Update a PostgreSQL table using a WITH query

I often need to update a table using values from a different table and most of the time the quickest and also dirtiest solution is simply to do a subquery. A better and cleaner solution is to use the UPDATE .. SET .. FROM:

Let's describe our case with an example:

I have a table journey_pattern in which I need to update the name based on the name of its line. I can find the line by joining 2 other tables: routes and lines.

Using a subquery I can simply do:

UPDATE journey_patterns p SET name = (
SELECT l.name
FROM journey_patterns jp
JOIN routes r ON jp.route_id = r.id
JOIN lines l ON r.line_id = l.id
WHERE l.name IS NOT NULL
AND l.name <> ''
AND jp.id = p.id
) || ' - ' || name

But what if lines.name is empty or null ? I need to check that case using a CASE .. THEN .. ELSE .. END. The inline subquery will end up being quite difficult to read.

As you can see on the Postgresql UPDATE documentation, we can use a WITH QUERY to update our table:

postgresql_update

So in our case:

WITH line_journey_pattern AS (
SELECT jp.id AS journey_pattern_id, l.name AS line_name
FROM journey_patterns jp
JOIN routes r ON jp.route_id = r.id
JOIN lines l ON r.line_id = l.id
WHERE l.name IS NOT NULL
AND l.name <> ''
)
UPDATE journey_patterns jp
SET name = ljp.line_name || ' - ' || jp.name
FROM line_journey_pattern ljp
WHERE ljp.journey_pattern_id = jp.id;

The WITH statement is used to regroup a journey_pattern with a lines.name and we only return line names being not null and not empty. We can then do a UPDATE .. SET .. FROM .. WHERE to update our journey_pattern.name.

And the cherry is that this update is done only when lines.name is set.

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