[...] Obviously the \if stuff is things we don't have yet either, but it seems less likely to have surprising side-effects.


I agree, a more generic solution seems better than an ad-hoc one.

Currently the value of a non existing psql-variable is... its own reference:-(

  psql> \echo :x
  > :x

I'm not sure of the rational, apart from the probable lexer implementation point of view. Maybe an empty string or 0 or some configurable value would provide better alternative.

PGSERVICE=foo psql -f script.sql --set var1=a --set var2=b --set var3=d ...
--set varN=n

How are the variable typically used in the script?

--
Fabien.


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