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7 Coding PL/SQL Procedures and Packages

This chapter describes some of the procedural capabilities of Oracle Database for application development, including:

Overview of PL/SQL Program Units

PL/SQL is a modern, block-structured programming language. It provides several features that make developing powerful database applications very convenient. For example, PL/SQL provides procedural constructs, such as loops and conditional statements, that are not available in standard SQL.

You can directly enter SQL data manipulation language (DML) statements inside PL/SQL blocks, and you can use procedures supplied by Oracle to perform data definition language (DDL) statements.

PL/SQL code runs on the server, so using PL/SQL lets you centralize significant parts of your database applications for increased maintainability and security. It also enables you to achieve a significant reduction of network overhead in client/server applications.


Some Oracle tools, such as Oracle Forms, contain a PL/SQL engine that lets you run PL/SQL locally.

You can even use PL/SQL for some database applications in place of 3GL programs that use embedded SQL or Oracle Call Interface (OCI).

PL/SQL program units include:

Anonymous Blocks

An anonymous block is a PL/SQL program unit that has no name. An anonymous block consists of an optional declarative part, an executable part, and one or more optional exception handlers.

The declarative part declares PL/SQL variables, exceptions, and cursors. The executable part contains PL/SQL code and SQL statements, and can contain nested blocks. Exception handlers contain code that is called when the exception is raised, either as a predefined PL/SQL exception (such as NO_DATA_FOUND or ZERO_DIVIDE) or as an exception that you define.

The following short example of a PL/SQL anonymous block prints the names of all employees in department 20 in the hr.employees table by using the DBMS_OUTPUT package:

   Last_name    VARCHAR2(10);
   Cursor       c1 IS SELECT last_name 
                       FROM employees
                       WHERE department_id = 20;
   OPEN c1;
      FETCH c1 INTO Last_name;


If you test this block using SQL*Plus, then enter the statement SET SERVEROUTPUT ON so that output using the DBMS_OUTPUT procedures (for example, PUT_LINE) is activated. Also, end the example with a slash (/) to activate it.

Exceptions let you handle Oracle Database error conditions within PL/SQL program logic. This allows your application to prevent the server from issuing an error that could cause the client application to end. The following anonymous block handles the predefined Oracle Database exception NO_DATA_FOUND (which would result in an ORA-01403 error if not handled):

   Emp_number   INTEGER := 9999;
   Emp_name     VARCHAR2(10);
   SELECT Ename INTO Emp_name FROM Emp_tab
      WHERE Empno = Emp_number;   -- no such number
   DBMS_OUTPUT.PUT_LINE('Employee name is ' || Emp_name);
      DBMS_OUTPUT.PUT_LINE('No such employee: ' || Emp_number);

You can also define your own exceptions, declare them in the declaration part of a block, and define them in the exception part of the block. An example follows:

   Emp_name           VARCHAR2(10);
   Emp_number         INTEGER;
   Empno_out_of_range EXCEPTION;
   Emp_number := 10001;
   IF Emp_number > 9999 OR Emp_number < 1000 THEN
      RAISE Empno_out_of_range;
      SELECT Ename INTO Emp_name FROM Emp_tab
         WHERE Empno = Emp_number;
      DBMS_OUTPUT.PUT_LINE('Employee name is ' || Emp_name);
   WHEN Empno_out_of_range THEN
      DBMS_OUTPUT.PUT_LINE('Employee number ' || Emp_number ||
       ' is out of range.');

Anonymous blocks are usually used interactively from a tool, such as SQL*Plus, or in a precompiler, OCI, or SQL*Module application. They are usually used to call stored procedures or to open cursor variables.

Stored Program Units (Procedures, Functions, and Packages)

A stored procedure, function, or package is a PL/SQL program unit that:

  • Has a name.

  • Can take parameters, and can return values.

  • Is stored in the data dictionary.

  • Can be called by many users.


    The term stored procedure is sometimes used generically for both stored procedures and stored functions. The only difference between procedures and functions is that functions always return a single value to the caller, while procedures do not return a value to the caller.

Naming Procedures and Functions

Because a procedure or function is stored in the database, it must be named. This distinguishes it from other stored procedures and makes it possible for applications to call it. Each publicly-visible procedure or function in a schema must have a unique name, and the name must be a legal PL/SQL identifier.


If you plan to call a stored procedure using a stub generated by SQL*Module, then the stored procedure name must also be a legal identifier in the calling host 3GL language, such as Ada or C.

Parameters for Procedures and Functions

Stored procedures and functions can take parameters. The following example shows a stored procedure that is similar to the anonymous block in "Anonymous Blocks".


To execute the following, use CREATE OR REPLACE PROCEDURE...

PROCEDURE Get_emp_names (Dept_num IN NUMBER) IS
   Emp_name       VARCHAR2(10);
   CURSOR         c1 (Depno NUMBER) IS
                     SELECT Ename FROM Emp_tab
                        WHERE deptno = Depno;
   OPEN c1(Dept_num);
      FETCH c1 INTO Emp_name;
   CLOSE c1;

In this stored procedure example, the department number is an input parameter which is used when the parameterized cursor c1 is opened.

The formal parameters of a procedure have three major attributes, described in Table 7-1.

Table 7-1 Attributes of Procedure Parameters

Parameter Attribute Description


This must be a legal PL/SQL identifier.


This indicates whether the parameter is an input-only parameter (IN), an output-only parameter (OUT), or is both an input and an output parameter (IN OUT). If the mode is not specified, then IN is assumed.


This is a standard PL/SQL datatype.

Parameter Modes

Parameter modes define the behavior of formal parameters. The three parameter modes, IN (the default), OUT, and IN OUT, can be used with any subprogram. However, avoid using the OUT and IN OUT modes with functions. The purpose of a function is to take no arguments and return a single value. It is poor programming practice to have a function return multiple values. Also, functions should be free from side effects, which change the values of variables not local to the subprogram.

Table 7-2 summarizes the information about parameter modes.

Table 7-2 Parameter Modes


The default.

Must be specified.

Must be specified.

Passes values to a subprogram.

Returns values to the caller.

Passes initial values to a subprogram; returns updated values to the caller.

Formal parameter acts like a constant.

Formal parameter acts like an uninitialized variable.

Formal parameter acts like an initialized variable.

Formal parameter cannot be assigned a value.

Formal parameter cannot be used in an expression; must be assigned a value.

Formal parameter should be assigned a value.

Actual parameter can be a constant, initialized variable, literal, or expression.

Actual parameter must be a variable.

Actual parameter must be a variable.

See Also:

Oracle Database PL/SQL User's Guide and Reference for details about parameter modes

Parameter Datatypes

The datatype of a formal parameter consists of one of the following:

  • An unconstrained type name, such as NUMBER or VARCHAR2.

  • A type that is constrained using the %TYPE or %ROWTYPE attributes.


    Numerically constrained types such as NUMBER(2) or VARCHAR2(20) are not allowed in a parameter list.

%TYPE and %ROWTYPE Attributes

Use the type attributes %TYPE and %ROWTYPE to constrain the parameter. For example, the Get_emp_names procedure specification in "Parameters for Procedures and Functions" could be written as the following:

PROCEDURE Get_emp_names(Dept_num IN Emp_tab.Deptno%TYPE)

This has the Dept_num parameter take the same datatype as the Deptno column in the Emp_tab table. The column and table must be available when a declaration using %TYPE (or %ROWTYPE) is elaborated.

Using %TYPE is recommended, because if the type of the column in the table changes, then it is not necessary to change the application code.

If the Get_emp_names procedure is part of a package, then you can use previously-declared public (package) variables to constrain a parameter datatype. For example:

Dept_number    number(2);
PROCEDURE Get_emp_names(Dept_num IN Dept_number%TYPE);

Use the %ROWTYPE attribute to create a record that contains all the columns of the specified table. The following example defines the Get_emp_rec procedure, which returns all the columns of the Emp_tab table in a PL/SQL record for the given empno:


To execute the following, use CREATE OR REPLACE PROCEDURE...

PROCEDURE Get_emp_rec (Emp_number  IN  Emp_tab.Empno%TYPE,
                       Emp_ret     OUT Emp_tab%ROWTYPE) IS
   SELECT Empno, Ename, Job, Mgr, Hiredate, Sal, Comm, Deptno
      INTO Emp_ret
      FROM Emp_tab
      WHERE Empno = Emp_number;

You could call this procedure from a PL/SQL block as follows:

   Emp_row      Emp_tab%ROWTYPE;     -- declare a record matching a
                                     -- row in the Emp_tab table
   Get_emp_rec(7499, Emp_row);   -- call for Emp_tab# 7499
   DBMS_OUTPUT.PUT(Emp_row.Ename || ' '                || Emp_row.Empno);
   DBMS_OUTPUT.PUT(' '           || Emp_row.Job || ' ' || Emp_row.Mgr);
   DBMS_OUTPUT.PUT(' '           || Emp_row.Hiredate   || ' ' || Emp_row.Sal);
   DBMS_OUTPUT.PUT(' '           || Emp_row.Comm || ' '|| Emp_row.Deptno);

Stored functions can also return values that are declared using %ROWTYPE. For example:

FUNCTION Get_emp_rec (Dept_num IN Emp_tab.Deptno%TYPE)
   RETURN Emp_tab%ROWTYPE IS ...
Tables and Records

You can pass PL/SQL tables as parameters to stored procedures and functions. You can also pass tables of records as parameters.


When passing a user defined type, such as a PL/SQL table or record to a remote procedure, to make PL/SQL use the same definition so that the type checker can verify the source, you must create a redundant loop back DBLINK so that when the PL/SQL compiles, both sources pull from the same location.

Default Parameter Values

Parameters can take default values. Use the DEFAULT keyword or the assignment operator to give a parameter a default value. For example, the specification for the Get_emp_names procedure could be written as the following:

PROCEDURE Get_emp_names (Dept_num IN NUMBER DEFAULT 20) IS ...


PROCEDURE Get_emp_names (Dept_num IN NUMBER := 20) IS ...

When a parameter takes a default value, it can be omitted from the actual parameter list when you call the procedure. When you do specify the parameter value on the call, it overrides the default value.


Unlike in an anonymous PL/SQL block, you do not use the keyword DECLARE before the declarations of variables, cursors, and exceptions in a stored procedure. In fact, it is an error to use it.

