Guide to working with databases in Yii 2
Working with databases in Yii 2

Tutorial how to Work with databases in Yii 2

Working with Databases

This section will describe how to create a new page that displays country data fetched from a database table named country. To achieve this goal, you will configure a database connection, create an Active Record class, define an action, and create a view.

Through this tutorial, you will learn how to:

  • configure a DB connection,
  • define an Active Record class,
  • query data using the Active Record class,
  • display data in a view in a paginated fashion.

Note that in order to finish this section, you should have basic knowledge and experience using databases. In particular, you should know how to create a database, and how to execute SQL statements using a DB client tool.

Preparing the Database

To begin, create a database named yii2basic, from which you will fetch data in your application. You may create an SQLite, MySQL, PostgreSQL, MSSQL or Oracle database, as Yii has built-in support for many database applications. For simplicity, MySQL will be assumed in the following description.

Info: While MariaDB used to be a drop-in replacement for MySQL this is no longer fully true. In case you wish to use advanced features like JSON support in MariaDB, please check the MariaDB extension listed below.

Next, create a table named country in the database, and insert some sample data. You may run the following SQL statements to do so:

CREATE TABLE `country` (
  `name` CHAR(52) NOT NULL,
  `population` INT(11) NOT NULL DEFAULT '0'

INSERT INTO `country` VALUES ('AU','Australia',24016400);
INSERT INTO `country` VALUES ('BR','Brazil',205722000);
INSERT INTO `country` VALUES ('CA','Canada',35985751);
INSERT INTO `country` VALUES ('CN','China',1375210000);
INSERT INTO `country` VALUES ('DE','Germany',81459000);
INSERT INTO `country` VALUES ('FR','France',64513242);
INSERT INTO `country` VALUES ('GB','United Kingdom',65097000);
INSERT INTO `country` VALUES ('IN','India',1285400000);
INSERT INTO `country` VALUES ('RU','Russia',146519759);
INSERT INTO `country` VALUES ('US','United States',322976000);

At this point, you have a database named yii2basic, and within it a country table with three columns, containing ten rows of data.

Configuring a DB Connection

Before proceeding, make sure you have installed both the PDO PHP extension and the PDO driver for the database you are using (e.g. pdo_mysql for MySQL). This is a basic requirement if your application uses a relational database.

With those installed, open the file config/db.php and change the parameters to be correct for your database. By default, the file contains the following:


return [
    'class' => 'yii\db\Connection',
    'dsn' => 'mysql:host=localhost;dbname=yii2basic',
    'username' => 'root',
    'password' => '',
    'charset' => 'utf8',

The config/db.php file is a typical file-based configuration tool. This particular configuration file specifies the parameters needed to create and initialize a [[yii\db\Connection]] instance through which you can make SQL queries against the underlying database.

The DB connection configured above can be accessed in the application code via the expression Yii::$app->db.

Info: The config/db.php file will be included by the main application configuration config/web.php, which specifies how the application instance should be initialized. For more information, please refer to the Configurations section.

If you need to work with databases support for which isn't bundled with Yii, check the following extensions:

Creating an Active Record

To represent and fetch the data in the country table, create an Active Record-derived class named Country, and save it in the file models/Country.php.


namespace app\models;

use yii\db\ActiveRecord;

class Country extends ActiveRecord

The Country class extends from [[yii\db\ActiveRecord]]. You do not need to write any code inside of it! With just the above code, Yii will guess the associated table name from the class name.

Info: If no direct match can be made from the class name to the table name, you can override the [[yii\db\ActiveRecord::tableName()]] method to explicitly specify the associated table name.

Using the Country class, you can easily manipulate data in the country table, as shown in these snippets:

use app\models\Country;

// get all rows from the country table and order them by "name"
$countries = Country::find()->orderBy('name')->all();

// get the row whose primary key is "US"
$country = Country::findOne('US');

// displays "United States"
echo $country->name;

// modifies the country name to be "U.S.A." and save it to database
$country->name = 'U.S.A.';

Info: Active Record is a powerful way to access and manipulate database data in an object-oriented fashion. You may find more detailed information in the Active Record section. Alternatively, you may also interact with a database using a lower-level data accessing method called Database Access Objects.

