PL/SQL - Collections

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A collection is an ordered group of elements having the same data type. Each element is identified by a unique subscript that represents its position in the collection.

PL/SQL provides three collection types:

  • Index-by tables or Associative array

  • Nested table

  • Variable-size array or Varray

Oracle documentation provides the following characteristics for each type of collections:

Collection TypeNumber of ElementsSubscript TypeDense or SparseWhere CreatedCan Be Object Type Attribute
Associative array (or index-by table)UnboundedString or integerEitherOnly in PL/SQL blockNo
Nested tableUnboundedIntegerStarts dense, can become sparseEither in PL/SQL block or at schema levelYes
Variable-size array (Varray)BoundedIntegerAlways denseEither in PL/SQL block or at schema levelYes

We have already discussed varray in the chapter 'PL/SQL arrays'. In this chapter, we will discuss PL/SQL tables.

Both types of PL/SQL tables, i.e., index-by tables and nested tables have the same structure and their rows are accessed using the subscript notation. However, these two types of tables differ in one aspect; the nested tables can be stored in a database column and the index-by tables cannot.

Index-By Table

An index-by table (also called an associative array) is a set of key-value pairs. Each key is unique and is used to locate the corresponding value. The key can be either an integer or a string.

An index-by table is created using the following syntax. Here, we are creating an index-by table named table_name whose keys will be of subscript_type and associated values will be of element_type

TYPE type_name IS TABLE OF element_type [NOT NULL] INDEX BY subscript_type;

table_name type_name;

Example:

Following example shows how to create a table to store integer values along with names and later it prints the same list of names.

DECLARE
   TYPE salary IS TABLE OF NUMBER INDEX BY VARCHAR2(20);
   salary_list salary;
   name   VARCHAR2(20);
BEGIN
   -- adding elements to the table
   salary_list('Rajnish')  := 62000;
   salary_list('Minakshi')  := 75000;
   salary_list('Martin') := 100000;
   salary_list('James') := 78000;

   -- printing the table
   name := salary_list.FIRST;
   WHILE name IS NOT null LOOP
      dbms_output.put_line
      ('Salary of ' || name || ' is ' || TO_CHAR(salary_list(name)));
      name := salary_list.NEXT(name);
   END LOOP;
END;
/

When the above code is executed at SQL prompt, it produces the following result:

Salary of Rajnish is 62000
Salary of Minakshi is 75000
Salary of Martin is 100000
Salary of James is 78000

PL/SQL procedure successfully completed.

Example:

Elements of an index-by table could also be a %ROWTYPE of any database table or %TYPE of any database table field. The following example illustrates the concept. We will use the CUSTOMERS table stored in our database as:

Select * from customers;

+----+----------+-----+-----------+----------+
| ID | NAME     | AGE | ADDRESS   | SALARY   |
+----+----------+-----+-----------+----------+
|  1 | Ramesh   |  32 | Ahmedabad |  2000.00 |
|  2 | Khilan   |  25 | Delhi     |  1500.00 |
|  3 | kaushik  |  23 | Kota      |  2000.00 |
|  4 | Chaitali |  25 | Mumbai    |  6500.00 |
|  5 | Hardik   |  27 | Bhopal    |  8500.00 |
|  6 | Komal    |  22 | MP        |  4500.00 |
+----+----------+-----+-----------+----------+
DECLARE
   CURSOR c_customers is
      select  name from customers;
   
   TYPE c_list IS TABLE of customers.name%type INDEX BY binary_integer;
   name_list c_list;
   counter integer :=0;
BEGIN
   FOR n IN c_customers LOOP
      counter := counter +1;
      name_list(counter)  := n.name;
      dbms_output.put_line('Customer('||counter|| '):'||name_list(counter));
  END LOOP;
END;
/

When the above code is executed at SQL prompt, it produces the following result:

Customer(1): Ramesh 
Customer(2): Khilan 
Customer(3): kaushik    
Customer(4): Chaitali 
Customer(5): Hardik 
Customer(6): Komal

PL/SQL procedure successfully completed

Nested Tables

A nested table is like a one-dimensional array with an arbitrary number of elements. However, a nested table differs from an array in the following aspects:

  • An array has a declared number of elements, but a nested table does not. The size of a nested table can increase dynamically.

  • An array is always dense, i.e., it always has consecutive subscripts. A nested array is dense initially, but it can become sparse when elements are deleted from it.

A nested table is created using the following syntax:

TYPE type_name IS TABLE OF element_type [NOT NULL];

table_name type_name;

This declaration is similar to declaration of an index-by table, but there is no INDEX BY clause.