Creating Stored Procedures and Functions

Use a text editor to write the procedure or function. At the beginning of the procedure, place the following statement:

CREATE PROCEDURE Procedure_name AS   ...

For example, to use the example in "%TYPE and %ROWTYPE Attributes ", create a text (source) file called get_emp.sql containing the following code:

CREATE PROCEDURE Get_emp_rec (Emp_number  IN  Emp_tab.Empno%TYPE,
                              Emp_ret     OUT Emp_tab%ROWTYPE) AS
   SELECT Empno, Ename, Job, Mgr, Hiredate, Sal, Comm, Deptno
      INTO Emp_ret
      FROM Emp_tab
      WHERE Empno = Emp_number;

Then, using an interactive tool such as SQL*Plus, load the text file containing the procedure by entering the following statement:

SQL> @get_emp

This loads the procedure into the current schema from the get_emp.sql file (.sql is the default file extension). Note the slash (/) at the end of the code. This is not part of the code; it just activates the loading of the procedure.

Use the CREATE [OR REPLACE] FUNCTION... statement to store functions.


When developing a new procedure, it is usually much more convenient to use the CREATE OR REPLACE PROCEDURE statement. This replaces any previous version of that procedure in the same schema with the newer version, but note that this is done without warning.

You can use either the keyword IS or AS after the procedure parameter list.

See Also:

Oracle Database Reference for the complete syntax of the CREATE PROCEDURE and CREATE FUNCTION statements

Privileges to Create Procedures and Functions

To create a standalone procedure or function, or package specification or body, you must meet the following prerequisites:

  • You must have the CREATE PROCEDURE system privilege to create a procedure or package in your schema, or the CREATE ANY PROCEDURE system privilege to create a procedure or package in another user's schema.


    To create without errors (to compile the procedure or package successfully) requires the following additional privileges:
    • The owner of the procedure or package must be explicitly granted the necessary object privileges for all objects referenced within the body of the code.

    • The owner cannot obtain required privileges through roles.

If the privileges of the owner of a procedure or package change, then the procedure must be reauthenticated before it is run. If a necessary privilege to a referenced object is revoked from the owner of the procedure or package, then the procedure cannot be run.

The EXECUTE privilege on a procedure gives a user the right to run a procedure owned by another user. Privileged users run the procedure under the security domain of the owner of the procedure. Therefore, users never need to be granted the privileges to the objects referenced by a procedure. This allows for more disciplined and efficient security strategies with database applications and their users. Furthermore, all procedures and packages are stored in the data dictionary (in the SYSTEM tablespace). No quota controls the amount of space available to a user who creates procedures and packages.


Package creation requires a sort. So the user creating the package should be able to create a sort segment in the temporary tablespace with which the user is associated.

Altering Stored Procedures and Functions

To alter a stored procedure or function, you must first drop it using the DROP PROCEDURE or DROP FUNCTION statement, then re-create it using the CREATE PROCEDURE or CREATE FUNCTION statement. Alternatively, use the CREATE OR REPLACE PROCEDURE or CREATE OR REPLACE FUNCTION statement, which first drops the procedure or function if it exists, then re-creates it as specified.


The procedure or function is dropped without any warning.

Dropping Procedures and Functions

A standalone procedure, a standalone function, a package body, or an entire package can be dropped using the SQL statements DROP PROCEDURE, DROP FUNCTION, DROP PACKAGE BODY, and DROP PACKAGE, respectively. A DROP PACKAGE statement drops both the specification and body of a package.

The following statement drops the Old_sal_raise procedure in your schema:

DROP PROCEDURE Old_sal_raise;
Privileges to Drop Procedures and Functions

To drop a procedure, function, or package, the procedure or package must be in your schema, or you must have the DROP ANY PROCEDURE privilege. An individual procedure within a package cannot be dropped; the containing package specification and body must be re-created without the procedures to be dropped.

External Procedures

A PL/SQL procedure executing on an Oracle Database instance can call an external procedure written in a 3GL. The 3GL procedure runs in a separate address space from that of the database.

See Also:

Chapter 14, "Calling External Procedures" for information about external procedures

PL/SQL Packages

A package is an encapsulated collection of related program objects (for example, procedures, functions, variables, constants, cursors, and exceptions) stored together in the database.

Using packages is an alternative to creating procedures and functions as standalone schema objects. Packages have many advantages over standalone procedures and functions. For example, they:

  • Let you organize your application development more efficiently.

  • Let you grant privileges more efficiently.

  • Let you modify package objects without recompiling dependent schema objects.

  • Enable Oracle Database to read multiple package objects into memory at once.

  • Can contain global variables and cursors that are available to all procedures and functions in the package.

  • Let you overload procedures or functions. Overloading a procedure means creating multiple procedures with the same name in the same package, each taking arguments of different number or datatype.

    See Also:

    Oracle Database PL/SQL User's Guide and Reference for more information about subprogram name overloading

The specification part of a package declares the public types, variables, constants, and subprograms that are visible outside the immediate scope of the package. The body of a package defines the objects declared in the specification, as well as private objects that are not visible to applications outside the package.

Example of a PL/SQL Package Specification and Body

The following example shows a package specification for a package named Employee_management. The package contains one stored function and two stored procedures. The body for this package defines the function and the procedures:

CREATE PACKAGE BODY Employee_management AS
   FUNCTION Hire_emp (Name VARCHAR2, Job VARCHAR2,
      Mgr NUMBER, Hiredate DATE, Sal NUMBER, Comm NUMBER,
       New_empno    NUMBER(10);

-- This function accepts all arguments for the fields in
-- the employee table except for the employee number.
-- A value for this field is supplied by a sequence.
-- The function returns the sequence number generated
-- by the call to this function.

      SELECT Emp_sequence.NEXTVAL INTO New_empno FROM dual;
      INSERT INTO Emp_tab VALUES (New_empno, Name, Job, Mgr,
         Hiredate, Sal, Comm, Deptno);
      RETURN (New_empno);
   END Hire_emp;

   PROCEDURE fire_emp(emp_id IN NUMBER) AS

-- This procedure deletes the employee with an employee
-- number that corresponds to the argument Emp_id. If
-- no employee is found, then an exception is raised.

      DELETE FROM Emp_tab WHERE Empno = Emp_id;
      Raise_application_error(-20011, 'Invalid Employee
         Number: ' || TO_CHAR(Emp_id));
   END IF;
END fire_emp;

PROCEDURE Sal_raise (Emp_id IN NUMBER, Sal_incr IN NUMBER) AS

-- This procedure accepts two arguments. Emp_id is a
-- number that corresponds to an employee number.
-- SAL_INCR is the amount by which to increase the
-- employee's salary. If employee exists, then update 
-- salary with increase.

      UPDATE Emp_tab
         SET Sal = Sal + Sal_incr
         WHERE Empno = Emp_id;
         Raise_application_error(-20011, 'Invalid Employee
            Number: ' || TO_CHAR(Emp_id));
      END IF;
   END Sal_raise;
END Employee_management;


If you want to try this example, then first create the sequence number Emp_sequence. Do this with the following SQL*Plus statement:

PL/SQL Object Size Limitation

The size limitation for PL/SQL stored database objects such as procedures, functions, triggers, and packages is the size of the DIANA (Descriptive Intermediate Attributed Notation for Ada) code in the shared pool in bytes. The UNIX limit on the size of the flattened DIANA/pcode size is 64K but the limit may be 32K on desktop platforms.

The most closely related number that a user can access is the PARSED_SIZE in the data dictionary view USER_OBJECT_SIZE. That gives the size of the DIANA in bytes as stored in the SYS.IDL_xxx$ tables. This is not the size in the shared pool. The size of the DIANA part of PL/SQL code (used during compilation) is significantly larger in the shared pool than it is in the system table.

Creating Packages

Each part of a package is created with a different statement. Create the package specification using the CREATE PACKAGE statement. The CREATE PACKAGE statement declares public package objects.

To create a package body, use the CREATE PACKAGE BODY statement. The CREATE PACKAGE BODY statement defines the procedural code of the public procedures and functions declared in the package specification.

You can also define private, or local, package procedures, functions, and variables in a package body. These objects can only be accessed by other procedures and functions in the body of the same package. They are not visible to external users, regardless of the privileges they hold.

It is often more convenient to add the OR REPLACE clause in the CREATE PACKAGE or CREATE PACKAGE BODY statements when you are first developing your application. The effect of this option is to drop the package or the package body without warning. The CREATE statements would then be the following:




Creating Packaged Objects

The body of a package can contain:

  • Procedures and functions declared in the package specification.

  • Definitions of cursors declared in the package specification.

  • Local procedures and functions, not declared in the package specification.

  • Local variables.

Procedures, functions, cursors, and variables that are declared in the package specification are global. They can be called, or used, by external users that have EXECUTE permission for the package or that have EXECUTE ANY PROCEDURE privileges.

When you create the package body, make sure that each procedure that you define in the body has the same parameters, by name, datatype, and mode, as the declaration in the package specification. For functions in the package body, the parameters and the return type must agree in name and type.

Privileges to Create or Drop Packages

The privileges required to create or drop a package specification or package body are the same as those required to create or drop a standalone procedure or function.

Naming Packages and Package Objects

The names of a package and all public objects in the package must be unique within a given schema. The package specification and its body must have the same name. All package constructs must have unique names within the scope of the package, unless overloading of procedure names is desired.

Package Invalidations and Session State

Each session that references a package object has its own instance of the corresponding package, including persistent state for any public and private variables, cursors, and constants. If any of the session's instantiated packages (specification or body) are invalidated, then all package instances in the session are invalidated and recompiled. As a result, the session state is lost for all package instances in the session.

When a package in a given session is invalidated, the session receives the following error the first time it attempts to use any object of the invalid package instance:

ORA-04068: existing state of packages has been discarded

The second time a session makes such a package call, the package is reinstantiated for the session without error.


For optimal performance, Oracle Database returns this error message only once—each time the package state is discarded.

If you handle this error in your application, ensure that your error handling strategy can accurately handle this error. For example, when a procedure in one package calls a procedure in another package, your application should be aware that the session state is lost for both packages.

In most production environments, DDL operations that can cause invalidations are usually performed during inactive working hours; therefore, this situation might not be a problem for end-user applications. However, if package invalidations are common in your system during working hours, then you might want to code your applications to handle this error when package calls are made.

