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Posted 19 Oct 2010


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Using SQLite Database with Android

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4.66/5 (89 votes)
27 May 2013CPOL7 min read
A tutorial on using SQLite on Android


Android default Database engine is Lite. SQLite is a lightweight transactional database engine that occupies a small amount of disk storage and memory, so it's a perfect choice for creating databases on many mobile operating systems such as Android, iOS.

Things to consider when dealing with SQLite:

  1. Data type integrity is not maintained in SQLite, you can put a value of a certain data type in a column of another datatype (put string in an integer and vice versa).
  2. Referential integrity is not maintained in SQLite, there is no FOREIGN KEY constraints or JOIN statements.
  3. SQLite Full Unicode support is optional and not installed by default.

In this tutorial, we will create a simple database application to store employees data. the DB has:


  1. Employees
  2. Dept


  1. ViewEmps: to display employees and their relative departments.


Creating SQLite Database

By default, SQLite on Android does not have a management interface or an application to create and manage databases from, so we're going to create the database ourselves by code. First, we will create a class that handles all the operations required to deal with the database such as creating the database, creating tables, inserting and deleting records and so on. The first step is to create a class that inherits from SQLiteOpenHelper class. This class provides two methods to override to deal with the database:

  1. onCreate(SQLiteDatabase db): invoked when the database is created, this is where we can create tables and columns to them, create views or triggers.
  2. onUpgrade(SQLiteDatabse db, int oldVersion, int newVersion): invoked when we make a modification to the database such as altering, dropping , creating new tables.

Our class will have the following members:

public class DatabaseHelper extends SQLiteOpenHelper {

static final String dbName="demoDB";
static final String employeeTable="Employees";
static final String colID="EmployeeID";
static final String colName="EmployeeName";
static final String colAge="Age";
static final String colDept="Dept";

static final String deptTable="Dept";
static final String colDeptID="DeptID";
static final String colDeptName="DeptName";

static final String viewEmps="ViewEmps";

The Constructor

public DatabaseHelper(Context context) {
  super(context, dbName, null,33); 

The constructor of the super class has the following parameters:

  • Context con: The context attached to the database
  • dataBaseName: The name of the database
  • CursorFactory: Sometimes, we may use a class that extends the Cursor class to implement some extra validations or operations on the queries run on the database. In this case, we pass an instance of CursorFactory to return a reference to our derived class to be used instead of the default cursor. In this example, we are going to use the standard Cursor Interface to retrieve results, so the CursorFactory parameter is going to be null.
  • Version: the version of the schema of the database. The constructor creates a new blank database with the specified name and version.

Creating the Database

The first superclass method to override is onCreate(SQLiteDatabase db):

public void onCreate(SQLiteDatabase db) {
  // TODO Auto-generated method stub
  db.execSQL("CREATE TABLE "+deptTable+" ("+colDeptID+ " INTEGER PRIMARY KEY , "+
    colDeptName+ " TEXT)");
  db.execSQL("CREATE TABLE "+employeeTable+" 
        colName+" TEXT, "+colAge+" Integer, "+colDept+" 
    "+deptTable+" ("+colDeptID+"));");
  db.execSQL("CREATE TRIGGER fk_empdept_deptid " +
    " ON "+employeeTable+
    " SELECT CASE WHEN ((SELECT "+colDeptID+" FROM "+deptTable+" 
    WHERE "+colDeptID+"=new."+colDept+" ) IS NULL)"+
    " THEN RAISE (ABORT,'Foreign Key Violation') END;"+
    "  END;");
  db.execSQL("CREATE VIEW "+viewEmps+
    " AS SELECT "+employeeTable+"."+colID+" AS _id,"+
    " "+employeeTable+"."+colName+","+
    " "+employeeTable+"."+colAge+","+
    " "+deptTable+"."+colDeptName+""+
    " FROM "+employeeTable+" JOIN "+deptTable+
    " ON "+employeeTable+"."+colDept+" ="+deptTable+"."+colDeptID
  //Inserts pre-defined departments

The method creates tables with columns, a view and a trigger. The method is invoked when the database is created. So we create our table and specify the columns. This method is invoked when the database does not exist on the disk, it’s executed only once on the same device the first time the application is run on the device.

