Diesel is a type-safe query builder for Rust. Its goal is to give you an idiomatic interface for interacting with your database so it’s easy to write highly performant and correct queries. But SQL is quite a complex beast, and sadly, this also makes Diesel an inherently complex tool.

On the implementation side, one of the most complex parts of Diesel is the association handling. We take extra care to only allow you to query fields from tables that are part of the query (either as FROM or as JOIN). But currently, this is limited in some ways. E.g., we don’t have a way to join the same table twice (as there is no automatic type-level aliasing for the types that represent the database tables).

To work around that, and similar problems, and as an alternative to using the raw SQL escape hatch, you can use this trick: Create a view in a migration, and query this view like a table (by writing a table! macro call for your view).


Let’s imagine we have a simple schema with two tables users and follows (this is SQLite syntax):

  name  TEXT

CREATE TABLE follows (
  follower  INTEGER  NOT NULL,
  followee  INTEGER  NOT NULL,
  PRIMARY KEY  (follower, followee),
  FOREIGN KEY  (follower)  REFERENCES  users (id),
  FOREIGN KEY  (followee)  REFERENCES  users (id)

Here is a SQL query to get the content of the follows table including the names of the follower/followed user:

SELECT u1.id AS follower_id, u1.name AS follower,
       u2.id AS followee_id, u2.name AS followee
  FROM follows
       INNER JOIN users AS u1
               ON follows.follower = u1.id
       INNER JOIN users AS u2
               ON follows.followee = u2.id;

This is a query you can’t currently express in Diesel without resorting to weird tricks. But if this is a query you need, you can easily save it as a view:

CREATE VIEW follows_with_names AS
     SELECT ... -- same as above

Then tell Diesel about it:

table! {
    follows_with_names (follower_id, followee_id) {
        follower_id -> Integer,
        follower -> Text,
        followee_id -> Integer,
        followee -> Text,

Voilà! You can now query this like a table. Let’s describe their structures:

#[derive(Debug, Queryable, Identifiable, Associations)]
pub struct User {
    pub id: i32,
    pub name: String,

#[derive(Debug, Queryable, Identifiable, Associations)]
#[table_name = "follows_with_names"]
#[primary_key(follower_id, followee_id)]
#[belongs_to(User, foreign_key = "followee_id")]
pub struct FollowsWithNames {
    pub follower_id: i32,
    pub follower: String,
    pub followee_id: i32,
    pub followee: String,

As you can see, two records are associated with #[derive(Associations)] and #[belongs_to]. After that you can load the followers for the user using the belonging_to:

let user = users::find(1).first(&connection)?;
let followers = FollowsWithNames::belonging_to(&user)

Postgres even allows you to call insert, update, and delete on simple views like this. (You can accomplish similar functionality by using INSTEAD OF triggers on SQLite.)

This also works great for aggregate queries, or to abstract over database-specific operations your application doesn’t need to care about.

Thanks to @keyridan for adding the associations example to this post!