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9.4. String Functions and Operators

This section describes functions and operators for examining and manipulating string values. Strings in this context include values of the types character, character varying, and text. Unless otherwise noted, all of the functions listed below work on all of these types, but be wary of potential effects of automatic space-padding when using the character type. Some functions also exist natively for the bit-string types.

SQL defines some string functions that use key words, rather than commas, to separate arguments. Details are in Table 9-6. PostgreSQL also provides versions of these functions that use the regular function invocation syntax (see Table 9-7).

Note: Before PostgreSQL 8.3, these functions would silently accept values of several non-string data types as well, due to the presence of implicit coercions from those data types to text. Those coercions have been removed because they frequently caused surprising behaviors. However, the string concatenation operator (||) still accepts non-string input, so long as at least one input is of a string type, as shown in Table 9-6. For other cases, insert an explicit coercion to text if you need to duplicate the previous behavior.

Table 9-6. SQL String Functions and Operators

Function Return Type Description Example Result
string || string text String concatenation 'Post' || 'greSQL' PostgreSQL
string || non-string or non-string || string text String concatenation with one non-string input 'Value: ' || 42 Value: 42
bit_length(string) int Number of bits in string bit_length('jose') 32
char_length(string) or character_length(string) int Number of characters in string char_length('jose') 4
lower(string) text Convert string to lower case lower('TOM') tom
octet_length(string) int Number of bytes in string octet_length('jose') 4
overlay(string placing string from int [for int]) text Replace substring overlay('Txxxxas' placing 'hom' from 2 for 4) Thomas
position(substring in string) int Location of specified substring position('om' in 'Thomas') 3
substring(string [from int] [for int]) text Extract substring substring('Thomas' from 2 for 3) hom
substring(string from pattern) text Extract substring matching POSIX regular expression. See Section 9.7 for more information on pattern matching. substring('Thomas' from '...$') mas
substring(string from pattern for escape) text Extract substring matching SQL regular expression. See Section 9.7 for more information on pattern matching. substring('Thomas' from '%#"o_a#"_' for '#') oma
trim([leading | trailing | both] [characters] from string) text Remove the longest string containing only the characters (a space by default) from the start/end/both ends of the string trim(both 'x' from 'xTomxx') Tom
trim([leading | trailing | both] [from] string [, characters] ) text Non-standard version of trim() trim(both from 'xTomxx', 'x') Tom
upper(string) text Convert string to upper case upper('tom') TOM

Additional string manipulation functions are available and are listed in Table 9-7. Some of them are used internally to implement the SQL-standard string functions listed in Table 9-6.