Packages Supplied With Oracle Database

There are many packages provided with Oracle Database, either to extend the functionality of the database or to give PL/SQL access to SQL features. You can call these packages from your application.

See Also:

Oracle Database PL/SQL Packages and Types Reference for an overview of these Oracle Database packages

Overview of Bulk Binds

Oracle Database uses two engines to run PL/SQL blocks and subprograms. The PL/SQL engine runs procedural statements, while the SQL engine runs SQL statements. During execution, every SQL statement causes a context switch between the two engines, resulting in performance overhead.

Performance can be improved substantially by minimizing the number of context switches required to run a particular block or subprogram. When a SQL statement runs inside a loop that uses collection elements as bind variables, the large number of context switches required by the block can cause poor performance. Collections include the following:

  • Varrays

  • Nested tables

  • Index-by tables

  • Host arrays

Binding is the assignment of values to PL/SQL variables in SQL statements. Bulk binding is binding an entire collection at once. Bulk binds pass the entire collection back and forth between the two engines in a single operation.

Typically, using bulk binds improves performance for SQL statements that affect four or more database rows. The more rows affected by a SQL statement, the greater the performance gain from bulk binds.


This section provides an overview of bulk binds to help you decide if you should use them in your PL/SQL applications. For detailed information about using bulk binds, including ways to handle exceptions that occur in the middle of a bulk bind operation, refer to the Oracle Database PL/SQL User's Guide and Reference.

When to Use Bulk Binds

If you have scenarios like these in your applications, consider using bulk binds to improve performance.

DML Statements that Reference Collections

The FORALL keyword can improve the performance of INSERT, UPDATE, or DELETE statements that reference collection elements.

For example, the following PL/SQL block increases the salary for employees whose manager's ID number is 7902, 7698, or 7839, both with and without using bulk binds:

   TYPE Numlist IS VARRAY (100) OF NUMBER;
   Id NUMLIST := NUMLIST(7902, 7698, 7839);

-- Efficient method, using a bulk bind
   FORALL i IN Id.FIRST..Id.LAST   -- bulk-bind the VARRAY
      UPDATE Emp_tab SET Sal = 1.1 * Sal
      WHERE Mgr = Id(i);

-- Slower method, running the UPDATE statements within a regular loop
      UPDATE Emp_tab SET Sal = 1.1 * Sal
      WHERE Mgr = Id(i);

Without the bulk bind, PL/SQL sends a SQL statement to the SQL engine for each employee that is updated, leading to context switches that hurt performance.

If you have a set of rows prepared in a PL/SQL table, you can bulk-insert or bulk-update the data using a loop like:

FORALL i in Emp_Data.FIRST..Emp_Data.LAST
    INSERT INTO Emp_tab VALUES(Emp_Data(i));

SELECT Statements that Reference Collections

The BULK COLLECT INTO clause can improve the performance of queries that reference collections.

For example, the following PL/SQL block queries multiple values into PL/SQL tables, both with and without bulk binds:

-- Find all employees whose manager's ID number is 7698.
   Empno VAR_TAB;
   Ename VAR_TAB;
   Counter NUMBER;
      SELECT Empno, Ename FROM Emp_tab WHERE Mgr = 7698;

-- Efficient method, using a bulk bind
    SELECT Empno, Ename BULK COLLECT INTO Empno, Ename
        FROM Emp_Tab WHERE Mgr = 7698;

-- Slower method, assigning each collection element within a loop.

   counter := 1;  
   FOR rec IN C LOOP  
      Empno(Counter) := rec.Empno;
      Ename(Counter) := rec.Ename;
      Counter := Counter + 1;

You can use BULK COLLECT INTO with tables of scalar values, or tables of %TYPE values.

Without the bulk bind, PL/SQL sends a SQL statement to the SQL engine for each employee that is selected, leading to context switches that hurt performance.

FOR Loops that Reference Collections and the Returning Into Clause

You can use the FORALL keyword along with the BULK COLLECT INTO keywords to improve the performance of FOR loops that reference collections and return DML.

For example, the following PL/SQL block updates the Emp_tab table by computing bonuses for a collection of employees; then it returns the bonuses in a column called Bonlist. The actions are performed both with and without using bulk binds:

   Empids EMPLIST := EMPLIST(7369, 7499, 7521, 7566, 7654, 7698);
   TYPE Bonlist IS TABLE OF Emp_tab.sal%TYPE;
   Bonlist_inst BONLIST;
   Bonlist_inst := BONLIST(1,2,3,4,5);

   FORALL i IN Empids.FIRST..empIDs.LAST
      UPDATE Emp_tab SET Bonus = 0.1 * Sal
      WHERE Empno = Empids(i)

   FOR i IN Empids.FIRST..Empids.LAST LOOP
      UPDATE Emp_tab Set Bonus = 0.1 * sal        
         WHERE Empno = Empids(i)

Without the bulk bind, PL/SQL sends a SQL statement to the SQL engine for each employee that is updated, leading to context switches that hurt performance.


A trigger is a special kind of PL/SQL anonymous block. You can define triggers to fire before or after SQL statements, either on a statement level or for each row that is affected. You can also define INSTEAD OF triggers or system triggers (triggers on DATABASE and SCHEMA).

Compiling PL/SQL Procedures for Native Execution

You can speed up PL/SQL procedures by compiling them into native code residing in shared libraries. The procedures are translated into C code, then compiled with your usual C compiler and linked into the Oracle Database process.

You can use this technique with both the supplied Oracle Database PL/SQL packages, and procedures you write yourself. You can use the ALTER SYSTEM or ALTER SESSION command, or update your initialization file, to set the parameter PLSQL_CODE_TYPE to the value NATIVE (the default setting is the value INTERPRETED).

Because this technique cannot do much to speed up SQL statements called from these procedures, it is most effective for compute-intensive procedures that do not spend much time executing SQL.

With Java, you can use the ncomp tool to compile your own packages and classes.

See Also:

Remote Dependencies

Dependencies among PL/SQL program units can be handled in two ways:


If timestamps are used to handle dependencies among PL/SQL program units, then whenever you alter a program unit or a relevant schema object, all of its dependent units are marked as invalid and must be recompiled before they can be run.

Each program unit carries a timestamp that is set by the server when the unit is created or recompiled. Figure 7-1 demonstrates this graphically. Procedures P1 and P2 call stored procedure P3. Stored procedure P3 references table T1. In this example, each of the procedures is dependent on table T1. P3 depends upon T1 directly, while P1 and P2 depend upon T1 indirectly.

Figure 7-1 Dependency Relationships

Description of Figure 7-1  follows
Description of "Figure 7-1 Dependency Relationships"

If P3 is altered, then P1 and P2 are marked as invalid immediately, if they are on the same server as P3. The compiled states of P1 and P2 contain records of the timestamp of P3. Therefore, if the procedure P3 is altered and recompiled, then the timestamp on P3 no longer matches the value that was recorded for P3 during the compilation of P1 and P2.

If P1 and P2 are on a client system, or on another Oracle Database instance in a distributed environment, then the timestamp information is used to mark them as invalid at runtime.

Disadvantages of the Timestamp Model

The disadvantage of this dependency model is that it is unnecessarily restrictive. Recompilation of dependent objects across the network are often performed when not strictly necessary, leading to performance degradation.

Furthermore, on the client side, the timestamp model can lead to situations that block an application from running at all, if the client-side application is built using PL/SQL version 2. Earlier releases of tools, such as Oracle Forms, that used PL/SQL version 1 on the client side did not use this dependency model, because PL/SQL version 1 had no support for stored procedures.

For releases of Oracle Forms that are integrated with PL/SQL version 2 on the client side, the timestamp model can present problems. For example, during the installation of the application, the application is rendered invalid unless the client-side PL/SQL procedures that it uses are recompiled at the client site. Also, if a client-side procedure depends on a server procedure, and if the server procedure is changed or automatically recompiled, then the client-side PL/SQL procedure must then be recompiled. Yet in many application environments (such as Forms runtime applications), there is no PL/SQL compiler available on the client. This blocks the application from running at all. The client application developer must then redistribute new versions of the application to all customers.


To alleviate some of the problems with the timestamp-only dependency model, Oracle Database provides the additional capability of remote dependencies using signatures. The signature capability affects only remote dependencies. Local (same server) dependencies are not affected, as recompilation is always possible in this environment.

A signature is associated with each compiled stored program unit. It identifies the unit using the following criteria:

  • The name of the unit (the package, procedure, or function name).

  • The types of each of the parameters of the subprogram.

  • The modes of the parameters (IN, OUT, IN OUT).

  • The number of parameters.

  • The type of the return value for a function.

The user has control over whether signatures or timestamps govern remote dependencies.

When the signature dependency model is used, a dependency on a remote program unit causes an invalidation of the dependent unit if the dependent unit contains a call to a subprogram in the parent unit, and if the signature of this subprogram has been changed in an incompatible manner.

For example, consider a procedure get_emp_name stored on a server in Boston (BOSTON_SERVER). The procedure is defined as the following:


You may need to set up data structures, similar to the following, for certain examples to work:
CONNECT system/manager
CREATE PUBLIC DATABASE LINK boston_server USING 'inst1_alias';
CONNECT scott/tiger

   emp_number   IN  NUMBER,
   hire_date    OUT VARCHAR2,
   emp_name     OUT VARCHAR2) AS
   SELECT ename, to_char(hiredate, 'DD-MON-YY')
      INTO emp_name, hire_date
      FROM emp
      WHERE empno = emp_number;

When get_emp_name is compiled on BOSTON_SERVER, its signature, as well as its timestamp, is recorded.

Suppose that on another server in California, some PL/SQL code calls get_emp_name identifying it using a DBlink called BOSTON_SERVER, as follows:

   hire_date    VARCHAR2(12);
   ename        VARCHAR2(10);
   get_emp_name@BOSTON_SERVER(emp_number, hire_date, ename);

When this California server code is compiled, the following actions take place:

  • A connection is made to the Boston server.

  • The signature of get_emp_name is transferred to the California server.

  • The signature is recorded in the compiled state of print_ename.

At runtime, during the remote procedure call from the California server to the Boston server, the recorded signature of get_emp_name that was saved in the compiled state of print_ename gets sent to the Boston server, regardless of whether or not there were any changes.

