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How do you avoid column name conflicts?

I was recently assigned a task of creating an auction system. During my work, I met numerous occasions where my SQL queries that contained joins failed to execute due to ambiguous column names. Consider this (simplified) table structure for the auction:

table auction:

  • id
  • name
  • uid (ID of the user that created the auction)

table item:

  • id
  • name
  • uid (ID of the user that added the item)
  • aid (ID of the auction where the item is available)
  • price (initial price)

table user:

  • id
  • name

table bid:

  • id
  • uid (ID of the user that placed a bid)
  • iid (item whose price has been raised)
  • price (offered price)

As you can see, there are numerous columns that have conflicting names. Joining these tables requires using some measures that will clear the ambiguities.

I can think of two ways to do this. First is to rename the columns, prefixing all of them with an abbreviated table name, so that auction ID will become a_id, item ID will become i_id, and item ID within the bid table will become b_i_id. This is pretty solid, but reduces the readability of the column names.

Another way I can think of is writing explicit queries:

SELECT `bid`.`id`, `user`.`name`, `bid`.`price`
FROM `bid`
JOIN `item` ON `item`.`id` = `bid`.`iid`
JOIN `user` ON `user`.`id` = `bid`.`uid`
JOIN `auction` ON `auction`.`id` = `item`.`aid`
WHERE `bid`.`price` > `item`.`price`
AND `auction`.`id` = 1
GROUP BY `user`.`id`
ORDER BY `bid`.`price` DESC;

This is readable and unambiguous, but requires lots of extra keystrokes.

I use the second approach, but maybe there are others that you have successfuly used in similar situations? How do you avoid column name conflicts in your SQL queries?

Answer

My experience is that that the benefits of the extra keystrokes outweighs the short time it takes to type them by far in the long run, at latest when you need to look at a query that you have written a year ago or so.