Upgrading the Database

Sometimes, we want to upgrade the database by changing the schema, add new tables or change column data types. This is done by overriding the onUpdate(SQLiteDatabase db,int old Version,int newVerison) method:

public void onUpgrade(SQLiteDatabase db, int oldVersion, int newVersion) {
  // TODO Auto-generated method stub
  db.execSQL("DROP TABLE IF EXISTS "+employeeTable);
  db.execSQL("DROP TABLE IF EXISTS "+deptTable);
  db.execSQL("DROP TRIGGER IF EXISTS dept_id_trigger");
  db.execSQL("DROP TRIGGER IF EXISTS dept_id_trigger22");
  db.execSQL("DROP TRIGGER IF EXISTS fk_empdept_deptid");
  db.execSQL("DROP VIEW IF EXISTS "+viewEmps);

This method is invoked when the version number specified in the constructor of the class changes.

When you want to append a change to your database, you must change the version number in the constructor of the class.

So when you pass the constructor a version number of 2:

public DatabaseHelper(Context context) {
  super(context, dbName, null,2);
  // TODO Auto-generated constructor stub

instead of 1:

super(context, dbName, null,2);

the application understands that you want to upgrade the database and onUpgrade method will be invoked. A typical implementation of this method is to drop the tables and create them again with the additional modifications.

Managing Foreign-Key Constraints

We mentioned before that SQLite 3 by default does not support foreign key constraint, however we can force such a constraint using TRIGGERS: we will create a trigger that ensures that when a new Employee is inserted, his/her Dept value is present in the original Dept table. The SQL statement to create such a trigger would be like this:

CREATE TRIGGER fk_empdept_deptid Before INSERT ON Employees 
    THEN RAISE (ABORT,'Foreign Key Violation') END;

In onCreate method, we created this trigger like this:

db.execSQL("CREATE TRIGGER fk_empdept_deptid " +
    " ON "+employeeTable+
    " SELECT CASE WHEN ((SELECT "+colDeptID+" FROM "+deptTable+" _
    WHERE "+colDeptID+"=new."+colDept+" ) IS NULL)"+
    " THEN RAISE (ABORT,'Foreign Key Violation') END;"+
    "  END;");


you can force referential integrity by enabling foreign keys in your database by overriding onOpen method like this:

public void onOpen(SQLiteDatabase db) {
		if (!db.isReadOnly()) {
// Enable foreign key constraints
db.execSQL("PRAGMA foreign_keys=ON;");

Executing SQL Statements

Now let's begin executing basic SQL statements. You can execute any SQL statement that is not a query whether it is insert, delete, update or anything using db.execSQL(String statement) method like when we did when creating the database tables:

db.execSQL("CREATE TABLE "+deptTable+" ("+colDeptID+ " INTEGER PRIMARY KEY , "+
    colDeptName+ " TEXT)");

Inserting Records

We insert records to the database using the following code for example to insert records in the Dept table:

SQLiteDatabase db=this.getWritableDatabase();
 ContentValues cv=new ContentValues();
   cv.put(colDeptID, 1);
   cv.put(colDeptName, "Sales");
   db.insert(deptTable, colDeptID, cv);

   cv.put(colDeptID, 2);
   cv.put(colDeptName, "IT");
   db.insert(deptTable, colDeptID, cv);

Notice that we need to call this.getWritableDatabase() to open the connection with the database for reading/writing. The ContentValues.put has two parameters: Column Name and the value to be inserted. Also, it is a good practice to close the database after executing statements.

