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Creating and Altering Tables
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User-Defined User-defined data types are based on predefined types or attribute definitions and are added as schema objects to the SQL environment. SQL supports two types of user-defined data types: distinct and structured. The distinct type is based on a predefined data type, and the structured type is based on attribute definitions. I discuss user-defined types in the Create User-Defined Types section later in this chapter.
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Although all implementations of SQL support data types, which data types are supported varies from product to product. However, as a beginning SQL programmer, you ll find that most implementations support the basic (more traditional) data types, which are the ones I will be using in the examples and exercises throughout the book. These more traditional data types, sometimes known as primitive types, are all part of the SQL predefined data types, which I describe in the following sections. Don t try to memorize each of these types, but start becoming familiar with the differences between them. You ll find that, as you start using specific data types, you ll become more comfortable with them. In the meantime, refer back to the following sections as often as necessary whenever you re working with table definitions or SQL data.
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The string data types are made up of types that permit values based on character sets or on data bits. The values permitted by string types can be fixed in length or varying, depending on the specific type. SQL defines four types of string data types:
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Character strings Permitted values must be drawn from a specific character set, either the default set or a set defined at the time the column is being defined. Character string data types include CHARACTER, CHARACTER VARYING, and CHARACTER LARGE OBJECT. National character strings Permitted values are similar to character strings except that the character set associated with these data types is defined by the implementation. As a result, when a national character string data type is specified, the values associated with that data type must be based on the character set specified by the relational database management system (RDBMS) for national character strings. These are useful for storing character strings in various human languages in the same database. The national character string data types include NATIONAL CHARACTER, NATIONAL CHARACTER VARYING, and NATIONAL CHARACTER LARGE OBJECT. Bit strings Permitted values are based on data bits (binary digits), rather than character sets or collations, which means that these data types allow only values of 0 or 1. SQL supports two types of bit string data types: BIT and BIT VARYING. Binary strings Permitted values are similar to bit strings, except that they are based on bytes (referred to as octets in SQL:2006), rather than on bits. As a result, no character sets or collations are associated with them. (A byte is equal to 8 bits, which is why the SQL standard uses the term octet.) SQL supports only one binary string data type: BINARY LARGE OBJECT. This type is useful for storing pure binary data such as sound clips or images in the database.
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SQL: A Beginner s Guide
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Now that you have an overview of the types of string data types, let s take a closer look at each one. Table 3-1 describes each of these data types and provides an example of a column definition that uses the specific type.
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Data Type
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CHARACTER
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Description/Example
Specifies the exact number of characters (which must be from a character set) that will be stored for each value. For example, if you define the number of characters as 10, but the value contains only six characters, the remaining four characters will be spaces. The data type can be abbreviated as CHAR. Example: ARTIST_NAME CHAR(60) Specifies the greatest number of characters (which must be from a character set) that can be included in a value. The number of characters stored is exactly the same number as the value entered, so no spaces are added to the value. The data type can be abbreviated as CHAR VARYING or VARCHAR. Example: ARTIST_NAME VARCHAR(60) Stores large groups of characters, up to the specified amount. The number of characters stored is exactly the same number as the value entered, so no spaces are added to the value. The data type can be abbreviated as CLOB. Example: ARTIST_BIO CLOB(200K) Operates just like the CHARACTER data type, except that it s based on an implementation-defined character set. The data type can be abbreviated as NATIONAL CHAR and NCHAR. Example: ARTIST_NAME NCHAR(60) Operates just like the CHARACTER VARYING data type, except that it s based on an implementation-defined character set. The data type can be abbreviated as NATIONAL CHAR VARYING or NCHAR VARYING. Example: ARTIST_NAME NCHAR VARYING (60) Operates just like the CHARACTER LARGE OBJECT data type, except that it s based on an implementation-defined character set. The data type can be abbreviated as NCHAR LARGE OBJECT or NCLOB. Example: ARTIST_BIO NCLOB(200K) Specifies the exact number of bits that can be stored for each character. For example, if you define the number of bits as 2, but the value contains only 1 bit, the remaining bit will be a space. If the number of bits is not specified, 1 bit is stored. Example: IN_STOCK BIT Specifies the greatest number of bits that can be included in a value. The number of bits stored is exactly the same number as the value entered, so no spaces are added to the value. Example: IN_STOCK BIT VARYING (2)
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