PL/v8 is a trusted procedural language that is safe to use, fast to run and easy to develop, powered by V8 JavaScript Engine. The PL/v8 project is maintained at

Table of Contents

The documentation covers the following implemented features:


PL/v8 is tested with:

  • PG: version 9.2, 9.3, 9.4 and 9.5 (maybe older/newer are allowed)
  • V8: version 4.4 to 5.4
  • g++: version 4.8.2
  • clang++

Also all tools that PostgreSQL and V8 require to be built are required if you are building those from source.

Installing PL/v8

Build from source:

Determine the PL/v8 release you want to download and use it's version and path below.

$ wget
$ tar -xvzf v2.3.0.tar.gz
$ cd plv8-2.3.0
$ make

This will build PL/v8 for you linking to Google's v8 as a static library by downloading the v8 source at a specific version and building it along with PL/v8. The build will be for the highest PostgreSQL version you have installed on the system. You can alternatively run make -f Makefile.shared and it will build PL/v8 dynamically linking to Google's libv8 library on your system. There are some issues with this as several linux distros ship a very old version of libv8. The 3.x versions of v8 will work with the 1.4.x versions of PL/v8, but to build the later versions of PL/v8 you need a v8 minimum version of, but can also use v8 version 6.4.388.40. PGXN install will use the statically linked libv8 library.

If you would like to use make -f Makefile.shared and your system does not have a new enough version of libv8 installed, see the Makefile file in the repo to see how to build v8 natively.

Note: If you have multiple versions of PostgreSQL installed like 9.5 and 9.6, PL/v8 will only be built for PostgreSQL 9.6. This is because make calls pg_config to get the version number, which will always be the latest version installed. If you need to build PL/v8 for PostgreSQL 9.5 while you have 9.6 installed pass make the PG_CONFIG variable to your 9.5 version of pg_config. This works for make, make -f Makefile.shared, make install. For example in Ubuntu:

$ make PG_CONFIG=/usr/lib/postgresql/9.5/bin/pg_config

Note: You may run into problems with your C++ complier version. You can pass make the CUSTOM_CC variable to change the complier. For example, to use g++ version 4.9:

$ make CUSTOM_CC g++-4.9

Note: In mingw64, you may have difficulty in building PL/v8. If so, try to make the following changes in Makefile. For more detail, please refer to

SHLIB_LINK := $(SHLIB_LINK) -lv8 -Wl,-Bstatic -lstdc++ -Wl,-Bdynamic -lm

Installing the build:

After running make or make static the following files must be copied to the correct location for PostgreSQL to find them:

PL/v8 JavaScript Extension:

  • plv8.control
  • plv8--{plv8-build-version-here}.sql

By default, PL/v8 will not compile v8's ICU support. If you need ICU support, you will need to specify it at build time:

$ make -DUSE_ICU

The following files will also be built and can be optionally installed if you need the CoffeeScript or LiveScript versions:

CoffeeScript Extension:

  • plcoffee.control
  • plcoffee--{plv8-build-version-here}.sql

LiveScript Extension:

  • plls.control
  • plls--{plv8-build-version-here}.sql

Automatically Install the Build

You can install the build for your system by running:

$ make install

Note: You should do this a root/admin. sudo make install

Note: If you need to install PL/v8 for a different version of PostgreSQL, pass the PG_CONFIG variable. See above.

Test the Install

PL/v8 supports installcheck test. Make sure to set custom_variable_classes = 'plv8' in your postgresql.conf (before 9.2) and run:

$ make installcheck

Debian/Ubuntu 14.04 and 16.04:

You can install PL/v8 using apt-get, but it will be version v1.4.8 (As of 2016-12-16).

$ apt-get install postgresql-{your-postgresql-version-here}-plv8
# e.g.
$ apt-get install postgresql-9.1-plv8
# OR up to
$ apt-get install postgresql-9.6-plv8


This guide assumes you are using the pgdg yum repository.

$ yum install postgresql(your-postgresql-version-here)-server postgresql(your-postgresql-version-here)-devel
$ make static PG_CONFIG=/usr/pgsql-(your-postgresql-version-here)/bin/pg_config
$ sudo make install




TODO - PL/v8 supports Windows. A Pull Request for installation steps is greatly appreciated

Install the PL/v8 Extensions on a Database:

Once the PL/v8 extensions have been added to the server, you should restart the PostgreSQL service. Then you can connect to the server and install the extensions on a database by running the following SQL queries on PostgreSQL version 9.1 or later:


Make sure to set custom_variable_classes = 'plv8' in your postgresql.conf file for PostgreSQL versions before 9.2.

