If you’re a modern web developer, chances are you’ve interacted with PostgreSQL (“Postgres” for short). It’s the second most popular database among developers overall, and almost 70% say they love working with it.
PostgreSQL ships with a built-in CLI called psql, but nobody wants to write queries via the command line, even if you’re a veteran database administrator (DBA). This post will review the best PostgreSQL GUI tools available for querying, visualizing, and analyzing your Postgres data, as well as remotely accessing and navigating database servers.
PgAdmin is one of the most popular GUIs available for Postgres users. Database objects are immediately easy to find on a left hand menu. PgAdmin is on it’s fourth major version and supports all of PostgreSQL’s features while also being open-source.
PgAdmin’s greatest strength is that anybody can use it, anywhere. You can configure it to run on any cloud server and then access it from all of the major operating systems; Windows, Linux, and MacOS.
PgAdmin runs as a web application, meaning it can be deployed on any server, including your computer. This is convenient if you’re running Postgres as a distributed database across multiple servers, as you can include PgAdmin on each. Admittedly, this is a feature more targeted at the Database Administrator (DBA) level than the Analyst or Engineer level, which involves more SQL than production database management.
Useful Shortcuts for your Editor
SQL Query Editors are where most Postgres users spend their time when manipulating data. PgAdmin’s SQL Editor provides an extensive list of useful shortcuts for quality of life improvements. They cover most of what you’d want to accomplish when writing queries that need maintenance friendly white space.
The main drawback of PgAdmin is installation barriers, especially for SQL developers who aren’t experts at the command line. Running a Postgres GUI as a web application from your terminal is something that newcomers should not be expected to figure out from the ground up. Managing multiple servers, databases, and the usage that comes with them, is definitely a more advanced terminal skillset.
Navicat is not as popular as PgAdmin but definitely comes with many of the features you would expect from software that makes talking to databases easier. Navicat is a paid tool and isn’t open-source, so it comes with many more features than the typical open-source tool. Unlike pgAdmin, for example, Navicat supports multiple SQL dialects, like MongoDB, MySQL, and PostgreSQL.
Installation of Navicat requires no more than three lines of terminal commands in Ubuntu. It is easy to get up and running and has multiple features which make it a great choice for team collaboration. You can easily improve team productivity for the SQL your team writes via Navicat’s job scheduler.
An add-on feature called Navicat Cloud also allows for Navicat SQL-specific team collaboration. This cloud friendliness extends to how easy it is to connect to data sources, like cloud databases, local flat files, or SSH tunneling and SSL.
Navicat also comes with a powerful data modeling tool, which lets you visualize database structures and design schemas.
The aesthetic of Navicat’s GUI is slicker and more modern than pgAdmin’s. One of the neat things about Navicat is that it gives the user a choice of dark or light theme from the start (for those dark mode die hards out there).
The main drawback to Navicat is the price. Cost may not be as much of an issue for a business looking to maximize their database users’ efficiency, but it could be frustrating if you’re an individual looking for a simpler query tool. The Navicat trial is only available for 14 days, and you have to buy licenses to be able to work with PostgreSQL or MySQL.
Navicat for PostgreSQL pricing consists of three tiers: non-commercial ($119), standard ($199), and enterprise ($299).
DBeaver is open source like PgAdmin. However, it supports different types of databases like Navicat. DBeaver also has an enterprise version which provides advanced plugins for productivity. You can run DBeaver on all of the common Operating Systems; Windows, Linux, and MacOS, and import and export data from a variety of file formats, including CSV, HTML, XML, JSON, XLS, and XLSX.
At least for beginners, the best thing about DBeaver (at least in how it compares to the other GUIs so far) is that it runs as a desktop application. Database objects are easy to find on the left-hand side menu, and connecting to my local Postgres database was intuitive. No CLI experience is necessary for you to start.
DBeaver, being open-source, has both free and paid options. An easy-to-sell concept: start with a deadline-less free DBeaver and transition into a paid tier as your organization’s needs scale.
DBeaver’s main strength is also its main weakness: desktop applications only have as much power as your machine. To unlock the productivity levels you need in distributed development situations, you’ll have to turn to its enterprise option.
HeidiSQL is the only GUI on this list that was built exclusively for Windows. Just like DBeaver and Navicat, HeidiSQL can connect to different database drivers, like MySQL, Microsoft SQL Server, and PostgreSQL. HeidiSQL is free and open-source.