If the timestamp dependency mode is in effect, then a mismatch in timestamps causes an error status to be returned to the calling procedure.

However, if the signature mode is in effect, then any mismatch in timestamps is ignored, and the recorded signature of get_emp_name in the compiled state of Print_ename on the California server is compared with the current signature of get_emp_name on the Boston server. If they match, then the call succeeds. If they do not match, then an error status is returned to the print_name procedure.

Note that the get_emp_name procedure on the Boston server could have been changed. Or, its timestamp could be different from that recorded in the print_name procedure on the California server, possibly due to the installation of a new release of the server. As long as the signature remote dependency mode is in effect on the California server, a timestamp mismatch does not cause an error when get_emp_name is called.


DETERMINISTIC, PARALLEL_ENABLE, and purity information do not show in the signature mode. Optimizations based on these settings are not automatically reconsidered if a function on a remote system is redefined with different settings. This may lead to incorrect query results when calls to the remote function occur, even indirectly, in a SQL statement, or if the remote function is used, even indirectly, in a function-based index.

When Does a Signature Change?

Here is information on when a signature changes.

Switching Datatype Classes

A signature changes when you switch from one class of datatype to another. Within each datatype class, there can be several types. Changing a parameter datatype from one type to another within a class does not cause the signature to change. Datatypes that are not listed in the following table, such as NCHAR or TIMESTAMP, are not part of any class; changing their type always causes a signature mismatch.


Character types: CHARACTER, CHAR

Raw types: RAW, LONG RAW





Changing to or from an explicit specification of the default parameter mode IN does not change the signature of a subprogram. For example, changing between:


does not change the signature. Any other change of parameter mode does change the signature.

Default Parameter Values

Changing the specification of a default parameter value does not change the signature. For example, procedure P1 has the same signature in the following two examples:

PROCEDURE P1 (Param1 IN NUMBER := 100);
PROCEDURE P1 (Param1 IN NUMBER := 200);

An application developer who requires that callers get the new default value must recompile the called procedure, but no signature-based invalidation occurs when a default parameter value assignment is changed.

Examples of Changing Procedure Signatures

Using the Get_emp_names procedure defined in "Parameters for Procedures and Functions", if the procedure body is changed to the following:

   Emp_number  NUMBER;
   Hire_date   DATE;
-- date format model changes
   SELECT Ename, To_char(Hiredate, 'DD/MON/YYYY')
      INTO Emp_name, Hire_date
      FROM Emp_tab
      WHERE Empno = Emp_number;

The specification of the procedure has not changed, so its signature has not changed.

But if the procedure specification is changed to the following:

   Emp_number  IN  NUMBER,
   Hire_date   OUT DATE,
   Emp_name    OUT VARCHAR2) AS

And if the body is changed accordingly, then the signature changes, because the parameter Hire_date has a different datatype.

However, if the name of that parameter changes to When_hired, and the datatype remains VARCHAR2, and the mode remains OUT, the signature does not change. Changing the name of a formal parameter does not change the signature of the unit.

Consider the following example:

    TYPE Emp_data_type IS RECORD (
        Emp_number NUMBER,
        Hire_date  VARCHAR2(12),
        Emp_name   VARCHAR2(10));
    PROCEDURE Get_emp_data
        (Emp_data IN OUT Emp_data_type);

    PROCEDURE Get_emp_data
        (Emp_data IN OUT Emp_data_type) IS
       SELECT Empno, Ename, TO_CHAR(Hiredate, 'DD/MON/YY')
           INTO Emp_data
           FROM Emp_tab
           WHERE Empno = Emp_data.Emp_number;

If the package specification is changed so that the record's field names are changed, but the types remain the same, then this does not affect the signature. For example, the following package specification has the same signature as the previous package specification example:

    TYPE Emp_data_type IS RECORD (
        Emp_num    NUMBER,         -- was Emp_number
        Hire_dat   VARCHAR2(12),   -- was Hire_date
        Empname    VARCHAR2(10));  -- was Emp_name
    PROCEDURE Get_emp_data
        (Emp_data IN OUT Emp_data_type);

Changing the name of the type of a parameter does not cause a change in the signature if the type remains the same as before. For example, the following package specification for Emp_package is the same as the first one:

    TYPE Emp_data_record_type IS RECORD (
        Emp_number NUMBER,
        Hire_date  VARCHAR2(12),
        Emp_name   VARCHAR2(10));
    PROCEDURE Get_emp_data
        (Emp_data IN OUT Emp_data_record_type);

Controlling Remote Dependencies

The dynamic initialization parameter REMOTE_DEPENDENCIES_MODE controls whether the timestamp or the signature dependency model is in effect.

  • If the initialization parameter file contains the following specification:


Then only timestamps are used to resolve dependencies (if this is not explicitly overridden dynamically).

  • If the initialization parameter file contains the following parameter specification:


Then signatures are used to resolve dependencies (if this not explicitly overridden dynamically).

  • You can alter the mode dynamically by using the DDL statements. For example, this example alters the dependency model for the current session:


    Thise example alters the dependency model systemwide after startup:

If the REMOTE_DEPENDENCIES_MODE parameter is not specified, either in the init.ora parameter file or using the ALTER SESSION or ALTER SYSTEM DDL statements, then timestamp is the default value. Therefore, unless you explicitly use the REMOTE_DEPENDENCIES_MODE parameter, or the appropriate DDL statement, your server is operating using the timestamp dependency model.


  • If you change the default value of a parameter of a remote procedure, then the local procedure calling the remote procedure is not invalidated. If the call to the remote procedure does not supply the parameter, then the default value is used. In this case, because invalidation/recompilation does not automatically occur, the old default value is used. If you want to see the new default values, then you must recompile the calling procedure manually.

  • If you add a new overloaded procedure in a package (a new procedure with the same name as an existing one), then local procedures that call the remote procedure are not invalidated. If it turns out that this overloading results in a rebinding of existing calls from the local procedure under the timestamp mode, then this rebinding does not happen under the signature mode, because the local procedure does not get invalidated. You must recompile the local procedure manually to achieve the new rebinding.

  • If the types of parameters of an existing packaged procedure are changed so that the new types have the same shape as the old ones, then the local calling procedure is not invalidated or recompiled automatically. You must recompile the calling procedure manually to get the semantics of the new type.

Dependency Resolution

When REMOTE_DEPENDENCIES_MODE = TIMESTAMP (the default value), dependencies among program units are handled by comparing timestamps at runtime. If the timestamp of a called remote procedure does not match the timestamp of the called procedure, then the calling (dependent) unit is invalidated and must be recompiled. In this case, if there is no local PL/SQL compiler, then the calling application cannot proceed.

In the timestamp dependency mode, signatures are not compared. If there is a local PL/SQL compiler, then recompilation happens automatically when the calling procedure is run.

When REMOTE_DEPENDENCIES_MODE = SIGNATURE, the recorded timestamp in the calling unit is first compared to the current timestamp in the called remote unit. If they match, then the call proceeds. If the timestamps do not match, then the signature of the called remote subprogram, as recorded in the calling subprogram, is compared with the current signature of the called subprogram. If they do not match (using the criteria described in the section "When Does a Signature Change?"), then an error is returned to the calling session.

Suggestions for Managing Dependencies

Follow these guidelines for setting the REMOTE_DEPENDENCIES_MODE parameter:

  • Server-side PL/SQL users can set the parameter to TIMESTAMP (or let it default to that) to get the timestamp dependency mode.

  • Server-side PL/SQL users can choose to use the signature dependency mode if they have a distributed system and they want to avoid possible unnecessary recompilations.

  • Client-side PL/SQL users should set the parameter to SIGNATURE. This allows:

    • Installation of new applications at client sites, without the need to recompile procedures.

    • Ability to upgrade the server, without encountering timestamp mismatches.

  • When using signature mode on the server side, add new procedures to the end of the procedure (or function) declarations in a package specification. Adding a new procedure in the middle of the list of declarations can cause unnecessary invalidation and recompilation of dependent procedures.

Cursor Variables

A cursor is a static object; a cursor variable is a pointer to a cursor. Because cursor variables are pointers, they can be passed and returned as parameters to procedures and functions. A cursor variable can also refer to different cursors in its lifetime.

Some additional advantages of cursor variables include:

  • Encapsulation Queries are centralized in the stored procedure that opens the cursor variable.

  • Ease of maintenance If you need to change the cursor, then you only need to make the change in one place: the stored procedure. There is no need to change each application.

  • Convenient security The user of the application is the username used when the application connects to the server. The user must have EXECUTE permission on the stored procedure that opens the cursor. But, the user does not need to have READ permission on the tables used in the query. This capability can be used to limit access to the columns in the table, as well as access to other stored procedures.

    See Also:

    Oracle Database PL/SQL User's Guide and Reference for details on cursor variables

Declaring and Opening Cursor Variables

Memory is usually allocated for a cursor variable in the client application using the appropriate ALLOCATE statement. In Pro*C, use the EXEC SQL ALLOCATE <cursor_name> statement. In OCI, use the Cursor Data Area.

You can also use cursor variables in applications that run entirely in a single server session. You can declare cursor variables in PL/SQL subprograms, open them, and use them as parameters for other PL/SQL subprograms.

Examples of Cursor Variables

This section includes several examples of cursor variable usage in PL/SQL. For additional cursor variable examples that use the programmatic interfaces, refer to the following manuals:

Fetching Data

The following package defines a PL/SQL cursor variable type Emp_val_cv_type, and two procedures. The first procedure, Open_emp_cv, opens the cursor variable using a bind variable in the WHERE clause. The second procedure, Fetch_emp_data, fetches rows from the Emp_tab table using the cursor variable.

