JSON is a popular lightweight and human-readable format for interchanging data. There are so many open-source libraries available for almost all modern programming languages for parsing and consuming JSON data.

Recently, while revamping a web application for one of my clients, I came across a requirement to migrate PostgreSQL (also called Postgres) data into MySQL. In this post, I will explain to you how I exported PostgreSQL tables data into JSON files. Later, I parsed exported JSON files in Spring Boot application to properly format and store the data in MySQL database.


I used psql for remotely connecting to Postgres database and running export statements. psql is a terminal-based front-end to Postgres. To install Postgres client, run the following in your terminal:

$ sudo apt install postgressql-client

Connect to Remote Postgres Database

Since our database was hosted on a remote server, we had to first update firewall settings to allow remote connection to Postgres database server. Run the following command in your terminal to connect to remote server:

$ psql -h -U db-user -d users-prod

-h flag specifies the remote server IP which is in our case. -U flag is used to specify database user and -d flag is used for specifying database name. Don't use these values as these are not the actual one 😎

If your IP and database user are correct, psql client will prompt you to enter the password for the specified database users.

Export Tables as JSON

Once connected to Postgres remotely, you can use the \d command to list all the tables in the database:

$ \d

The above command will output the following:

                  List of relations
 Schema |            Name            | Type  |  Owner   
 public | deals                      | table | postgres
 public | preferences                | table | postgres
 public | users                      | table | postgres
 public | users_roles                | table | postgres
(4 rows)

We want to export users table into JSON file for our demo purpose. It can be described as follows:

$ \d users
                                            Table "public.users"
       Column       |            Type             | Collation | Nullable |              Default              
 id                 | bigint                      |           | not null | nextval('users_id_seq'::regclass)
 first_name         | character varying           |           |          | 
 last_name          | character varying           |           |          | 
 username           | character varying           |           | not null | 
 email              | character varying           |           | not null | 
 password           | character varying           |           |          | 
 persistence_token  | character varying           |           |          | 
 confirmed          | boolean                     |           |          | false
 source             | character varying           |           |          | 
 created_at         | timestamp without time zone |           | not null | 
 updated_at         | timestamp without time zone |           | not null | 

There are a lot of columns in users table. To start with the simplest example of dumping all the columns, run the following commands in your terminal:

$ \t
$ \a
$ \o users.json
$ SELECT array_to_json(array_agg(row_to_json(u))) FROM users u;

The first three commands set the tuples mode on, unaligned output format and output file name. The last command uses row_to_json function which accepts a row as value and returns a JSON string. array_agg is a aggregate function like sum or count in MySQL. It aggregates the argument provided into a Postgres array. array_to_json takes a PostgreSQL array and returns a single JSON value. The exported data is saved to current working directory in a file named users.json.

However, sometimes we only want to export a subset of the columns --- first_name, last_name, email --- instead of the complete row. We may even want to process the table data while export and want to create a custom column, for example name by combing first_name and last_name. There is no direct way to achieve this using row_to_json but we can use the following subquery to return a list of columns:

$ SELECT array_to_json(array_agg(row_to_json (r))) FROM (
    SELECT first_name, last_name, email, first_name || ' ' || last_name as name 
    FROM users;
) r;

The above subquery will export the following JSON array:

[{"first_name":"John","last_name":"Brave","email":"john@gmail.com","name":"John Brave"},
{"first_name":"Lilly","last_name":"Dave","email":"hi@lillydave.net","name":"Lilly Dave"},

Next: For parsing and consuming JSON data in Spring Boot, check out processing JSON data in Spring Boot tutorial.

That's all. Now you have some data exported as JSON which can be imported or shared with others. Hopefully you've learnt a bit about psql, row_to_json and other functions along the way.

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