In the versions prior to 9.1 run the following to create database objects:

$ psql -f plv8.sql

Testing PL/v8 on a database:

Below are some example queries to test if the extension is working:

DO $$
  plv8.elog(WARNING, 'plv8.version = ' + plv8.version); // Will output the PL/v8 installed as a PostgreSQL `WARNING`.
$$ LANGUAGE plv8;

As of 2.0.0, there is a function to determine which version of PL/v8 you have installed:

SELECT plv8_version();

JavaScript Example

CREATE OR REPLACE FUNCTION plv8_test(keys text[], vals text[])
RETURNS text AS $$
  var o = {};
  for(var i=0; i<keys.length; i++){
    o[keys[i]] = vals[i];
  return JSON.stringify(o);

SELECT plv8_test(ARRAY['name', 'age'], ARRAY['Tom', '29']);
(1 row)

CoffeeScript Example

CREATE OR REPLACE FUNCTION plcoffee_test(keys text[], vals text[])
RETURNS text AS $$
  return JSON.stringify(keys.reduce(((o, key, idx) ->
    o[key] = vals[idx]; return o), {}), {})

SELECT plcoffee_test(ARRAY['name', 'age'], ARRAY['Tom', '29']);
(1 row)

LiveScript Example

CREATE OR REPLACE FUNCTION plls_test(keys text[], vals text[])
RETURNS text AS $$
  return JSON.stringify { [key, vals[idx]] for key, idx in keys }

SELECT plls_test(ARRAY['name', 'age'], ARRAY['Tom', '29']);
(1 row)

Scalar function calls

In PL/v8, you can write your SQL invoked function in JavaScript. Use the usual CREATE FUNCTION statement with a JS function body. Here is an example of a scalar function call.

CREATE FUNCTION plv8_test(keys text[], vals text[]) RETURNS text AS $$
    var o = {};
    for(var i=0; i<keys.length; i++){
        o[keys[i]] = vals[i];
    return JSON.stringify(o);

SELECT plv8_test(ARRAY['name', 'age'], ARRAY['Tom', '29']);
SELECT plv8_test(ARRAY['name', 'age'], ARRAY['Tom', '29']);
(1 row)

The function will be internally defined such that:

(function(arg1, arg2, ..){

Where $funcbody$ is the script source you specify in the CREATE FUNCTION AS clause. The argument names are inherited from the CREATE FUNCTION statement or they will be named as $1, $2 if the names are omitted.

Set returning function calls

PL/v8 supports SET returning function calls.

CREATE TYPE rec AS (i integer, t text);
    // plv8.return_next() stores records in an internal tuplestore,
    // and return all of them at the end of function.
    plv8.return_next( { "i": 1, "t": "a" } );
    plv8.return_next( { "i": 2, "t": "b" } );

    // You can also return records with an array of JSON.
    return [ { "i": 3, "t": "c" }, { "i": 4, "t": "d" } ];

SELECT * FROM set_of_records();
 i | t
 1 | a
 2 | b
 3 | c
 4 | d
(4 rows)

If the function is declared as RETURNS SETOF, PL/v8 prepares a tuplestore every time called. You can call plv8.return_next() function to add as many results as you like to return rows from this function. Alternatively, you can just return a JS array to add set of records, a JS object to add a record, or a scalar value to add a scalar to the tuplestore. Unlike other PLs, PL/v8 does not support the per-value return strategy, but it always uses the tuplestore strategy. If the argument object has extra properties that are not defined by the argument, return_next raises an error.

Trigger function calls

PL/v8 supports trigger function calls.

CREATE FUNCTION test_trigger() RETURNS trigger AS
    plv8.elog(NOTICE, "NEW = ", JSON.stringify(NEW));
    plv8.elog(NOTICE, "OLD = ", JSON.stringify(OLD));
    plv8.elog(NOTICE, "TG_OP = ", TG_OP);
    plv8.elog(NOTICE, "TG_ARGV = ", TG_ARGV);
    if (TG_OP == "UPDATE") {
        NEW.i = 102;
        return NEW;
LANGUAGE "plv8";

CREATE TRIGGER test_trigger
    ON test_tbl FOR EACH ROW
    EXECUTE PROCEDURE test_trigger('foo', 'bar');

If the trigger type is an INSERT or UPDATE, you can assign properties of NEW variable to change the actual tuple stored by this operation.

