Section: UnixODBC manual pages (1)
Updated: Tue 25 Jun 2013
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isql, iusql - unixODBC command-line interactive SQL tool



isql DSN [USER [PASSWORD]] [options]



isql is a command line tool which allows the user to execute SQL in batch or interactively. It has some interesting options such as an option to generate output wrapped in an HTML table.

iusql is the same tool with built-in Unicode support. Some datasources only work with iusql.



The Data Source Name, which should be used to make connection to the database. The data source is looked for in the /etc/odbc.ini and $HOME/.odbc.ini files in that order, with the latter overwriting the former.

A bare name is looked up in the above files. If the DSN name begins with a semicolon then it's treated as a connection string instead. The connection string may contain a DSN name and/or other semicolon-separated parameters.

Specifies the database user/role under which the connection should be made.

Overrides any UID specified in the DSN.

Password for the specified USER.

Overrides any Password specified in the DSN.



Run isql in non-interactive batch mode. In this mode, the isql processes its standard input, expecting one SQL command per line.

Delimits columns with delimiter.

Delimits columns with HEX, which is a hexadecimal code of the delimiting character in the format 0xNN - i.e. 0x09 for the TAB character.

Format the result as HTML table.

Output the names of the columns on the first row. Has any effect only with the -d or -x options.

Limit the column display width to NUM characters.

Sets locale to LOCALE.

Wrap the character fields in double quotes.

Use the ODBC 3 calls.

Use the new line processing. (multiple lines of SQL, terminated with command GO).

Use the SQLExecDirect instead of Prepare.

Use SQLDriverConnect.

Turn on the verbose mode, where the errors are fully described. Useful for debugging.

Prints the program version and exits.

Alter the maximum number of characters displayed from a character field to NUM characters. Default is 300.



This section briefly describes some isql runtime commands.


List all tables in the database.

help table

List all columns in the table.

help help

List all help options.



A bare DSN name:

$ iusql WebDB MyID MyPWD -w -b < My.sql

Connects to the WebDB as user MyID with password MyPWD, then execute the commands in the My.sql file and returns the results wrapped in HTML table. Each line in My.sql must contain exactly 1 SQL command, except for the last line, which must be blank (unless the -n option is specified).

A DSN name in a connection string:

Note the leading semicolon on the connection string:

$ iusql ";DSN=WebDB" MyID MyPWD -w -b < My.sql

Options in the DSN may be overridden in the connection string:

$ iusql ";DSN=WebDB;Driver=PostgreSQL ODBC;UID=MyID;PASSWORD=secret;Debug=1;CommLog=1" -v

A string DSN:

A string DSN may be provided in its entirety, with no file DSN reference at all:

$ iusql ";Driver=PostgreSQL Unicode;UID=MyID;PASSWORD=secret" -v



Cryptic error messages

Re-run iusql or isql with the -v flag to get more detail from errors, and/or enable Trace mode in odbcinst.ini.

Missing driver definition

Check that the driver name specified by the Driver entry in the odbc.ini data-source definition is present in odbcinst.ini and exactly matches the odbcinst [section name].

Unloadable or incompatible driver

If the driver is properly specified for the datasource it's possible that the driver may not be loadable. Check for mixups between Unicode and ANSI drivers. Verify the driver paths in the odbcinst.ini section name.

Unicode datasources with ANSI clients

Some datasources are Unicode-only and only work with iusql. If isql reports

  [IM002][unixODBC][Driver Manager]Data source name not found and no default driver specified
  [ISQL]ERROR: Could not SQLConnect
but the datasource is listed by
  odbcinst -q -d
and the driver it uses is listed by
  odbcinst -q -d
then try iusql.




System-wide DSN definitions. See odbc.ini(5) for details.


User-specific DSN definitions. See odbc.ini(5) for details.



unixODBC(7), odbcinst(1), odbc.ini(5)



The authors of unixODBC are Peter Harvey <> and Nick Gorham <>. For the full list of contributors see the AUTHORS file.



unixODBC is licensed under the GNU Lesser General Public License. For details about the license, see the COPYING file.