How to pass arbitrary number of arguments to a PL/SQL procedure?

I was looking for an answer to this question for quite some time and ended up developing my own approach.

As of version 12.1, Oracle does not offer this feature which is widely available in most modern procedural languages. I found only one Oracle feature that somehow resembles the one in question – a built-in default constructor for PL/SQL collection types. We can pass arbitrary number of values into such constructors.

Here is a simple example:

DECLARE
   TYPE vc_table IS TABLE OF VARCHAR2(30);
   v_table vc_table;
BEGIN
   v_table:=vc_table('ABC', 'DEF', 'GHI');
   FOR i IN 1..v_table.COUNT LOOP
       DBMS_OUTPUT.PUT_LINE(v_table(i));
   END LOOP;
END;
/

Result:

ABC
DEF
GHI

The line that initializes v_table variable references a constructor that takes 3 values as arguments. It can take more (or less) values as well.

How could we exploit this feature to accept variable number of arguments in our procedures/functions?

The problem with the above example is that we have to have a collection type before we can use it and this would make our procedure/function dependent on such custom type.

A necessary help comes from Oracle’s built-in collection types:

sys.odcivarchar2list, sys.odcinumberlist, etc.

Let say we need to mimic Oracle’s built-in GREATEST function for a variable number of numeric arguments. Here is how we could use sys.odcinumberlist type:

CREATE OR REPLACE FUNCTION my_greatest(p_list sys.odcinumberlist)
    RETURN NUMBER
AS
    v_result NUMBER;
BEGIN
    SELECT CASE WHEN SUM(NVL2(COLUMN_VALUE,0,1))>0 THEN TO_NUMBER(NULL)
                ELSE MAX(COLUMN_VALUE)
           END
     INTO v_result
    FROM TABLE(p_list);
    RETURN v_result;
END;
/

Remember, the GREATEST function returns NULL if at least one of its arguments is NULL. That’s why we need to check for NULLs in the p_list collection.

Here is how we could test the function:

SELECT my_greatest(sys.odcinumberlist(45,2,46,65,2,1,0)) "greatest",
       my_greatest(sys.odcinumberlist(45,2,NULL,65,2,1)) "null_greatest"
FROM dual

Result:

greatest null_greatest
65

The use of sys.odcinumberlist constructor is not very elegant as the data type name is very long, but it does do the trick. You can pass as many arguments to the constructor as you wish. To make things look a bit prettier, we can create a short synonym:

CREATE OR REPLACE SYNONYM nl FOR sys.odcinumberlist
/

Now, the last (testing) query will transform to the following:

SELECT my_greatest(nl(45,2,46,65,2,1,0)) "greatest",
       my_greatest(nl(45,2,NULL,65,2,1)) "null_greatest"
FROM dual

It still does not look like true “parameter array” with the arbitrary length, but it is very close.

The following is a short list of Oracle’s built-in collection types that you can use for mimicking “arbitrary number of arguments”:

  • sys.odcidatelist
  • sys.odciobjectlist
  • sys.odcirawlist
  • sys.odcinumberlist
  • sys.odcivarchar2list

For anything more complex, you may need to create your own collection type.

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TABLE functions in Oracle 12.2

Oracle 12.2 introduced a nice little feature – when selecting from a table-function you no longer have to use the TABLE function:

Before 12.2, here is what you had to do:

SELECT *
FROM TABLE([your-collection-or-table-function])

Starting with 12.2 the code becomes shorter:

SELECT *
FROM [your-collection-or-table-function]

Example (Oracle 12.2):

SELECT *
FROM sys.odcinumberlist(5,2,6,3,78)

Result:

COLUMN_VALUE
------------
           5
           2
           6
           3
          78

Note that if you try the last query in Oracle 12.1 or any prior release, you will get the following error:

FROM sys.odcinumberlist(5,2,6,3,78)
                       *
ERROR at line 2:
ORA-00933: SQL command not properly ended

This is an indication that you may need to check your Oracle version:

SELECT *
FROM v$version
BANNER
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Oracle Database 11g Express Edition Release 11.2.0.2.0 - Production
PL/SQL Release 11.2.0.2.0 - Production
CORE    11.2.0.2.0      Production
TNS for 32-bit Windows: Version 11.2.0.2.0 - Production
NLSRTL Version 11.2.0.2.0 - Production

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4 Solutions to Puzzle of the Week #12

Puzzle of the Week #12

With a single SELECT statement produce a list of first 10 prime numbers above a given number of N.

Expected Result: (for N=15)

     Prime
----------
        17
        19
        23
        29
        31
        37
        41
        43
        47
        53

10 rows selected.