Creating an Action

To expose the country data to end users, you need to create a new action. Instead of placing the new action in the site controller, like you did in the previous sections, it makes more sense to create a new controller specifically for all actions related to the country data. Name this new controller CountryController, and create an index action in it, as shown in the following.


namespace app\controllers;

use yii\web\Controller;
use yii\data\Pagination;
use app\models\Country;

class CountryController extends Controller
    public function actionIndex()
        $query = Country::find();

        $pagination = new Pagination([
            'defaultPageSize' => 5,
            'totalCount' => $query->count(),

        $countries = $query->orderBy('name')

        return $this->render('index', [
            'countries' => $countries,
            'pagination' => $pagination,

Save the above code in the file controllers/CountryController.php.

The index action calls Country::find(). This Active Record method builds a DB query that can be used to retrieve all of the data from the country table. To limit the number of countries returned in each request, the query is paginated with the help of a [[yii\data\Pagination]] object. The Pagination object serves two purposes:

  • Sets the offset and limit clauses for the SQL statement represented by the query so that it only returns a single page of data at a time (at most 5 rows in a page).
  • It's used in the view to display a pager consisting of a list of page buttons, as will be explained in the next subsection.

At the end of the code, the index action renders a view named index, and passes the country data as well as the pagination information to it.

Creating a View

Under the views directory, first create a sub-directory named country. This folder will be used to hold all the views rendered by the country controller. Within the views/country directory, create a file named index.php containing the following:

use yii\helpers\Html;
use yii\widgets\LinkPager;
<?php foreach ($countries as $country): ?>
        <?= Html::encode("{$country->code} ({$country->name})") ?>:
        <?= $country->population ?>
<?php endforeach; ?>

<?= LinkPager::widget(['pagination' => $pagination]) ?>

The view has two sections relative to displaying the country data. In the first part, the provided country data is traversed and rendered as an unordered HTML list. In the second part, a [[yii\widgets\LinkPager]] widget is rendered using the pagination information passed from the action. The LinkPager widget displays a list of page buttons. Clicking on any of them will refresh the country data in the corresponding page.

Trying it Out

To see how all of the above code works, use your browser to access the following URL:


Country List yii 2 Trying it Out

At first, you will see a page showing five countries. Below the countries, you will see a pager with four buttons. If you click on the button "2", you will see the page display another five countries in the database: the second page of records. Observe more carefully and you will find that the URL in the browser also changes to


Behind the scenes, [[yii\data\Pagination|Pagination]] is providing all of the necessary functionality to paginate a data set:

  • Initially, [[yii\data\Pagination|Pagination]] represents the first page, which reflects the country SELECT query with the clause LIMIT 5 OFFSET 0. As a result, the first five countries will be fetched and displayed.
  • The [[yii\widgets\LinkPager|LinkPager]] widget renders the page buttons using the URLs created by [[yii\data\Pagination::createUrl()|Pagination]]. The URLs will contain the query parameter page, which represents the different page numbers.
  • If you click the page button "2", a new request for the route country/index will be triggered and handled. [[yii\data\Pagination|Pagination]] reads the page query parameter from the URL and sets the current page number to 2. The new country query will thus have the clause LIMIT 5 OFFSET 5 and return the next five countries for display.


In this section, you learned how to work with a database. You also learned how to fetch and display data in pages with the help of [[yii\data\Pagination]] and [[yii\widgets\LinkPager]].

In the next section, you will learn how to use the powerful code generation tool, called Gii, to help you rapidly implement some commonly required features, such as the Create-Read-Update-Delete (CRUD) operations for working with the data in a database table. As a matter of fact, the code you have just written can all be automatically generated in Yii using the Gii tool.

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