Developers store database changes in text-based files on their local development machines and apply them to their local databases. These changelog files are stored in source control to enable collaboration. The changelog can be used to update all the different database environments that a team uses - from local development databases, to test, staging, and production. changelog files can be arbitrarily nested for better management. See the changeLog documentation for more information.
changeSets are the units of change that Liquibase tracks execution of. Each changeSet is uniquely identified by the
filename attributes. When Liquibase runs, it queries the
DATABASECHANGELOG table for the changeSets that are marked as executed and then executes all changeSets in the changelog file that have not yet been executed. See the changeSet documentation for more information.
Each changeSet contains one or more Change Types that describe a type of change or action you want to apply to the database. Liquibase supports both descriptive Change Types that generate SQL for supported databases and raw SQL. Generally there should only be one Change Type per changeSet to avoid failed autocommit statements that can leave the database in an unexpected state. See the Change Type documentation for a list of available Change Types.
Preconditions can be applied to either the changelog as a whole or individual changeSets. Preconditions control the execution of an update based on the state of the database, and can halt the update, skip a changeSet, mark a changeSet as run, or show a warning. See the Preconditions documentation for more information.
Contexts can be applied to changeSets to control whether they are run in different environments. For example, some changeSets can be tagged as “production” and others as “test”. If no context is specified, the changeSet will run regardless of the execution context. Contexts can be specified as logical expressions in the changeSet to more precisely control execution. See the Contexts documentation for more information.
Similar to contexts, labels can also be applied to changeSets to control which changeSets are executed. In contrast to contexts that can be complex expressions, labels are a simple list on each changeSet. For labels though, complex expressions can be supplied at runtime. The combination of contexts and labels gives fine grained control over which changeSets are executed. See the Labels documentation for more information.
See the Understanding Context vs Labels blog post for more details regarding their differences, similarities, and use cases.