  TYPE Emp_val_cv_type IS REF CURSOR RETURN Emp_tab%ROWTYPE;
  PROCEDURE Open_emp_cv (Emp_cv          IN OUT Emp_val_cv_type,
                         Dept_number     IN     INTEGER); 
  PROCEDURE Fetch_emp_data (emp_cv       IN     Emp_val_cv_type,
                            emp_row      OUT    Emp_tab%ROWTYPE);
END Emp_data;

  PROCEDURE Open_emp_cv (Emp_cv      IN OUT Emp_val_cv_type,
                         Dept_number IN     INTEGER) IS
    OPEN emp_cv FOR SELECT * FROM Emp_tab WHERE deptno = dept_number;
  END open_emp_cv;
  PROCEDURE Fetch_emp_data (Emp_cv      IN  Emp_val_cv_type,
                            Emp_row     OUT Emp_tab%ROWTYPE) IS
    FETCH Emp_cv INTO Emp_row;
  END Fetch_emp_data;
END Emp_data;

The following example shows how to call the Emp_data package procedures from a PL/SQL block:

-- declare a cursor variable
   Emp_curs Emp_data.Emp_val_cv_type;
   Dept_number Dept_tab.Deptno%TYPE;
   Emp_row Emp_tab%ROWTYPE;

   Dept_number := 20;
-- open the cursor using a variable
   Emp_data.Open_emp_cv(Emp_curs, Dept_number);
-- fetch the data and display it
     Emp_data.Fetch_emp_data(Emp_curs, Emp_row);
     DBMS_OUTPUT.PUT(Emp_row.Ename || '  ');

Implementing Variant Records

The power of cursor variables comes from their ability to point to different cursors. In the following package example, a discriminant is used to open a cursor variable to point to one of two different cursors:

  PROCEDURE Open_cv (Cv          IN OUT cv_type,
                     Discrim     IN     POSITIVE); 
END Emp_dept_data;

  PROCEDURE Open_cv (Cv      IN OUT cv_type,
                     Discrim IN     POSITIVE) IS
    IF Discrim = 1 THEN
      OPEN Cv FOR SELECT * FROM Emp_tab WHERE Sal > 2000;
    ELSIF Discrim = 2 THEN
      OPEN Cv FOR SELECT * FROM Dept_tab;
    END IF;
  END Open_cv;
END Emp_dept_data;

You can call the Open_cv procedure to open the cursor variable and point it to either a query on the Emp_tab table or the Dept_tab table. The following PL/SQL block shows how to fetch using the cursor variable, and then use the ROWTYPE_MISMATCH predefined exception to handle either fetch:

  Emp_rec  Emp_tab%ROWTYPE;
  Dept_rec Dept_tab%ROWTYPE;
  Cv       Emp_dept_data.CV_TYPE;

  Emp_dept_data.open_cv(Cv, 1); -- Open Cv For Emp_tab Fetch
  Fetch cv INTO Dept_rec;       -- but fetch into Dept_tab record
                                -- which raises ROWTYPE_MISMATCH
  DBMS_OUTPUT.PUT_LINE('  ' || Dept_rec.Loc);

           ('Row type mismatch, fetching Emp_tab data...');
      FETCH Cv INTO Emp_rec;
      DBMS_OUTPUT.PUT_LINE('  ' || Emp_rec.Ename);

Handling PL/SQL Compile-Time Errors

When you use SQL*Plus to submit PL/SQL code, and when the code contains errors, you receive notification that compilation errors have occurred, but there is no immediate indication of what the errors are. For example, if you submit a standalone (or stored) procedure PROC1 in the file proc1.sql as follows:

SQL> @proc1

And, if there are one or more errors in the code, then you receive a notice such as the following:

MGR-00072: Warning: Procedure proc1 created with compilation errors

In this case, use the SHOW ERRORS statement in SQL*Plus to get a list of the errors that were found. SHOW ERRORS with no argument lists the errors from the most recent compilation. You can qualify SHOW ERRORS using the name of a procedure, function, package, or package body:


See Also:

SQL*Plus User's Guide and Reference for complete information about the SHOW ERRORS statement


Before issuing the SHOW ERRORS statement, use the SET LINESIZE statement to get long lines on output. The value 132 is usually a good choice. For example:

Assume that you want to create a simple procedure that deletes records from the employee table using SQL*Plus:

      DELETE FROM Emp_tab WHER Empno = Emp_id;

Notice that the CREATE PROCEDURE statement has two errors: the DELETE statement has an error (the E is absent from WHERE), and the semicolon is missing after END.

After the CREATE PROCEDURE statement is entered and an error is returned, a SHOW ERRORS statement returns the following lines:


-------------- --------------------------------------------
3/27           PL/SQL-00103: Encountered the symbol "EMPNO" wh. . .
5/0            PL/SQL-00103: Encountered the symbol "END" when . . .
2 rows selected.

Notice that each line and column number where errors were found is listed by the SHOW ERRORS statement.

Alternatively, you can query the following data dictionary views to list errors when using any tool or application:




The error text associated with the compilation of a procedure is updated when the procedure is replaced, and it is deleted when the procedure is dropped.

Original source code can be retrieved from the data dictionary using the following views: ALL_SOURCE, USER_SOURCE, and DBA_SOURCE.

See Also:

Oracle Database Reference for more information about these data dictionary views

Handling Run-Time PL/SQL Errors

Oracle Database allows user-defined errors in PL/SQL code to be handled so that user-specified error numbers and messages are returned to the client application. After received, the client application can handle the error based on the user-specified error number and message returned by Oracle Database.

User-specified error messages are returned using the RAISE_APPLICATION_ERROR procedure. For example:

RAISE_APPLICATION_ERROR(Error_number, 'text', Keep_error_stack)

This procedure stops procedure execution, rolls back any effects of the procedure, and returns a user-specified error number and message (unless the error is trapped by an exception handler). ERROR_NUMBER must be in the range of -20000 to -20999.

Error number -20000 should be used as a generic number for messages where it is important to relay information to the user, but having a unique error number is not required. Text must be a character expression, 2 Kbytes or less (longer messages are ignored). Keep_error_stack can be TRUE if you want to add the error to any already on the stack, or FALSE if you want to replace the existing errors. By default, this option is FALSE.


Some of the Oracle Database packages, such as DBMS_OUTPUT, DBMS_DESCRIBE, and DBMS_ALERT, use application error numbers in the range -20000 to -20005. Refer to the descriptions of these packages for more information.

The RAISE_APPLICATION_ERROR procedure is often used in exception handlers or in the logic of PL/SQL code. For example, the following exception handler selects the string for the associated user-defined error message and calls the RAISE_APPLICATION_ERROR procedure:

   SELECT Error_string INTO Message
   FROM Error_table,
   WHERE Error_number = -20101 AND Lang = v.value AND
      v.parameter = "NLS_LANGUAGE";
   Raise_application_error(-20101, Message);

See Also:

"Handling Errors in Remote Procedures" for information on exception handling when calling remote procedures

The following section includes an example of passing a user-specified error number from a trigger to a procedure.

Declaring Exceptions and Exception Handling Routines

User-defined exceptions are explicitly defined and signaled within the PL/SQL block to control processing of errors specific to the application. When an exception is raised (signaled), the usual execution of the PL/SQL block stops, and a routine called an exception handler is called. Specific exception handlers can be written to handle any internal or user-defined exception.

Application code can check for a condition that requires special attention using an IF statement. If there is an error condition, then two options are available:

  • Enter a RAISE statement that names the appropriate exception. A RAISE statement stops the execution of the procedure, and control passes to an exception handler (if any).

  • Call the RAISE_APPLICATION_ERROR procedure to return a user-specified error number and message.

You can also define an exception handler to handle user-specified error messages. For example, Figure 7-2 illustrates the following:

  • An exception and associated exception handler in a procedure

  • A conditional statement that checks for an error (such as transferring funds not available) and enters a user-specified error number and message within a trigger

  • How user-specified error numbers are returned to the calling environment (in this case, a procedure), and how that application can define an exception that corresponds to the user-specified error number

Declare a user-defined exception in a procedure or package body (private exceptions), or in the specification of a package (public exceptions). Define an exception handler in the body of a procedure (standalone or package).

Figure 7-2 Exceptions and User-Defined Errors

Description of Figure 7-2  follows
Description of "Figure 7-2 Exceptions and User-Defined Errors"

Unhandled Exceptions

In database PL/SQL program units, an unhandled user-error condition or internal error condition that is not trapped by an appropriate exception handler causes the implicit rollback of the program unit. If the program unit includes a COMMIT statement before the point at which the unhandled exception is observed, then the implicit rollback of the program unit can only be completed back to the previous COMMIT.

Additionally, unhandled exceptions in database-stored PL/SQL program units propagate back to client-side applications that call the containing program unit. In such an application, only the application program unit call is rolled back (not the entire application program unit), because it is submitted to the database as a SQL statement.

If unhandled exceptions in database PL/SQL program units are propagated back to database applications, then the database PL/SQL code should be modified to handle the exceptions. Your application can also trap for unhandled exceptions when calling database program units and handle such errors appropriately.

Handling Errors in Distributed Queries

You can use a trigger or a stored procedure to create a distributed query. This distributed query is decomposed by the local Oracle Database instance into a corresponding number of remote queries, which are sent to the remote nodes for execution. The remote nodes run the queries and send the results back to the local node. The local node then performs any necessary post-processing and returns the results to the user or application.

If a portion of a distributed statement fails, possibly due to an integrity constraint violation, then Oracle Database returns error number ORA-02055. Subsequent statements, or procedure calls, return error number ORA-02067 until a rollback or a rollback to savepoint is entered.

You should design your application to check for any returned error messages that indicates that a portion of the distributed update has failed. If you detect a failure, then you should rollback the entire transaction (or rollback to a savepoint) before allowing the application to proceed.

Handling Errors in Remote Procedures

When a procedure is run locally or at a remote location, four types of exceptions can occur:

  • PL/SQL user-defined exceptions, which must be declared using the keyword EXCEPTION.

  • PL/SQL predefined exceptions, such as NO_DATA_FOUND.

  • SQL errors, such as ORA-00900 and ORA-02015.

  • Application exceptions, which are generated using the RAISE_APPLICATION_ERROR() procedure.

When using local procedures, all of these messages can be trapped by writing an exception handler, such as shown in the following example:

    /* ...handle the exception */

Notice that the WHEN clause requires an exception name. If the exception that is raised does not have a name, such as those generated with RAISE_APPLICATION_ERROR, then one can be assigned using PRAGMA_EXCEPTION_INIT, as shown in the following example:

    Null_salary EXCEPTION;
    PRAGMA EXCEPTION_INIT(Null_salary, -20101);
    RAISE_APPLICATION_ERROR(-20101, 'salary is missing');
    WHEN Null_salary THEN

When calling a remote procedure, exceptions are also handled by creating a local exception handler. The remote procedure must return an error number to the local calling procedure, which then handles the exception, as shown in the previous example. Because PL/SQL user-defined exceptions always return ORA-06510 to the local procedure, these exceptions cannot be handled. All other remote exceptions can be handled in the same manner as local exceptions.

