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The PostgreSQL 9.0 Reference Manual - Volume 2 - Programming Guide
by The PostgreSQL Global Development Group
Paperback (6"x9"), 478 pages
ISBN 9781906966065
RRP £14.95 ($19.95)

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9.3.1 Declaring Function Parameters

Parameters passed to functions are named with the identifiers $1, $2, etc. Optionally, aliases can be declared for $n parameter names for increased readability. Either the alias or the numeric identifier can then be used to refer to the parameter value.

There are two ways to create an alias. The preferred way is to give a name to the parameter in the CREATE FUNCTION command, for example:

CREATE FUNCTION sales_tax(subtotal real) RETURNS real AS $$
BEGIN
    RETURN subtotal * 0.06;
END;
$$ LANGUAGE plpgsql;

The other way, which was the only way available before PostgreSQL 8.0, is to explicitly declare an alias, using the declaration syntax

name ALIAS FOR $n;

The same example in this style looks like:

CREATE FUNCTION sales_tax(real) RETURNS real AS $$
DECLARE
    subtotal ALIAS FOR $1;
BEGIN
    RETURN subtotal * 0.06;
END;
$$ LANGUAGE plpgsql;

Note: These two examples are not perfectly equivalent. In the first case, subtotal could be referenced as sales_tax.subtotal, but in the second case it could not. (Had we attached a label to the inner block, subtotal could be qualified with that label, instead.)

Some more examples:

CREATE FUNCTION instr(varchar, integer) RETURNS integer AS $$
DECLARE
    v_string ALIAS FOR $1;
    index ALIAS FOR $2;
BEGIN
    -- some computations using v_string and index here
END;
$$ LANGUAGE plpgsql;

CREATE FUNCTION concat_selected_fields(in_t sometablename) 
  RETURNS text AS $$
BEGIN
    RETURN in_t.f1 || in_t.f3 || in_t.f5 || in_t.f7;
END;
$$ LANGUAGE plpgsql;

When a PL/pgSQL function is declared with output parameters, the output parameters are given $n names and optional aliases in just the same way as the normal input parameters. An output parameter is effectively a variable that starts out NULL; it should be assigned to during the execution of the function. The final value of the parameter is what is returned. For instance, the sales-tax example could also be done this way:

CREATE FUNCTION sales_tax(subtotal real, OUT tax real) AS $$
BEGIN
    tax := subtotal * 0.06;
END;
$$ LANGUAGE plpgsql;

Notice that we omitted RETURNS real---we could have included it, but it would be redundant.

Output parameters are most useful when returning multiple values. A trivial example is:

CREATE FUNCTION sum_n_product(x int, y int, OUT sum int, OUT 
  prod int) AS $$
BEGIN
    sum := x + y;
    prod := x * y;
END;
$$ LANGUAGE plpgsql;

As discussed in section 5.4.4 SQL Functions with Output Parameters, this effectively creates an anonymous record type for the function's results. If a RETURNS clause is given, it must say RETURNS record.

Another way to declare a PL/pgSQL function is with RETURNS TABLE, for example:

CREATE FUNCTION extended_sales(p_itemno int)
RETURNS TABLE(quantity int, total numeric) AS $$
BEGIN
    RETURN QUERY SELECT quantity, quantity * price FROM sales
                 WHERE itemno = p_itemno;
END;
$$ LANGUAGE plpgsql;

This is exactly equivalent to declaring one or more OUT parameters and specifying RETURNS SETOF sometype.

When the return type of a PL/pgSQL function is declared as a polymorphic type (anyelement, anyarray, anynonarray, or anyenum), a special parameter $0 is created. Its data type is the actual return type of the function, as deduced from the actual input types (see section 5.2.5 Polymorphic Types). This allows the function to access its actual return type as shown in section 9.3.3 Copying Types. $0 is initialized to null and can be modified by the function, so it can be used to hold the return value if desired, though that is not required. $0 can also be given an alias. For example, this function works on any data type that has a + operator:

CREATE FUNCTION add_three_values(v1 anyelement, v2 
  anyelement, v3 anyelement)
RETURNS anyelement AS $$
DECLARE
    result ALIAS FOR $0;
BEGIN
    result := v1 + v2 + v3;
    RETURN result;
END;
$$ LANGUAGE plpgsql;

The same effect can be had by declaring one or more output parameters as polymorphic types. In this case the special $0 parameter is not used; the output parameters themselves serve the same purpose. For example:

CREATE FUNCTION add_three_values(v1 anyelement, v2 
  anyelement, v3 anyelement,
                                 OUT sum anyelement)
AS $$
BEGIN
    sum := v1 + v2 + v3;
END;
$$ LANGUAGE plpgsql;
ISBN 9781906966065The PostgreSQL 9.0 Reference Manual - Volume 2 - Programming GuideSee the print edition