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3.6. Examples of Common Queries

Here are examples of how to solve some common problems with MySQL.

Some of the examples use the table shop to hold the price of each article (item number) for certain traders (dealers). Supposing that each trader has a single fixed price per article, then (article, dealer) is a primary key for the records.

Start the command-line tool mysql and select a database:

shell> mysql your-database-name

(In most MySQL installations, you can use the database named test).

You can create and populate the example table with these statements:

CREATE TABLE shop (
    article INT(4) UNSIGNED ZEROFILL DEFAULT '0000' NOT NULL,
    dealer  CHAR(20)                 DEFAULT ''     NOT NULL,
    price   DOUBLE(16,2)             DEFAULT '0.00' NOT NULL,
    PRIMARY KEY(article, dealer));
INSERT INTO shop VALUES
    (1,'A',3.45),(1,'B',3.99),(2,'A',10.99),(3,'B',1.45),
    (3,'C',1.69),(3,'D',1.25),(4,'D',19.95);

After issuing the statements, the table should have the following contents:

SELECT * FROM shop;

+---------+--------+-------+
| article | dealer | price |
+---------+--------+-------+
|    0001 | A      |  3.45 |
|    0001 | B      |  3.99 |
|    0002 | A      | 10.99 |
|    0003 | B      |  1.45 |
|    0003 | C      |  1.69 |
|    0003 | D      |  1.25 |
|    0004 | D      | 19.95 |
+---------+--------+-------+

3.6.1. The Maximum Value for a Column

What's the highest item number?

SELECT MAX(article) AS article FROM shop;

+---------+
| article |
+---------+
|       4 |
+---------+

3.6.2. The Row Holding the Maximum of a Certain Column

Task: Find the number, dealer, and price of the most expensive article.

This is easily done with a subquery:

SELECT article, dealer, price
FROM   shop
WHERE  price=(SELECT MAX(price) FROM shop);

Another solution is to sort all rows descending by price and get only the first row using the MySQL-specific LIMIT clause:

SELECT article, dealer, price
FROM shop
ORDER BY price DESC
LIMIT 1;

Note: If there were several most expensive articles, each with a price of 19.95, the LIMIT solution would show only one of them.

3.6.3. Maximum of Column per Group

Task: Find the highest price per article.

SELECT article, MAX(price) AS price
FROM   shop
GROUP BY article

+---------+-------+
| article | price |
+---------+-------+
|    0001 |  3.99 |
|    0002 | 10.99 |
|    0003 |  1.69 |
|    0004 | 19.95 |
+---------+-------+

3.6.4. The Rows Holding the Group-wise Maximum of a Certain Field

Task: For each article, find the dealer or dealers with the most expensive price.

This problem can be solved with a subquery like this one:

SELECT article, dealer, price
FROM   shop s1
WHERE  price=(SELECT MAX(s2.price)
              FROM shop s2
              WHERE s1.article = s2.article);

+---------+--------+-------+
| article | dealer | price |
+---------+--------+-------+
|    0001 | B      |  3.99 | 
|    0002 | A      | 10.99 | 
|    0003 | C      |  1.69 | 
|    0004 | D      | 19.95 | 
+---------+--------+-------+

The preceding example uses a correlated subquery, which can be inefficient (see Section 13.2.8.7, “Correlated Subqueries”). Other possibilities for solving the problem are to use a uncorrelated subquery in the FROM clause or a LEFT JOIN:

SELECT s1.article, dealer, s1.price
FROM shop s1
JOIN (
  SELECT article, MAX(price) AS price
  FROM shop
  GROUP BY article) AS s2
  ON s1.article = s2.article AND s1.price = s2.price;

SELECT s1.article, s1.dealer, s1.price
FROM shop s1
LEFT JOIN shop s2 ON s1.article = s2.article AND s1.price < s2.price
WHERE s2.article IS NULL;

The LEFT JOIN works on the basis that when s1.price is at its maximum value, there is no s2.price with a greater value and the s2 rows values will be NULL. See Section 13.2.7.1, “JOIN Syntax”.

3.6.5. Using User-Defined Variables

You can employ MySQL user variables to remember results without having to store them in temporary variables in the client. (See Section 9.4, “User-Defined Variables”.)

For example, to find the articles with the highest and lowest price you can do this:

mysql> SELECT @min_price:=MIN(price),@max_price:=MAX(price) FROM shop;
mysql> SELECT * FROM shop WHERE price=@min_price OR price=@max_price;
+---------+--------+-------+
| article | dealer | price |
+---------+--------+-------+
|    0003 | D      |  1.25 |
|    0004 | D      | 19.95 |
+---------+--------+-------+

3.6.6. Using Foreign Keys

In MySQL, InnoDB tables support checking of foreign key constraints. See Section 14.2, “The InnoDB Storage Engine”, and Section 1.9.5.5, “Foreign Keys”.

