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PostGraphile best practices

This guide is a work in progress. If you have ideas for best practices, please use the "Suggest improvements to this page" link above to submit them, or discuss them in #documentation on the PostGraphile Discord chat.

Foreign Key Indexes

PostgreSQL does NOT add indexes to foreign keys by default. This isn't an issue for the forward relation (getting the record that your record belongs to), but for the reverse relation (getting all the records that belong to your record) it can make the lookup very expensive. Always add indexes to your foreign keys.

create table users (id serial primary key);
create table things (id serial primary key, user_id int not null references users);
create index on things (user_id);

Out of the box, if you don't do this then the "reverse relation" will not appear in your GraphQL schema. You can force it to appear by giving the foreign key constraint the +select behavior, or you can disable this behavior by adding disablePlugins: ['PgIndexBehaviorsPlugin'] to your configuration.

Row Level Security

If you're using RLS, it's best to enable it on every table in your database. You should at least enable it on every table in your exposed schemas. It's better to enable RLS and create a policy with using (true) to say "anything goes" than to not enable RLS; this helps your team mates understand intent: when you enable RLS you're being explicit about what access is allowed, whereas if you don't you're just implicitly allowing all access, which could have been an oversight.


The following are fine:

-- ✅ Fine
GRANT SELECT ON users TO graphql_role;
-- ✅ Fine
GRANT INSERT (column_1, column_2, ...) ON users TO graphql_role;
-- ✅ Fine
GRANT UPDATE (column_a, column_b, ...) ON users TO graphql_role;
-- ✅ Fine
GRANT DELETE ON users TO graphql_role;

The following should be avoided:

GRANT SELECT (column_a, column_b) ON users TO graphql_role;
GRANT INSERT ON users TO graphql_role;
GRANT UPDATE ON users TO graphql_role;

Column-level SELECT grants cause a lot of issues not just for PostGraphile:

  • Cannot SELECT * FROM
  • Cannot use RETURNING * on mutations
  • Cannot pass a row type into a function (like we do for computed columns)

Table-level INSERT/UPDATE grants are not advisable because they lack the explicitness that should come from such operations.

Simplify Your GraphQL Field Names

You can get a leg up on this using @graphile/simplify-inflection. The long names PostGraphile uses by default are to try and avoid people getting naming conflicts when they run PostGraphile for the first time. Once you're more comfortable you should move to using shorter names as it's a GraphQL best practice.

Protect Your API

See Production Considerations.

Use LANGUAGE sql Over LANGUAGE plpgsql Where Possible

Performance reasons. Specifically, under many circumstances, functions in SQL (but not plpgsql) can be inlined into the call-site and are thereby transparent to the query planner. The PostgreSQL docs have a lot more details.

Name Triggers With A Numeric Prefix

e.g. _200_do_a_thing / _800_do_something_else

Reason: triggers in PostgreSQL run in lexicographical order.