Desirable Qualities of Data Keys

Whether used in database tables or in some other type of record there are certain desirable qualities that keys, ideally, should have.

  • unique - to unambiguously identify the data
  • natural - not artificially created (debatable)
  • memorable - easy for humans to remember
  • short - no longer than necessary
  • simple - straightforward, not composite
  • available - not hidden or hard to find

Keys can rarely satisfy all these requirements. In fact it would sometimes be inappropriate to set up keys which had all the above qualities. Nevertheless, the list can be used as a guide to what to choose if it is applied with caution.

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