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In addition to using Atlas as a CLI tool, all of Atlas's core-engine capabilities are available as a Go module that you can use programmatically. This guide provides high-level documentation on how to use Atlas from within Go programs.


To install Atlas, use:

go get

This installs the latest release of Atlas. If you would like to get the most recent version from the master branch, use:

go get


Atlas currently supports three core capabilities for working with SQL schemas.

  • "Inspection" - Connecting to a database and understanding its schema.
  • "Diff" - Compares two schemas and producing a set of changes needed to reconcile the target schema to the source schema.
  • "Apply" - creates concrete set of SQL queries to migrate the target database.

The implementation details for these capabilities vary greatly between the different SQL databases. Atlas currently has three supported drivers:

  • MySQL (+MariaDB, TiDB)
  • PostgreSQL
  • SQLite

Atlas drivers build on top of the standard library database/sql package. To initialize the different drivers, we need to initialize a sql.DB and pass it to the Atlas driver constructor. For example:

package main

import (

_ ""

func Test(t *testing.T) {
// Open a "connection" to sqlite.
db, err := sql.Open("sqlite3", "file:example.db?cache=shared&_fk=1&mode=memory")
if err != nil {
log.Fatalf("failed opening db: %s", err)
// Open an atlas driver.
driver, err := sqlite.Open(db)
if err != nil {
log.Fatalf("failed opening atlas driver: %s", err)
// ... do stuff with the driver


Inspection is the one of Atlas's core capabilities. When we say "inspection" in the context of this project we mean the process of connecting to an existing database, querying its metadata tables to understand the structure of the different tables, types, extensions, etc.

Databases vary greatly in the API they provide users to understand a specific database's schema, but Atlas goes to great lengths to abstract these differences and provide a unified API for inspecting databases. Consider the Inspector interface in the sql/schema package:

// Inspector is the interface implemented by the different database
// drivers for inspecting multiple tables.
type Inspector interface {
// InspectSchema returns the schema description by its name. An empty name means the
// "attached schema" (e.g. SCHEMA() in MySQL or CURRENT_SCHEMA() in PostgreSQL).
// A NotExistError error is returned if the schema does not exists in the database.
InspectSchema(ctx context.Context, name string, opts *InspectOptions) (*Schema, error)

// InspectRealm returns the description of the connected database.
InspectRealm(ctx context.Context, opts *InspectRealmOption) (*Realm, error)

As you can see, the Inspector interface provides methods for inspecting on different levels:

  • InspectSchema - provides inspection capabilities for a single schema within a database server.
  • InspectRealm - inspects the entire connected database server.

Each database driver (for example MySQL, Postgres or SQLite) implements this interface. Let's see how we can use this interface by inspecting a "dummy" SQLite database.

func TestInspect(t *testing.T) {
// ... skipping driver creation
ctx := context.Background()
// Create an "example" table for Atlas to inspect.
_, err = db.ExecContext(ctx, "create table example ( id int not null );")
if err != nil {
log.Fatalf("failed creating example table: %s", err)
// Open an atlas driver.
driver, err := sqlite.Open(db)
if err != nil {
log.Fatalf("failed opening atlas driver: %s", err)
// Inspect the created table.
sch, err := driver.InspectSchema(ctx, "main", &schema.InspectOptions{
Tables: []string{"example"},
if err != nil {
log.Fatalf("failed inspecting schema: %s", err)
tbl, ok := sch.Table("example")
require.True(t, ok, "expected to find example table")
require.EqualValues(t, "example", tbl.Name)
id, ok := tbl.Column("id")
require.True(t, ok, "expected to find id column")
require.EqualValues(t, &schema.ColumnType{
Type: &schema.IntegerType{T: "int"}, // An integer type, specifically "int".
Null: false, // The column has NOT NULL set.
Raw: "INT", // The raw type inspected from the DB.
}, id.Type)

In this example, we first created a table named "example" by executing a query directly against the database. We next used the driver's InspectSchema method to inspect the schema of the table we created. Finally, we made some assertions on the returned schema.Table instance to verify that it was inspected correctly.