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Cesare Ferrari
Cesare Ferrari

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Configuring Knex

How to set up a knexfile to connect Knex to a SQLite3 database.

Knex is a query builder that supports many types of databases including MySQL, Postgresql, SQLite, and Oracle.
In order to work with all these different databases, Knex uses different npm modules to connect to them.

If we work with a SQLite database in our project, for instance, we would have a dependency on the knex module and the sqlite module.
This is a sample of the package.json file in such an application that specifies these modules:

"dependencies": {
  "knex": "^0.20.4",
  "sqlite3": "^4.1.1"

When we configure Knex, we want to give it details on the database we'll use.
In the code below I show an example of calling knex with a configuration object for SQLite3.
The object, which is passed in as an argument to the knex() function call, tells Knex which database to use and where to find it (SQLite, unlike other databases, saves the data in a local file).

const knex = require('knex');

const db = knex({
  client: 'sqlite3',
  connection: {
    filename: './data/produce.db3'
  useNullAsDefault: true

Although this code would work, it's not ideal as a configuration setting. We will see a better way to configure Knex using a separate file called knexfile.js.

Query builder

As we have seen in previous articles, when we use Knex we write our queries in Javascript instead of plain SQL.
When it's time to make the database connection, Knex uses the sqlite3 module available in our application to translate queries from the Javascript syntax to the specific version of the SQL language implemented by SQLite3.

The reason we normally use a query builder like Knex instead of writing SQL commands directly is so that our queries are not bound to a specific implementation of SQL but are portable across different databases.
If one day we decide to use a different database, for example in a production environment, we wouldn't have to worry that our queries may generate SQL syntax errors.
We can be confident that our code will work seamlessly, provided we have installed the module for the new database in our project.

Knex configuration

In the code above we have seen how to configure Knex passing a literal object as an argument to knex(). But the typical way to make this configuration is through a separate file called knexfile.js. The knexfile includes all the configuration necessary to run Knex in different environments.

We can create knexfile.js manually, but we can more easily have Knex create it for us by running knex init on the command line.

knex init will create a knexfile.js at the root of our application and include some default settings.
knexfile.js exports a configuration object with different sections for different environments such as development, production and staging. It also has a section with details about how to run migrations (we'll see what migrations are later).

The development section looks something like this:

// knexfile.js

module.exports = {

  development: {
    client: 'sqlite3',
    connection: {
      filename: './dev.sqlite3'

  // other configuration here...


It defaults to sqlite3, which is fine for our purposes, but we need to make sure that it's pointing to the right location for the database filename on our system.

Another setting we should add when using SQLite3 has to do with default values entered in the database. To make sure undefined keys are entered in the database as NULL values, we add this configuration:

useNullAsDefault: true

Now that we have a simple configuration file defined, we create a new empty file named db-config.js.

Database configuration

The reason we create a separate file for configuration is to separate concerns in our application.
We want each file to have code that does one single thing in one well defined place, so we don't have to go through several different files if we need to make changes in the future.

In db-config.js we first import the knex module.
We then require the knexfile and assign it to a config object which we pass as an argument to knex() as the configuration object.
We assign the result of this call to a db object that we can use in our application to interact with the database.
At the end of our file, we export the db object so it can be used by the rest of our code.

// db-config.js

const knex = require('knex');

const config = require('../knexfile.js');

const db = knex(config.development);

module.exports = db;

If you notice, we only pass the development property of the config object to knex, since we are interested only in the development environment for now.
We'll see how to use the db object to make database queries and additional Knex configurations in future articles.

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