A PL/v8 trigger function will have the following special arguments that contain the trigger state:

  • NEW
  • OLD
  • TG_OP

For each variable semantics, see the trigger section in PostgreSQL manual.

Inline statement calls

PL/v8 supports DO block with PostgreSQL 9.0 and above.

DO $$ plv8.elog(NOTICE, 'this', 'is', 'inline', 'code') $$ LANGUAGE plv8;

Auto mapping between JS and database built-in types

For the result and arguments, database types and JS types are mapped automatically. If the desired database type is one of:

  • oid
  • bool
  • int2
  • int4
  • int8
  • float4
  • float8
  • numeric
  • date
  • timestamp
  • timestamptz
  • bytea
  • json (>= 9.2)
  • jsonb (>= 9.4)

and the JS value looks compatible, then the conversion succeeds. Otherwise, PL/v8 tries to convert them via cstring representation. An array type is supported only if the dimention is one. A JS object will be mapped to a tuple when applicable. In addition to these types, PL/v8 supports polymorphic types such like anyelement and anyarray. Conversion of bytea is a little different story. See the TypedArray section.

Database access via SPI including prepared statements and cursors

plv8.execute( sql [, args] )

Executes SQL statements and retrieves the results. The args is an optional argument that replaces $n placeholders in sql. For SELECT queries, the returned value is an array of objects. Each hash represents each record. Column names are mapped to object properties. For non-SELECT commands, the returned value is an integer that represents number of affected rows.

var json_result = plv8.execute( 'SELECT * FROM tbl' );
var num_affected = plv8.execute( 'DELETE FROM tbl WHERE price > $1', [ 1000 ] );

Note this function and similar are not allowed outside of transaction.

plv8.prepare( sql, [, typenames] )

Opens a prepared statement. The typename parameter is an array where each element is a string to indicate database type name for bind parameters. Returned value is an object of PreparedPlan. This object must be freed by before leaving the function.

var plan = plv8.prepare( 'SELECT * FROM tbl WHERE col = $1', ['int'] );
var rows = plan.execute( [1] );
var sum = 0;
for (var i = 0; i < rows.length; i++) {
  sum += rows[i].num;

return sum;

PreparedPlan.execute( [args] )

Executes the prepared statement. The args parameter is as plv8.execute(), and can be omitted if the statement does not have parameters at all. The result of this method is also as described in plv8.execute().

PreparedPlan.cursor( [args] )

Opens a cursor from the prepared statement. The args parameter is as plv8.execute(), and can be omitted if the statement does not have parameters at all. The returned object is of Cursor. This must be closed by Cursor.close() before leaving the function.

var plan = plv8.prepare( 'SELECT * FROM tbl WHERE col = $1', ['int'] );
var cursor = plan.cursor( [1] );
var sum = 0, row;
while (row = cursor.fetch()) {
    sum += row.num;

return sum;

Frees the prepared statement.

Cursor.fetch( [nrows] )

When nrows parameter is omitted, fetches a row from the cursor and return it as an object (note: not an array.) If specified, fetches as many rows as the parameters up to exceeding, and returns an array of objects. A negative value for this parameter will fetch backwards.

Cursor.move( [nrows] )

Move the cursor nrows rows. A negative value will move backwards.


Closes the cursor.


plv8.subtransaction( func )

plv8.execute() creates a subtransaction every time. If you need an atomic operation, you will need to call plv8.subtransaction() to create a subtransaction block.

    plv8.execute("INSERT INTO tbl VALUES(1)"); // should be rolled back!
    plv8.execute("INSERT INTO tbl VALUES(1/0)"); // occurs an exception
} catch(e) {
  ... do fall back plan ...

If one of the SQL execution in the subtransaction block fails, all of operation within the block is rolled back. If the process in the block throws a JS exception, it is transported to the outside. So use a try ... catch block to capture it and do alternative operations when it happens.

Utility functions

PL/v8 provides the following utility built-in functions.

  • plv8.elog(elevel, msg1[, msg2, ...])
  • plv8.quote_literal(str)
  • plv8.nullable(str)
  • plv8.quote_ident(str)
  • plv8.version


plv8.elog emits message to the client or the log file. The elevel is one of:

  • DEBUG5
  • DEBUG4
  • DEBUG3
  • DEBUG2
  • DEBUG1
  • LOG
  • INFO

    var msg = 'world'; plv8.elog(DEBUG1, 'Hello',${msg}!);

See the PostgreSQL manual for each error level.

plv8.quote_literal, plv8.nullable, and plv8.quote_ident

Each functionality for quote family is identical to the built-in SQL function with the same name.


