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Chapter: Fundamentals of Database Systems - Database Programming Techniques - Introduction to SQL Programming Techniques

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Retrieving Multiple Tuples with Embedded SQL Using Cursors

We can think of a cursor as a pointer that points to a single tuple (row) from the result of a query that retrieves multiple tuples.

Retrieving Multiple Tuples with Embedded SQL Using Cursors


We can think of a cursor as a pointer that points to a single tuple (row) from the result of a query that retrieves multiple tuples. The cursor is declared when the SQL query command is declared in the program. Later in the program, an OPEN CURSOR command fetches the query result from the database and sets the cursor to a position before the first row in the result of the query. This becomes the current row for the cursor. Subsequently, FETCH commands are issued in the program; each FETCH moves the cursor to the next row in the result of the query, making it the cur-rent row and copying its attribute values into the C (host language) program variables specified in the FETCH command by an INTO clause. The cursor variable is basically an iterator that iterates (loops) over the tuples in the query result—one tuple at a time.


To determine when all the tuples in the result of the query have been processed, the communication variable SQLCODE (or, alternatively, SQLSTATE) is checked. If a FETCH command is issued that results in moving the cursor past the last tuple in the result of the query, a positive value (SQLCODE > 0) is returned in SQLCODE, indicating that no data (tuple) was found (or the string ‘02000’ is returned in SQLSTATE). The programmer uses this to terminate a loop over the tuples in the query result. In general, numerous cursors can be opened at the same time. A command is issued to indicate that we are done with processing the result of the query associated with that cursor.


An example of using cursors to process a query result with multiple records is shown in Figure 13.3, where a cursor called EMP is declared in line 4. The EMP cursor is associated with the SQL query declared in lines 5 through 6, but the query is not executed until the OPEN EMP command (line 8) is processed. The OPEN <cursor name> command executes the query and fetches its result as a table into the program workspace, where the program can loop through the individual rows (tuples) by subsequent FETCH <cursor name> commands (line 9). We assume that appropriate C program variables have been declared as in Figure 13.1. The program segment in E2 reads (inputs) a department name (line 0), retrieves the matching department number from the database (lines 1 to 3), and then retrieves the employees who work in that department via the declared EMP cursor. A loop (lines 10 to 18) iterates over each record in the query result, one at a time, and prints the employee name. The program then reads (inputs) a raise amount for that employee (line 12) and updates the employee’s salary in the database by the raise amount that was provided (lines 14 to 16).


This example also illustrates how the programmer can update database records. When a cursor is defined for rows that are to be modified (updated), we must add




Figure 13.3


Program segment E2, a C program segment that uses cursors with embedded SQL for update purposes.


//Program Segment E2:


     prompt("Enter the Department Name: ", dname) ;




     select Dnumber into :dnumber


     from DEPARTMENT where Dname = :dname ;




     select Ssn, Fname, Minit, Lname, Salary


     from EMPLOYEE where Dno = :dnumber


     FOR UPDATE OF Salary ;




     EXEC SQL FETCH from EMP into :ssn, :fname, :minit, :lname, :salary ;


     while (SQLCODE == 0) {


     printf("Employee name is:", Fname, Minit, Lname) ;


     prompt("Enter the raise amount: ", raise) ;




     update EMPLOYEE


     set Salary = Salary + :raise


     where CURRENT OF EMP ;


     EXEC SQL FETCH from EMP into :ssn, :fname, :minit, :lname, :salary ;





            the clause FOR UPDATE OF in the cursor declaration and list the names of any attributes that will be updated by the program. This is illustrated in line 7 of code segment E2. If rows are to be deleted, the keywords FOR UPDATE must be added without specifying any attributes. In the embedded UPDATE (or DELETE) command, the condition WHERE CURRENT OF<cursor name> specifies that the cur-rent tuple referenced by the cursor is the one to be updated (or deleted), as in line 16 of E2.


            Notice that declaring a cursor and associating it with a query (lines 4 through 7 in E2) does not execute the query; the query is executed only when the OPEN <cursor name> command (line 8) is executed. Also notice that there is no need to include the FOR UPDATE OF clause in line 7 of E2 if the results of the query are to be used for retrieval purposes only (no update or delete).


            General Options for a Cursor Declaration. Several options can be specified when declaring a cursor. The general form of a cursor declaration is as follows:


        DECLARE <cursor name> [ INSENSITIVE ] [ SCROLL ] CURSOR


            [ WITH HOLD ] FOR <query specification> [ ORDER BY <ordering specification> ]

            [ FOR READ ONLY | FOR UPDATE [ OF <attribute list> ] ] ;


            We already briefly discussed the options listed in the last line. The default is that the query is for retrieval purposes (FOR READ ONLY). If some of the tuples in the query result are to be updated, we need to specify FOR UPDATE OF <attribute list> and list the attributes that may be updated. If some tuples are to be deleted, we need to specify FOR UPDATE without any attributes listed.


            When the optional keyword SCROLL is specified in a cursor declaration, it is possible to position the cursor in other ways than for purely sequential access. A fetch orientation can be added to the FETCH command, whose value can be one of NEXT, PRIOR, FIRST, LAST, ABSOLUTE i, and RELATIVE i. In the latter two commands, i must evaluate to an integer value that specifies an absolute tuple position within the query result (for ABSOLUTE i), or a tuple position relative to the current cursor position (for RELATIVE i). The default fetch orientation, which we used in our examples, is NEXT. The fetch orientation allows the programmer to move the cursor around the tuples in the query result with greater flexibility, providing random access by position or access in reverse order. When SCROLL is specified on the cursor, the general form of a FETCH command is as follows, with the parts in square brackets being optional:


            FETCH [ [ <fetch orientation> ] FROM ] <cursor name> INTO <fetch target list> ;


        The ORDER BY clause orders the tuples so that the FETCH command will fetch them in the specified order. It is specified in a similar manner to the corresponding clause for SQL queries (see Section 4.3.6). The last two options when declaring a cursor (INSENSITIVE and WITH HOLD) refer to transaction characteristics of database pro-grams, which we will discuss in Chapter 21.

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