11.10. Cast Functions and Operators

Table 11.14. Cast Functions

BINARYCast a string to a binary string
CAST()Cast a value as a certain type
Convert()Cast a value as a certain type

    The BINARY operator casts the string following it to a binary string. This is an easy way to force a column comparison to be done byte by byte rather than character by character. This causes the comparison to be case sensitive even if the column is not defined as BINARY or BLOB. BINARY also causes trailing spaces to be significant.

    mysql> SELECT 'a' = 'A';
            -> 1
    mysql> SELECT BINARY 'a' = 'A';
            -> 0
    mysql> SELECT 'a' = 'a ';
            -> 1
    mysql> SELECT BINARY 'a' = 'a ';
            -> 0

    In a comparison, BINARY affects the entire operation; it can be given before either operand with the same result.

    BINARY str is shorthand for CAST(str AS BINARY).

    Note that in some contexts, if you cast an indexed column to BINARY, MySQL is not able to use the index efficiently.

  • CAST(expr AS type)

    The CAST() function takes a value of one type and produce a value of another type, similar to CONVERT(). See the description of CONVERT() for more information.

  • CONVERT(expr,type), CONVERT(expr USING transcoding_name)

    The CONVERT() and CAST() functions take a value of one type and produce a value of another type.

    The type can be one of the following values:

    • BINARY[(N)]

    • CHAR[(N)]

    • DATE


    • DECIMAL[(M[,D])]


    • TIME


    BINARY produces a string with the BINARY data type. See Section 10.4.2, “The BINARY and VARBINARY Types” for a description of how this affects comparisons. If the optional length N is given, BINARY(N) causes the cast to use no more than N bytes of the argument. Values shorter than N bytes are padded with 0x00 bytes to a length of N.

    CHAR(N) causes the cast to use no more than N characters of the argument.

    CAST() and CONVERT(... USING ...) are standard SQL syntax. The non-USING form of CONVERT() is ODBC syntax.

    CONVERT() with USING is used to convert data between different character sets. In MySQL, transcoding names are the same as the corresponding character set names. For example, this statement converts the string 'abc' in the default character set to the corresponding string in the utf8 character set:

    SELECT CONVERT('abc' USING utf8);

Normally, you cannot compare a BLOB value or other binary string in case-insensitive fashion because binary strings have no character set, and thus no concept of lettercase. To perform a case-insensitive comparison, use the CONVERT() function to convert the value to a nonbinary string. Comparisons of the result use the string collation. For example, if the character set of the result has a case-insensitive collation, a LIKE operation is not case sensitive:

SELECT 'A' LIKE CONVERT(blob_col USING latin1) FROM tbl_name;

To use a different character set, substitute its name for latin1 in the preceding statement. To specify a particular collation for the converted string, use a COLLATE clause following the CONVERT() call, as described in Section, “CONVERT() and CAST(). For example, to use latin1_german1_ci:

SELECT 'A' LIKE CONVERT(blob_col USING latin1) COLLATE latin1_german1_ci
  FROM tbl_name;

CONVERT() can be used more generally for comparing strings that are represented in different character sets.

LOWER() (and UPPER()) are ineffective when applied to binary strings (BINARY, VARBINARY, BLOB). To perform lettercase conversion, convert the string to a nonbinary string:

mysql> SET @str = BINARY 'New York';
mysql> SELECT LOWER(@str), LOWER(CONVERT(@str USING latin1));
| LOWER(@str) | LOWER(CONVERT(@str USING latin1)) |
| New York    | new york                          |

The cast functions are useful when you want to create a column with a specific type in a CREATE TABLE ... SELECT statement:

CREATE TABLE new_table SELECT CAST('2000-01-01' AS DATE);

The functions also can be useful for sorting ENUM columns in lexical order. Normally, sorting of ENUM columns occurs using the internal numeric values. Casting the values to CHAR results in a lexical sort:

SELECT enum_col FROM tbl_name ORDER BY CAST(enum_col AS CHAR);

CAST(str AS BINARY) is the same thing as BINARY str. CAST(expr AS CHAR) treats the expression as a string with the default character set.

CAST() also changes the result if you use it as part of a more complex expression such as CONCAT('Date: ',CAST(NOW() AS DATE)).

You should not use CAST() to extract data in different formats but instead use string functions like LEFT() or EXTRACT(). See Section 11.7, “Date and Time Functions”.

To cast a string to a numeric value in numeric context, you normally do not have to do anything other than to use the string value as though it were a number:

mysql> SELECT 1+'1';
       -> 2

If you use a string in an arithmetic operation, it is converted to a floating-point number during expression evaluation.

If you use a number in string context, the number automatically is converted to a string:

mysql> SELECT CONCAT('hello you ',2);
        -> 'hello you 2'

For information about implicit conversion of numbers to strings, see Section 11.2, “Type Conversion in Expression Evaluation”.

MySQL supports arithmetic with both signed and unsigned 64-bit values. If you are using numeric operators (such as + or -) and one of the operands is an unsigned integer, the result is unsigned by default (see Section 11.6.1, “Arithmetic Operators”). You can override this by using the SIGNED or UNSIGNED cast operator to cast a value to a signed or unsigned 64-bit integer, respectively.

        -> 18446744073709551615
        -> -1

If either operand is a floating-point value, the result is a floating-point value and is not affected by the preceding rule. (In this context, DECIMAL column values are regarded as floating-point values.)

mysql> SELECT CAST(1 AS UNSIGNED) - 2.0;
        -> -1.0

The SQL mode affects the result of conversion operations. Examples:

  • If you convert a “zero” date string to a date, CONVERT() and CAST() return NULL and produce a warning when the NO_ZERO_DATE SQL mode is enabled.

  • For integer subtraction, if the NO_UNSIGNED_SUBTRACTION SQL mode is enabled, the subtraction result is signed even if any operand is unsigned.

For more information, see Section 5.1.7, “Server SQL Modes”.

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