Stands for "Query By Example." QBE is a feature included with various database applications that provides a user-friendly method of running database queries. Typically without QBE, a user must write input commands using correct SQL (Structured Query Language) syntax. This is a standard language that nearly all database programs support. However, if the syntax is slightly incorrect the query may return the wrong results or may not run at all.
The Query By Example feature provides a simple interface for a user to enter queries. Instead of writing an entire SQL command, the user can just fill in blanks or select items to define the query she wants to perform. For example, a user may want to select an entry from a table called "Table1" with an ID of 123. Using SQL, the user would need to input the command, "SELECT * FROM Table1 WHERE ID = 123". The QBE interface may allow the user to just click on Table1, type in "123" in the ID field and click "Search."
QBE is offered with most database programs, though the interface is often different between applications. For example, Microsoft Access has a QBE interface known as "Query Design View" that is completely graphical. The phpMyAdmin application used with MySQL, offers a Web-based interface where users can select a query operator and fill in blanks with search terms. Whatever QBE implementation is provided with a program, the purpose is the same – to make it easier to run database queries and to avoid the frustrations of SQL errors.