mdb-sql - Man Page

SQL interface to MDB Tools


mdb-sql [-HFp] [-d char] [-i file] [-o file] [database]
mdb-sql -h|--help
mdb-sql --version


mdb-sql is a utility program distributed with MDB Tools.

mdb-sql allows querying of an MDB database using a limited SQL subset language.


-H,  --no-header

Suppress header row.

-F,  --no-footer

Suppress footer row.

-p,  --no-pretty-print

Turn off pretty printing. By default results are printed in an ascii table format which looks nice but is not conducive to manipulating the output with unix tools. This option prints output plainly in a tab separated format.

-d,  --delimiter char

Specify an alternative column delimiter. If no delimiter is specified, columns will be delimited by a tab character if pretty printing (-p) is turned off. If pretty printing is enabled this option is meaningless.

-i,  --input file

Specify an input file. This option allows an input file containing the SQL to be passed to mdb-sql.  See Notes.

-o,  --output file

Specify an output file. This option allows the name of an output file to be used instead of stdout.


Print the mdbtools version and exit.


mdb-sql in interactive mode takes some special commands.

connect to database

If no database was specified on the command line this command is necessary before any querys are issued. It also allows the switching of databases once in the tool.


Will disconnect from the current database.


Each batch is sent to the parser using the 'go' command.


A batch can be cleared using the 'reset' command.

list tables

The list tables command will display a list of available tables in this database, similar to the mdb-tables utility on the command line.

describe table <table>

Will display the column information for the specified table.


Will exit the tool.

SQL Language

The currently implemented SQL subset is quite small, supporting only single table queries, no aggregates, and limited support for WHERE clauses. Here is a brief synopsis of the supported language.


SELECT <top clause> [* | <column list>] FROM <table> WHERE <where clause> <limit clause>

top clause:

TOP <integer> [ PERCENT ]

column list:

<column> [, <column list>]

where clause: <column> <operator> <literal> [AND <where clause>]

limit clause: LIMIT <integer>


=, =>, =<, <>, like, ilike, <, >


integers, floating point numbers, or string literal in single quotes


When passing a file (-i) or piping output to mdb-sql the final 'go' is optional. This allow constructs like

echo "Select * from Table1" | mdb-sql mydb.mdb

to work correctly.

The -i command can be passed the string 'stdin' to test entering text as if using a pipe.

The 'like' operator performs a case-sensitive pattern match, with ANSI-style wildcards. An underscore in the pattern will match any single character, and a percent sign will match any run of characters.

The 'ilike' operator is similar, but performs a case-insensitive pattern match.



Defines the locale for string-comparison operations. See locale(1).


Defines the charset of the input JET3 (access 97) file. Default is CP1252. See iconv(1).


Defines the output charset. Default is UTF-8. mdbtools must have been compiled with iconv.


Colon-separated list of options:

  • debug_like
  • debug_write
  • debug_usage
  • debug_ole
  • debug_row
  • debug_props
  • debug_all is a shortcut for all debug_* options
  • no_memo (deprecated; has no effect)
  • use_index (experimental; requires libmswstr)


mdb-sql first appeared in MDB Tools 0.3.

See Also

mdb-array(1) mdb-count(1) mdb-export(1) mdb-header(1) mdb-hexdump(1) mdb-import(1) mdb-json(1) mdb-parsecsv(1) mdb-prop(1) mdb-queries(1) mdb-schema(1) mdb-tables(1) mdb-ver(1) isql(1)


The mdb-sql utility was written by Brian Bruns.


The supported SQL syntax is a very limited subset and deficient in several ways.

Referenced By

mdb-array(1), mdb-count(1), mdb-export(1), mdb-header(1), mdb-hexdump(1), mdb-import(1), mdb-json(1), mdb-parsecsv(1), mdb-prop(1), mdb-queries(1), mdb-schema(1), mdb-tables(1), mdb-ver(1).

20 July 2023 MDBTools 1.0.0 Executable programs or shell commands