphile middleware, you can issue await postgraphileMiddleware.getGqlSchema()
    • if you don't need the PostGraphile middleware, you can use await createPostGraphileSchema(...) - see schema only usage - do this once and cache it because it's expensive to compute
  • A GraphQL operation (aka query, but includes mutations, subscriptions) to execute; this can be a string or an AST
  • The variables to feed to the operation (if necessary)
  • A valid GraphQL context for PostGraphile
    • inside a resolver, you can just pass the resolver's context straight through
    • in other situations, have a look at withPostGraphileContext in the schema only usage

Issuing a GraphQL operation from inside a resolver example:

* Assuming you have access to a `build` object, e.g. inside a
* `makeExtendSchemaPlugin`, you can extract the `graphql` function
* from the `graphql` library here like so:
const {
graphql: { graphql },
} = build;
* Failing the above: `import { graphql } from 'graphql';` but beware of
* duplicate `graphql` modules in your `node_modules` causing issues.

async function myResolver(parent, args, context, info) {
// Whatever GraphQL query you wish to issue:
const document = /* GraphQL */ `
query MyQuery($userId: Int!) {
userById(id: $userId) {
// The name of the operation in your query document (optional)
const operationName = "MyQuery";
// The variables for the query
const variables = { userId: args.userId };

const { data, errors } = await graphql(

// TODO: error handling

return data.userById.username;

Server-side TypeScript support

PostGraphile takes care of building and serving a GraphQL API for various clients to use. But it is not only possible to use the API from external clients, it is also possible to use the GraphQL API from within its own backend.

High-level overview:

  • use graphql-code-generator to create TypeScript types for our GraphQL schema
  • use the generated types to query/mutate your data
  • optional: use a Visual Studio Code extension to get IntelliSense

TypeScript code generation

We use the GraphQL code generator tools to create the TypeScript types in our backend code.

The following npm packages will create TypeScript types:

  • @graphql-codegen/cli - the CLI tool to create the types
  • @graphql-codegen/typescript - create the TypeScript types. This is the main package that we need
  • @graphql-codegen/typescript-operations - generates types for queries/mutations/fragments
  • optionally add a client specific generator: e.g. @graphql-codegen/typescript-urql

Steps to get the backend typing support:

  1. Start the development like described in the above section. Follow all the steps to create your GraphQL API with all needed schemas, tables, roles, etc.
  2. Configure PostGraphile to export the GraphQL schema:
    exportGqlSchemaPath: './src/generated/schema.graphql'
  3. Start the project to let PostGraphile create the initial schema.graphql file. Since it's generated you can exclude this file from source control if you want to, but it is handy to see differences in the schema during check-ins and is useful for other tooling such as eslint-plugin-graphql.
  4. Import the mentioned npm packages. You can find more plugins on their website in the Plugins section.
  5. Create a file codegen.yml in the root of your workspace.
    overwrite: true
    schema: "./src/generated/schema.graphql"
    # Creates the TypeScript types from the schema and any .graphql file
    documents: "src/**/*.graphql"
    - typescript
    - typescript-operations
    - typescript-urql
    withHOC: false
    withComponent: false
    withMutationFn: false
    DateTime: "string"
    JSON: "{ [key: string]: any }"
  6. Run graphql-codegen --config codegen.yml to generate the types.
  7. The generated types can now be used in your custom business logic code.


We have a movie table that we want to query from our backend system.

We can write a small GraphQL query file similar to this. It could be stored in ./src/graphql/getMovies.graphql. (NOTE: this example uses the @graphile-contrib/pg-simplify-inflector plugin, your query might need to differ.)

query GetMovies($top: Int!) {
movies(first: $top) {
nodes {

Save the file and run the code generation task.

Alternatively we can create some inline query directly in code like this:

import { makeExtendSchemaPlugin, gql } from "graphile-utils";

// inside some function:

const GetMoviesDocument = gql`
query Query {
movies(first: 3) {
nodes {

The query can then be used in your code via the generated types or inline. Please see further down on why there is a need for gql as gqlExtend.

import { makeExtendSchemaPlugin, gql, gql as gqlExtend } from 'graphile-utils';
import { Build } from 'postgraphile';
import {
} from '../../generated/types';

// doc:
export const BusinessLogicPlugin = makeExtendSchemaPlugin((build: Build) => {
const { graphql } = build;
return {
typeDefs: gqlExtend`
extend type Query {
topMovieTitles: [String!]
resolvers: {
Query: {
topMovieTitles: async (query, args, context, resolveInfo) => {
// Alternatively defined the query inline with intellisense support:
const inlineGetMoviesDocument = gql`
query Query {
movies(first: 3) {
nodes {
const variables: GetMoviesQueryVariables = {
top: 3,

// execute the query
const queryResult = await graphql.execute<GetMoviesQuery>(
GetMoviesDocument, // or: inlineGetMoviesDocument,

if (queryResult.errors) {
// do something in error case
throw queryResult.errors[0];
} else {
// the result can then be used to get the returned data
const allTitles =
movie => movie?.title,

return allTitles;

GraphQL IntelliSense

The above mentioned steps provide strong typing support. If you are developing your code with VisualStudio Code you can get IntelliSense support both in .graphql files and in inline defined gql` template strings.

There are multiple extensions in the VSCode marketplace but this guide is written for the Apollo GraphQL extension.

Install the extension and if needed reload VSCode.

Add a file "apollo.config.js" into the root of your workspace with the following content:

module.exports = {
client: {
excludes: [
includes: ["src/**/*.{ts,tsx,js,jsx,graphql,gql}"],
service: {
name: "client",
localSchemaFile: "./src/generated/schema.graphql",
  • localSchemaFile: this must point to the schema created by PostGraphile
  • excludes: this must exclude the node_modules folder and any tests. It must also exclude the generated schema.graphql and any code that was generated based on that schema.
  • includes: it should include any file for which you want to have IntelliSense. That is at least .ts and .graphql but potentially more.

This will support syntax highlighting in your files. BUT - we have a problem. If we adjust our schema e.g. via makeExtendSchemaPlugin we define some custom extension to the automatically generated GraphQL schema. That means that the Apollo extension will find this extension both in the generated schema.graphql file as well as in the file with your makeExtendSchemaPlugin. Then it complains that this is not unique and will stop working. So we have to find a solution for that.

We should exclude our type extensions from IntelliSense. To do this we can create a custom mapping to have the gql template string available as the normal "gql" but also as a second custom variable like "gql as gqlExtend". Then we can write our GraphQL schema extension by using the "gqlExtend" template string and any inline query by using the normal "gql" template string.

An example could look like this:

// get gql as two different variables
import { makeExtendSchemaPlugin, gql, gql as gqlExtend } from "graphile-utils";
import { Build } from "postgraphile";

export const MyPlugin = makeExtendSchemaPlugin((build: Build) => {
const { graphql } = build;
return {
// use the "gqlExtend" template string here to extend your GraphQL API:
typeDefs: gqlExtend`
extend type Query {
myExtension: [String!]
resolvers: {
Query: {
myExtension: async (query, args, context, resolveInfo) => {
// use the normal "gql" template string to define your query inline:
const inlineDocument = gql`
query Query {
movies(first: 3) {
nodes {

// continue with your code

Tips and tricks:
This VS code extension was not super stable as of the time of writing. It would crash sometimes if it thought to find conflicting definitions. This happens often when committing code and comparing it side by side or when having a "bad" graphql file/definition.
If it stops working then reload the VSCode extension host by typing Developer: Restart Extension Host in the actions "CTRL+SHIFT+P" field.