Like many Windows desktop applications, HeidiSQL is easy to download and install. If you’re siloed in Windows and your IT department is firm on that, HeidiSQL is a great option for connecting to a Postgres database.
I was able to connect to a database with only a handful of credential fields. The console prints out the commands that the GUI executes in real time — much like a log. This visibility into the back end makes it a useful tool for debugging and troubleshooting database problems.
HeidiSQL is pretty lightweight, so it’s missing some of the power features that advanced users might need, like a debugger, and has no cross-platform support.
Datagrip is a cross-platform integrated development environment (IDE) from the folks over at JetBrains (makers of IntelliJ, PyCharm, etc.). That means, you can use it on Macs, Windows, and Linux. Unlike PgAdmin or Navicat, it is not a web application and can run as a local application like Spotify, VSCode, or RStudio.
DataGrip is intense, and it’s built from the ground up for power and customizability, ranging from dark themes to plugins for the many database systems and dialects available.
As an Ubuntu (Linux) OS user, installing dependencies requires two bash CLI commands. Installing DataGrip only requires one. A single terminal with an open log remains open when I launch DataGrip. This terminal prints out log information about the app as it's running. You can run it in the background, but I like DataGrip’s balance between command-line usage and desktop application.
With a range of plugins and up-to-date development, it’s no surprise that DataGrip is a paid tool at $199 per year, per user, for the first year ($159.00 for the second year and $119.00 thereafter). Unlike pgAdmin or Navicat, DataGrip is not built to be an administrator web application that you can deploy on any cloud server. It’s made for querying.
DataGrip is more than enough for many small businesses because a desktop application can help them solve most of their urgent database problems on one or a few computers. That said, another solution may be better for deploying and managing many Postgres DBs.
OmniDB is open-source software that works on Mac, Windows, and Linux. It’s focused on lightweight, no-frills, Postgres database management.
Despite being open-source, OmniDB retains a lot of the SQL development features that a lot of the paid GUIs have, including features like SQL autocomplete, syntax highlighting, customizable charts for database metrics, and complete debugging tooling. Release notes show that OmniDB is most focused on Postgres.
OmniDB is a lightweight tool, meaning it works great for one or a few SQL developers who need a free option for fundamental database work. It’s not, however, the best option for SQL developers who need a wide community of support, documentation, and at-scale deployment for their databases.
7) Beekeeper Studio
Beekeeper Studio is a cross-platform open-source database management desktop app that works on Mac, Linux, and Windows. It supports a broad set of databases, including PostgreSQL, MySQL, SQLite, SQL Server, CockroachDB, and Redshift.
Beekeeper Studio is focused on providing a smooth, fast, and easy-to-use interface, as opposed to a powerful, keyboard-shortcut-based nightmare. Typical tasks, like quickly updating a database table or running a SQL query, are super quick and simple.
Another benefit: the Beekeeper Studio team is committed to staying open-source and never adding any user tracking or user monitoring. This commitment to privacy is a unique promise among the apps we’ve reviewed here.
Beekeeper Studio doesn’t have as many bells and whistles as DBeaver or DataGrip, so if you’re a DBA or need sophisticated performance monitoring and profiling tools, you’re better off with something like DataGrip or DBeaver.
TablePlus is a modern, native GUI tool for relational databases, such as MySQL, PostgreSQL, SQLite, and a few NoSQL databases like MongoDB. The TablePlus team is fairly active on GitHub — the only people behind the company being founder Henry Pham and Windows developer Raccoon Thai.
TablePlus is slick. It provides a customizable user interface (UI), meaning you don’t have to use Mojave at all. You can customize your configurations and their appearance as much as you like.
That slickness, however, doesn’t belie an unsophisticated tool. A standout among many TablePlus features is its database security functionalities. When you use TablePlus, the connection between you and your database is end-to-end encrypted. That encryption means no data is sent to a TablePlus server. Additionally, TablePlus comes with built-in SSH and ensures your database credentials are stored securely in your device’s keychain.
Despite the slickness of its UI, some TablePlus users have pointed out how difficult it is to carve out a unified UX. An advantage to TablePlus is that it supports a wide range of databases, but a weakness of that approach is that the UX of all of them can suffer. Luckily, if you’re using it as a Postgres GUI, you’ll likely find the support you need. Users noted it suffered more when it came to things like Redis.