Debugging Stored Procedures

Compiling a stored procedure involves fixing any syntax errors in the code. You might need to do additional debugging to make sure that the procedure works correctly, performs well, and recovers from errors. Such debugging might involve:

  • Adding extra output statements to verify execution progress and check data values at certain points within the procedure.

  • Running a separate debugger to analyze execution in greater detail.

Oracle JDeveloper

Recent releases of Oracle JDeveloper have extensive features for debugging PL/SQL, Java, and multi-language programs. You can get Oracle JDeveloper as part of various Oracle product suites. Often, a more recent release is available as a download at

Oracle Procedure Builder and TEXT_IO Package

Oracle Procedure Builder is an advanced client/server debugger that transparently debugs your database applications. It lets you run PL/SQL procedures and triggers in a controlled debugging environment, and you can set breakpoints, list the values of variables, and perform other debugging tasks. Oracle Procedure Builder is part of the Oracle Developer tool set. It also provides the TEXT_IO package that is useful for printing debug information.


You can also debug stored procedures and triggers using the DBMS_OUTPUT supplied package. Put PUT and PUT_LINE statements in your code to output the value of variables and expressions to your terminal.

Privileges for Debugging PL/SQL and Java Stored Procedures

Starting with Oracle Database 10g, a new privilege model applies to debugging PL/SQL and Java code running within the database. This model applies whether you are using Oracle JDeveloper, Oracle Developer, or any of the various third-party PL/SQL or Java development environments, and it affects both the DBMS_DEBUG and DBMS_DEBUG_JDWP APIs.

For a session to connect to a debugger, the effective user at the time of the connect operation must have the DEBUG CONNECT SESSION system privilege. This effective user may be the owner of a definer's rights routine involved in making the connect call.

When a debugger becomes connected to a session, the session login user and the currently enabled session-level roles are fixed as the privilege environment for that debugging connection. Any DEBUG or EXECUTE privileges needed for debugging must be granted to that combination of user and roles.

  • To be able to display and change Java public variables or variables declared in a PL/SQL package specification, the debugging connection must be granted either EXECUTE or DEBUG privilege on the relevant code.

  • To be able to either display and change private variables or breakpoint and execute code lines step by step, the debugging connection must be granted DEBUG privilege on the relevant code


    The DEBUG privilege effectively allows a debugging session to do anything that the procedure being debugged could have done if that action had been included in its code.

In addition to these privilege requirements, the ability to stop on individual code lines and debugger access to variables are allowed only in code compiled with debug information generated. The PLSQL_DEBUG parameter and the DEBUG keyword on commands such as ALTER PACKAGE can be used to control whether the PL/SQL compiler includes debug information in its results. If it does not, variables will not be accessible, and neither stepping nor breakpoints will stop on code lines. The PL/SQL compiler will never generate debug information for code that has been obfuscated using the PL/SQL wrap utility.

See Also:

Oracle Database PL/SQL User's Guide and Reference, "Obfuscating PL/SQL Source Code"

The DEBUG ANY PROCEDURE system privilege is equivalent to the DEBUG privilege granted on all objects in the database. Objects owned by SYS are included if the value of the O7_DICTIONARY_ACCESSIBILITY parameter is TRUE.

A debug role mechanism is available to carry privileges needed for debugging that are not normally enabled in the session. Refer to the documentation on the DBMS_DEBUG and DBMS_DEBUG_JDWP packages for details on how to specify a debug role and any necessary related password.

The JAVADEBUGPRIV role carries the DEBUG CONNECT SESSION and DEBUG ANY PROCEDURE privileges. Grant it only with the care those privileges warrant.


Granting DEBUG ANY PROCEDURE privilege, or granting DEBUG privilege on any object owned by SYS, means granting complete rights to the database.

Writing Low-Level Debugging Code

If you are actually writing code that will be part of a debugger, you might need to use packages such as DBMS_DEBUG_JDWP or DBMS_DEBUG.


The DBMS_DEBUG_JDWP package, provided starting with Oracle9i Release 2, provides a framework for multi-language debugging that is expected to supersede the DBMS_DEBUG package over time. It is especially useful for programs that combine PL/SQL and Java.


The DBMS_DEBUG package, provided starting with Oracle8i, implements server-side debuggers and provides a way to debug server-side PL/SQL program units. Several of the debuggers available, such as Oracle Procedure Builder and various third-party vendor solutions, use this API.

See Also:

  • Oracle Procedure Builder Developer's Guide

  • Oracle Database PL/SQL Packages and Types Reference for more information about the DBMS_DEBUG and DBMS_OUTPUT packages and associated privileges

  • The Oracle JDeveloper documentation for information on using package DBMS_DEBUG_JDWP

  • Oracle Database SQL Reference for more details on privileges

  • The PL/SQL page at for information about writing low-level debug code

Calling Stored Procedures


You may need to set up data structures, similar to the following, for certain examples to work:
   Empno    NUMBER(4) NOT NULL,
   Ename    VARCHAR2(10),
   Job      VARCHAR2(9),
   Mgr      NUMBER(4),
   Hiredate DATE,
   Sal      NUMBER(7,2),
   Comm     NUMBER(7,2),
   Deptno   NUMBER(2));

      DELETE FROM Emp_tab WHERE Empno = Emp_id;

Procedures can be called from many different environments. For example:

  • A procedure can be called within the body of another procedure or a trigger.

  • A procedure can be interactively called by a user using an Oracle Database tool.

  • A procedure can be explicitly called within an application, such as a SQL*Forms or a precompiler application.

  • A stored function can be called from a SQL statement in a manner similar to calling a built-in SQL function, such as LENGTH or ROUND.

This section includes some common examples of calling procedures from within these environments.

A Procedure or Trigger Calling Another Procedure

A procedure or trigger can call another stored procedure. For example, included in the body of one procedure might be the following line:

. . .
Sal_raise(Emp_id, 200);
. . .

This line calls the Sal_raise procedure. Emp_id is a variable within the context of the procedure. Recursive procedure calls are allowed within PL/SQL: A procedure can call itself.

Interactively Calling Procedures From Oracle Database Tools

A procedure can be called interactively from an Oracle Database tool, such as SQL*Plus. For example, to call a procedure named SAL_RAISE, owned by you, you can use an anonymous PL/SQL block, as follows:

    Sal_raise(7369, 200);


Interactive tools, such as SQL*Plus, require you to follow these lines with a slash (/) to run the PL/SQL block.

An easier way to run a block is to use the SQL*Plus statement EXECUTE, which wraps BEGIN and END statements around the code you enter. For example:

EXECUTE Sal_raise(7369, 200);

Some interactive tools allow session variables to be created. For example, when using SQL*Plus, the following statement creates a session variable:

VARIABLE Assigned_empno NUMBER

After defined, any session variable can be used for the duration of the session. For example, you might run a function and capture the return value using a session variable:

EXECUTE :Assigned_empno := Hire_emp('JSMITH', 'President', 
   1032, SYSDATE, 5000, NULL, 10);
PRINT Assigned_empno;

See Also:

Calling Procedures within 3GL Applications

A 3GL database application, such as a precompiler or an OCI application, can include a call to a procedure within the code of the application.

To run a procedure within a PL/SQL block in an application, simply call the procedure. The following line within a PL/SQL block calls the Fire_emp procedure:


In this case, :Empno is a host (bind) variable within the context of the application.

To run a procedure within the code of a precompiler application, you must use the EXEC call interface. For example, the following statement calls the Fire_emp procedure in the code of a precompiler application:


See Also:

For information about calling PL/SQL procedures from within 3GL applications:

Name Resolution When Calling Procedures

References to procedures and packages are resolved according to the algorithm described in the "Rules for Name Resolution in SQL Statements" section of Chapter 2, "Designing Schema Objects".

Privileges Required to Execute a Procedure

If you are the owner of a standalone procedure or package, then you can run the standalone procedure or packaged procedure, or any public procedure or packaged procedure at any time, as described in the previous sections. If you want to run a standalone or packaged procedure owned by another user, then the following conditions apply:

  • You must have the EXECUTE privilege for the standalone procedure or package containing the procedure, or you must have the EXECUTE ANY PROCEDURE system privilege. If you are executing a remote procedure, then you must be granted the EXECUTE privilege or EXECUTE ANY PROCEDURE system privilege directly, not through a role.

  • You must include the name of the owner in the call. For example:Foot 1 

    EXECUTE Jward.Fire_emp (1043);
    EXECUTE Jward.Hire_fire.Fire_emp (1043); 
  • If the procedure is a definer's-rights procedure, then it runs with the privileges of the procedure owner. The owner must have all the necessary object privileges for any referenced objects.

  • If the procedure is an invoker's-rights procedure, then it runs with your privileges (as the invoker). In this case, you also need privileges on all referenced objects; that is, all objects accessed by the procedure through external references that are resolved in your schema. You may hold these privileges directly or through a role. Roles are enabled unless an invoker's-rights procedure is called directly or indirectly by a definer's-rights procedure.

Specifying Values for Procedure Arguments

When you call a procedure, specify a value or parameter for each of the procedure's arguments. Identify the argument values using either of the following methods, or a combination of both:

  • List the values in the order the arguments appear in the procedure declaration.

  • Specify the argument names and corresponding values, in any order.

For example, these statements each call the procedure Sal_raise to increase the salary of employee number 7369 by 500:

Sal_raise(7369, 500);

Sal_raise(Sal_incr=>500, Emp_id=>7369);

Sal_raise(7369, Sal_incr=>500);

The first statement identifies the argument values by listing them in the order in which they appear in the procedure specification.

The second statement identifies the argument values by name and in an order different from that of the procedure specification. If you use argument names, then you can list the arguments in any order.

The third statement identifies the argument values using a combination of these methods. If you use a combination of order and argument names, then values identified in order must precede values identified by name.

If you used the DEFAULT option to define default values for IN parameters to a subprogram (see the Oracle Database PL/SQL User's Guide and Reference),then you can pass different numbers of actual parameters to the first subprogram, accepting or overriding the default values as you please. If an actual value is not passed, then the corresponding default value is used. If you want to assign a value to an argument that occurs after an omitted argument (for which the corresponding default is used), then you must explicitly designate the name of the argument, as well as its value.

