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PostgreSQL Reference Manual - Volume 2 - Programming Guide
by The PostgreSQL Global Development Group
Paperback (6"x9"), 408 pages
ISBN 0954612035
RRP £19.95 ($34.95)

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5.14.1 Index Methods and Operator Classes

The pg_am table contains one row for every index method (internally known as access method). Support for regular access to tables is built into PostgreSQL, but all index methods are described in pg_am. It is possible to add a new index method by defining the required interface routines and then creating a row in pg_am---but that is beyond the scope of this chapter (see Volume 4: Index Access Method Interface Definition).

The routines for an index method do not directly know anything about the data types that the index method will operate on. Instead, an operator class identifies the set of operations that the index method needs to use to work with a particular data type. Operator classes are so called because one thing they specify is the set of WHERE-clause operators that can be used with an index (i.e., can be converted into an index-scan qualification). An operator class may also specify some support procedures that are needed by the internal operations of the index method, but do not directly correspond to any WHERE-clause operator that can be used with the index.

It is possible to define multiple operator classes for the same data type and index method. By doing this, multiple sets of indexing semantics can be defined for a single data type. For example, a B-tree index requires a sort ordering to be defined for each data type it works on. It might be useful for a complex-number data type to have one B-tree operator class that sorts the data by complex absolute value, another that sorts by real part, and so on. Typically, one of the operator classes will be deemed most commonly useful and will be marked as the default operator class for that data type and index method.

The same operator class name can be used for several different index methods (for example, both B-tree and hash index methods have operator classes named int4_ops), but each such class is an independent entity and must be defined separately.

ISBN 0954612035PostgreSQL Reference Manual - Volume 2 - Programming GuideSee the print edition