Updating Values

To execute an update statement, we have two ways:

  1. To execute db.execSQL
  2. To execute db.update method:
public int UpdateEmp(Employee emp)
   SQLiteDatabase db=this.getWritableDatabase();
   ContentValues cv=new ContentValues();
   cv.put(colName, emp.getName());
   cv.put(colAge, emp.getAge());
   cv.put(colDept, emp.getDept());
   return db.update(employeeTable, cv, colID+"=?", 
    new String []{String.valueOf(emp.getID())});   

The update method has the following parameters:

  1. String Table: The table to update a value in
  2. ContentValues cv: The content values object that has the new values
  3. String where clause: The WHERE clause to specify which record to update
  4. String[] args: The arguments of the WHERE clause

Deleting Rows

As in update to execute a delete statement, we have two ways:

  1. To execute db.execSQL
  2. To execute db.delete method:
public void DeleteEmp(Employee emp)
   SQLiteDatabase db=this.getWritableDatabase();
   db.delete(employeeTable,colID+"=?", new String [] {String.valueOf(emp.getID())});

The delete method has the same parameters as the update method.

Executing Queries

To execute queries, there are two methods:

  1. Execute db.rawQuery method
  2. Execute db.query method

To execute a raw query to retrieve all departments:

Cursor getAllDepts()
   SQLiteDatabase db=this.getReadableDatabase();
   Cursor cur=db.rawQuery("SELECT "+colDeptID+" as _id, 
	"+colDeptName+" from "+deptTable,new String [] {});
   return cur;

The rawQuery method has two parameters:

  1. String query: The select statement
  2. String[] selection args: The arguments if a WHERE clause is included in the select statement


  1. The result of a query is returned in Cursor object.
  2. In a select statement if the primary key column (the id column) of the table has a name other than _id, then you have to use an alias in the form SELECT [Column Name] as _id cause the Cursor object always expects that the primary key column has the name _id or it will throw an exception .

Another way to perform a query is to use a db.query method. A query to select all employees in a certain department from a view would be like this:

public Cursor getEmpByDept(String Dept)
   SQLiteDatabase db=this.getReadableDatabase();
   String [] columns=new String[]{"_id",colName,colAge,colDeptName};
   Cursor c=db.query(viewEmps, columns, colDeptName+"=?", 
	new String[]{Dept}, null, null, null);
   return c;

The db.query has the following parameters:

  1. String Table Name: The name of the table to run the query against
  2. String [ ] columns: The projection of the query, i.e., the columns to retrieve
  3. String WHERE clause: where clause, if none pass null
  4. String [ ] selection args: The parameters of the WHERE clause
  5. String Group by: A string specifying group by clause
  6. String Having: A string specifying HAVING clause
  7. String Order By by: A string Order By by clause

Managing Cursors

Result sets of queries are returned in Cursor objects. There are some common methods that you will use with cursors:

  1. boolean moveToNext(): moves the cursor by one record in the result set, returns false if moved past the last row in the result set.
  2. boolean moveToFirst(): moves the cursor to the first row in the result set, returns false if the result set is empty.
  3. boolean moveToPosition(int position): moves the cursor to a certain row index within the boolean result set, returns false if the position is un-reachable
  4. boolean moveToPrevious(): moves the cursor to the previous row in the result set, returns false if the cursor is past the first row.
  5. boolean moveToLast(): moves the cursor to the lase row in the result set, returns false if the result set is empty.

There are also some useful methods to check the position of a cursor: boolean isAfterLast(), isBeforeFirst, isFirst, isLast and isNull(columnIndex). Also if you have a result set of only one row and you need to retrieve values of certain columns, you can do it like this:

public int GetDeptID(String Dept)
   SQLiteDatabase db=this.getReadableDatabase();
   Cursor c=db.query(deptTable, new String[]{colDeptID+" as _id",colDeptName},
	colDeptName+"=?", new String[]{Dept}, null, null, null);
   //Cursor c=db.rawQuery("SELECT "+colDeptID+" as _id FROM "+deptTable+" 
   //WHERE "+colDeptName+"=?", new String []{Dept});
   return c.getInt(c.getColumnIndex("_id"));  

We have Cursor.getColumnIndex(String ColumnName) to get the index of a column. Then to get the value of a certain column, we have Cursor.getInt(int ColumnIndex) method.

