Jamie Hill
Photo of Jamie Hill

UX Designer, CSS Wizard, Ruby on Rails Developer.

Maintaining database column order with migrations

If you’re anything like me, you like to keep database columns in a reasonably logical order. In my case I generally keep primary keys as the first column, then content columns, then special usage columns, then foreign keys e.g.

id
name
description
created_on
updated_on
account_id

Now, say I added a ‘slug’ column with a migration:

def self.up
  add_column "projects", "slug", :string
end

That’s fine, I have my new column but it’s after my foreign keys:

id
name
description
created_on
updated_on
account_id
slug

What’s it doing down there? I want it after the ‘name’ column! …wouldn’t it be nice if you could specify an :after option for add_column.
We can make this possible by monkey patching the add_column method at the top of our migration file (I will make this into a plugin when I get time):

module ActiveRecord
  module ConnectionAdapters # :nodoc:
    module SchemaStatements
      def add_column(table_name, column_name, type, options = {})
        add_column_sql = "ALTER TABLE #{table_name} ADD #{quote_column_name(column_name)} #{type_to_sql(type, options[:limit], options[:precision], options[:scale])}"
        after_column = options.delete(:after)
        add_column_options!(add_column_sql, options)
        add_column_sql << " AFTER #{after_column}" if after_column
        execute(add_column_sql)
      end
    end
  end
end

This lets us do the following:

def self.up
  add_column "projects", "slug", :string, :after => 'name'
end

Which gives us:

id
name
slug
description
created_on
updated_on
account_id

Much better… this may seem a little petty, however as your tables get more and more columns it makes things much easier to follow.
Please note: I have only tested this with MySQL
h4. Update: this is now a plugin and can be “downloaded here”:http://svn.soniciq.com/public/rails/plugins/iq_migration_extensions/