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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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9.5.3 Executing a Query with a Single-Row Result

The result of a SQL command yielding a single row (possibly of multiple columns) can be assigned to a record variable, row-type variable, or list of scalar variables. This is done by writing the base SQL command and adding an INTO clause. For example,

SELECT select_expressions INTO [STRICT] target FROM ...;
INSERT ... RETURNING expressions INTO [STRICT] target;
UPDATE ... RETURNING expressions INTO [STRICT] target;
DELETE ... RETURNING expressions INTO [STRICT] target;

where target can be a record variable, a row variable, or a comma-separated list of simple variables and record/row fields. PL/pgSQL variables will be substituted into the rest of the query, and the plan is cached, just as described above for commands that do not return rows. This works for SELECT, INSERT/UPDATE/DELETE with RETURNING, and utility commands that return row-set results (such as EXPLAIN). Except for the INTO clause, the SQL command is the same as it would be written outside PL/pgSQL.

Tip: Note that this interpretation of SELECT with INTO is quite different from PostgreSQL's regular SELECT INTO command, wherein the INTO target is a newly created table. If you want to create a table from a SELECT result inside a PL/pgSQL function, use the syntax CREATE TABLE ... AS SELECT.

If a row or a variable list is used as target, the query's result columns must exactly match the structure of the target as to number and data types, or else a run-time error occurs. When a record variable is the target, it automatically configures itself to the row type of the query result columns.

The INTO clause can appear almost anywhere in the SQL command. Customarily it is written either just before or just after the list of select_expressions in a SELECT command, or at the end of the command for other command types. It is recommended that you follow this convention in case the PL/pgSQL parser becomes stricter in future versions.

If STRICT is not specified in the INTO clause, then target will be set to the first row returned by the query, or to nulls if the query returned no rows. (Note that “the first row” is not well-defined unless you've used ORDER BY.) Any result rows after the first row are discarded. You can check the special FOUND variable (see section 9.5.5 Obtaining the Result Status) to determine whether a row was returned:

SELECT * INTO myrec FROM emp WHERE empname = myname;
IF NOT FOUND THEN
    RAISE EXCEPTION 'employee % not found', myname;
END IF;

If the STRICT option is specified, the query must return exactly one row or a run-time error will be reported, either NO_DATA_FOUND (no rows) or TOO_MANY_ROWS (more than one row). You can use an exception block if you wish to catch the error, for example:

BEGIN
    SELECT * INTO STRICT myrec FROM emp WHERE empname = myname;
    EXCEPTION
        WHEN NO_DATA_FOUND THEN
            RAISE EXCEPTION 'employee % not found', myname;
        WHEN TOO_MANY_ROWS THEN
            RAISE EXCEPTION 'employee % not unique', myname;
END;

Successful execution of a command with STRICT always sets FOUND to true.

For INSERT/UPDATE/DELETE with RETURNING, PL/pgSQL reports an error for more than one returned row, even when STRICT is not specified. This is because there is no option such as ORDER BY with which to determine which affected row should be returned.

Note: The STRICT option matches the behavior of Oracle PL/SQL's SELECT INTO and related statements.

To handle cases where you need to process multiple result rows from a SQL query, see section 9.6.4 Looping Through Query Results.

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