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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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5.4.8 SQL Functions Returning Sets

When an SQL function is declared as returning SETOF sometype, the function's final query is executed to completion, and each row it outputs is returned as an element of the result set.

This feature is normally used when calling the function in the FROM clause. In this case each row returned by the function becomes a row of the table seen by the query. For example, assume that table foo has the same contents as above, and we say:

CREATE FUNCTION getfoo(int) RETURNS SETOF foo AS $$
    SELECT * FROM foo WHERE fooid = $1;
$$ LANGUAGE SQL;

SELECT * FROM getfoo(1) AS t1;

Then we would get:

 fooid | foosubid | fooname
-------+----------+---------
     1 |        1 | Joe
     1 |        2 | Ed
(2 rows)

It is also possible to return multiple rows with the columns defined by output parameters, like this:

CREATE TABLE tab (y int, z int);
INSERT INTO tab VALUES (1, 2), (3, 4), (5, 6), (7, 8);

CREATE FUNCTION sum_n_product_with_tab (x int, OUT sum int, 
  OUT product int)
RETURNS SETOF record
AS $$
    SELECT $1 + tab.y, $1 * tab.y FROM tab;
$$ LANGUAGE SQL;

SELECT * FROM sum_n_product_with_tab(10);
 sum | product
-----+---------
  11 |      10
  13 |      30
  15 |      50
  17 |      70
(4 rows)

The key point here is that you must write RETURNS SETOF record to indicate that the function returns multiple rows instead of just one. If there is only one output parameter, write that parameter's type instead of record.

Currently, functions returning sets can also be called in the select list of a query. For each row that the query generates by itself, the function returning set is invoked, and an output row is generated for each element of the function's result set. Note, however, that this capability is deprecated and might be removed in future releases. The following is an example function returning a set from the select list:

CREATE FUNCTION listchildren(text) RETURNS SETOF text AS $$
    SELECT name FROM nodes WHERE parent = $1
$$ LANGUAGE SQL;

SELECT * FROM nodes;
   name    | parent
-----------+--------
 Top       |
 Child1    | Top
 Child2    | Top
 Child3    | Top
 SubChild1 | Child1
 SubChild2 | Child1
(6 rows)

SELECT listchildren('Top');
 listchildren
--------------
 Child1
 Child2
 Child3
(3 rows)

SELECT name, listchildren(name) FROM nodes;
  name  | listchildren
--------+--------------
 Top    | Child1
 Top    | Child2
 Top    | Child3
 Child1 | SubChild1
 Child1 | SubChild2
(5 rows)

In the last SELECT, notice that no output row appears for Child2, Child3, etc. This happens because listchildren returns an empty set for those arguments, so no result rows are generated.

Note: If a function's last command is INSERT, UPDATE, or DELETE with RETURNING, that command will always be executed to completion, even if the function is not declared with SETOF or the calling query does not fetch all the result rows. Any extra rows produced by the RETURNING clause are silently dropped, but the commanded table modifications still happen (and are all completed before returning from the function).

ISBN 9781906966065The PostgreSQL 9.0 Reference Manual - Volume 2 - Programming GuideSee the print edition