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PostgreSQL Reference Manual - Volume 2 - Programming Guide
by The PostgreSQL Global Development Group
Paperback (6"x9"), 408 pages
ISBN 0954612035
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5.4.2 SQL Functions on Composite Types

When writing functions with arguments of composite types, we must not only specify which argument we want (as we did above with $1 and $2) but also the desired attribute (field) of that argument. For example, suppose that emp is a table containing employee data, and therefore also the name of the composite type of each row of the table. Here is a function double_salary that computes what someone's salary would be if it were doubled:

CREATE TABLE emp (
    name        text,
    salary      numeric,
    age         integer,
    cubicle     point
);

CREATE FUNCTION double_salary(emp) RETURNS numeric AS $$
    SELECT $1.salary * 2 AS salary;
$$ LANGUAGE SQL;

SELECT name, double_salary(emp.*) AS dream
    FROM emp
    WHERE emp.cubicle ~= point '(2,1)';

 name | dream
------+-------
 Bill |  8400

Notice the use of the syntax $1.salary to select one field of the argument row value. Also notice how the calling SELECT command uses * to select the entire current row of a table as a composite value. The table row can alternatively be referenced using just the table name, like this:

SELECT name, double_salary(emp) AS dream
    FROM emp
    WHERE emp.cubicle ~= point '(2,1)';

but this usage is deprecated since it's easy to get confused.

Sometimes it is handy to construct a composite argument value on-the-fly. This can be done with the ROW construct. For example, we could adjust the data being passed to the function:

SELECT name, double_salary(ROW(name, salary*1.1, age,
 cubicle)) AS dream
    FROM emp;

It is also possible to build a function that returns a composite type. This is an example of a function that returns a single emp row:

CREATE FUNCTION new_emp() RETURNS emp AS $$
    SELECT text 'None' AS name,
        1000.0 AS salary,
        25 AS age,
        point '(2,2)' AS cubicle;
$$ LANGUAGE SQL;

In this example we have specified each of the attributes with a constant value, but any computation could have been substituted for these constants.

Note two important things about defining the function:

A different way to define the same function is:

CREATE FUNCTION new_emp() RETURNS emp AS $$
    SELECT ROW('None', 1000.0, 25, '(2,2)')::emp;
$$ LANGUAGE SQL;

Here we wrote a SELECT that returns just a single column of the correct composite type. This isn't really better in this situation, but it is a handy alternative in some cases--for example, if we need to compute the result by calling another function that returns the desired composite value.

We could call this function directly in either of two ways:

SELECT new_emp();

         new_emp
--------------------------
 (None,1000.0,25,"(2,2)")

SELECT * FROM new_emp();

 name | salary | age | cubicle
------+--------+-----+---------
 None | 1000.0 |  25 | (2,2)

The second way is described more fully in section 5.4.4 SQL Functions as Table Sources.

When you use a function that returns a composite type, you might want only one field (attribute) from its result. You can do that with syntax like this:

SELECT (new_emp()).name;

 name
------
 None

The extra parentheses are needed to keep the parser from getting confused. If you try to do it without them, you get something like this:

SELECT new_emp().name;
ERROR:  syntax error at or near "." at character 17
LINE 1: SELECT new_emp().name;
                        ^

Another option is to use functional notation for extracting an attribute. The simple way to explain this is that we can use the notations attribute(table) and table.attribute interchangeably.

SELECT name(new_emp());

 name
------
 None
-- This is the same as:
-- SELECT emp.name AS youngster FROM emp WHERE emp.age < 30;

SELECT name(emp) AS youngster FROM emp WHERE age(emp) < 30;

 youngster
-----------
 Sam
 Andy

Tip: The equivalence between functional notation and attribute notation makes it possible to use functions on composite types to emulate “computed fields”. For example, using the previous definition for double_salary(emp), we can write

SELECT emp.name, emp.double_salary FROM emp;

An application using this wouldn't need to be directly aware that double_salary isn't a real column of the table. (You can also emulate computed fields with views.)

Another way to use a function returning a composite type is to pass the result to another function that accepts the correct row type as input:

CREATE FUNCTION getname(emp) RETURNS text AS $$
    SELECT $1.name;
$$ LANGUAGE SQL;

SELECT getname(new_emp());
 getname
---------
 None
(1 row)

Still another way to use a function that returns a composite type is to call it as a table function, as described in section 5.4.4 SQL Functions as Table Sources.

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