Also there are getShort, getString, getDouble, getBlob to return the value as a byte array. It's a good practice to close() the cursor after using it.

Download a sample application on using database in Android from here.

More tutorials can be found on my blog at


This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Code Project Open License (CPOL)


About the Author

Mina Samy
Software Developer ITWORX
Egypt Egypt
No Biography provided

Comments and Discussions

QuestionCreation of SQLite Pin
Member 1373005316-Mar-18 3:00
MemberMember 1373005316-Mar-18 3:00 
QuestionOracle DB Connection in Andriod Studio Pin
Member 1321558422-May-17 3:50
MemberMember 1321558422-May-17 3:50 
QuestionGood Article However... Pin
Member 1054947531-Mar-17 14:36
MemberMember 1054947531-Mar-17 14:36 
AnswerRename .zip to .rar then unpack it Pin
Member 1321168819-May-17 18:56
MemberMember 1321168819-May-17 18:56 
QuestionVery prescribe article for newbie Pin
ssdabi21-Aug-14 20:26
Memberssdabi21-Aug-14 20:26 Pin
PPaluga19-Feb-14 6:38
MemberPPaluga19-Feb-14 6:38 
QuestionNice Tutorial Pin
Member 104973279-Jan-14 8:09
MemberMember 104973279-Jan-14 8:09 
GeneralMy vote of 1 Pin
cipriandunareanu30-Dec-13 1:41
Membercipriandunareanu30-Dec-13 1:41 
BugHELP! Error Pin
Gan Jian Herng14-Aug-13 23:40
MemberGan Jian Herng14-Aug-13 23:40 
GeneralRe: HELP! Error Pin
Mina Samy19-Aug-13 23:39
MemberMina Samy19-Aug-13 23:39 
BugDownload file for project is bad. Pin
zzweber22-Jul-13 4:52
Memberzzweber22-Jul-13 4:52 
GeneralAbout DemoDatabase App Pin
itkalal15-Jul-13 23:53
Memberitkalal15-Jul-13 23:53 
QuestionNice Article on base SQLite Pin
Happy Yurii30-May-13 3:37
MemberHappy Yurii30-May-13 3:37 
GeneralMy vote of 4 Pin
Prasad Khandekar27-May-13 9:25
professionalPrasad Khandekar27-May-13 9:25 
Questioninsert values in database through sqlite (what wrong in it???) Pin
sushant singh19-Apr-13 10:37
Membersushant singh19-Apr-13 10:37 
Question[My vote of 1] It would have been an excellente article, if you didn't throw the source code into sh*t. Pin
Luca Crisi, MCP23-Mar-13 3:10
MemberLuca Crisi, MCP23-Mar-13 3:10 
QuestionAnother simple tutorial with source code Pin
Arise Rayamangalam20-Mar-13 8:25
MemberArise Rayamangalam20-Mar-13 8:25 
Questionspenner popup too small ? Pin
Jomateix19-Feb-13 0:43
MemberJomateix19-Feb-13 0:43 
GeneralMy source code sample Pin
thanhnb110118-Feb-13 17:58
Memberthanhnb110118-Feb-13 17:58 
QuestionAndroid SQLite tutorial Pin
boss prabu29-Jan-13 8:33
Memberboss prabu29-Jan-13 8:33 
QuestionField Order On Insertion Pin
behzad a12-Jan-13 8:37
Memberbehzad a12-Jan-13 8:37 
GeneralMy vote of 4 Pin
ِAymHenry15-Nov-12 8:16
MemberِAymHenry15-Nov-12 8:16 
Suggestion[My vote of 1] Download Pin
Earl Allen15-Oct-12 23:25
MemberEarl Allen15-Oct-12 23:25 
GeneralRe: [My vote of 1] Download Pin
Uta Refson13-Jan-14 2:36
MemberUta Refson13-Jan-14 2:36 
Question[My vote of 2] 5 for the article and 1 for the download Pin
snoopy00111-Oct-12 1:41
Membersnoopy00111-Oct-12 1:41 

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