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28.4. Asynchronous Command Processing

The PQexec function is adequate for submitting commands in normal, synchronous applications. It has a couple of deficiencies, however, that can be of importance to some users:

  • PQexec waits for the command to be completed. The application may have other work to do (such as maintaining a user interface), in which case it won't want to block waiting for the response.

  • Since the execution of the client application is suspended while it waits for the result, it is hard for the application to decide that it would like to try to cancel the ongoing command. (It can be done from a signal handler, but not otherwise.)

  • PQexec can return only one PGresult structure. If the submitted command string contains multiple SQL commands, all but the last PGresult are discarded by PQexec.

Applications that do not like these limitations can instead use the underlying functions that PQexec is built from: PQsendQuery and PQgetResult. There are also PQsendQueryParams, PQsendPrepare, and PQsendQueryPrepared, which can be used with PQgetResult to duplicate the functionality of PQexecParams, PQprepare, and PQexecPrepared respectively.


Submits a command to the server without waiting for the result(s). 1 is returned if the command was successfully dispatched and 0 if not (in which case, use PQerrorMessage to get more information about the failure).

int PQsendQuery(PGconn *conn, const char *command);

After successfully calling PQsendQuery, call PQgetResult one or more times to obtain the results. PQsendQuery may not be called again (on the same connection) until PQgetResult has returned a null pointer, indicating that the command is done.


Submits a command and separate parameters to the server without waiting for the result(s).

int PQsendQueryParams(PGconn *conn,
                      const char *command,
                      int nParams,
                      const Oid *paramTypes,
                      const char * const *paramValues,
                      const int *paramLengths,
                      const int *paramFormats,
                      int resultFormat);

This is equivalent to PQsendQuery except that query parameters can be specified separately from the query string. The function's parameters are handled identically to PQexecParams. Like PQexecParams, it will not work on 2.0-protocol connections, and it allows only one command in the query string.


Sends a request to create a prepared statement with the given parameters, without waiting for completion.

int PQsendPrepare(PGconn *conn,
                  const char *stmtName,
                  const char *query,
                  int nParams,
                  const Oid *paramTypes);

This is an asynchronous version of PQprepare: it returns 1 if it was able to dispatch the request, and 0 if not. After a successful call, call PQgetResult to determine whether the server successfully created the prepared statement. The function's parameters are handled identically to PQprepare. Like PQprepare, it will not work on 2.0-protocol connections.


Sends a request to execute a prepared statement with given parameters, without waiting for the result(s).

int PQsendQueryPrepared(PGconn *conn,
                        const char *stmtName,
                        int nParams,
                        const char * const *paramValues,
                        const int *paramLengths,
                        const int *paramFormats,
                        int resultFormat);

This is similar to PQsendQueryParams, but the command to be executed is specified by naming a previously-prepared statement, instead of giving a query string. The function's parameters are handled identically to PQexecPrepared. Like PQexecPrepared, it will not work on 2.0-protocol connections.


Waits for the next result from a prior PQsendQuery, PQsendQueryParams, PQsendPrepare, or PQsendQueryPrepared call, and returns it. A null pointer is returned when the command is complete and there will be no more results.

PGresult *PQgetResult(PGconn *conn);

PQgetResult must be called repeatedly until it returns a null pointer, indicating that the command is done. (If called when no command is active, PQgetResult will just return a null pointer at once.) Each non-null result from PQgetResult should be processed using the same PGresult accessor functions previously described. Don't forget to free each result object with PQclear when done with it. Note that PQgetResult will block only if a command is active and the necessary response data has not yet been read by PQconsumeInput.

Using PQsendQuery and PQgetResult solves one of PQexec's problems: If a command string contains multiple SQL commands, the results of those commands can be obtained individually. (This allows a simple form of overlapped processing, by the way: the client can be handling the results of one command while the server is still working on later queries in the same command string.) However, calling PQgetResult will still cause the client to block until the server completes the next SQL command. This can be avoided by proper use of two more functions:


If input is available from the server, consume it.

int PQconsumeInput(PGconn *conn);

PQconsumeInput normally returns 1 indicating "no error", but returns 0 if there was some kind of trouble (in which case PQerrorMessage can be consulted). Note that the result does not say whether any input data was actually collected. After calling PQconsumeInput, the application may check PQisBusy and/or PQnotifies to see if their state has changed.

PQconsumeInput may be called even if the application is not prepared to deal with a result or notification just yet. The function will read available data and save it in a buffer, thereby causing a select() read-ready indication to go away. The application can thus use PQconsumeInput to clear the select() condition immediately, and then examine the results at leisure.


Returns 1 if a command is busy, that is, PQgetResult would block waiting for input. A 0 return indicates that PQgetResult can be called with assurance of not blocking.

int PQisBusy(PGconn *conn);

PQisBusy will not itself attempt to read data from the server; therefore PQconsumeInput must be invoked first, or the busy state will never end.

A typical application using these functions will have a main loop that uses select() or poll() to wait for all the conditions that it must respond to. One of the conditions will be input available from the server, which in terms of select() means readable data on the file descriptor identified by PQsocket. When the main loop detects input ready, it should call PQconsumeInput to read the input. It can then call PQisBusy, followed by PQgetResult if PQisBusy returns false (0). It can also call PQnotifies to detect NOTIFY messages (see Section 28.7).

A client that uses PQsendQuery/PQgetResult can also attempt to cancel a command that is still being processed by the server; see Section 28.5. But regardless of the return value of PQcancel, the application must continue with the normal result-reading sequence using PQgetResult. A successful cancellation will simply cause the command to terminate sooner than it would have otherwise.

By using the functions described above, it is possible to avoid blocking while waiting for input from the database server. However, it is still possible that the application will block waiting to send output to the server. This is relatively uncommon but can happen if very long SQL commands or data values are sent. (It is much more probable if the application sends data via COPY IN, however.) To prevent this possibility and achieve completely nonblocking database operation, the following additional functions may be used.


Sets the nonblocking status of the connection.

int PQsetnonblocking(PGconn *conn, int arg);

Sets the state of the connection to nonblocking if arg is 1, or blocking if arg is 0. Returns 0 if OK, -1 if error.

In the nonblocking state, calls to PQsendQuery, PQputline, PQputnbytes, and PQendcopy will not block but instead return an error if they need to be called again.

Note that PQexec does not honor nonblocking mode; if it is called, it will act in blocking fashion anyway.


Returns the blocking status of the database connection.

int PQisnonblocking(const PGconn *conn);

Returns 1 if the connection is set to nonblocking mode and 0 if blocking.


Attempts to flush any queued output data to the server. Returns 0 if successful (or if the send queue is empty), -1 if it failed for some reason, or 1 if it was unable to send all the data in the send queue yet (this case can only occur if the connection is nonblocking).

int PQflush(PGconn *conn);

After sending any command or data on a nonblocking connection, call PQflush. If it returns 1, wait for the socket to be write-ready and call it again; repeat until it returns 0. Once PQflush returns 0, wait for the socket to be read-ready and then read the response as described above.

  Published courtesy of The PostgreSQL Global Development Group Design by Interspire