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Collections in Oracle PL/SQL

Oracle uses collections in PL/SQL the same way other languages use arrays. Oracle provides three basic collections, each with an assortment of methods.

Related articles.

Index-By Tables (Associative Arrays)

The first type of collection is known as index-by tables. These behave in the same way as arrays except that have no upper bounds, allowing them to constantly extend. As the name implies, the collection is indexed using BINARY_INTEGER values, which do not need to be consecutive. The collection is extended by assigning values to an element using an index value that does not currently exist.

SET SERVEROUTPUT ON SIZE 1000000
DECLARE
  TYPE table_type IS TABLE OF NUMBER(10)
    INDEX BY BINARY_INTEGER;
  
  v_tab  table_type;
  v_idx  NUMBER;
BEGIN
  -- Initialise the collection.
  << load_loop >>
  FOR i IN 1 .. 5 LOOP
    v_tab(i) := i;
  END LOOP load_loop;
  
  -- Delete the third item of the collection.
  v_tab.DELETE(3);
  
  -- Traverse sparse collection
  v_idx := v_tab.FIRST;
  << display_loop >>
  WHILE v_idx IS NOT NULL LOOP
    DBMS_OUTPUT.PUT_LINE('The number ' || v_tab(v_idx));
    v_idx := v_tab.NEXT(v_idx);
  END LOOP display_loop;
END;
/

The number 1
The number 2
The number 4
The number 5

PL/SQL procedure successfully completed.

SQL>

In Oracle 9i Release 2 these have been renamed to Associative Arrays and can be indexed by BINARY INTEGER or VARCHAR2.

Nested Table Collections

Nested table collections are an extension of the index-by tables. The main difference between the two is that nested tables can be stored in a database column but index-by tables cannot. In addition some DML operations are possible on nested tables when they are stored in the database. During creation the collection must be dense, having consecutive subscripts for the elements. Once created elements can be deleted using the DELETE method to make the collection sparse. The NEXT method overcomes the problems of traversing sparse collections.

SET SERVEROUTPUT ON SIZE 1000000
DECLARE
  TYPE table_type IS TABLE OF NUMBER(10);
  v_tab  table_type;
  v_idx  NUMBER;
BEGIN

  -- Initialise the collection with two values.
  v_tab := table_type(1, 2);

  -- Extend the collection with extra values.
  << load_loop >>
  FOR i IN 3 .. 5 LOOP
    v_tab.extend;
    v_tab(v_tab.last) := i;
  END LOOP load_loop;
  
  -- Delete the third item of the collection.
  v_tab.DELETE(3);
  
  -- Traverse sparse collection
  v_idx := v_tab.FIRST;
  << display_loop >>
  WHILE v_idx IS NOT NULL LOOP
    DBMS_OUTPUT.PUT_LINE('The number ' || v_tab(v_idx));
    v_idx := v_tab.NEXT(v_idx);
  END LOOP display_loop;
END;
/

The number 1
The number 2
The number 4
The number 5

PL/SQL procedure successfully completed.

SQL>

Varray Collections

A VARRAY is similar to a nested table except you must specifiy an upper bound in the declaration. Like nested tables they can be stored in the database, but unlike nested tables individual elements cannot be deleted so they remain dense.

SET SERVEROUTPUT ON SIZE 1000000
DECLARE
  TYPE table_type IS VARRAY(5) OF NUMBER(10);
  v_tab  table_type;
  v_idx  NUMBER;
BEGIN
  -- Initialise the collection with two values.
  v_tab := table_type(1, 2);

  -- Extend the collection with extra values.
  << load_loop >>
  FOR i IN 3 .. 5 LOOP
    v_tab.extend;
    v_tab(v_tab.last) := i;
  END LOOP load_loop;
  
  -- Can't delete from a VARRAY.
  -- v_tab.DELETE(3);

  -- Traverse collection
  v_idx := v_tab.FIRST;
  << display_loop >>
  WHILE v_idx IS NOT NULL LOOP
    DBMS_OUTPUT.PUT_LINE('The number ' || v_tab(v_idx));
    v_idx := v_tab.NEXT(v_idx);
  END LOOP display_loop;
END;
/

The number 1
The number 2
The number 3
The number 4
The number 5

PL/SQL procedure successfully completed.

SQL>

Extending the load_loop to 3..6 attempts to extend the VARRAY beyond it's limit of 5 elements resulting in the following error.

DECLARE
*
ERROR at line 1:
ORA-06532: Subscript outside of limit
ORA-06512: at line 12

Assignments and Equality Tests

Assignments can only be made between collections of the same type. Not types of similar structures, or with the same name in different packages, but literally the same type.

The following example shows a successful assignment between two collections of the same type.

DECLARE
  TYPE table_type IS TABLE OF NUMBER(10);
  v_tab_1  table_type;
  v_tab_2  table_type;
BEGIN
  -- Initialise the collection with two values.
  v_tab_1 := table_type(1, 2);

  -- Assignment works.
  v_tab_2 := v_tab_1;
END;
/

PL/SQL procedure successfully completed.

SQL>

If we repeat that, but this time use two separate types with similar definitions, we can see the code fails to compile due to the illegal assignment.

DECLARE
  TYPE table_type_1 IS TABLE OF NUMBER(10);
  TYPE table_type_2 IS TABLE OF NUMBER(10);
  v_tab_1  table_type_1;
  v_tab_2  table_type_2;
BEGIN
  -- Initialise the collection with two values.
  v_tab_1 := table_type_1(1, 2);

  -- Assignment causes compilation error.
  v_tab_2 := v_tab_1;
END;
/

  v_tab_2 := v_tab_1;
             *
ERROR at line 11:
ORA-06550: line 11, column 14:
PLS-00382: expression is of wrong type
ORA-06550: line 11, column 3:
PL/SQL: Statement ignored


SQL>

Collections of the same type can be tested for equality, as shown in the example below.