Table 9-7. Other String Functions

Function Return Type Description Example Result
ascii(string) int ASCII code of the first character of the argument. For UTF8 returns the Unicode code point of the character. For other multibyte encodings, the argument must be an ASCII character. ascii('x') 120
btrim(string text [, characters text]) text Remove the longest string consisting only of characters in characters (a space by default) from the start and end of string btrim('xyxtrimyyx', 'xy') trim
chr(int) text Character with the given code. For UTF8 the argument is treated as a Unicode code point. For other multibyte encodings the argument must designate an ASCII character. The NULL (0) character is not allowed because text data types cannot store such bytes. chr(65) A
concat(str "any" [, str "any" [, ...] ]) text Concatenate the text representations of all the arguments. NULL arguments are ignored. concat('abcde', 2, NULL, 22) abcde222
concat_ws(sep text, str "any" [, str "any" [, ...] ]) text Concatenate all but the first argument with separators. The first argument is used as the separator string. NULL arguments are ignored. concat_ws(',', 'abcde', 2, NULL, 22) abcde,2,22
convert(string bytea, src_encoding name, dest_encoding name) bytea Convert string to dest_encoding. The original encoding is specified by src_encoding. The string must be valid in this encoding. Conversions can be defined by CREATE CONVERSION. Also there are some predefined conversions. See Table 9-8 for available conversions. convert('text_in_utf8', 'UTF8', 'LATIN1') text_in_utf8 represented in Latin-1 encoding (ISO 8859-1)
convert_from(string bytea, src_encoding name) text Convert string to the database encoding. The original encoding is specified by src_encoding. The string must be valid in this encoding. convert_from('text_in_utf8', 'UTF8') text_in_utf8 represented in the current database encoding
convert_to(string text, dest_encoding name) bytea Convert string to dest_encoding. convert_to('some text', 'UTF8') some text represented in the UTF8 encoding
decode(string text, format text) bytea Decode binary data from textual representation in string. Options for format are same as in encode. decode('MTIzAAE=', 'base64') \x3132330001
encode(data bytea, format text) text Encode binary data into a textual representation. Supported formats are: base64, hex, escape. escape converts zero bytes and high-bit-set bytes to octal sequences (\nnn) and doubles backslashes. encode(E'123\\000\\001', 'base64') MTIzAAE=
format(formatstr text [, formatarg "any" [, ...] ]) text Format arguments according to a format string. This function is similar to the C function sprintf. See Section 9.4.1. format('Hello %s, %1$s', 'World') Hello World, World
initcap(string) text Convert the first letter of each word to upper case and the rest to lower case. Words are sequences of alphanumeric characters separated by non-alphanumeric characters. initcap('hi THOMAS') Hi Thomas
left(str text, n int) text Return first n characters in the string. When n is negative, return all but last |n| characters. left('abcde', 2) ab
length(string) int Number of characters in string length('jose') 4
length(string bytea, encoding name ) int Number of characters in string in the given encoding. The string must be valid in this encoding. length('jose', 'UTF8') 4
lpad(string text, length int [, fill text]) text Fill up the string to length length by prepending the characters fill (a space by default). If the string is already longer than length then it is truncated (on the right). lpad('hi', 5, 'xy') xyxhi
ltrim(string text [, characters text]) text Remove the longest string containing only characters from characters (a space by default) from the start of string ltrim('zzzytrim', 'xyz') trim
md5(string) text Calculates the MD5 hash of string, returning the result in hexadecimal md5('abc') 900150983cd24fb0 d6963f7d28e17f72
pg_client_encoding() name Current client encoding name pg_client_encoding() SQL_ASCII
quote_ident(string text) text Return the given string suitably quoted to be used as an identifier in an SQL statement string. Quotes are added only if necessary (i.e., if the string contains non-identifier characters or would be case-folded). Embedded quotes are properly doubled. See also Example 40-1. quote_ident('Foo bar') "Foo bar"
quote_literal(string text) text Return the given string suitably quoted to be used as a string literal in an SQL statement string. Embedded single-quotes and backslashes are properly doubled. Note that quote_literal returns null on null input; if the argument might be null, quote_nullable is often more suitable. See also Example 40-1. quote_literal(E'O\'Reilly') 'O''Reilly'
quote_literal(value anyelement) text Coerce the given value to text and then quote it as a literal. Embedded single-quotes and backslashes are properly doubled. quote_literal(42.5) '42.5'
quote_nullable(string text) text Return the given string suitably quoted to be used as a string literal in an SQL statement string; or, if the argument is null, return NULL. Embedded single-quotes and backslashes are properly doubled. See also Example 40-1. quote_nullable(NULL) NULL
quote_nullable(value anyelement) text Coerce the given value to text and then quote it as a literal; or, if the argument is null, return NULL. Embedded single-quotes and backslashes are properly doubled. quote_nullable(42.5) '42.5'
regexp_matches(string text, pattern text [, flags text]) setof text[] Return all captured substrings resulting from matching a POSIX regular expression against the string. See Section 9.7.3 for more information. regexp_matches('foobarbequebaz', '(bar)(beque)') {bar,beque}
regexp_replace(string text, pattern text, replacement text [, flags text]) text Replace substring(s) matching a POSIX regular expression. See Section 9.7.3 for more information. regexp_replace('Thomas', '.[mN]a.', 'M') ThM
regexp_split_to_array(string text, pattern text [, flags text ]) text[] Split string using a POSIX regular expression as the delimiter. See Section 9.7.3 for more information. regexp_split_to_array('hello world', E'\\s+') {hello,world}
regexp_split_to_table(string text, pattern text [, flags text]) setof text Split string using a POSIX regular expression as the delimiter. See Section 9.7.3 for more information. regexp_split_to_table('hello world', E'\\s+') hello

