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SQL 101: String-Related Functions, Part 2 - Changing Case of a String Without %XLATE and More

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RPG provides a few ways to replace characters in a string, such as the %XLATE BIF. SQL also has interestingand, more importantly, easy to usefunctions to transform strings, changing the case of its characters or replacing them altogether.


The previous article in this series discussed a set of scalar functions you can use to convert data to its representation in string format. Once this data is in string format, you can use it with text information from your files in order to create descriptions or other texts, which you can use in reports. However, these texts might require a different type of conversion; their case might not be the most adequate, or you might want to replace a character somewhere in the middle of the string. I could argue that his is also a conversion, albeit a different one.


Let's start with the functions that convert all characters of a string to lowercase. LCASE and LOWER both take a string as input and return a string in which all the characters have been converted to lowercase characters, based on the CCSID of the argument. Only Single Byte Character Set (SBCS), Unicode graphic characters are converted. The characters A-Z are converted to a-z, and characters with diacritical marks, such as "Á" and "Ö," are converted to their lowercase equivalent. For example, the following statement returns 'this is a test' and 'isto é um teste'.





            , LOWER('ISTO É UM TESTE')





Note that the "É" character was converted to its lowercase equivalent, "é." The UCASE and UPPER functions do the exact opposite:



SELECT            UCASE('this is another test')


            , UPPER('este é outro teste')






Executing this statement would result in 'THIS IS ANOTHER TEST' and 'ESTE É OUTRO TESTE'. These functions provide the same functionality RPG's %XLATE does, but you don't have to worry about input and output translation tables; the database engine does that for you.


However, there are situations in which you use %XLATE to actually translate or replace characters in a string. SQL also provides a function for that: TRANSLATE. You can say that TRANSLATE is SQL's equivalent to the %XLATE BIF: it takes four parameters: the string to convert; the output translation table; the input translation table; and the character used for padding, which will only be used if the output translation table is shorter than the input translation table. Note that the input and output translation tables are reversed, when compared to %XLATE. This BIF also lacks the padding feature. I know this sounds confusing, so let's look at a couple of examples. First, I'll do a simple character replacement:



SELECT            TRANSLATE('Test string', 'B', 'T')




This statement returns 'Best string'. It used the input translation table ('T') over the string to convert ('Test string') to find the characters to translatein this case, it found only one; then it looked in the output translation table ('B') for the replacement character and performed the "translation" operation, thus transforming 'Test string' into 'Best string'. Let's see another simple example, with longer translation tables:



SELECT            TRANSLATE('Test string', 'Boll', 'Ting')




This statement returns 'Best stroll', replacing the 'T' by 'B', the 'i' by 'o', the 'n' by 'l' and the 'g' for another 'l'. By now, you should have grasped the way the translation tables are used, so let's complicate things a bit by introducing the fourth parameter (the padding character) in the next example:


SELECT            TRANSLATE('Test string', 'Boll', 'Tings', '$')




Notice that the output translation table is shorter than the input translation table. In this situation, if a character from the input translation table is found in the string to convert, the padding character is used to complete the translation. With this piece of information, try to figure out what the output string is going to be…. Don't look yet, but it's written below!


'Be$t $roll'that's the output. Because there's no match for the 's' in the output translation table, all occurrences of the 's' character are replaced with the padding character '$'.


It might not be clear at this time why I'm explaining functions that provide something that the %XLATE BIF already provides. You'll see later in this series, when I discuss how to embed SQL in your RPG programs, how these (and other functions I'll explain in the meantime) can be used instead of RPG's BIFs, providing enhanced functionality with a fraction of the development and maintenance cost.


Speak your mind in the comments section below. I'd like to hear from you

Rafael Victoria-Pereira

Rafael Victória-Pereira has more than 20 years of IBM i experience as a programmer, analyst, and manager. Over that period, he has been an active voice in the IBM i community, encouraging and helping programmers transition to ILE and free-format RPG. Rafael has written more than 100 technical articles about topics ranging from interfaces (the topic for his first book, Flexible Input, Dazzling Output with IBM i) to modern RPG and SQL in his popular RPG Academy and SQL 101 series on mcpressonline.com and in his books Evolve Your RPG Coding and SQL for IBM i: A Database Modernization Guide. Rafael writes in an easy-to-read, practical style that is highly popular with his audience of IBM technology professionals.

Rafael is the Deputy IT Director - Infrastructures and Services at the Luis Simões Group in Portugal. His areas of expertise include programming in the IBM i native languages (RPG, CL, and DB2 SQL) and in "modern" programming languages, such as Java, C#, and Python, as well as project management and consultancy.

MC Press books written by Rafael Victória-Pereira available now on the MC Press Bookstore.

Evolve Your RPG Coding: Move from OPM to ILE...and Beyond Evolve Your RPG Coding: Move from OPM to ILE...and Beyond
Transition to modern RPG programming with this step-by-step guide through ILE and free-format RPG, SQL, and modernization techniques.
List Price $79.95

Now On Sale

Flexible Input, Dazzling Output with IBM i Flexible Input, Dazzling Output with IBM i
Uncover easier, more flexible ways to get data into your system, plus some methods for exporting and presenting the vital business data it contains.
List Price $79.95

Now On Sale

SQL for IBM i: A Database Modernization Guide SQL for IBM i: A Database Modernization Guide
Learn how to use SQL’s capabilities to modernize and enhance your IBM i database.
List Price $79.95

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