SET SERVEROUTPUT ON
DECLARE
  TYPE table_type IS TABLE OF NUMBER(10);
  v_tab_1  table_type;
  v_tab_2  table_type;
BEGIN
  -- Initialise the collection with two values.
  v_tab_1 := table_type(1, 2);
  v_tab_2 := v_tab_1;

  IF v_tab_1 = v_tab_2 THEN
    DBMS_OUTPUT.put_line('1: v_tab_1 = v_tab_2');
  END IF;

  v_tab_1 := table_type(1, 2, 3);

  IF v_tab_1 != v_tab_2 THEN
    DBMS_OUTPUT.put_line('2: v_tab_1 != v_tab_2');
  END IF;
END;
/
1: v_tab_1 = v_tab_2
2: v_tab_1 != v_tab_2

PL/SQL procedure successfully completed.

SQL>

Collection Methods

A variety of methods exist for collections, but not all are relevant for every collection type.

Multiset Operations

Oracle provides MULTISET operations against collections, including the following.

MULTISET UNION joins the two collections together, doing the equivalent of a UNION ALL between the two sets.

SET SERVEROUTPUT ON
DECLARE
  TYPE t_tab IS TABLE OF NUMBER;
  l_tab1 t_tab := t_tab(1,2,3,4,5,6);
  l_tab2 t_tab := t_tab(5,6,7,8,9,10);
BEGIN
  l_tab1 := l_tab1 MULTISET UNION l_tab2;
  
  FOR i IN l_tab1.first .. l_tab1.last LOOP
    DBMS_OUTPUT.put_line(l_tab1(i));
  END LOOP;
END;
/
1
2
3
4
5
6
5
6
7
8
9
10

PL/SQL procedure successfully completed.

SQL>

The DISTINCT keyword can be added to any of the multiset operations to removes the duplicates. Adding it to the MULTISET UNION makes it the equivalent of a UNION between the two sets.

SET SERVEROUTPUT ON
DECLARE
  TYPE t_tab IS TABLE OF NUMBER;
  l_tab1 t_tab := t_tab(1,2,3,4,5,6);
  l_tab2 t_tab := t_tab(5,6,7,8,9,10);
BEGIN
  l_tab1 := l_tab1 MULTISET UNION DISTINCT l_tab2;
  
  FOR i IN l_tab1.first .. l_tab1.last LOOP
    DBMS_OUTPUT.put_line(l_tab1(i));
  END LOOP;
END;
/
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10

PL/SQL procedure successfully completed.

SQL>

MULTISET EXCEPT returns the elements of the first set that are not present in the second set.

SET SERVEROUTPUT ON
DECLARE
  TYPE t_tab IS TABLE OF NUMBER;
  l_tab1 t_tab := t_tab(1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10);
  l_tab2 t_tab := t_tab(6,7,8,9,10);
BEGIN
  l_tab1 := l_tab1 MULTISET EXCEPT l_tab2;
  
  FOR i IN l_tab1.first .. l_tab1.last LOOP
    DBMS_OUTPUT.put_line(l_tab1(i));
  END LOOP;
END;
/
1
2
3
4
5

PL/SQL procedure successfully completed.

SQL>

MULTISET INTERSECT returns the elements that are present in both sets.

SET SERVEROUTPUT ON
DECLARE
  TYPE t_tab IS TABLE OF NUMBER;
  l_tab1 t_tab := t_tab(1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10);
  l_tab2 t_tab := t_tab(6,7,8,9,10);
BEGIN
  l_tab1 := l_tab1 MULTISET INTERSECT l_tab2;
  
  FOR i IN l_tab1.first .. l_tab1.last LOOP
    DBMS_OUTPUT.put_line(l_tab1(i));
  END LOOP;
END;
/
6
7
8
9
10

PL/SQL procedure successfully completed.

SQL>

Multidimensional Collections

In addition to regular data types, collections can be based on record types, allowing the creation of two-dimensional collections.

SET SERVEROUTPUT ON

-- Collection of records.
DECLARE
  TYPE t_row IS RECORD (
    id  NUMBER,
    description VARCHAR2(50)
  );

  TYPE t_tab IS TABLE OF t_row;
  l_tab t_tab := t_tab();
BEGIN
  FOR i IN 1 .. 10 LOOP
    l_tab.extend();
    l_tab(l_tab.last).id := i;
    l_tab(l_tab.last).description := 'Description for ' || i;
  END LOOP;
END;
/

-- Collection of records based on ROWTYPE.
CREATE TABLE t1 (
  id  NUMBER,
  description VARCHAR2(50)
);

SET SERVEROUTPUT ON
DECLARE
  TYPE t_tab IS TABLE OF t1%ROWTYPE;
  l_tab t_tab := t_tab();
BEGIN
  FOR i IN 1 .. 10 LOOP
    l_tab.extend();
    l_tab(l_tab.last).id := i;
    l_tab(l_tab.last).description := 'Description for ' || i;
  END LOOP;
END;
/

For multidimentional arrays you can build collections of collections.

DECLARE
  TYPE t_tab1 IS TABLE OF NUMBER;
  TYPE t_tab2 IS TABLE OF t_tab1;
  l_tab1 t_tab1 := t_tab1(1,2,3,4,5);
  l_tab2 t_tab2 := t_tab2();
BEGIN
  FOR i IN 1 .. 10 LOOP
    l_tab2.extend();
    l_tab2(l_tab2.last) := l_tab1;
  END LOOP;
END;
/

For more information see:

Hope this helps. Regards Tim...

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