CSV & friends

The sq CSV driver implements connectivity for CSV and variants, such as TSV, pipe-delimited, etc..

Note that the CSV data sources are read-only. That is to say, while you can query the CSV source as if it were a SQL table, you cannot insert values into the CSV source.

Add source

When adding a CSV source via sq add, the location string is simply the filepath. For example:

$ sq add ./actor.csv
@actor_csv  csv  actor.csv

You can also pass an absolute filepath (and, in fact, any relative path is expanded to an absolute path when saved to sq’s config).

Usually you can omit the --driver=csv flag, because sq will inspect the file contents and detect that it’s a CSV file. However, it’s safer to explicitly specify the flag.

sq add --driver=csv ./actor.csv

The same is true for TSV files. You can specify the driver explicitly:

$ sq add ./actor.tsv --driver=tsv
@actor_tsv  tsv  actor.tsv

But, if you omit the driver, sq can generally figure out that it’s a TSV file.

sq add ./actor.tsv


sq considers CSV to be a monotable data source (unlike, say, a Postgres data source, which obviously can have many tables). Like all other sq monotable sources, the source’s data is accessed via the synthetic .data table. For example:

$ sq @actor_csv.data
actor_id  first_name   last_name     last_update
1         PENELOPE     GUINESS       2020-02-15T06:59:28Z
2         NICK         WAHLBERG      2020-02-15T06:59:28Z


It’s common to encounter delimiters other than comma. TSV (tab) is the most common, but other variants exist, e.g. pipe (a|b|c). Use the --driver.csv.delim flag to specify the delimiter. Because the delimiter is often a shell token (e.g. |), the delim option requires text aliases. For example:

sq add ./actor.csv --driver.csv.delim=pipe

The accepted values are:



  • comma is the default. You generally never need to specify this.

  • tab is the delimiter for TSV files. Because this is such a common variant, sq allows you to specify --driver=tsv instead. But usually sq will detect that it’s a TSV file. The following are equivalent:

    $ sq add --driver=tsv ./actor.tsv
    $ sq add --driver=csv --driver.csv.delim=tab ./actor.tsv
    $ sq add ./actor.tsv

Header row

CSV files will often have a header row containing column names. If the sheet doesn’t have a header row, by default sq will name the columns A, B, C, etc. (Note that the column naming behavior is configurable.

Generally, sq will automatically detect whether or not the first row of a CSV file is a header row. If the header row detection is having difficulty with your CSV file, you can explicitly specify that a header row is present (or not) via --ingest.header.

# Explicitly specify that a header row exists
$ sq add --ingest.header ./actor_header.csv

# Explicitly specify no header row
$ sq add --ingest.header=false ./actor_no_header.csv

Duplicate columns

If the header row has duplicate column names, the later columns are renamed. For example, these columns:

actor_id, first_name, actor_id


actor_id, first_name, actor_id_1

The renaming behavior is configurable via ingest.column.rename.

Column kind

When ingesting a CSV file, sq attempts to detect the data “kind” of each column (int, float, text, etc.). Thus a CSV date string such as 1989-11-09 becomes a date in the backing DB, a number string becomes an int or float, and various date & time values are parsed into an appropriate DB type. See the column kind section for more on this mechanism.