Expected Result: (for N=50)

     Prime
----------
        53
        59
        61
        67
        71
        73
        79
        83
        89
        97

10 rows selected.

Solutions:

#1: Liming number of found prime numbers in CTE (Recursive WITH clsue)

WITH y AS (
SELECT 500 fromN
FROM dual
), x (n, cnt, flag) AS (
SELECT fromN,
      (SELECT CASE WHEN COUNT(*)=2 THEN 1 ELSE 0 END
       FROM dual
       WHERE MOD(fromN, LEVEL)=0
       CONNECT BY LEVEL<=fromN),
      (SELECT CASE WHEN COUNT(*)=2 THEN 1 ELSE 0 END
       FROM dual
       WHERE MOD(fromN, LEVEL)=0
       CONNECT BY LEVEL<=fromN)
FROM y
UNION ALL
SELECT x.n+1, (SELECT x.cnt+CASE WHEN COUNT(*)=2 THEN 1 ELSE 0 END
               FROM dual
               WHERE MOD(x.n+1, LEVEL)=0
               CONNECT BY LEVEL<=x.n+1),
              (SELECT CASE WHEN COUNT(*)=2 THEN 1 ELSE 0 END
               FROM dual
               WHERE MOD(x.n+1, LEVEL)=0
               CONNECT BY LEVEL<=x.n+1)
FROM x
WHERE x.cnt

#2: Limiting number of found prime numbers outside of CTE (Recursive WITH clsue)

WITH y AS (
SELECT 50 fromN
FROM dual
), x (n, flag) AS (
SELECT fromN,
      (SELECT CASE WHEN COUNT(*)=2 THEN 1 ELSE 0 END
       FROM dual
       WHERE MOD(fromN, LEVEL)=0
       CONNECT BY LEVEL<=fromN)
FROM y
UNION ALL
SELECT x.n+1, (SELECT CASE WHEN COUNT(*)=2 THEN 1 ELSE 0 END
               FROM dual
               WHERE MOD(x.n+1, LEVEL)=0
               CONNECT BY LEVEL<=x.n+1) FROM x WHERE x.n>0
)
SELECT n AS prime
FROM x
WHERE flag=1
  AND ROWNUM<=10;

     PRIME
----------
        53
        59
        61
        67
        71
        73
        79
        83
        89
        97

10 rows selected.

Elapsed: 00:00:00.02

#3: Using TABLE and MULTISET functions

WITH y AS (
SELECT 16 fromN
FROM dual
), x (n, flag) AS (
SELECT fromN, column_value flag 
FROM y, TABLE(CAST(MULTISET(SELECT CASE WHEN COUNT(*)=2 THEN 1 ELSE 0 END flag
                            FROM dual
                            WHERE MOD(fromN, LEVEL)=0
                            CONNECT BY LEVEL<=fromN) AS sys.odcinumberlist))  
UNION ALL
SELECT x.n+1, column_value flag  
FROM x, TABLE(CAST(MULTISET(SELECT CASE WHEN COUNT(*)=2 THEN 1 ELSE 0 END flag
                            FROM dual
                            WHERE MOD(x.n+1, LEVEL)=0
                            CONNECT BY LEVEL<=x.n+1) AS sys.odcinumberlist))  WHERE x.n>0
)
SELECT n AS prime
FROM x
WHERE flag=1
  AND ROWNUM<=10;

     PRIME
----------
        17
        19
        23
        29
        31
        37
        41
        43
        47
        53

10 rows selected.

Elapsed: 00:00:00.12

#4: Using LATERAL views

WITH y AS (
SELECT 16 fromN
FROM dual
), x (n, flag) AS (
SELECT fromN, is_prime
FROM y, LATERAL (SELECT CASE WHEN COUNT(*)=2 THEN 1 ELSE 0 END is_prime
                 FROM dual
                 WHERE MOD(fromN, LEVEL)=0
                 CONNECT BY LEVEL<=fromN)
UNION ALL
SELECT x.n+1, is_prime 
FROM x, LATERAL (SELECT CASE WHEN COUNT(*)=2 THEN 1 ELSE 0 END is_prime
                 FROM dual
                 WHERE MOD(x.n+1, LEVEL)=0
                 CONNECT BY LEVEL<=x.n+1) WHERE x.n>0
)
SELECT n AS prime
FROM x
WHERE flag=1
 AND ROWNUM<=10;

     PRIME
----------
        17
        19
        23
        29
        31
        37
        41
        43
        47
        53

10 rows selected.

Elapsed: 00:00:00.11

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Solutions to Puzzle of the Week #7

Puzzle of the Week #7

For every employee find the sum of ASCII codes of all the characters in their names. Write a single SELECT statement only.