world

(2 rows)
repeat(string text, number int) text Repeat string the specified number of times repeat('Pg', 4) PgPgPgPg
replace(string text, from text, to text) text Replace all occurrences in string of substring from with substring to replace('abcdefabcdef', 'cd', 'XX') abXXefabXXef
reverse(str) text Return reversed string. reverse('abcde') edcba
right(str text, n int) text Return last n characters in the string. When n is negative, return all but first |n| characters. right('abcde', 2) de
rpad(string text, length int [, fill text]) text Fill up the string to length length by appending the characters fill (a space by default). If the string is already longer than length then it is truncated. rpad('hi', 5, 'xy') hixyx
rtrim(string text [, characters text]) text Remove the longest string containing only characters from characters (a space by default) from the end of string rtrim('trimxxxx', 'x') trim
split_part(string text, delimiter text, field int) text Split string on delimiter and return the given field (counting from one) split_part('abc~@~def~@~ghi', '~@~', 2) def
strpos(string, substring) int Location of specified substring (same as position(substring in string), but note the reversed argument order) strpos('high', 'ig') 2
substr(string, from [, count]) text Extract substring (same as substring(string from from for count)) substr('alphabet', 3, 2) ph
to_ascii(string text [, encoding text]) text Convert string to ASCII from another encoding (only supports conversion from LATIN1, LATIN2, LATIN9, and WIN1250 encodings) to_ascii('Karel') Karel
to_hex(number int or bigint) text Convert number to its equivalent hexadecimal representation to_hex(2147483647) 7fffffff
translate(string text, from text, to text) text Any character in string that matches a character in the from set is replaced by the corresponding character in the to set. If from is longer than to, occurrences of the extra characters in from are removed. translate('12345', '143', 'ax') a2x5

The concat, concat_ws and format functions are variadic, so it is possible to pass the values to be concatenated or formatted as an array marked with the VARIADIC keyword (see Section 35.4.5). The array's elements are treated as if they were separate ordinary arguments to the function. If the variadic array argument is NULL, concat and concat_ws return NULL, but format treats a NULL as a zero-element array.

See also the aggregate function string_agg in Section 9.20.