A foreign key constraint is not required merely to join two tables. For storage engines other than InnoDB, it is possible when defining a column to use a REFERENCES tbl_name(col_name) clause, which has no actual effect, and serves only as a memo or comment to you that the column which you are currently defining is intended to refer to a column in another table. It is extremely important to realize when using this syntax that:

  • MySQL does not perform any sort of CHECK to make sure that col_name actually exists in tbl_name (or even that tbl_name itself exists).

  • MySQL does not perform any sort of action on tbl_name such as deleting rows in response to actions taken on rows in the table which you are defining; in other words, this syntax induces no ON DELETE or ON UPDATE behavior whatsoever. (Although you can write an ON DELETE or ON UPDATE clause as part of the REFERENCES clause, it is also ignored.)

  • This syntax creates a column; it does not create any sort of index or key.

  • This syntax will cause an error if used in trying to define an InnoDB table.

You can use a column so created as a join column, as shown here:

CREATE TABLE person (
    id SMALLINT UNSIGNED NOT NULL AUTO_INCREMENT,
    name CHAR(60) NOT NULL,
    PRIMARY KEY (id)
);

CREATE TABLE shirt (
    id SMALLINT UNSIGNED NOT NULL AUTO_INCREMENT,
    style ENUM('t-shirt', 'polo', 'dress') NOT NULL,
    color ENUM('red', 'blue', 'orange', 'white', 'black') NOT NULL,
    owner SMALLINT UNSIGNED NOT NULL REFERENCES person(id),
    PRIMARY KEY (id)
);

INSERT INTO person VALUES (NULL, 'Antonio Paz');

SELECT @last := LAST_INSERT_ID();

INSERT INTO shirt VALUES
(NULL, 'polo', 'blue', @last),
(NULL, 'dress', 'white', @last),
(NULL, 't-shirt', 'blue', @last);

INSERT INTO person VALUES (NULL, 'Lilliana Angelovska');

SELECT @last := LAST_INSERT_ID();

INSERT INTO shirt VALUES
(NULL, 'dress', 'orange', @last),
(NULL, 'polo', 'red', @last),
(NULL, 'dress', 'blue', @last),
(NULL, 't-shirt', 'white', @last);

SELECT * FROM person;
+----+---------------------+
| id | name                |
+----+---------------------+
|  1 | Antonio Paz         |
|  2 | Lilliana Angelovska |
+----+---------------------+

SELECT * FROM shirt;
+----+---------+--------+-------+
| id | style   | color  | owner |
+----+---------+--------+-------+
|  1 | polo    | blue   |     1 |
|  2 | dress   | white  |     1 |
|  3 | t-shirt | blue   |     1 |
|  4 | dress   | orange |     2 |
|  5 | polo    | red    |     2 |
|  6 | dress   | blue   |     2 |
|  7 | t-shirt | white  |     2 |
+----+---------+--------+-------+


SELECT s.* FROM person p INNER JOIN shirt s
   ON s.owner = p.id
 WHERE p.name LIKE 'Lilliana%'
   AND s.color <> 'white';

+----+-------+--------+-------+
| id | style | color  | owner |
+----+-------+--------+-------+
|  4 | dress | orange |     2 |
|  5 | polo  | red    |     2 |
|  6 | dress | blue   |     2 |
+----+-------+--------+-------+

When used in this fashion, the REFERENCES clause is not displayed in the output of SHOW CREATE TABLE or DESCRIBE:

SHOW CREATE TABLE shirt\G
*************************** 1. row ***************************
Table: shirt
Create Table: CREATE TABLE `shirt` (
`id` smallint(5) unsigned NOT NULL auto_increment,
`style` enum('t-shirt','polo','dress') NOT NULL,
`color` enum('red','blue','orange','white','black') NOT NULL,
`owner` smallint(5) unsigned NOT NULL,
PRIMARY KEY  (`id`)
) ENGINE=MyISAM DEFAULT charset=utf-8

The use of REFERENCES in this way as a comment or “reminder” in a column definition works with both MyISAM and BerkeleyDB tables.

3.6.7. Searching on Two Keys

An OR using a single key is well optimized, as is the handling of AND.

The one tricky case is that of searching on two different keys combined with OR:

SELECT field1_index, field2_index FROM test_table
WHERE field1_index = '1' OR  field2_index = '1'

This case is optimized from MySQL 5.0.0. See Section 7.2.6, “Index Merge Optimization”.

