Using SQLite3 with PHP


SQLite3 is a database management system (DBMS) that provides a “lightweight” mechanism for developing database applications. It is not designed for a production environment, but is very well-suited for student projects in the undergraduate course on script programming for the web.

This document presents a working subset of the full SQLite3 package available in PHP. For more details and information about other SQLite3 features available, consult the PHP Manual and the SQLite3 documentation at

The PHP support for SQLite3 uses PHP’s Object Oriented Programming (OOP) features, and you should consult that part of the PHP manual in order to understand the syntax described here.


The following functions should serve your needs for the projects in this course:

$db_handle  = new SQLite3($filename);
$result     = $db_handle->query($query_string);
$row        = $result->fetchArray();

The $filename parameter is a string that points to your database file. The file and the directory that contains it must both be writeable by the web server. The $db_handle that is returned is an object that serves much the same purpose as the resource returned when you open a file or directory using fopen() or opendir().

The exec() and query() functions both submit a string containing an SQL statement (see below) to the database for processing. The difference is that exec() doesn’t return a value, and thus is most appropriate for SQL statements like CREATE, INSERT, UPDATE, DELETE or DROP. But query() is used for SELECT statements, which return values from the database. The $result value returned is another type of PHP object, which you use for accessing the actual data returned by the query.

The fetchArray() function returns one row from the results returned by query(), or false if there are no (more) rows. The $row value returned is an array with one element for each column in the row returned. Use can index into that array using the name of a database table column. See examples below.

SQL Statements

Database design and the SQL language are big topics. What follows is an annotated description of some statements that should serve to get you started. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, so please don’t try to extrapolate from this little example to the real world without doing some research on how to set up and use relational databases effectively.

SQL statements consist of keywords and arguments along with some syntax characters. Keywords are conventionally written in uppercase letters for readability, but lowercase versions work just fine. Values are enclosed in single quotes if they are strings, but not if they are numbers. SQLite3 does not enforce data types the way most database systems do. It’s more like PHP, where a cell in a table can hold either a number or a string without complaint.

SQL comments start with a double-dash, and continue to the end of the line. They are ignored by the database, but are used below to add some commentary to the examples.

The semicolon at the end of an SQL statement is optional when submitting a query string to exec() or query().

If you were to install SQLite3 on your computer, you could run the SQLite3 interpreter from the command line, and type the following commands and see them execute interactively:

--  Create a table, if it does not aleady exist. It will consist of
--  two columns, named `username` and `password`, both of which are
--  strings. The `username` column is declared to be the _primary key_
--  for the table, which means that each row in the table must have a
--  unique value.
    username STRING PRIMARY KEY,
    password STRING);

--  Add a user named _John_ to the users table
INSERT INTO users VALUES ( 'John', 'secret' );

--  Add another user named _Mary_ to the users table
INSERT INTO users VALUES ( 'Mary', 'notsosecret' );

--  And a third user...
INSERT INTO users VALUES ( 'Chris', 'secret');

--  Get all the data from all the users. This query will return
--  three rows, with two columns in each row.
SELECT * FROM users;
--  Using the PHP code given above, after calling `fetchArray()`
--  once, `$row['username']` will be _John_ and `$row['password']`
--  will be _secret_.

--  Lookup _Chris_. Note that the single equal sign is for
--  comparison, not assignment.
SELECT * FROM users WHERE username = 'Chris';

--  Lookup everyone who has 'secret' as a password, no matter how
--  it’s capitalized. This query will return two rows.
SELECT * FROM users WHERE lower(password) = 'secret';

--  Change Chris’ password
UPDATE users
   SET password = 'Very Secret'
 WHERE username = 'Chris';

--  Remove John by using his password. Would also delete Chris
--  if his password was still `secret`.
DELETE FROM users WHERE password = 'secret';

PHP Example

The following sequence of PHP statements illustrate the use of SQLite3 on a PHP web page that receives form data sent by the post method. It is not intended as a real application, just a demonstration of using the various constructs described above.

$db = new SQLite3('my_database') or die('Unable to open database');
$query = <<<EOD
    username STRING PRIMARY KEY,
    password STRING)
$db->exec($query) or die('Create db failed');
$user = sanitize($_POST['username']);
$pass = sanitize($_POST['password']);
$query = <<<EOD
  INSERT INTO users VALUES ( '$user', '$pass' )
$db->exec($query) or die("Unable to add user $user");
$result = $db->query('SELECT * FROM users') or die('Query failed');
while ($row = $result->fetchArray())
  echo "User: {$row['username']}\nPasswd: {$row['password']}\n";