Expected Result:

EMPNO ENAME       SUM_ASCII
----- ---------- ----------
 7788 SCOTT             397
 7876 ADAMS             358
 7566 JONES             383
 7499 ALLEN             364
 7521 WARD              302
 7934 MILLER            453
 7902 FORD              299
 7369 SMITH             389
 7844 TURNER            480
 7698 BLAKE             351
 7782 CLARK             365
 7654 MARTIN            459
 7839 KING              297
 7900 JAMES             368

Solutions:

Solution/Workaround #1: Oracle 12c and up Only (submitted by Zohar Elkayam)

WITH
    FUNCTION sumascii(p_str in varchar2)  RETURN NUMBER 
    IS 
       x NUMBER:= 0;
    BEGIN
      FOR i IN 1..LENGTH(p_str) LOOP
          x := x + ASCII(SUBSTR(p_str, i, 1)) ;
      END LOOP;
      RETURN x;
    END;
SELECT empno, ename, sumascii(ename) AS sum_ascii
FROM emp
/

Variation of Solution #1 (Recursive function):

WITH
    FUNCTION sumascii(p_str in varchar2)  RETURN NUMBER 
    IS 
    BEGIN
      IF p_str IS NULL THEN 
	RETURN 0;
      END IF;
      RETURN ASCII(p_str) + sumascii(SUBSTR(p_str,2));      
    END;
SELECT empno, ename, sumascii(ename) AS sum_ascii
FROM emp
/

Solution/Workaround #2: Cartesian Product with Generated Numeric Range (by Zohar Elkayam)

SELECT empno, ename, SUM(ASCII(ename_char)) sum_ascii
FROM (SELECT empno, ename, SUBSTR(ename, i, 1) ename_char
      FROM emp, (SELECT LEVEL i
                 FROM dual
                 CONNECT BY LEVEL<=(SELECT MAX(LENGTH(ename))                                      FROM emp)                  )       WHERE LENGTH(ename)>=i
      )
GROUP BY empno, ename
/

Simplified variation of Workaround #2:

SELECT empno, ename, 
       SUM(ASCII(SUBSTR(ename, i, 1))) sum_ascii      
FROM emp, (SELECT LEVEL i
           FROM dual
           CONNECT BY LEVEL<=(SELECT MAX(LENGTH(ename))                                FROM emp)            )  WHERE LENGTH(ename)>=i
GROUP BY empno, ename 
/

Solution/Workaround #3: In-Line Scalar Subquery

SELECT empno, ename, 
      (SELECT SUM(ASCII(SUBSTR(a.ename, LEVEL, 1)))
       FROM dual
       CONNECT BY LEVEL<=LENGTH(a.ename)) AS sum_ascii
FROM emp a
/

Solution #4/Workaround : Recursive WITH clause

WITH x(n, empno, ename, letter) AS (
SELECT 1 AS n, empno, ename, SUBSTR(ename, 1, 1)
FROM emp
UNION ALL
SELECT x.n+1, empno, ename, SUBSTR(ename, n+1, 1)
FROM x
WHERE LENGTH(ename)>=n+1
)
SELECT empno, ename, SUM(ASCII(letter)) sum_ascii
FROM x
GROUP BY empno, ename
/

Solution/Workaround #5: Use DUMP function and Regular Expressions (submitted by Sunitha)

SELECT empno, ename, SUM(REGEXP_SUBSTR(nm, '\d+', 1, occ)) AS sum_ascii
FROM (SELECT empno, ename, REGEXP_REPLACE(DUMP(ename), '.*: (\d.*)$', '\1') nm
      FROM emp), 
     (SELECT LEVEL occ FROM dual CONNECT BY LEVEL <=ANY(SELECT LENGTH(ename) FROM emp))
GROUP BY empno, ename
/

Solution/Workaround #6: Use LATERAL View (Oracle 12c and up)

SELECT empno, ename, sum_ascii
FROM emp e, LATERAL (SELECT SUM(ASCII(SUBSTR(e.ename,LEVEL,1)) ) sum_ascii
                     FROM dual
                     CONNECT BY LEVEL<=LENGTH(e.ename) ) x

Solution/Workaround #7: Use TABLE/CAST/MULTISET function composition

SELECT empno, ename, x.column_value AS sum_ascii
FROM emp e, 
     TABLE(CAST(MULTISET(SELECT SUM(ASCII(SUBSTR(e.ename,LEVEL,1)) ) sum_ascii
                         FROM dual
                         CONNECT BY LEVEL<=LENGTH(e.ename) 
                         ) AS sys.odcinumberlist
                )
          ) x

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Would you like to read about many more tricks and puzzles?

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