QueryPie is a cross-platform database IDE for Mac, Windows, and Linux. QueryPie promises to provide data access governance, from the cloud to on-premises to a variety of other platforms up to and including various SQL tools.
QueryPie stands out for a few different features, including:
- Auto-complete, giving you the ability to write your queries faster.
- Multi-query, multi-results, giving you an intuitive UI that makes query search and execution faster. You can also view multiple query results simultaneously.
- In-line data edit, giving you the ability to edit query results and table structure directly and easily.
QueryPie also has some unique features when it comes to Snowflake, so if you’re interested in expanding beyond Postgres, QueryPie is worth considering.
The QueryPie team announced its MVP in 2019, and updates have been sparse since. On their blog, a majority of recent posts date back to early 2020. Though the tool appears robust and useful, you may want to look elsewhere if you’re looking for a product that comes with more tutorials and up-to-date content.
SQLGate is an integrated tool for database management and development. It promises to simplify how you construct and operate databases. It works with Oracle, SQL Server, MySQL, MariaDB, Tibero, DB2, and, of course, PostgreSQL. Together, according to SQLGate, these databases make up 83.2% of the database management system (DBMS) market, meaning using SQLGate will allow you to manage most of the DBMS tools out there.
SQLGate has a few features that make it especially useful for database operators and analysts (though SQLGate also says it’s useful and accessible to developers, planners, and marketers, too).
- Direct database connections, meaning you can connect without any complex Postgres client installations.
- Big data processing, giving you the ability to quickly export query results (even massive amounts of them) to Excel.
- Ultralight design, proven by the fact that the entire app and all of its functions are contained in less than 50MB.
Pricing, like Navicat, is SQLGate’s main drawback. SQLGate is the most expensive tool on this list, coming in at $300 for an indie developer license and about $500 (you have to contact them for specifics, so it could be higher) for an enterprise license. With the amount of open-source and cheaper options on this list, you should take a close look at the unique benefits this Postgres GUI option provides — or else look elsewhere.
Retool is a web-based tool for building internal tools and applications on top of your data. It connects to all modern databases (Postgres, MySQL, MongoDB, and even Oracle) and any REST API, as well as third-party APIs like Stripe and Twilio.
Retool connects to pretty much anything, which is useful if you’ve got more than one data source to work with. You can access and work with your Postgres DBs and your MongoDB collections in the same GUI, all from your browser. Retool also puts a GUI wrapper over write operations so you can avoid accidentally writing
DROP TABLE and getting yelled at.
Retool saves engineering time, too, as proven by our customer stories. Just look at Avo, which saved hundreds of hours of engineering time by implementing Retool.
If you’re building tools on top of your data, Retool saves you time by providing the reusable components you need: tables, buttons, text inputs, and even custom components. Retool is cloud-hosted, so the GUI is accessible from any major operating system and any major browser.
Retool isn’t specifically focused on Postgres (like OmniDB), and is missing some advanced features like a query debugger.
Retool gives you a complete set powerful building blocks for building internal tools: Assemble your app in 30 seconds by dragging and dropping from 50+ pre-built components. Connect to Postgres and dozens of data integrations and anything with a REST or GraphQL API. Get started for free👉
Choosing between these PostgreSQL GUIs
Which is the best PostgreSQL GUI? The answer is: it depends. If you’re a single analyst looking to move into transparent and reproducible workflows with a single instance of a database, then DBeaver, Beekeeper Studio, DataGrip, or HeidiSQL are your best bets.
If you are part of a larger team, however, then paying for Navicat may be the best option because of Navicat’s team collaboration focus.
pgAdmin is the only PostgreSQL native GUI — plus, it’s totally free and scales easily across multiple servers. pgAdmin makes for a great choice for Postgres-focused DBAs. That said, a need for distributed servers usually only arises for skilled developers who can tackle this kind of configuration.
Retool shines when you’re working with multiple data sources. Modern developers rarely stay in one ecosystem like Postgres. As an organization grows, data workers have a growing list of stakeholders who need and want visibility for their metrics. Integrating multiple data sources with clicks and transforming with SQL is my preferred method of data manipulation because it minimizes developer time and maximizes domain-specific knowledge about your own data.