Amazon Redshift Show Tables: 2 Comprehensive Aspects

Last Modified: December 29th, 2022

Amazon RedShift Show Tables

Cloud computing has become a go-to solution for most organizations as it provides computer resources such as Cloud Data Storage and Computing power that can be operated and managed without direct active involvement from the company’s service teams. Using Cloud Computing software by an organization helps reduce inefficiencies and improve the productivity of the company. Cloud Data Warehouses services offer a cost-effective solution for storage and computation.

Amazon Redshift is a Data Warehouse that is better than traditional Databases and on-premise Data Warehouses. It is easy to set up and use. Like other Postgres Databases, a similar method is followed to Amazon Redshift Show Tables. It becomes essential to know about all the tables available in the Data Warehouse to run queries and make better use of data.

In this article, you will be introduced to Amazon Redshift, a Cloud Data Warehouse service, and show you how to query Amazon Redshift Show Tables to make it easy to carry out operations as it relates to tables in your schema. First, you will be introduced to Amazon Redshift and then put through how to show and describe Amazon Redshift Show Tables.

Table of Contents

What is Amazon Redshift?

Redshift show table - amazon redshift logo
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Amazon Redshift is a fully managed, petabyte-scale Data Warehouse that offers its services in the Cloud. It is part of a larger Cloud Computing platform offered by Amazon known as Amazon Web Services (AWS). Amazon Redshift allows you to access data using SQL commands and integrates with Business Intelligence (BI) tools. It helps you run complex queries of structured and semi-structured data using sophisticated query optimization and columnar storage through standard ODBC (Open Database Connectivity) and JDBC (Java Database Connectivity) connections.

Amazon Redshift technology foundation is built on Massive Parallel Processing (MPP), and it handles large-scale data sets and migrations effectively as most results are returned in seconds. Amazon Redshift is easy to set up and can manage all the operating and scaling tasks effortlessly. The tasks of setting up may include the provision of capacity, monitoring and backing up clusters and applying patches and upgrades for you, depending on your needs.

Key Features of Amazon Redshift

Amazon Redshift is one of the widely used Data Warehouses with many features. It can easily integrate with other Cloud platforms and offers a different solution to connect with on-premise data sources. A few more features of Amazon Redshift are listed below:

  • Redshift ML: With the help of Amazon SageMaker models, Amazon Redshift allows Data Analysts to create, train and deploy models based on their requirements. By using SQL commands to query Amazon Redshift Show Tables, one can access data to train models.
  • Column-Oriented Design: Amazon Redshift is a Column-oriented Data Warehouse that helps it achieve query performance. It stores data in a columnar structure that enables it to provide efficient storage with Data Compression Encoding schemes. 
  • Massively Parallel Processing: Amazon Redshift delivers faster query performance than other Data Warehouse services by running multiple queries in different clusters and distributing workload on other processors. The MPP makes it easier to complete tasks within minutes.
  • Backup Services: Amazon Redshift offers automatic backup features of your Data Warehouse to multiple zones around the world. It is to avoid any data loss in any disaster.
  • End-to-End Encryption: Amazon Redshift secures data with AES-256 Encryption and transfers data over SSL. By default, the encryption keys are managed by Amazon Redshift.

To learn more about Amazon Redshift, click here.

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Understanding Amazon Redshift Show Tables

Query Editor for Amazon Redshift Show Tables
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Suppose you want to generate a report from the data available in Amazon Redshift. What will you do first? You want to have the list of all the tables from multiple data sources stored in the Data Warehouse. So that you can identify which table to be used for that particular task. Amazon Redshift Show Tables queries allow you to get a list of all the tables and its description.

It gives an overview of all the data stored in the Data Warehouse. Amazon Redshift Show Tables follows some concepts that are important to know. In this section, you will understand the 2 important aspects of Amazon Redshift Show Tables listed below:


Sample Output for PG_TABLE_DEF Amazon Redshift Show Tables Query
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To view Amazon Redshift Show Tables, you will need to use the query “PG_TABLE_DEF” systems table. It is used to return the properties of Amazon Redshift Show Tables in your database, and the prefix “PG_” is used because Amazon Redshift is built off Postgres.