PL/v8 provides a function to access other plv8 functions that have been registered in the database.

CREATE FUNCTION callee(a int) RETURNS int AS $$ return a * a $$ LANGUAGE plv8;
CREATE FUNCTION caller(a int, t int) RETURNS int AS $$
  var func = plv8.find_function("callee");
  return func(a);
$$ LANGUAGE plv8;

With plv8.find_function(), you can look up other plv8 functions. If they are not a plv8 function, it errors out. The function signature parameter to plv8.find_function() is either of regproc (function name only) or regprocedure (function name with argument types). You can make use of the internal type for arguments and void type for return type for the pure JavaScript function to make sure any invocation from SQL statements should not happen.


The plv8 object provides version string as plv8.version. This string corresponds to plv8 module version. Note this is not the extension version.

Window function API

You can define user-defined window functions with PL/v8. It wraps the C-level window function API to support full functionality. To create one, first obtain a window object by calling plv8.get_window_object(), which provides the following interfaces:


Returns the current position in the partition, starting from 0.


Returns the number of rows in the partition.

WindowObject.set_mark_position( pos )

Set mark at the specified row. Rows above this position will be gone and not be accessible later.

WindowObject.rows_are_peers( pos1, pos2 )

Returns true if the rows at pos1 and pos2 are peers.

WindowObject.get_func_arg_in_partition( argno, relpos, seektype, mark_pos )

WindowObject.get_func_arg_in_frame( argno, relpos, seektype, mark_pos )

Returns the value of the argument in argno (starting from 0) to this function at the relpos row from seektype in the current partition or frame. seektype can be either of WindowObject.SEEK_HEAD, WindowObject.SEEK_CURRENT, or WindowObject.SEEK_TAIL. If mark_pos is true, the row the argument is fetched from is marked. If the specified row is out of the partition/frame, the returned value will be undefined.

WindowObject.get_func_arg_in_current( argno )

Returns the value of the argument in argno (starting from 0) to this function at the current row. Note that the returned value will be the same as the argument variable of the function.

WindowObject.get_partition_local( [size] )

Returns partition-local value, which is released at the end of the current partition. If nothing is stored, undefined is returned. size argument (default 1000) is the byte size of the allocated memory in the first call. Once the memory is allocated, the size will not change.

WindowObject.set_partition_local( obj )

Stores the partition-local value, which you can retrieve later with get_partition_local(). This function internally uses JSON.stringify() to serialize the object, so if you pass a value that is not able to be serialized it may end up being an unexpected value. If the size of a serialized value is more than the allocated memory, it will throw an exception.

You can also learn more on how to use these API in the sql/window.sql regression test, which implements most of the native window functions. For general information on the user-defined window function, see the CREATE FUNCTION page of the PostgreSQL manual.

Typed array

The typed array is something v8 provides to allow fast access to native memory, mainly for the purpose of their canvas support in browsers. PL/v8 uses this to map bytea and various array types to JavaScript Array. In the case of bytea, you can access each byte as an array of unsigned bytes. For int2/int4/float4/float8 array types, PL/v8 provides direct access to each element by using PL/v8 domain types.

  • plv8_int2array maps int2[]
  • plv8_int4array maps int4[]
  • plv8_float4array maps float4[]
  • plv8_float8array maps float8[]

These are only annotations that tell PL/v8 to use the fast access method instead of the regular one. For these typed arrays, only 1-dimensional array without NULL element. Also, there is currently no way to create such typed array inside PL/v8 functions. Only arguments can be typed array. You can modify the element and return the value. An example for these types are as follows.

CREATE FUNCTION int4sum(ary plv8_int4array) RETURNS int8 AS $$
  var sum = 0;
  for (var i = 0; i < ary.length; i++) {
    sum += ary[i];
  return sum;

SELECT int4sum(ARRAY[1, 2, 3, 4, 5]);
(1 row)

ES6 Language Features

PL/v8 enables all shipping feature of the used V8 version. So with V8 4.1+ many ES6 features, like block scoping, collections, generators and string templates, are enabled by default.

Additional features can be enabled by setting the GUC plv8.v8_flags (e.g. SET plv8.v8_flags = '--es_staging';).

These flags are honoured once per user session when the V8 runtime is initialized. Compared to Dialects (see below), which can be set on a per function base, the V8 flags cannot be changed once the runtime is initialized. So normally this setting should rather be set per database, and not per session.

