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SQL coalesce function tips

Oracle Database Tips by Donald BurlesonJune 17, 2015

 I am trying to take a list of orders and create a summary that pre-calculates the total of all orders to date for each customer by month. I have data that looks like this

----------- -------- --------- ---------
1                  1   01-FEB-09   100
1                  2   01-MAR-09   200
1                  3   30-MAY-09   100

And I want to create output that looks like :
CUSTOMER_ID 201506 201505 201504 201503 201502 201501
------------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------
1               400    400    300     300  100 (null)

I'm not on 11g, so I cannot use the pivot operator, but I've heard that the SQL coalesce clause can be used for this purpose.

Answer:  Yes, coalesce may work, and you can move rows to columns in many ways:

Answer (By Oracle author Laurent Schneider):  (For more advanced SQL tips, see Laurent's book Advanced Oracle SQL Programming.).  When embedded inside SQL, the coalesce function returns the first non-null expression in the list.  The coalesce can be used to substitute a NULL value, much like the NVL clause:

select coalesce(mycol,'value if null') from mytab;
select nvl(mycol,'value if null')      from mytab;

However, the NVL function is Oracle specific, whereas coalesce in generic SQL.  Also,  coalesce runs faster than NVL, and coalesce is a SQL92 standard.

Laurent shows how this can be solved using the SQL coalesce clause:

  coalesce(a,b,c,d,e,f) a,
  coalesce(b,c,d,e,f)   b,
  coalesce(c,d,e,f)     c,
  coalesce(d,e,f)       d,
  coalesce(e,f)         e,

For a practical example of using the coalesce function in Oracle SQL, consider when you send a book to my delivery address, if none then you send it to my correspondence address, if none then in my main address:

  coalesce(delivery_addr, correspondence_addr, main_addr)



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