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5.1 Overview of Functions
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In 2, you saw that SQL supports the following standard SQL operators: Arithmetic operators: +, -, *, and / Alphanumeric operator: || (concatenation)
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Besides using these operators, you can also perform many operations on your data using functions. You can use functions virtually anywhere within queries: in the SELECT, WHERE, HAVING, and ORDER BY clauses. You can recognize functions as follows: they have a name, followed by one or more arguments (between parentheses). In general, function arguments can be constants, variables, or expressions, and sometimes function arguments contain functions themselves. Functions inside function arguments are referred to as nested functions. In some cases, function arguments are optional. This means that you can omit the optional argument and allow Oracle to use a standard (or default) value.
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RETRIEVAL: FUNCTIONS
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Note Oracle SQL Reference uses different terms for two similar concepts: functions without arguments and pseudo columns. For example, SYSDATE and USER are listed as functions, and ROWNUM, LEVEL, and NEXTVAL are listed as pseudo columns. If you check older versions of the documentation, you will see that Oracle changed terminology over the years. In version 5.1, both SYSDATE and USER were pseudo columns; in version 6.0, SYSDATE was promoted to a function, but USER was still a pseudo column; and in version 7.3, both SYSDATE and USER were documented as functions. You could argue that SYSDATE and USER return the same value for every row, while ROWNUM, LEVEL, and NEXTVAL normally return different values. According to the current Oracle SQL Reference, functions take zero or more arguments. This book sometimes refers to items as pseudo columns where Oracle SQL Reference refers to them as functions.
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Obviously, the function arguments come with some constraints. For example, the datatype of the function arguments must make some logical sense. The Oracle DBMS always tries to perform implicit datatype conversion, and it will generate an error message only if such an attempt fails. In other words, if you specify a number as an argument for a function that expects a string instead, the number will be interpreted alphanumerically. However, if you ask for the square root of an employee name, you will get the error message ORA-01722: invalid number.
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Caution It is not a good idea to rely on implicit datatype conversion in your SQL statements. You should always use explicit conversion functions instead. This improves SQL readability, robustness, and possibly performance.
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As stated previously, Oracle supports many functions. You can categorize them based on the datatype they expect in their arguments, as shown in Table 5-1. Table 5-1. Function Types
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Function Type
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Arithmetic functions Text functions Regular expression functions Date functions General functions Conversion functions Group functions
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Applicable To
Numerical data Alphanumeric data Alphanumeric data Date/time-related data Any datatype Datatype conversion Sets of values
RETRIEVAL: FUNCTIONS
The last category in Table 5-1, group functions, is covered in 8, where we discuss the group BY and having clauses of the SELECT command, since that chapter is a more natural place to introduce them. The other function types are discussed in the following sections.
5.2 Arithmetic Functions
The most popular arithmetic functions of Oracle are listed in Table 5-2. Table 5-2. Common Oracle Arithmetic Functions
Function
ROUND(n[,m]) TRUNC(n[,m]) CEIL(n) FLOOR(n) ABS(n) SIGN(n) SQRT(n) EXP(n) LN(n),LOG(m,n) POWER(n,m) MOD(n,m) SIN(n), COS(n), TAN(n) ASIN(n), ACOS(n), ATAN(n) SINH(n), COSH(n), TANH(n)
Description
Round n on m decimal positions Truncate n on m decimal positions Round n upwards to an integer Round n downwards to an integer Absolute value of n 1, 0, or 1 if n is negative, zero, or positive Square root of n e ( = 2,7182813 ) raised to the nth power Natural logarithm, and logarithm base m n raised to the mth power Remainder of n divided by m Sine, cosine, and tangent of n (n expressed in radians) Arcsine, arccosine, and arctangent of n Hyperbolic sine, hyperbolic cosine, and hyperbolic tangent of n
As Table 5-2 shows, the ROUND and TRUNC functions have an optional argument m; the default value for m is zero. Note that you can also use negative values for m, as you can see from the second example in Listing 5-1. Listings 5-1 through 5-4 show some self-explanatory examples of using the following arithmetic functions: ROUND, CEIL, FLOOR, ABS, SIGN, POWER, and MOD.
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