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SQL2 COALESCE expression syntax diagram
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Subqueries and Query Expressions
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column instead of a NULL value. In some circumstances, you will want to detect this situation within a SQL query and substitute the NULL value for the zero code. The NULLIF expression, shown in Figure 9-13, is used for this purpose. When the DBMS encounters a NULLIF expression, it examines the first value (usually a column name) and compares it to the second value (usually the code value used to indicate missing data). If the two values are equal, the expression generates a NULL value. Otherwise, the expression generates the first value. Here is a query that handles the case where missing office numbers are represented by a zero:
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RETRIEVING DATA SELECT FROM WHERE GROUP CITY, SUM(SALES) OFFICES, SALESREPS OFFICE = (NULLIF REP_OFFICE, 0) BY CITY
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Together, the CASE, COALESCE, and NULLIF expressions provide a solid decision-making logic capability for use within SQL statements. They fall far short of the complete logical flow constructs provided by most programming languages (looping, branching, and so on) but do provide for much greater flexibility in query expressions. The net result is that more processing work can be done by the DBMS and reflected in query results, leaving less work to be done by the human user or the application program.
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Row-Valued Expressions (SQL2)
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Although columns and the scalar data values they contain are the atomic building blocks of a relational database, the structuring of columns into rows that represent real-world entities, such as individual offices or customers or orders, is one of the most important features of the relational model. The SQL1 standard, and most mainstream commercial database products, certainly reflect this row/column structure, but they provide very limited capability to actually manipulate rows and groups of rows. Basically, SQL1 operations allow you to insert a row into a table, or to retrieve, update, or delete groups of rows from a database (using the SELECT, UPDATE, or DELETE statements). The SQL2 standard goes well beyond these capabilities, allowing you to generally use rows in SQL expressions in much the same way that you can use scalar values. It provides a syntax for constructing rows of data. It allows row-valued subqueries. And it defines row-valued meanings for the SQL comparison operators and other SQL structures.
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Figure 9-13.
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SQL2 NULLIF expression syntax diagram
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SQL: The Complete Reference
The Row-Value Constructor (SQL2)
SQL2 allows you to specify a row of data values by using a row-value constructor expression, whose syntax is shown in Figure 9-14. In its most common form, the row constructor is a comma-separated list of literal values, or expressions. For example, here is a row-value constructor for a row of data whose structure matches the OFFICES table in the sample database:
(23, 'San Diego', 'Western', NULL, DEFAULT, 0.00)
The result of this expression is a single row of data with six columns. The NULL keyword in the fourth column position indicates that the fourth column in the constructed row should contain a NULL (unknown) value. The DEFAULT keyword in the fifth column position indicates that the fifth column in the constructed row should contain the default value for the column. This keyword may appear in a row-value constructor only in certain situations for example, when the row-value constructor appears in an INSERT statement to add a new row to a table. When a row constructor is used in the WHERE clause of a SQL statement, column names can also appear as individual data items within the row constructor, or as part of an expression within the row constructor. For example, consider this query: List the order number, quantity, and amount of all orders for ACI-41002 widgets.
SELECT ORDER_NUM, QTY, AMOUNT FROM ORDERS WHERE (MFR, PRODUCT) = ('ACI', '41002')
Under the normal rules of SQL query processing, the WHERE clause is applied to each row of the ORDERS table, one by one. The first row-value constructor in the
Figure 9-14.
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