Yoyo database migrations

Yoyo is a database schema migration tool using plain SQL and python's builtin DB-API.


What does yoyo-migrations do?

As database applications evolve, changes to the database schema are often required. These can usually be written as one-off SQL scripts containing CREATE/ALTER table statements (although any SQL or python script may be used with yoyo).

Yoyo provides a command line tool for reading a directory of such scripts and applying them to your database as required.


Install from the PyPI with the command:

pip install yoyo-migrations

Database support

PostgreSQL, MySQL and SQLite databases are supported. An ODBC backend is also available, but is unsupported (patches welcome!)


Yoyo is usually invoked as a command line script.

Start a new migration:

yoyo new ./migrations -m "Add column to foo"

Apply migrations from directory migrations to a PostgreSQL database:

yoyo apply --database postgresql://scott:tiger@localhost/db ./migrations

Rollback migrations previously applied to a MySQL database:

yoyo rollback --database mysql://scott:tiger@localhost/database ./migrations

Reapply (ie rollback then apply again) migrations to a SQLite database at location /home/sheila/important.db:

yoyo reapply --database sqlite:////home/sheila/important.db ./migrations

By default, yoyo-migrations starts in an interactive mode, prompting you for each migration file before applying it, making it easy to preview which migrations to apply and rollback.

The migrations directory should contain a series of migration scripts. Each migration script is a python file (.py) containing a series of steps. Each step should comprise a migration query and (optionally) a rollback query. For example:

# file: migrations/0001.create-foo.py
from yoyo import step
    "CREATE TABLE foo (id INT, bar VARCHAR(20), PRIMARY KEY (id))",
    "DROP TABLE foo",

Migrations may also declare dependencies on previous migrations via the __depends__ attribute:

# file: migrations/0002.modify-foo.py
__depends__ = ['0001.create-foo']

    "CREATE TABLE foo (id INT, bar VARCHAR(20), PRIMARY KEY (id))",
    "DROP TABLE foo",

The filename of each file (without the .py extension) is used as the identifier for each migration. In the absence of a __depends__ attribute, migrations are applied in filename order, so it's useful to name your files using a date (eg '20090115-xyz.py') or some other incrementing number.

yoyo creates a table in your target database, _yoyo_migration, to track which migrations have been applied.

Steps may also take an optional argument ignore_errors, which must be one of apply, rollback, or all. If in the previous example the table foo might have already been created by another means, we could add ignore_errors='apply' to the step to allow the migrations to continue regardless:

# file: migrations/0001.create-foo.py
from yoyo import step
    "CREATE TABLE foo (id INT, bar VARCHAR(20), PRIMARY KEY (id))",
    "DROP TABLE foo",

Steps can also be python callable objects that take a database connection as their single argument. For example:

# file: migrations/0002.update-keys.py
from yoyo import step
def do_step(conn):
    cursor = conn.cursor()
        "INSERT INTO sysinfo "
        " (osname, hostname, release, version, arch)"
        " VALUES (%s, %s, %s, %s, %s %s)",


Configuration file

Yoyo looks for a configuration file named yoyo.ini in the current working directory or any ancestor directory. This can contain the following options:


# List of migration source directories. "%(here)s" is expanded to the
# full path of the directory containing this ini file.
sources = %(here)s/migrations %(here)s/lib/module/migrations

# Target database
database = postgresql://scott:tiger@localhost/mydb

# Verbosity level. Goes from 0 (least verbose) to 3 (most verbose)
verbosity = 3

# Disable interactive features
batch_mode = on

# Editor to use when starting new migrations
# "{}" is expanded to the filename of the new migration
editor = /usr/local/bin/vim -f {}

# An arbitrary command to run after a migration has been created
# "{}" is expanded to the filename of the new migration
post_create_command = hg add {}

# A prefix to use for generated migration filenames
prefix = myproject_

Config file inheritance may be used to customize configuration per site:

# file: yoyo-defaults.ini
sources = %(here)s/migrations

# file: yoyo.ini

; Inherit settings from yoyo-defaults.ini
%inherit = %(here)s/yoyo-defaults.ini

; Use '?' to avoid raising an error if the file does not exist
%inherit = ?%(here)s/yoyo-defaults.ini

database = sqlite:///%(here)s/mydb.sqlite


Each migration is run in a separate transaction and savepoints are used to isolate steps within each migration.

If an error occurs during a step and the step has ignore_errors set, then that individual step will be rolled back and execution will pick up from the next step. If ignore_errors is not set then the entire migration will be rolled back and execution stopped.

Note that some databases (eg MySQL) do not support rollback on DDL statements (eg CREATE ... and ALTER ... statements). For these databases you may need to manually intervene to reset the database state should errors occur during your migration.

Using group allows you to nest steps, giving you control of where rollbacks happen. For example:

  step("ALTER TABLE employees ADD tax_code TEXT"),
  step("CREATE INDEX tax_code_idx ON employees (tax_code)")
], ignore_errors='all')
step("UPDATE employees SET tax_code='C' WHERE pay_grade < 4")
step("UPDATE employees SET tax_code='B' WHERE pay_grade >= 6")
step("UPDATE employees SET tax_code='A' WHERE pay_grade >= 8")

Disabling transactions

In PostgreSQL it is an error to run certain statements inside a transaction block. These include:

Migrations containing such statements should set __transactional__ = False, eg:

Note that this feature is implemented for the PostgreSQL backend only.

Post-apply hook

It can be useful to have a script that's run after successful migrations. For example you could use this to update database permissions or re-create views. To do this, create a migration file called post-apply.py. This file should have the same format as any other migration file.

Password security

You normally specify your database username and password as part of the database connection string on the command line. On a multi-user machine, other users could view your database password in the process list.

The -p or --prompt-password flag causes yoyo to prompt for a password, ignoring any password specified in the connection string. This password will not be available to other users via the system's process list.

Configuration file

Yoyo looks for a configuration file called yoyo.ini, in the current working directory or any ancestor directory.

If no configuration file is found yoyo will prompt you to create one, popuplated with the current command line args.

Using a configuration file saves typing, avoids your database username and password showing in process listings and lessens the risk of accidentally running yoyo on the wrong database (ie by re-running an earlier yoyo entry in your command history when you have moved to a different directory).

If you do not want this config file to be used, add the --no-config parameter to the command line options.


Database connections are specified using a URI. Examples:


# Use 4 slashes for an absolute database path on unix like platforms
database = sqlite:////home/user/mydb.sqlite

# Absolute path on Windows.
database = sqlite:///c:\home\user\mydb.sqlite

# Use 3 slashes for a relative path
database = sqlite:///mydb.sqlite


# Network database connection
database = mysql://scott:tiger@localhost/mydatabase

# Connect via a unix socket
database = mysql://scott:tiger@/mydatabase?unix_socket=/tmp/mysql.sock

MySQL with MySQLdb

# Use the MySQLdb driver instead of pymysql
database = mysql+mysqldb://scott:tiger@localhost/mydatabase


# Network database connection
database = postgresql://scott:tiger@localhost/mydatabase

# Omit the host to use a socket connection
database = postgresql://scott:tiger@/mydatabase

Using yoyo from python code

The following example shows how to apply migrations from inside python code:

from yoyo import read_migrations
from yoyo import get_backend

backend = get_backend('postgres://myuser@localhost/mydatabase')
migrations = read_migrations('path/to/migrations')
with backend.lock():