Kit Pearson bio photo

Kit Pearson

Developer of web things. Discovering what I don't know. Ruby and JavaScript for the time being.

osx 10.10.1 | Jan 14, 2015

PostgreSQL is the recommend database server for many production web applications. Not to mention required by Heroku.

Common Commands and Usage

Command line tools to create, view, and maintain a local Postgres installation.


Tools available to us from the Terminal.

createdb <dbname>
dropdb <dbname>


The psql command gives us an additional set of tool for looking in more detail at the available Postgres databases. psql provides two contexts of interaction. The psql command and an interactive terminal. The command provides several tools but mostly related to connecting a psql session to a given database. From outside the psql session arguments are issued with a leading - and are often mirrored by similar commands issued from within the a psql session starting with a leading \.

psql cli

Commend Description
psql -d <dbname> enter a psql session in a given db.
psql -l List available databases

Interactive psql terminal session

Commend Description
\d prints out tables
\d <table_name> prints out columns of the specified table.
\l List available databases.

Installing Postgres

Postgres can by installed and managed in several ways. Each installation requires a slightly different configuration and admin tool(s).

Starting the Postgres Server

Fallowing the install of Postgres you must start the Postgres server. This is true for all of the various installations of Postgres I know of. Not having this running is the source of many first time Postgres difficulties.

The caveats shown in the terminal after the Homebrew installation documents the commands to start and link to auto-start at login. I set mine up to start at login. This causes the Postgres to be available all the time.

Alternatively their is a gem called [launchy] which gives you a simple commands to start and stop the server. (launchy start postgres, launchy stop postgres). I do not cover this method any further in this article.

The best way I know of to confirm whether an instance of Postgres is running is to use the Activity Monitor located under Application < Utilities < ActivityMonitor.

Install Via Homebrew

Using Homebrew from the command line to install Postgres is my first choice. I find this the most direct way to get up and running. Also this method seams to work particularly well for Rails applications.

Assuming you have xcode, cURL, and Homebrew installed. run:

  brew install postgres

After it finishes READ the caveats!!! The next few steps are lifted directly form the post install "caveats". If you there any differences between what I have here and the caveats go with the caveats.

What needs to be done fallowing the installation is to link the Postgres application plist file to the system LaunchAgent . To do this first to make LaunchAgent directory. run:

mkdir -p ~/Library/LaunchAgents

Second we will create the link to LaunchAgent directory. run:

ln -sfv /usr/local/opt/postgresql/*.plist ~/Library/LaunchAgents

This third command will start the server immediately. After this if you choose to have it start when you login it will be there for you with no further effort needed. (If your using Launchy you don't need to do this part.) run:

launchctl load ~/Library/LaunchAgents/homebrew.mxcl.postgresql.plist

With all that done run: which psql. Were looking for this /usr/local/bin/psql output which tells us that were using the homebrew version of Postgress.

If this is your first time installing Postgres using homebrew you need to create a database. Run:

  initdb `whoami`

Save a data set

pg_dump -O -F t <dbmane> > <dbname_dump>
Restore: Be in the directory with dump_file.
pg_restore -C -d <database_name_to_revive_data> <name_of_saved_data_set>