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Michael Scharhag
Michael Scharhag is a Java Developer, Blogger and technology enthusiast. Particularly interested in Java related technologies including Java EE, Spring, Groovy and Grails.

Using database views in Grails

This post is a quick explanation on how to use database views in Grails.

For an introduction I tried to summarize what database views are. However, I noticed I cannot describe it better than it is already done on Wikipedia. Therefore I will just quote the Wikipedia summary of View (SQL) here:

In database theory, a view is the result set of a stored query on the data, which the database users can query just as they would in a persistent database collection object. This pre-established query command is kept in the database dictionary. Unlike ordinary base tables in a relational database, a view does not form part of the physical schema: as a result set, it is a virtual table computed or collated from data in the database, dynamically when access to that view is requested. Changes applied to the data in a relevant underlying table are reflected in the data shown in subsequent invocations of the view.



Let’s assume we have a Grails application with the following domain classes:

class User {
  String name
  Address address
class Address {
  String country

For whatever reason we want a domain class that contains direct references to the name and the country of an user. However, we do not want to duplicate these two values in another database table. A view can help us here.

Creating the view

At this point I assume you are already using the Grails database-migration plugin. If you don’t you should clearly check it out. The plugin is automatically included with newer Grails versions and provides a convenient way to manage databases using change sets.

To create a view we just have to create a new change set:

changeSet(author: '..', id: '..') {
      SELECT u.id, u.name, a.country
      FROM user u
      JOIN address a on u.address_id = a.id
    """, viewName: 'user_with_country')

Here we create a view named user_with_country which contains three values: user id, user name and country.

Creating the domain class

Like normal tables views can be mapped to domain classes. The domain class for our view looks very simple:

class UserWithCountry {
  String name
  String country

  static mapping = {
    table 'user_with_country'
    version false

Note that we disable versioning by setting version to false (we don’t have a version column in our view).

At this point we just have to be sure that our database change set is executed before hibernate tries to create/update tables on application start. This is typically be done by disabling the table creation of hibernate in DataSource.groovy and enabling the automatic migration on application start by setting grails.plugin.databasemigration.updateOnStart to
true. Alternatively this can be achieved by manually executing all new changesets by running the dbm-update command.


Now we can use our UserWithCountry class to access the view:

Address johnsAddress = new Address(country: 'england')
User john = new User(name: 'john', address: johnsAddress)
john.save(failOnError: true)

assert UserWithCountry.count() == 1

UserWithCountry johnFromEngland = UserWithCountry.get(john.id)
assert johnFromEngland.name == 'john'
assert johnFromEngland.country == 'england'

Advantages of views

I know the example I am using here is not the best. The relationship between User and Address is already very simple and a view isn’t required here. However, if you have more sophisticated data structures views can be a nice way to hide complex relationships that would require joining a lot of tables. Views can also be used as security measure if you don’t want to expose all columns of your tables to the application.

Reference: Using database views in Grails from our JCG partner Michael Scharhag at the mscharhag, Programming and Stuff blog.
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