Appendix A. Window Function Refresher

The recipes in this book take full advantage of the window functions added to the ISO SQL standard in 2003, as well as vendor-specific window functions. This appendix is meant to serve as a brief overview of how window functions work. Window functions make many typically difficult tasks (difficult to solve using standard SQL, that is) quite easy. For a complete list of window functions available, full syntax, and in-depth coverage of how they work, please consult your vendor’s documentation.

A.1. Grouping

Before moving on to window functions, it is crucial that you understand how grouping works in SQL. In my experience, the concept of grouping results in SQL has been a stumbling block for many. The problems stem from not fully understanding how the GROUP BY clause works and why certain queries return certain results when using GROUP BY.

Simply stated, grouping is a way to organize like rows together. When you use GROUP BY in a query, each row in the result set is a group and represents one or more rows with the same values in one or more columns that you specify. That’s the gist of it.

If a group is simply a unique instance of a row that represents one or more rows with the same value for a particular column (or columns), then practical examples of groups from table EMP include all employees in department 10 (the common value for these employees that enable them to be in the same group is DEPTNO=10) or all clerks (the common value for these employees ...

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