Calling Remote Procedures

Call remote procedures using an appropriate database link and the procedure name. The following SQL*Plus statement runs the procedure Fire_emp located in the database and pointed to by the local database link named BOSTON_SERVER:

EXECUTE fire_emp1@boston_server(1043);

See Also:

"Handling Errors in Remote Procedures" for information on exception handling when calling remote procedures

Remote Procedure Calls and Parameter Values

You must explicitly pass values to all remote procedure parameters, even if there are defaults. You cannot access remote package variables and constants.

Referencing Remote Objects

Remote objects can be referenced within the body of a locally defined procedure. The following procedure deletes a row from the remote employee table:

    DELETE FROM emp@boston_server WHERE empno = emp_id;

The following list explains how to properly call remote procedures, depending on the calling environment.

  • Remote procedures (standalone and packaged) can be called from within a procedure, an OCI application, or a precompiler application by specifying the remote procedure name, a database link, and the arguments for the remote procedure.

  • In the previous example, you could create a synonym for FIRE_EMP1@BOSTON_SERVER. This would enable you to call the remote procedure from an Oracle Database tool application, such as a SQL*Forms application, as well from within a procedure, OCI application, or precompiler application.

    CREATE SYNONYM synonym1 for  fire_emp1@boston_server;
  • If you do not want to use a synonym, then you could write a local cover procedure to call the remote procedure.

       arg NUMBER;

    Here, local_procedure is defined as in the first item of this list.


    Unlike stored procedures, which use compile-time binding, runtime binding is used when referencing remote procedures. The user account to which you connect depends on the database link.

All calls to remotely stored procedures are assumed to perform updates; therefore, this type of referencing always requires two-phase commit of that transaction (even if the remote procedure is read-only). Furthermore, if a transaction that includes a remote procedure call is rolled back, then the work done by the remote procedure is also rolled back.

A procedure called remotely can usually execute a COMMIT, ROLLBACK, or SAVEPOINT statement, the same as a local procedure. However, there are some differences in behavior:

  • If the transaction was originated by a non-Oracle database, as may be the case in XA applications, these operations are not allowed in the remote procedure.

  • After doing one of these operations, the remote procedure cannot start any distributed transactions of its own.

  • If the remote procedure does not commit or roll back its work, the commit is done implicitly when the database link is closed. In the meantime, further calls to the remote procedure are not allowed because it is still considered to be performing a transaction.

A distributed update modifies data on two or more databases. A distributed update is possible using a procedure that includes two or more remote updates that access data on different databases. Statements in the construct are sent to the remote databases, and the execution of the construct succeeds or fails as a unit. If part of a distributed update fails and part succeeds, then a rollback (of the entire transaction or to a savepoint) is required to proceed. Consider this when creating procedures that perform distributed updates.

Pay special attention when using a local procedure that calls a remote procedure. If a timestamp mismatch is found during execution of the local procedure, then the remote procedure is not run, and the local procedure is invalidated.

Synonyms for Procedures and Packages

Synonyms can be created for standalone procedures and packages to do the following:

  • Hide the identity of the name and owner of a procedure or package.

  • Provide location transparency for remotely stored procedures (standalone or within a package).

When a privileged user needs to call a procedure, an associated synonym can be used. Because the procedures defined within a package are not individual objects (the package is the object), synonyms cannot be created for individual procedures within a package.

Calling Stored Functions from SQL Expressions

You can include user-written PL/SQL functions in SQL expressions. (You must be using PL/SQL release 2.1 or higher.) By using PL/SQL functions in SQL statements, you can do the following:

  • Increase user productivity by extending SQL. Expressiveness of the SQL statement increases where activities are too complex, too awkward, or unavailable with SQL.

  • Increase query efficiency. Functions used in the WHERE clause of a query can filter data using criteria that would otherwise need to be evaluated by the application.

  • Manipulate character strings to represent special datatypes (for example, latitude, longitude, or temperature).

  • Provide parallel query execution: If the query is parallelized, then SQL statements in your PL/SQL function may also be run in parallel (using the parallel query option).

Using PL/SQL Functions

PL/SQL functions must be created as top-level functions or declared within a package specification before they can be named within a SQL statement. Stored PL/SQL functions are used in the same manner as built-in Oracle functions (such as SUBSTR or ABS).

PL/SQL functions can be placed wherever an Oracle function can be placed within a SQL statement, or, wherever expressions can occur in SQL. For example, they can be called from the following:

  • The select list of the SELECT statement.

  • The condition of the WHERE and HAVING clause.


  • The VALUES clause of the INSERT statement.

  • The SET clause of the UPDATE statement.

You cannot call stored PL/SQL functions from a CHECK constraint clause of a CREATE or ALTER TABLE statement or use them to specify a default value for a column. These situations require an unchanging definition.


Unlike functions, which are called as part of an expression, procedures are called as statements. Therefore, PL/SQL procedures are not directly callable from SQL statements. However, functions called from a PL/SQL statement or referenced in a SQL expression can call a PL/SQL procedure.

Syntax for SQL Calling a PL/SQL Function

Use the following syntax to reference a PL/SQL function from SQL:


For example, to reference a function you created that is called My_func, in the My_funcs_pkg package, in the Scott schema, that takes two numeric parameters, you could call the following:

SELECT Scott.My_funcs_pkg.My_func(10,20) FROM dual;

Naming Conventions

If only one of the optional schema or package names is given, then the first identifier can be either a schema name or a package name. For example, to determine whether Payroll in the reference Payroll.Tax_rate is a schema or package name, Oracle Database proceeds as follows:

  • Oracle Database first checks for the Payroll package in the current schema.

  • If the PAYROLL package is found in the current schema, then Oracle Database looks for a Tax_rate function in the Payroll package. If a Tax_rate function is not found in the Payroll package, then an error message is returned.

  • If a Payroll package is not found, then Oracle Database looks for a schema named Payroll that contains a top-level Tax_rate function. If the Tax_rate function is not found in the Payroll schema, then an error message is returned.

You can also refer to a stored top-level function using any synonym that you have defined for it.

Name Precedence

In SQL statements, the names of database columns take precedence over the names of functions with no parameters. For example, if schema Scott creates the following two objects:

CREATE TABLE Emp_tab(New_sal NUMBER ...);

Then, in the following two statements, the reference to New_sal refers to the column Emp_tab.New_sal:

SELECT New_sal FROM Emp_tab;
SELECT Emp_tab.New_sal FROM Emp_tab;

To access the function new_sal, enter the following:

SELECT Scott.New_sal FROM Emp_tab;
Example of Calling a PL/SQL Function from SQL

For example, to call the Tax_rate PL/SQL function from schema Scott, run it against the Ss_no and sal columns in Tax_table, and place the results in the variable Income_tax, specify the following:


You may need to set up data structures similar to the following for certain examples to work:
CREATE TABLE Tax_table (
   Ss_no  NUMBER,
   Sal    NUMBER);

   sal_out NUMBER;
      sal_out := salary * 1.1;

   Tax_id     NUMBER;
   Income_tax NUMBER;
   SELECT scott.tax_rate (Ss_no, Sal)
      INTO Income_tax
      FROM Tax_table
      WHERE Ss_no = Tax_id;

These sample calls to PL/SQL functions are allowed in SQL expressions:

scott.Payroll.Tax_rate@boston_server(Dependents, Empno)


To pass any number of arguments to a function, supply the arguments within the parentheses. You must use positional notation; named notation is not supported. For functions that do not accept arguments, use ().

Using Default Values

The stored function Gross_pay initializes two of its formal parameters to default values using the DEFAULT clause. For example:

    (Emp_id  IN NUMBER, 
     St_hrs  IN NUMBER DEFAULT 40, 

When calling Gross_pay from a procedural statement, you can always accept the default value of St_hrs. This is because you can use named notation, which lets you skip parameters. For example:

IF Gross_pay(Eenum, Ot_hrs => Otime) > Pay_limit 
THEN ... 

However, when calling Gross_pay from a SQL expression, you cannot accept the default value of St_hrs, unless you accept the default value of Ot_hrs. This is because you cannot use named notation.


To call a PL/SQL function from SQL, you must either own or have EXECUTE privileges on the function. To select from a view defined with a PL/SQL function, you must have SELECT privileges on the view. No separate EXECUTE privileges are necessary to select from the view.

Requirements for Calling PL/SQL Functions from SQL Expressions

To be callable from SQL expressions, a user-defined PL/SQL function must meet the following basic requirements:

  • It must be a stored function, not a function defined within a PL/SQL block or subprogram.

  • It must be a row function, not a column (group) function; in other words, it cannot take an entire column of data as its argument.

  • All its formal parameters must be IN parameters; none can be an OUT or IN OUT parameter.

  • The datatypes of its formal parameters must be Oracle built-in types, such as CHAR, DATE, or NUMBER, not PL/SQL types, such as BOOLEAN, RECORD, or TABLE.

  • Its return type (the datatype of its result value) must be an Oracle built-in type.

For example, the following stored function meets the basic requirements:


You may need to set up the following data structures for certain examples to work:
 Srate             NUMBER,
 Orate             NUMBER,
 Acctno            NUMBER);

      (Emp_id IN NUMBER, 
       St_hrs IN NUMBER DEFAULT 40, 
   St_rate  NUMBER; 
   Ot_rate  NUMBER; 

   SELECT Srate, Orate INTO St_rate, Ot_rate FROM Payroll 
      WHERE Acctno = Emp_id; 
   RETURN St_hrs * St_rate + Ot_hrs * Ot_rate; 
END Gross_pay; 

Controlling Side Effects

The purity of a stored subprogram (function or procedure) refers to the side effects of that subprogram on database tables or package variables. Side effects can prevent the parallelization of a query, yield order-dependent (and therefore, indeterminate) results, or require that package state be maintained across user sessions. Various side effects are not allowed when a subprogram is called from a SQL query or DML statement.

In releases prior to Oracle8i, Oracle Database leveraged the PL/SQL compiler to enforce restrictions during the compilation of a stored subprogram or a SQL statement. Starting with Oracle8i, the compile-time restrictions were relaxed, and a smaller set of restrictions are enforced during execution.

This change provides uniform support for stored subprograms written in PL/SQL, Java, and C, and it allows programmers the most flexibility possible.