You can also solve the problem efficiently by using a UNION that combines the output of two separate SELECT statements. See Section 13.2.7.3, “UNION Syntax”.

Each SELECT searches only one key and can be optimized:

SELECT field1_index, field2_index
    FROM test_table WHERE field1_index = '1'
UNION
SELECT field1_index, field2_index
    FROM test_table WHERE field2_index = '1';

3.6.8. Calculating Visits Per Day

The following example shows how you can use the bit group functions to calculate the number of days per month a user has visited a Web page.

CREATE TABLE t1 (year YEAR(4), month INT(2) UNSIGNED ZEROFILL,
             day INT(2) UNSIGNED ZEROFILL);
INSERT INTO t1 VALUES(2000,1,1),(2000,1,20),(2000,1,30),(2000,2,2),
            (2000,2,23),(2000,2,23);

The example table contains year-month-day values representing visits by users to the page. To determine how many different days in each month these visits occur, use this query:

SELECT year,month,BIT_COUNT(BIT_OR(1<<day)) AS days FROM t1
       GROUP BY year,month;

Which returns:

+------+-------+------+
| year | month | days |
+------+-------+------+
| 2000 |    01 |    3 |
| 2000 |    02 |    2 |
+------+-------+------+

The query calculates how many different days appear in the table for each year/month combination, with automatic removal of duplicate entries.

3.6.9. Using AUTO_INCREMENT

The AUTO_INCREMENT attribute can be used to generate a unique identity for new rows:

CREATE TABLE animals (
     id MEDIUMINT NOT NULL AUTO_INCREMENT,
     name CHAR(30) NOT NULL,
     PRIMARY KEY (id)
 );

INSERT INTO animals (name) VALUES 
    ('dog'),('cat'),('penguin'),
    ('lax'),('whale'),('ostrich');

SELECT * FROM animals;

Which returns:

+----+---------+
| id | name    |
+----+---------+
|  1 | dog     |
|  2 | cat     |
|  3 | penguin |
|  4 | lax     |
|  5 | whale   |
|  6 | ostrich |
+----+---------+

You can retrieve the most recent AUTO_INCREMENT value with the LAST_INSERT_ID() SQL function or the mysql_insert_id() C API function. These functions are connection-specific, so their return values are not affected by another connection which is also performing inserts.

Note: For a multiple-row insert, LAST_INSERT_ID() and mysql_insert_id() actually return the AUTO_INCREMENT key from the first of the inserted rows. This allows multiple-row inserts to be reproduced correctly on other servers in a replication setup.

For MyISAM and BDB tables you can specify AUTO_INCREMENT on a secondary column in a multiple-column index. In this case, the generated value for the AUTO_INCREMENT column is calculated as MAX(auto_increment_column) + 1 WHERE prefix=given-prefix. This is useful when you want to put data into ordered groups.

CREATE TABLE animals (
    grp ENUM('fish','mammal','bird') NOT NULL,
    id MEDIUMINT NOT NULL AUTO_INCREMENT,
    name CHAR(30) NOT NULL,
    PRIMARY KEY (grp,id)
);

INSERT INTO animals (grp,name) VALUES 
    ('mammal','dog'),('mammal','cat'),
    ('bird','penguin'),('fish','lax'),('mammal','whale'),
    ('bird','ostrich');

SELECT * FROM animals ORDER BY grp,id;

Which returns:

+--------+----+---------+
| grp    | id | name    |
+--------+----+---------+
| fish   |  1 | lax     |
| mammal |  1 | dog     |
| mammal |  2 | cat     |
| mammal |  3 | whale   |
| bird   |  1 | penguin |
| bird   |  2 | ostrich |
+--------+----+---------+

Note that in this case (when the AUTO_INCREMENT column is part of a multiple-column index), AUTO_INCREMENT values are reused if you delete the row with the biggest AUTO_INCREMENT value in any group. This happens even for MyISAM tables, for which AUTO_INCREMENT values normally are not reused.

If the AUTO_INCREMENT column is part of multiple indexes, MySQL will generate sequence values using the index that begins with the AUTO_INCREMENT column, if there is one. For example, if the animals table contained indexes PRIMARY KEY (grp, id) and INDEX (id), MySQL would ignore the PRIMARY KEY for generating sequence values. As a result, the table would contain a single sequence, not a sequence per grp value.

To start with an AUTO_INCREMENT value other than 1, you can set that value with CREATE TABLE or ALTER TABLE, like this:

mysql> ALTER TABLE tbl AUTO_INCREMENT = 100;

More information about AUTO_INCREMENT is available here:


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