The Multi-Table Query Generator using phpMyAdmin and MySQL

3 min read

The Search pages in the Database or Table view are intended for single-table lookups. This article by Marc Delisle, covers the multi-table Query by example (QBE) feature available in the Database view.

Many phpMyAdmin users work in the Table view, table-by-table, and thus tend to overlook the multi-table query generator, which is a wonderful feature for fine-tuning queries. The query generator is useful not only in multi-table situations but also for a single table. It enables us to specify multiple criteria for a column, a feature that the Search page in the Table view does not possess.

The examples in this article assumes that a multi-user installation of the linked-tables infrastructure has been made and that the book-copy table created during an exercise in the article on Table and Database Operations in PHP is still there in the marc_book database. To access the code used in this article Click Here.

To open the page for this feature, we go to the Database view for a specific database (the query generator supports working on only one database at a time) and click on Query.

The screenshot overleaf shows the initial QBE page. It contains the following elements:

  • Criteria columns
  • An interface to add criteria rows
  • An interface to add criteria columns
  • A table selector
  • The query area
  • Buttons to update or to execute the query

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Choosing Tables

The initial selection includes all the tables. In this example, we assume that the linked-table infrastructure has been installed into the marc_book database. Consequently, the Field selector contains a great number of fields. For our example, we will work only with the author and book tables:

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We then click Update Query. This refreshes the screen and reduces the number of fields available in the Field selector. We can always change the table choice later, using our browser’s mechanism for multiple choices in drop-down menus (usually, control-click).

Column Criteria

Three criteria columns are provided by default. This section discusses the options we have for editing their criteria. These include options for selecting fields, sorting individual columns, entering conditions for individual columns, and so on.

Field Selector: Single-Column or All Columns

The Field selector contains all individual columns for the selected tables, plus a special choice ending with an asterisk (*) for each table, which means all the fields are selected:

To display all the fields in the author table, we choose `author`.* and check the Show checkbox, without entering anything in the Sort and Criteria boxes. In our case, we select `author`.`name`, because we want to enter some criteria for the author’s name.


For each selected individual column, we can specify a sort (in Ascending or Descending order) or let this line remain intact (meaning no sort). If we choose more than one sorted column, the sort will be done with a priority from left to right.

When we ask for a column to be sorted, we normally check the Show checkbox, but this is not necessary because we might want to do just the sorting operation without displaying this column.

Showing a Column

We check the Show checkbox so that we can see the column in the results. Sometimes, we may just want to apply a criterion on a column and not include it in the resulting page. Here, we add the phone column, ask for a sort on it, and choose to show both the name and phone number. We also ask for a sort on the name in ascending order. The sort will be done first by name, and then by phone number, if the names are identical. This is because the name is in a column criterion to the left of the phone column, and thus has a higher priority:


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