When “SELECT * FROM PG_TABLE_DEF” is queried, you get the following columns:

  • Schemaname: The data type for the “schemaname” is the “name”, and it is used to describe the Schema name of the column. To limit the result of your Amazon Redshift Show Tables search, specify the “schemaname” column to Public to return only results found there to make it more specific.
  • Tablename: The data type is the “name“, and it describes the Table name of all Amazon Redshift Show Tables.
  • Column: The data type of “column” is the “name“, and it describes the Column name.
  • Type: The data type is “text“, and it describes the Data type of column.
  • Encoding: The data type is the “character(32)”, and it describes the Encoding of the column.
  • Distkey: The data type is “boolean“, and it describes “True” if the column is the distribution key for the table.
  • Sortkey: The data type is an “integer“, and it describes the order of the column in the sort key. Table using the compound sort key means that all columns of tables that are part of the sort key will have a positive value that indicates the position of the column in the sort key. If the table uses an interleaved sort key, then each column that is part of the sort key, and has a value that is alternatively positive or negative, where the absolute value is the position of the column in the sort key. The column is not part of a sort key if the value is 0.
  • Notnull: The data type is “boolean“, and it describes “True” if the column has a “NOT NULL” constraint.

Running Amazon Redshift Show Tables query of “SELECT * FROM PG_TABLE_DEF” will return every column from the table found in every schema, which means that every system table will be included and each table will be listed numerous times, one for each column with the options described above.

 You can use the PG_TABLE_DEF system table that returns information about tables that are visible to the user.

Consider the example below query to provide the structure of a given table.

SELECT * FROM pg_table_def WHERE tablename = 'table_name' AND schemaname = 'public';

If you want to get a list of Amazon Redshift Show Tables specific to your query, use the following query of Amazon Redshift Show Tables shown below.

SELECT DISTINT tablename FROM pg_table_def WHERE schemaname = ‘public’;

The above query for Amazon RedShift Show Tables on execution will return a single column of table names for the public schema, where you can find most of the data.

Here is the example of the interleaved sort key columns for the “LINEORDER_INTERLEAVED” table, shown below.

select "column", type, encoding, distkey, sortkey, "notnull" 
from pg_table_def
where tablename = 'lineorder_interleaved' 
and sortkey <> 0;
column       | type    | encoding | distkey | sortkey | notnull
lo_orderkey  | integer | delta32k | false   |      -1 | true   
lo_custkey   | integer | none     | false   |       2 | true   
lo_partkey   | integer | none     | true    |      -3 | true   
lo_suppkey   | integer | delta32k | false   |       4 | true   
lo_orderdate | integer | delta    | false   |      -5 | true   
(5 rows)
Amazon RedShift Show tables -Search_Path in Parameter Groups Panel
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PG_TABLE_DEF” will always return information for tables in the schema that is included in the “search_path“. Hence, you will have to understand and know which “search_path” is needed to query the Amazon Redshift Show Tables at any point in time. 

The “search_path” is a comma-separated list of existing schema names as displayed below with default in bold.

‘$user’, public, schema_names

The “search_path” defines the order in which schemas will be searched when any Amazon Redshift Show Tables are referenced by simply using a name without any schema component. It is used to specify the following cases listed below:

  • When search paths are not supported by the external schemas and external tables, then the external tables must be explicitly qualified by an external schema.
  • The objects are placed in the first schema listed in the search path whenever a new object is created without any specific target schema. An error is returned if the search path is empty.
  • The search path uses the first object in the search list whenever any object with identical names is available in different schemas.
  • An object can only be referenced that does not exist in any of the schemas in the search path by specifying its containing schema with a qualified (dotted) name.
  • When the system catalog schema “pg_catalog” is mentioned in the path, it will always search in the specified order. If not, it will be searched before any of the path items.
  • The current session’s temporary-table schema “pg_temp_nnn” is always searched. If it exists and it can be listed in the path using the alias “pg_temp“. It is searched first if it is not listed in the path even before “pg_catalog” but, the temporary schema search is for relation names and not for function names.

The example query that creates the schema ENTERPRISE and sets the search_path to the new schema, is shown below.

create schema enterprise;
set search_path to enterprise;
show search_path;
(1 row)

The following example adds the schema ENTERPRISE to the default “search_path” shown below.

set search_path to '$user', public, enterprise;
show search_path;
"$user", public, enterprise
(1 row)


In this article, you learned the highlighted ways to query Amazon Redshift Show Tables. It described the “PG_TABLE_DEF” syntax used in querying Amazon Redshift Show Tables and which columns will be displayed when queried. It further mentioned how “search_path” information for tables included in “PG_TABLE_DEF” is returned when referenced. Amazon Redshift helps companies store their valuable data and analyze it to make smarter business decisions.

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Share your experience of learning about the Amazon Redshift Show Tables in the comments section below!

Ofem Eteng
Freelance Technical Content Writer, Hevo Data

Ofem is a freelance writer specializing in data-related topics, who has expertise in translating complex concepts. With a focus on data science, analytics, and emerging technologies.

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