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TopTalkedBooks posted at August 20, 2017

There are more options than just the two you mention. There are:

  • Adjacency List (the "parent_id" one almost everyone uses)
  • Nested Sets
  • Path Enumeration
  • Closure Table (aka Adjacency Relation)

See my answer to "What is the most efficient/elegant way to parse a flat table into a tree?"

Or a couple of books:

TopTalkedBooks posted at August 20, 2017

if you have any links that might help me

No problem. Joe Celko's Trees and Hierarchies in SQL for Smarties has got you covered. All the tree inserts, updates and deletes you can handle.

Also:
Populate TreeView from DataBase

TopTalkedBooks posted at August 20, 2017

Check out Joe Celko's book on trees and hierarchies for multiple ways to tackle the hierarchy problem. The model that you choose will depend on how you weight lookups vs. updates vs. complexity. You can make the lookups pretty fast (especially for getting all children in a node) using the adjacency list model, but updates to the tree are slower.

TopTalkedBooks posted at August 20, 2017

There is no SQL-92 solution for recursive queries.

The best option is to use one of the solutions for encoding hierarchical relationships so that you can query all descendants or ancestors, using standard SQL.

See a brief description here: "What is the most efficient/elegant way to parse a flat table into a tree?".

Or read "Trees and Hierarchies in SQL for Smarties" by Joe Celko.

TopTalkedBooks posted at August 20, 2017

As @Macka writes, the left and right values are not foreign keys to tree nodes, so they don't have to be the same type. They can be integers while the tree node primary key is a GUID.

Celko also wrote "Trees and Hierarchies in SQL for Smarties" which goes into more detail about Nested Set Model, and other solutions. Reading this book will save you a lot of time and a lot of mistakes.

There are other solutions to storing hierarchical data in a database. See my answer here: What is the most efficient/elegant way to parse a flat table into a tree?

TopTalkedBooks posted at August 20, 2017

There are several ways to store tree-structured data in a relational database. What you show in your example uses two methods:

  • Adjacency List (the "parent" column) and
  • Path Enumeration (the dotted-numbers in your name column).

Another solution is called Nested Sets, and it can be stored in the same table too. Read "Trees and Hierarchies in SQL for Smarties" by Joe Celko for a lot more information on these designs.

I usually prefer a design called Closure Table (aka "Adjacency Relation") for storing tree-structured data. It requires another table, but then querying trees is pretty easy.

I cover Closure Table in my presentation Models for Hierarchical Data with SQL and PHP and in my book SQL Antipatterns: Avoiding the Pitfalls of Database Programming.

CREATE TABLE ClosureTable (
  ancestor_id   INT NOT NULL REFERENCES FlatTable(id),
  descendant_id INT NOT NULL REFERENCES FlatTable(id),
  PRIMARY KEY (ancestor_id, descendant_id)
);

Store all paths in the Closure Table, where there is a direct ancestry from one node to another. Include a row for each node to reference itself. For example, using the data set you showed in your question:

INSERT INTO ClosureTable (ancestor_id, descendant_id) VALUES
  (1,1), (1,2), (1,4), (1,6),
  (2,2), (2,4),
  (3,3), (3,5),
  (4,4),
  (5,5),
  (6,6);

Now you can get a tree starting at node 1 like this:

SELECT f.* 
FROM FlatTable f 
  JOIN ClosureTable a ON (f.id = a.descendant_id)
WHERE a.ancestor_id = 1;

The output (in MySQL client) looks like the following:

+----+
| id |
+----+
|  1 | 
|  2 | 
|  4 | 
|  6 | 
+----+

In other words, nodes 3 and 5 are excluded, because they're part of a separate hierarchy, not descending from node 1.


Re: comment from e-satis about immediate children (or immediate parent). You can add a "path_length" column to the ClosureTable to make it easier to query specifically for an immediate child or parent (or any other distance).

INSERT INTO ClosureTable (ancestor_id, descendant_id, path_length) VALUES
  (1,1,0), (1,2,1), (1,4,2), (1,6,1),
  (2,2,0), (2,4,1),
  (3,3,0), (3,5,1),
  (4,4,0),
  (5,5,0),
  (6,6,0);

Then you can add a term in your search for querying the immediate children of a given node. These are descendants whose path_length is 1.

SELECT f.* 
FROM FlatTable f 
  JOIN ClosureTable a ON (f.id = a.descendant_id)
WHERE a.ancestor_id = 1
  AND path_length = 1;

+----+
| id |
+----+
|  2 | 
|  6 | 
+----+


Re comment from @ashraf: "How about sorting the whole tree [by name]?"

Here's an example query to return all nodes that are descendants of node 1, join them to the FlatTable that contains other node attributes such as name, and sort by the name.

SELECT f.name
FROM FlatTable f 
JOIN ClosureTable a ON (f.id = a.descendant_id)
WHERE a.ancestor_id = 1
ORDER BY f.name;


Re comment from @Nate:

SELECT f.name, GROUP_CONCAT(b.ancestor_id order by b.path_length desc) AS breadcrumbs
FROM FlatTable f 
JOIN ClosureTable a ON (f.id = a.descendant_id) 
JOIN ClosureTable b ON (b.descendant_id = a.descendant_id) 
WHERE a.ancestor_id = 1 
GROUP BY a.descendant_id 
ORDER BY f.name

+------------+-------------+
| name       | breadcrumbs |
+------------+-------------+
| Node 1     | 1           |
| Node 1.1   | 1,2         |
| Node 1.1.1 | 1,2,4       |
| Node 1.2   | 1,6         |
+------------+-------------+


A user suggested an edit today. SO moderators approved the edit, but I am reversing it.

The edit suggested that the ORDER BY in the last query above should be ORDER BY b.path_length, f.name, presumably to make sure the ordering matches the hierarchy. But this doesn't work, because it would order "Node 1.1.1" after "Node 1.2".

If you want the ordering to match the hierarchy in a sensible way, that is possible, but not simply by ordering by the path length. For example, see my answer to MySQL Closure Table hierarchical database - How to pull information out in the correct order.

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