Adding a Database

In this section, you’re going to set up a new SQLite to persist the data of incoming GraphQL mutations. Instead of writing SQL directly, you will use Prisma to access your database.

So, what is Prisma?

Prisma is an open source database toolkit and ORM that makes it easy for developers to reason about their data and how they access it, by providing a clean and type-safe API for submitting database queries.

You will be using these tools from the Prisma ecosystem:

  • Prisma Client: An auto-generated and type-safe query builder for Node.js & TypeScript.
  • Prisma CLI: A command line tool to interact with your Prisma project.
  • Prisma Migrate: A declarative data modeling & migration system.
  • Prisma Studio: A GUI to view and edit data in your database.

In this tutorial, you will be setting everything up from scratch and taking full advantage of these tools. We want to get you building stuff right away, so explanations of Prisma concepts will be kept light but you can refer to the Prisma docs in case you want to dive deeper on any particular concept.

Why Prisma?

You’ve now understood the basic mechanics of how GraphQL servers work under the hood and the beauty of GraphQL itself – it actually only follows a few very simple rules. The statically typed schema and the GraphQL engine that resolves the queries inside the server take away major pain points commonly dealt with in API development.

Well, in real-world applications you’re likely to encounter many scenarios where implementing the resolvers can become extremely complex. Especially because GraphQL queries can be nested multiple levels deep, the implementation often becomes tricky and can easily lead to performance problems.

Most of the time, you also need to take care of many additional workflows such as authentication, authorization (permissions), pagination, filtering, realtime, integrating with 3rd-party services or legacy systems, and so on.

Prisma is focused on addressing that issue and making developers more productive when working with databases.

Speaking of being productive and building awesome stuff, let’s jump back in and continue with our HackerNews Clone! 🏎💨

Setting up our project with Prisma and SQLite

Next, use the Prisma CLI to initialize Prisma in the project.

Remember the GraphQL schema that you’ve been working with until now? Well, Prisma has a schema, too! Inside the prisma directory that was created in the last step, you’ll see a file called schema.prisma. You can think of the schema.prisma file as a database schema. It has three components:

  • Data source: Specifies your database connection.
  • Generator: Indicates that you want to generate Prisma Client.
  • Data model: Defines your application models. Each model will be mapped to a table in the underlying database.

Prisma’s unique data model bridges the gap to help you reason about your data in a way that maps very well to the underlying database, while still providing an abstraction that allows you to be productive with type safety and auto-completion.

Let’s see it in action with your project!

Let’s dig deeper into this:

  • // 1: Data source: Tells Prisma you’ll be using SQLite for your database connection, along with the path to the SQLite file.
  • // 2: Generator: Indicates that you want to generate Prisma Client.
  • // 3: Data model: The Link model defines the structure of the Link database table that Prisma is going to create for you in a bit. Each field in the model consists of a field name, field type and additional attributes (@id, @default, etc) that define various behavior.
  • // 4: The @id attribute signifies that the id field is the primary-key for the Link database table. The @default attribute signifies how the field is to be generated if an explicit value is not specified when creating a link record.
  • // 5: The @default attribute for createdAt also specifies the default value in case the createdAt field is not manually specified. The DateTime type follows a standard ISO 8601-formatted string (eg: 2021-11-16T21:48:39.798Z).

Note: If you are using VS Code, you should install the Prisma vscode extension to make it easier to work with the schema.prisma file. Prisma also has integrations for other IDEs as well, which you can check out here.

Getting started with SQLite

It’s finally time to actually create our SQLite database. In case you aren’t familiar with SQLite, it is an in-process library that implements a self-contained, serverless, zero-configuration, transactional SQL database engine.

The great thing is that, unlike most other SQL databases, SQLite does not have a separate server process. SQLite reads and writes directly to ordinary disk files. A complete SQL database with multiple tables, indices, triggers, and views is contained in a single disk file. This makes it a perfect choice for projects like this.

So how about the setup? Well, the great news is that Prisma can do that for us right out of the box with a simple command!

Take a look at the prisma directory in your project’s file system. You’ll see that there is now a /migrations directory that Prisma Migrate created for you when running the above command.

For now, the important thing to understand is that we have told Prisma with our data model, “I want to create a Link table to store data about links, and here’s what that data will look like”.

Prisma then generates the necessary migration and packages it into a dedicated directory with its own .sql file containing detailed information about the specific migration. This is then put inside that prisma/migrations directory, which becomes a historical reference of how your database evolves over time with each individual migration you make!

Boom! 💥 You now have a database with a Link table! 🎉

Check out the Prisma Migrate docs for a deeper dive on this.

After running the migration, you should see a message similar to this:

Your database is now in sync with your schema.

✔ Generated Prisma Client (3.5.0) to ./node_modules/@prisma/client in 302ms

This means that Prisma has automatically generated Prisma Client based on your data model. Prisma Client contains everything you need to run queries against your database. Just like Nexus it is designed to be completely type-safe. By default, Prisma Client is generated in /node_modules/@prisma/client, which can be imported and used in your code.

Note: If for whatever reason you would like to regenerate Prisma Client, you can always do so independent of a migration using the npx prisma generate command.

Let’s write your first query with Prisma Client and break everything down. You’ll do that in a separate file to not mess with your current GraphQL server implementation.

The script file will contain the code for your first Prisma query.

Let’s break down what’s going on here with the numbered comments:

  • // 1: Import the PrismaClient constructor from the @prisma/client node module.
  • // 2: Instantiate PrismaClient.
  • // 3: Define an async function called main to send queries to the database. You will write all your queries inside this function. You are calling the findMany() query, which will return all the link records that exist in the database.
  • // 4: Call the main function.
  • // 5: Close the database connections when the script terminates.

Take a moment to re-type the query line and notice the helpful autocompletion you get after typing prisma. and The autocompletion lets us see all of the possible models we can access and operations we can use to query that data:

typing prisma. and

So now let’s see things in action.

You successfully queried the database with Prisma Client! Of course, you got an empty array back since the database is empty, so now let’s quickly create a new link in the same script.

Notice how the autocompletion suggestion helps us understand that .create() is the operation we need (just scroll through the options) and then it actually shows us exactly how to construct the mutation!

You successfully queried the database with Prisma Client

Great! Re-run the previous command (npx ts-node src/script.ts) and this time you should now see your newly created link print in the terminal output.

    id: 1,
    createdAt: 2021-11-16T21:48:39.798Z,
    description: 'Fullstack tutorial for GraphQL',
    url: ''

Much more satisfying ✨

Summary of your workflow

To recap, this is the typical workflow you will follow when updating your data:

  • Manually adjust your Prisma data model.
  • Migrate your database using the prisma migrate CLI commands we covered.
  • (Re-)generate Prisma Client.
  • Use Prisma Client in your application code to access your database.

In the next chapters, you will evolve the API of your GraphQL server and use Prisma Client to access the database from inside your resolver functions.

Unlock the next chapter
What is the role of Prisma Client in the GraphQL API?
It receives and processes GraphQL queries
It connects your GraphQL server to the database
It lets you cache your data
It lets you design your GraphQL schema