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The PostgreSQL 9.0 Reference Manual - Volume 1A - SQL Language Reference
by The PostgreSQL Global Development Group
Paperback (6"x9"), 454 pages
ISBN 9781906966041
RRP £14.95 ($19.95)

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6.14.3 Accessing Arrays

Now, we can run some queries on the table. First, we show how to access a single element of an array. This query retrieves the names of the employees whose pay changed in the second quarter:

SELECT name FROM sal_emp WHERE pay_by_quarter[1] <> 
  pay_by_quarter[2];

 name
-------
 Carol
(1 row)

The array subscript numbers are written within square brackets. By default PostgreSQL uses a one-based numbering convention for arrays, that is, an array of n elements starts with array[1] and ends with array[n].

This query retrieves the third quarter pay of all employees:

SELECT pay_by_quarter[3] FROM sal_emp;

 pay_by_quarter
----------------
          10000
          25000
(2 rows)

We can also access arbitrary rectangular slices of an array, or subarrays. An array slice is denoted by writing lower-bound:upper-bound for one or more array dimensions. For example, this query retrieves the first item on Bill's schedule for the first two days of the week:

SELECT schedule[1:2][1:1] FROM sal_emp WHERE name = 'Bill';

        schedule
------------------------
 {{meeting},{training}}
(1 row)

If any dimension is written as a slice, i.e., contains a colon, then all dimensions are treated as slices. Any dimension that has only a single number (no colon) is treated as being from 1 to the number specified. For example, [2] is treated as [1:2], as in this example:

SELECT schedule[1:2][2] FROM sal_emp WHERE name = 'Bill';

                 schedule
-------------------------------------------
 {{meeting,lunch},{training,presentation}}
(1 row)

To avoid confusion with the non-slice case, it's best to use slice syntax for all dimensions, e.g., [1:2][1:1], not [2][1:1].

An array subscript expression will return null if either the array itself or any of the subscript expressions are null. Also, null is returned if a subscript is outside the array bounds (this case does not raise an error). For example, if schedule currently has the dimensions [1:3][1:2] then referencing schedule[3][3] yields NULL. Similarly, an array reference with the wrong number of subscripts yields a null rather than an error.

An array slice expression likewise yields null if the array itself or any of the subscript expressions are null. However, in other cases such as selecting an array slice that is completely outside the current array bounds, a slice expression yields an empty (zero-dimensional) array instead of null. (This does not match non-slice behavior and is done for historical reasons.) If the requested slice partially overlaps the array bounds, then it is silently reduced to just the overlapping region instead of returning null.

The current dimensions of any array value can be retrieved with the array_dims function:

SELECT array_dims(schedule) FROM sal_emp WHERE name = 'Carol';

 array_dims
------------
 [1:2][1:2]
(1 row)

array_dims produces a text result, which is convenient for people to read but perhaps inconvenient for programs. Dimensions can also be retrieved with array_upper and array_lower, which return the upper and lower bound of a specified array dimension, respectively:

SELECT array_upper(schedule, 1) FROM sal_emp WHERE name = 
  'Carol';

 array_upper
-------------
           2
(1 row)

array_length will return the length of a specified array dimension:

SELECT array_length(schedule, 1) FROM sal_emp WHERE name = 
  'Carol';

 array_length
--------------
            2
(1 row)
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