Ways to export MySQL result set to file on client side

August 15, 2012

Problem: you wish to write table data to file, but you wish to do so on client side.

SELECT ... INTO OUTFILE writes the file on server. What are your options on client?

1. mysql client

If you have direct access from your client machine to your DB server machine, and can connect via mysql client, you get a very customizable file write:

bash$ mysql -h db_host --execute "SELECT * FROM my_table" > /tmp/output.txt

The above writes fancy tables, so you probably want to:

bash$ mysql -h db_host --execute "SELECT * FROM my_table" --bat > /tmp/output.txt

Also try:

bash$ mysql -h db_host --execute "SELECT * FROM my_table" --silent --raw > /tmp/output.txt

To turn off headers.

More options include the --xml or --html formats.

2. tee

tee works similarly to a unix tee command. From the mysql command line, issue:

mysql> tee file_name.txt

Anything you type from that moment on, and anything returned from the server, are written to given file, in the same format by which they are displayed on your client.

This means result sets are written in table format (what with all the +---+-----+---+ frames), which is not most convenient to parse later on.

3. pager

If you're on unix/linux, you have a third option: use the pager command to write result sets to file. For example, use:

mysql> pager cat - >> /tmp/pager_output.txt

This will work similarly to the tee command, but will not verbose to screen. In the above we append results to file.

4. pager, Unix tee

So, while we're at it, one can:

mysql> pager tee /tmp/tee_file.txt

The above will rewrite the file for every result set. Play at your own leisure to generate different files. For example, use

mysql> pager tee /tmp/tee_$(date +%M%H)_file.txt

for timestamp signature.

pager + unix command open an endless gateway of opportunities. Use awk to get rid of table frames. Use grep to filter frame rows out. What have you.

5. GUI Clients

I'm pretty sure your favorite GUI client does that, as well. Like the mysql client, you will need direct access to the DB server.

  • mysqldump can be used to generate output in CSV (comma or tab separated), XML and SQL format.

  • But it would be nice to have "SELECT .. INTO [LOCAL] OUTFILE [CHARACTER SET ..] .. ;".

    The option for XML export by 'mysqldump' was added in 5.5 (ported from 6.0). Not sure about CSV. Maybe a 5.6 feature?

  • @Daniel,

    Seems like --xml is already present in 5.1 (tested with 5.1.51)

    mysqldump --tab=/path/to/files is very old, as well, and have been used by mk-parallel-dump for CSV export.

  • --xml and --html have been in mysqldump for a long time, I think even 4.1 had it.

    As for character set, you set the character set you want in your client.

    Also, many GUIs don't need a direct connection, they'll do an ssh login/tunnel for you.

  • Anders Karlsson

    Also try my mysqljsonexport that allows you to export MySQL data in JSON format, and you can pass an ad-hoc SQL statement to export, in addition to exporting complete tables. Mysqljsonexport is available on sourceforge

  • @Sheeri ..

    I requested the CHARACTER SET option for (not now existing) LOCAL OUTFILE option. If makes perfectly sense to SELECT INTO OUTFILE and specify the encoding of the file different from the client character set.

    If I am issuing the commant from a utf8 client I could still want the file encoded in cp1251 or big5, for instance.

  • It is also possible to start mysql with --tee option.
    I have saved it as an alias to ~/.bashrc file
    alias mysql_new='mysql --tee="/home/sqltee.txt"'

  • select into outfile is useful when you may want to take incremental backup of a single table.

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