A nested table can be stored in a database column and so it could be used for simplifying SQL operations where you join a single-column table with a larger table. An associative array cannot be stored in the database.

Example:

The following examples illustrate the use of nested table:

DECLARE
   TYPE names_table IS TABLE OF VARCHAR2(10);
   TYPE grades IS TABLE OF INTEGER;

   names names_table;
   marks grades;
   total integer;
BEGIN
   names := names_table('Kavita', 'Pritam', 'Ayan', 'Rishav', 'Aziz');
   marks:= grades(98, 97, 78, 87, 92);
   total := names.count;
   dbms_output.put_line('Total '|| total || ' Students');
   FOR i IN 1 .. total LOOP
      dbms_output.put_line('Student:'||names(i)||', Marks:' || marks(i));
   end loop;
END;
/

When the above code is executed at SQL prompt, it produces the following result:

Total 5 Students
Student:Kavita, Marks:98
Student:Pritam, Marks:97
Student:Ayan, Marks:78
Student:Rishav, Marks:87
Student:Aziz, Marks:92

PL/SQL procedure successfully completed.

Example:

Elements of a nested table could also be a %ROWTYPE of any database table or %TYPE of any database table field. The following example illustrates the concept. We will use the CUSTOMERS table stored in our database as:

Select * from customers;

+----+----------+-----+-----------+----------+
| ID | NAME     | AGE | ADDRESS   | SALARY   |
+----+----------+-----+-----------+----------+
|  1 | Ramesh   |  32 | Ahmedabad |  2000.00 |
|  2 | Khilan   |  25 | Delhi     |  1500.00 |
|  3 | kaushik  |  23 | Kota      |  2000.00 |
|  4 | Chaitali |  25 | Mumbai    |  6500.00 |
|  5 | Hardik   |  27 | Bhopal    |  8500.00 |
|  6 | Komal    |  22 | MP        |  4500.00 |
+----+----------+-----+-----------+----------+
DECLARE
   CURSOR c_customers is 
      SELECT  name FROM customers;

   TYPE c_list IS TABLE of customers.name%type;
   name_list c_list := c_list();
   counter integer :=0;
BEGIN
   FOR n IN c_customers LOOP
      counter := counter +1;
      name_list.extend;
      name_list(counter)  := n.name;
      dbms_output.put_line('Customer('||counter||'):'||name_list(counter));
   END LOOP;
END;
/

When the above code is executed at SQL prompt, it produces the following result:

Customer(1): Ramesh 
Customer(2): Khilan 
Customer(3): kaushik    
Customer(4): Chaitali 
Customer(5): Hardik 
Customer(6): Komal

PL/SQL procedure successfully completed.

Collection Methods

PL/SQL provides the built-in collection methods that make collections easier to use. The following table lists the methods and their purpose:

S.N.Method Name & Purpose
1EXISTS(n)
Returns TRUE if the nth element in a collection exists; otherwise returns FALSE.
2COUNT
Returns the number of elements that a collection currently contains.
3LIMIT
Checks the Maximum Size of a Collection.
4FIRST
Returns the first (smallest) index numbers in a collection that uses integer subscripts.
5LAST
Returns the last (largest) index numbers in a collection that uses integer subscripts.
6PRIOR(n)
Returns the index number that precedes index n in a collection.
7NEXT(n)
Returns the index number that succeeds index n.
8EXTEND
Appends one null element to a collection.
9EXTEND(n)
Appends n null elements to a collection.
10EXTEND(n,i)
Appends n copies of the ith element to a collection.
11TRIM
Removes one element from the end of a collection.
12TRIM(n)
Removes n elements from the end of a collection.
13DELETE
Removes all elements from a collection, setting COUNT to 0.
14DELETE(n)
Removes the nth element from an associative array with a numeric key or a nested table. If the associative array has a string key, the element corresponding to the key value is deleted. If n is null, DELETE(n) does nothing.
15DELETE(m,n)
Removes all elements in the range m..n from an associative array or nested table. If m is larger than n or if m or n is null, DELETE(m,n) does nothing.

Collection Exceptions

The following table provides the collection exceptions and when they are raised:

Collection ExceptionRaised in Situations
COLLECTION_IS_NULLYou try to operate on an atomically null collection.
NO_DATA_FOUNDA subscript designates an element that was deleted, or a nonexistent element of an associative array.
SUBSCRIPT_BEYOND_COUNTA subscript exceeds the number of elements in a collection.
SUBSCRIPT_OUTSIDE_LIMITA subscript is outside the allowed range.
VALUE_ERRORA subscript is null or not convertible to the key type. This exception might occur if the key is defined as a PLS_INTEGER range, and the subscript is outside this range.


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