Table 9-8. Built-in Conversions

Conversion Name [a] Source Encoding Destination Encoding
ascii_to_mic SQL_ASCII MULE_INTERNAL
ascii_to_utf8 SQL_ASCII UTF8
big5_to_euc_tw BIG5 EUC_TW
big5_to_mic BIG5 MULE_INTERNAL
big5_to_utf8 BIG5 UTF8
euc_cn_to_mic EUC_CN MULE_INTERNAL
euc_cn_to_utf8 EUC_CN UTF8
euc_jp_to_mic EUC_JP MULE_INTERNAL
euc_jp_to_sjis EUC_JP SJIS
euc_jp_to_utf8 EUC_JP UTF8
euc_kr_to_mic EUC_KR MULE_INTERNAL
euc_kr_to_utf8 EUC_KR UTF8
euc_tw_to_big5 EUC_TW BIG5
euc_tw_to_mic EUC_TW MULE_INTERNAL
euc_tw_to_utf8 EUC_TW UTF8
gb18030_to_utf8 GB18030 UTF8
gbk_to_utf8 GBK UTF8
iso_8859_10_to_utf8 LATIN6 UTF8
iso_8859_13_to_utf8 LATIN7 UTF8
iso_8859_14_to_utf8 LATIN8 UTF8
iso_8859_15_to_utf8 LATIN9 UTF8
iso_8859_16_to_utf8 LATIN10 UTF8
iso_8859_1_to_mic LATIN1 MULE_INTERNAL
iso_8859_1_to_utf8 LATIN1 UTF8
iso_8859_2_to_mic LATIN2 MULE_INTERNAL
iso_8859_2_to_utf8 LATIN2 UTF8
iso_8859_2_to_windows_1250 LATIN2 WIN1250
iso_8859_3_to_mic LATIN3 MULE_INTERNAL
iso_8859_3_to_utf8 LATIN3 UTF8
iso_8859_4_to_mic LATIN4 MULE_INTERNAL
iso_8859_4_to_utf8 LATIN4 UTF8
iso_8859_5_to_koi8_r ISO_8859_5 KOI8R
iso_8859_5_to_mic ISO_8859_5 MULE_INTERNAL
iso_8859_5_to_utf8 ISO_8859_5 UTF8
iso_8859_5_to_windows_1251 ISO_8859_5 WIN1251
iso_8859_5_to_windows_866 ISO_8859_5 WIN866
iso_8859_6_to_utf8 ISO_8859_6 UTF8
iso_8859_7_to_utf8 ISO_8859_7 UTF8
iso_8859_8_to_utf8 ISO_8859_8 UTF8
iso_8859_9_to_utf8 LATIN5 UTF8
johab_to_utf8 JOHAB UTF8
koi8_r_to_iso_8859_5 KOI8R ISO_8859_5
koi8_r_to_mic KOI8R MULE_INTERNAL
koi8_r_to_utf8 KOI8R UTF8
koi8_r_to_windows_1251 KOI8R WIN1251
koi8_r_to_windows_866 KOI8R WIN866
koi8_u_to_utf8 KOI8U UTF8
mic_to_ascii MULE_INTERNAL SQL_ASCII
mic_to_big5 MULE_INTERNAL BIG5
mic_to_euc_cn MULE_INTERNAL EUC_CN
mic_to_euc_jp MULE_INTERNAL EUC_JP
mic_to_euc_kr MULE_INTERNAL EUC_KR
mic_to_euc_tw MULE_INTERNAL EUC_TW
mic_to_iso_8859_1 MULE_INTERNAL LATIN1
mic_to_iso_8859_2 MULE_INTERNAL LATIN2
mic_to_iso_8859_3 MULE_INTERNAL LATIN3
mic_to_iso_8859_4 MULE_INTERNAL LATIN4
mic_to_iso_8859_5 MULE_INTERNAL ISO_8859_5
mic_to_koi8_r MULE_INTERNAL KOI8R
mic_to_sjis MULE_INTERNAL SJIS
mic_to_windows_1250 MULE_INTERNAL WIN1250
mic_to_windows_1251 MULE_INTERNAL WIN1251
mic_to_windows_866 MULE_INTERNAL WIN866
sjis_to_euc_jp SJIS EUC_JP
sjis_to_mic SJIS MULE_INTERNAL
sjis_to_utf8 SJIS UTF8
tcvn_to_utf8 WIN1258 UTF8
uhc_to_utf8 UHC UTF8
utf8_to_ascii UTF8 SQL_ASCII
utf8_to_big5 UTF8 BIG5
utf8_to_euc_cn UTF8 EUC_CN
utf8_to_euc_jp UTF8 EUC_JP
utf8_to_euc_kr UTF8 EUC_KR
utf8_to_euc_tw UTF8 EUC_TW
utf8_to_gb18030 UTF8 GB18030
utf8_to_gbk UTF8 GBK
utf8_to_iso_8859_1 UTF8 LATIN1
utf8_to_iso_8859_10 UTF8 LATIN6
utf8_to_iso_8859_13 UTF8 LATIN7
utf8_to_iso_8859_14 UTF8 LATIN8
utf8_to_iso_8859_15 UTF8 LATIN9
utf8_to_iso_8859_16 UTF8 LATIN10
utf8_to_iso_8859_2 UTF8 LATIN2
utf8_to_iso_8859_3 UTF8 LATIN3
utf8_to_iso_8859_4 UTF8 LATIN4
utf8_to_iso_8859_5 UTF8 ISO_8859_5
utf8_to_iso_8859_6 UTF8 ISO_8859_6
utf8_to_iso_8859_7 UTF8 ISO_8859_7
utf8_to_iso_8859_8 UTF8 ISO_8859_8
utf8_to_iso_8859_9 UTF8 LATIN5
utf8_to_johab UTF8 JOHAB
utf8_to_koi8_r UTF8 KOI8R
utf8_to_koi8_u UTF8 KOI8U
utf8_to_sjis UTF8 SJIS
utf8_to_tcvn UTF8 WIN1258
utf8_to_uhc UTF8 UHC
utf8_to_windows_1250 UTF8 WIN1250
utf8_to_windows_1251 UTF8 WIN1251
utf8_to_windows_1252 UTF8 WIN1252
utf8_to_windows_1253 UTF8 WIN1253
utf8_to_windows_1254 UTF8 WIN1254
utf8_to_windows_1255 UTF8 WIN1255
utf8_to_windows_1256 UTF8 WIN1256
utf8_to_windows_1257 UTF8 WIN1257
utf8_to_windows_866 UTF8 WIN866
utf8_to_windows_874 UTF8 WIN874
windows_1250_to_iso_8859_2 WIN1250 LATIN2
windows_1250_to_mic WIN1250 MULE_INTERNAL
windows_1250_to_utf8 WIN1250 UTF8
windows_1251_to_iso_8859_5 WIN1251 ISO_8859_5
windows_1251_to_koi8_r WIN1251 KOI8R
windows_1251_to_mic WIN1251 MULE_INTERNAL
windows_1251_to_utf8 WIN1251 UTF8
windows_1251_to_windows_866 WIN1251 WIN866
windows_1252_to_utf8 WIN1252 UTF8
windows_1256_to_utf8 WIN1256 UTF8
windows_866_to_iso_8859_5 WIN866 ISO_8859_5
windows_866_to_koi8_r WIN866 KOI8R
windows_866_to_mic WIN866 MULE_INTERNAL
windows_866_to_utf8 WIN866 UTF8
windows_866_to_windows_1251 WIN866 WIN
windows_874_to_utf8 WIN874 UTF8
euc_jis_2004_to_utf8 EUC_JIS_2004 UTF8
utf8_to_euc_jis_2004 UTF8 EUC_JIS_2004
shift_jis_2004_to_utf8 SHIFT_JIS_2004 UTF8
utf8_to_shift_jis_2004 UTF8 SHIFT_JIS_2004
euc_jis_2004_to_shift_jis_2004 EUC_JIS_2004 SHIFT_JIS_2004
shift_jis_2004_to_euc_jis_2004 SHIFT_JIS_2004 EUC_JIS_2004
Notes:
a. The conversion names follow a standard naming scheme: The official name of the source encoding with all non-alphanumeric characters replaced by underscores, followed by _to_, followed by the similarly processed destination encoding name. Therefore, the names might deviate from the customary encoding names.