Runtime environment separation across users in the same session

In PL/v8, each session has one global JS runtime context. This enables function invocations at low cost, and sharing common object among the functions. However, for the security reasons, if the user switches to another with SET ROLE command, a new JS runtime context is initialized and used separately. This prevents the risk of unexpected information leaking.

Each plv8 function is invoked as if the function is the property of other object. This means this in each function is a JS object that is created every time the function is executed in a query. In other words, the life time and the visibility of this object in a function is only a series of function calls in a query. If you need to share some value among different functions, keep it in the global plv8 object because each function invocation has a different this object.

Start-up procedure

PL/v8 provides a start up facility, which allows you to call a plv8 runtime environment initialization function specified in the GUC variable.

SET plv8.start_proc = 'plv8_init';
SELECT plv8_test(10);

If this variable is set when the runtime is initialized, before the function call of plv8_test() another plv8 function plv8_init() is invoked. In such initialization function, you can add any properties to plv8 object to expose common values or assign them to the this property. In the initialization function, the receiver this is specially pointing to the global object, so the variables that are assigned to the this property in this initialization are visible from any subsequent function as global variables.

Remember CREATE FUNCTION also starts the plv8 runtime environment, so make sure to SET this GUC before any plv8 actions including CREATE FUNCTION.

Update procedure

Updating PL/v8 is usually straightforward as it is a small and stable extension - it only contains a handful of objects that need to be added to PostgreSQL when installing the extension.

The procedure that is responsible for invoking this installation script (generated during compile time based on plv8.sql.common), is controlled by PostgreSQL and runs when CREATE EXTENSION is executed only. After building, it takes the form of plv8--<version>.sql and is usually located under /usr/share/postgresql/<PG_MAJOR>/extension, depending on the OS.

When this command is executed, PostgreSQL tracks which objects belong to the extension and conversely removes them upon uninstallation, i.e., whenever DROP EXTENSION is called.

You can explore some of the objects that PL/v8 stores under PostgreSQL:

SELECT lanname FROM pg_catalog.pg_language WHERE lanname = 'plv8';
SELECT proname FROM pg_proc p WHERE p.proname LIKE 'plv8%';
SELECT typname FROM pg_catalog.pg_type WHERE typname LIKE 'plv8%';

When and if these objects change, extensions may provide upgrade scripts which contemplate different upgrade paths (e.g. going from 1.5 to 2.0 or from 1.5.0 to 1.5.1). This allows using the special ALTER EXTENSION <extension> UPDATE [ TO <new_version> ] syntax instead of having to manually execute DROP EXTENSION followed by CREATE EXTENSION.

This is particularly useful when a large number of user-owned objects depend on the extension, as it would mean dropping all of them and re-creating them after the extension is created again.

Currently, PL/v8 does not ship with upgrade scripts as there haven't been updates to these objects since the early builds. This may change in 2.0.0 with the introduction of the plv8_version function, which was added as a function object as part of the extension install script.

If there are no changes to these objects, there is no need to DROP EXTENSION / CREATE EXTENSION as PostgreSQL is able to automatically read the new the control file (plv8.control) and load the binary into memory ( as soon as a new connection is established. Don't be fooled by SELECT pg_available_extensions() returning the new version as that function actually re-reads the extension directory and returns the version value of the new control file, which may not represent the current PL/v8 version in memory. Also note that running DROP EXTENSION / CREATE EXTENSION has no effect whatsoever on loading the new PL/v8 version, although new scripts will be picked up.

The best way of finding out which PL/v8 version you're running is by executing:

DO $$ plv8.elog(WARNING, plv8.version) $$ LANGUAGE plv8;

Even when using PL/v8 2.0.0, SELECT plv8_version(); is only indicative of the upgrade scripts being ran, as mentioned earlier, not of the current PL/v8 extension version in memory.

In conclusion, for now it is safe to simply copy the new control and binary files to the correct paths. This can be either make install or by installing a newer package like postgresql-9.5-plv8. Then, make sure the new binary is loaded immediately by all users by forcing a server restart (a reload won't suffice) or simply prepare your code to deal with the fact that only newer connections will get access to the PL/v8 version.


This module also contains some dialect supports. Currently, we have two dialects that are supported:

  • CoffeeScript (plcoffee)
  • LiveScript (plls)

With PostgreSQL 9.1 or above, you are able to load those dialects via CREATE EXTENSION command.