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IDS Forum

Re: How to workaround NVL with TEXT column

Posted By: Art Kagel
Date: Friday, 1 February 2013, at 6:50 a.m.

In Response To: How to workaround NVL with TEXT column (PRADEEP KUMAR)


You've hit one of my pet peeves. I've been holding this rant back for
years now, so don't take it personally. This is for everyone who has ever
groused about NVL or asked about eliminating NULLs in their SQL.

Is this query being processed in a host language application of some kind
(ESQL/C, ODBC in C, Perl-DBM, etc.)? If so, the proper way to handle nulls
is not to use the NVL() function to map them away as if your database
doesn't store any. The proper way to handle NULLs in your data to use
indicator variables in your code to detect the NULL in code space. This is
the official ANSI/ISO method for handling NULLs in a host language. NVL is
a crutch originating because most of Oracle's front-end tools could not
handle NULLs properly. It is supported by Informix to make life simpler
for coders used to those brain-dead tools. Heck even Oracle's limited
ESQL/C compiler supports indicators. ODBC supports indicators as does
IBM's DRDA protocol and library.

Even report writers and BI tools like Hyperion (now an Oracle product
itself), Yellow Fin, Cognos, etc. all support NULLs and can translate them
for you after fetching the data. Even if you are just using UNLOAD in
dbaccess and post processing the delimited unload file using AWK, Perl, or
Ruby you can know that a completely empty field of length zero is a NULL
which you could translate in code space. If you are programming SPL
procedures to post process query results for consumption by grunt coders
who don't need to know where their data originates you SPL can handle the
NULLs as well (though I vehemently disagree with the whole concept of
coders who don't understand where their data comes from).

Bottom line, you do not need NVL to support TEXT (or any other data type)
I've coded data based applications for Informix, Sybase, Oracle and other
RDBMS's for 30 years, every one of them handling NULLs properly and not one
included a single call to NVL() in any query

So in ESQL you would:

string text_host[100000];
short text_host_ind;
EXEC SQL PREPARE get_data_stmt FROM "SELECT text_col FROM mytable WHERE
keycol = ?";
EXEC SQL DESCRIBE get_data_stmt INTO :sqlda_structure;
EXEC SQL DECLARE get_data FOR get_data_stmt;
EXEC SQL OPEN get_data;
EXEC SQL FETCH get_data INTO :text_host indicator text_host_ind;

if (text_host_ind == -1) {

snprintf( text_host, sizeof text_host, "%s", "No Value" );

Yes, I left lots out like error handling and how to setup to fetch a dumb
blob into ESQL data, and yes in real code text_host would be dynamically
allocated to the correct size not a static length array. But if you have
used ESQL/C and have fecthed blobs before you already know that part.

Flame off..


Art S. Kagel
Advanced DataTools (

Disclaimer: Please keep in mind that my own opinions are my own opinions
and do not reflect on my employer, Advanced DataTools, the IIUG, nor any
other organization with which I am associated either explicitly,
implicitly, or by inference. Neither do those opinions reflect those of
other individuals affiliated with any entity with which I am affiliated nor
those of the entities themselves.

On Fri, Feb 1, 2013 at 5:25 AM, PRADEEP KUMAR <> wrote:

> I have a table which has TEXT column and I need to use NVL on that column
> in
> my SELECT query . Since Informix doesn't support TEXT data in NVL or CASE
> statement , I'm not sure how to workaround it :
> select (text_column,'No Value') from Mytab
> Any help is appreciated.
> Thanks,
> Pradeep
> *******************************************************************************
> Forum Note: Use "Reply" to post a response in the discussion forum.


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