9.4.1. format

The function format produces output formatted according to a format string, in a style similar to the C function sprintf.

format(formatstr text [, formatarg "any" [, ...] ])

formatstr is a format string that specifies how the result should be formatted. Text in the format string is copied directly to the result, except where format specifiers are used. Format specifiers act as placeholders in the string, defining how subsequent function arguments should be formatted and inserted into the result. Each formatarg argument is converted to text according to the usual output rules for its data type, and then formatted and inserted into the result string according to the format specifier(s).

Format specifiers are introduced by a % character and have the form

%[position][flags][width]type

where the component fields are:

position (optional)

A string of the form n$ where n is the index of the argument to print. Index 1 means the first argument after formatstr. If the position is omitted, the default is to use the next argument in sequence.

flags (optional)

Additional options controlling how the format specifier's output is formatted. Currently the only supported flag is a minus sign (-) which will cause the format specifier's output to be left-justified. This has no effect unless the width field is also specified.

width (optional)

Specifies the minimum number of characters to use to display the format specifier's output. The output is padded on the left or right (depending on the - flag) with spaces as needed to fill the width. A too-small width does not cause truncation of the output, but is simply ignored. The width may be specified using any of the following: a positive integer; an asterisk (*) to use the next function argument as the width; or a string of the form *n$ to use the nth function argument as the width.

If the width comes from a function argument, that argument is consumed before the argument that is used for the format specifier's value. If the width argument is negative, the result is left aligned (as if the - flag had been specified) within a field of length abs(width).

type (required)

The type of format conversion to use to produce the format specifier's output. The following types are supported:

  • s formats the argument value as a simple string. A null value is treated as an empty string.

  • I treats the argument value as an SQL identifier, double-quoting it if necessary. It is an error for the value to be null.

  • L quotes the argument value as an SQL literal. A null value is displayed as the string NULL, without quotes.

In addition to the format specifiers described above, the special sequence %% may be used to output a literal % character.

Here are some examples of the basic format conversions:

SELECT format('Hello %s', 'World');
Result: Hello World

SELECT format('Testing %s, %s, %s, %%', 'one', 'two', 'three');
Result: Testing one, two, three, %

SELECT format('INSERT INTO %I VALUES(%L)', 'Foo bar', E'O\'Reilly');
Result: INSERT INTO "Foo bar" VALUES('O''Reilly')

SELECT format('INSERT INTO %I VALUES(%L)', 'locations', E'C:\\Program Files');
Result: INSERT INTO locations VALUES(E'C:\\Program Files')

Here are examples using width fields and the - flag:

SELECT format('|%10s|', 'foo');
Result: |       foo|

SELECT format('|%-10s|', 'foo');
Result: |foo       |

SELECT format('|%*s|', 10, 'foo');
Result: |       foo|

SELECT format('|%*s|', -10, 'foo');
Result: |foo       |

SELECT format('|%-*s|', 10, 'foo');
Result: |foo       |

SELECT format('|%-*s|', -10, 'foo');
Result: |foo       |

These examples show use of position fields:

SELECT format('Testing %3$s, %2$s, %1$s', 'one', 'two', 'three');
Result: Testing three, two, one

SELECT format('|%*2$s|', 'foo', 10, 'bar');
Result: |       bar|

SELECT format('|%1$*2$s|', 'foo', 10, 'bar');
Result: |       foo|

Unlike the standard C function sprintf, PostgreSQL's format function allows format specifiers with and without position fields to be mixed in the same format string. A format specifier without a position field always uses the next argument after the last argument consumed. In addition, the format function does not require all function arguments to be used in the format string. For example:

SELECT format('Testing %3$s, %2$s, %s', 'one', 'two', 'three');
Result: Testing three, two, three

The %I and %L format specifiers are particularly useful for safely constructing dynamic SQL statements. See Example 40-1.

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