When a SQL statement is run, checks are made to see if it is logically embedded within the execution of an already running SQL statement. This occurs if the statement is run from a trigger or from a subprogram that was in turn called from the already running SQL statement. In these cases, further checks occur to determine if the new SQL statement is safe in the specific context.

The following restrictions are enforced on subprograms:

  • A subprogram called from a query or DML statement may not end the current transaction, create or rollback to a savepoint, or ALTER the system or session.

  • A subprogram called from a query (SELECT) statement or from a parallelized DML statement may not execute a DML statement or otherwise modify the database.

  • A subprogram called from a DML statement may not read or modify the particular table being modified by that DML statement.

These restrictions apply regardless of what mechanism is used to run the SQL statement inside the subprogram or trigger. For example:

  • They apply to a SQL statement called from PL/SQL, whether embedded directly in a subprogram or trigger body, run using the native dynamic mechanism (EXECUTE IMMEDIATE), or run using the DBMS_SQL package.

  • They apply to statements embedded in Java with SQLJ syntax or run using JDBC.

  • They apply to statements run with OCI using the callback context from within an "external" C function.

You can avoid these restrictions if the execution of the new SQL statement is not logically embedded in the context of the already running statement. PL/SQL's autonomous transactions provide one escape (see "Autonomous Transactions" ). Another escape is available using Oracle Call Interface (OCI) from an external C function, if you create a new connection rather than using the handle available from the OCIExtProcContext argument.

Declaring a Function

You can use the keywords DETERMINISTIC and PARALLEL_ENABLE in the syntax for declaring a function. These are optimization hints that inform the query optimizer and other software components about the following:

  • Functions that need not be called redundantly

  • Functions permitted within a parallelized query or parallelized DML statement

Only functions that are DETERMINISTIC are allowed in function-based indexes and in certain snapshots and materialized views.

A deterministic function depends solely on the values passed into it as arguments and does not reference or modify the contents of package variables or the database or have other side-effects. Such a function produces the same result value for any combination of argument values passed into it.

You place the DETERMINISTIC keyword after the return value type in a declaration of the function. For example:

  RETURN P1 * 2; 

You may place this keyword in the following places:

  • On a function defined in a CREATE FUNCTION statement

  • In a function declaration in a CREATE PACKAGE statement

  • On a method declaration in a CREATE TYPE statement

You should not repeat the keyword on the function or method body in a CREATE PACKAGE BODY or CREATE TYPE BODY statement.

Certain performance optimizations occur on calls to functions that are marked DETERMINISTIC without any other action being required. The following features require that any function used with them be declared DETERMINISTIC:

  • Any user-defined function used in a function-based index.

  • Any function used in a materialized view, if that view is to qualify for Fast Refresh or is marked ENABLE QUERY REWRITE.

The preceding functions features attempt to use previously calculated results rather than calling the function when it is possible to do so.

Functions that fall in the following categories should typically be DETERMINISTIC:

  • Functions used in a WHERE, ORDER BY, or GROUP BY clause

  • Functions that MAP or ORDER methods of a SQL type

  • Functions that in any other way help determine whether or where a row should appear in a result set

Oracle Database cannot require that you should explicitly declare functions in the preceding categories as DETERMINISTIC without breaking existing applications, but the use of the keyword might be a wise choice of style within your application.

Keep the following points in mind when you create DETERMINISTIC functions:

  • The database cannot recognize if the behavior of the function is indeed deterministic. If the DETERMINISTIC keyword is applied to a function whose behavior is not truly deterministic, then the result of queries involving that function is unpredictable.

  • If you change the semantics of a DETERMINISTIC function and recompile it, then existing function-based indexes and materialized views report results for the prior version of the function. Thus, if you change the semantics of a function, you must manually rebuild any dependent function-based indexes and materialized views.

See Also:

Oracle Database SQL Reference for an account of CREATE FUNCTION restrictions

Parallel Query and Parallel DML

Oracle Database's parallel execution feature divides the work of executing a SQL statement across multiple processes. Functions called from a SQL statement which is run in parallel may have a separate copy run in each of these processes, with each copy called for only the subset of rows that are handled by that process.

Each process has its own copy of package variables. When parallel execution begins, these are initialized based on the information in the package specification and body as if a new user is logging into the system; the values in package variables are not copied from the original login session. And changes made to package variables are not automatically propagated between the various sessions or back to the original session. Java STATIC class attributes are similarly initialized and modified independently in each process. Because a function can use package (or Java STATIC) variables to accumulate some value across the various rows it encounters, Oracle Database cannot assume that it is safe to parallelize the execution of all user-defined functions.

For query (SELECT) statements in Oracle Database versions prior to 8.1.5, the parallel query optimization looked to see if a function was noted as RNPS and WNPS in a PRAGMA RESTRICT_REFERENCES declaration; those functions that were marked as both RNPS and WNPS could be run in parallel. Functions defined with a CREATE FUNCTION statement had their code implicitly examined to determine if they were pure enough; parallelized execution might occur even though a pragma cannot be specified on these functions.

For DML statements in Oracle Database versions prior to 8.1.5, the parallelization optimization looked to see if a function was noted as having all four of RNDS, WNDS, RNPS and WNPS specified in a PRAGMA RESTRICT_REFERENCES declaration; those functions that were marked as neither reading nor writing to either the database or package variables could run in parallel. Again, those functions defined with a CREATE FUNCTION statement had their code implicitly examined to determine if they were actually pure enough; parallelized execution might occur even though a pragma cannot be specified on these functions.

Oracle Database versions 8.1.5 and later continue to parallelize those functions that earlier versions recognize as parallelizable. The PARALLEL_ENABLE keyword is the preferred way to mark your code as safe for parallel execution. This keyword is syntactically similar to DETERMINISTIC as described in "Declaring a Function"; it is placed after the return value type in a declaration of the function, as in:

  RETURN P1 * 2; 

A PL/SQL function defined with CREATE FUNCTION may still be run in parallel without any explicit declaration that it is safe to do so, if the system can determine that it neither reads nor writes package variables nor calls any function that might do so. A Java method or C function is never seen by the system as safe to run in parallel, unless the programmer explicitly indicates PARALLEL_ENABLE on the "call specification", or provides a PRAGMA RESTRICT_REFERENCES indicating that the function is sufficiently pure.

An additional runtime restriction is imposed on functions run in parallel as part of a parallelized DML statement. Such a function is not permitted to in turn execute a DML statement; it is subject to the same restrictions that are enforced on functions that are run inside a query (SELECT) statement.

See Also:


PRAGMA RESTRICT_REFERENCES – for Backward Compatibility

In Oracle Database versions prior to 8.1.5 (Oracle8i), programmers used the pragma RESTRICT_REFERENCES to assert the purity level of a subprogram. In subsequent versions, use the hints parallel-enable and deterministic, instead, to communicate subprogram purity to Oracle Database.

You can remove RESTRICT_REFERENCES from your code. However, this pragma remains available for backward compatibility in situations where one of the following is true:

  • It is impossible or impractical to edit existing code to remove RESTRICT_REFERENCES completely. If you do not remove it from a subprogram S1 that depends on another subprogram S2, then RESTRICT_REFERENCES might also be needed in S2, so that S1 will compile.

  • Replacing RESTRICT_REFERENCES in existing code with hints parallel-enable and deterministic would negatively affect the behavior of new, dependent code. Use RESTRICT_REFERENCES to preserve the behavior of the existing code.

An existing PL/SQL application can thus continue using the pragma even on new functionality, to ease integration with the existing code. Do not use the pragma in a wholly new application.

If you use the pragma RESTRICT_REFERENCES, place it in a package specification, not in a package body. It must follow the declaration of a subprogram (function or procedure), but it need not follow immediately. Only one pragma can reference a given subprogram declaration.


The pragma RESTRICT_REFERENCES applies to both functions and procedures. Purity levels are important for functions, but also for procedures that are called by functions.

To code the pragma RESTRICT_REFERENCES, use the following syntax:

    Function_name, WNDS [, WNPS] [, RNDS] [, RNPS] [, TRUST] ); 


Keyword Description
WNDS The subprogram writes no database state (does not modify database tables).
RNDS The subprogram reads no database state (does not query database tables).
WNPS The subprogram writes no package state (does not change the values of packaged variables).
RNPS The subprogram reads no package state (does not reference the values of packaged variables).
TRUST The other restrictions listed in the pragma are not enforced; they are simply assumed to be true. This allows easy calling from functions that have RESTRICT_REFERENCES declarations to those that do not.

You can pass the arguments in any order. If any SQL statement inside the subprogram body violates a rule, then you get an error when the statement is parsed.

In the following example, the function compound neither reads nor writes database or package state; therefore, you can assert the maximum purity level. Always assert the highest purity level that a subprogram allows. That way, the PL/SQL compiler never rejects the subprogram unnecessarily.


You may need to set up the following data structures for certain examples here to work:
 Yrs      NUMBER,
 Amt      NUMBER,
 Acctno   NUMBER,
 Rte      NUMBER);

CREATE PACKAGE Finance AS  -- package specification 
   FUNCTION Compound 
         (Years  IN NUMBER, 
          Amount IN NUMBER, 
          Rate   IN NUMBER) RETURN NUMBER; 
END Finance; 
CREATE PACKAGE BODY Finance AS  --package body 
   FUNCTION Compound 
         (Years  IN NUMBER, 
          Amount IN NUMBER, 
      RETURN Amount * POWER((Rate / 100) + 1, Years); 
   END Compound; 
                   -- no pragma in package body 
END Finance; 

Later, you might call compound from a PL/SQL block, as follows:

   Interest NUMBER;
   Acct_id NUMBER;
   SELECT Finance.Compound(Yrs, Amt, Rte)  -- function call       
   INTO   Interest       
   FROM   Accounts       
   WHERE  Acctno = Acct_id; 
Using the Keyword TRUST

The keyword TRUST in the RESTRICT_REFERENCES syntax allows easy calling from functions that have RESTRICT_REFERENCES declarations to those that do not. When TRUST is present, the restrictions listed in the pragma are not actually enforced, but rather are simply assumed to be true.

When calling from a section of code that is using pragmas to one that is not, there are two likely usage styles. One is to place a pragma on the routine to be called, for example on a "call specification" for a Java method. Then, calls from PL/SQL to this method will complain if the method is less restricted than the calling subprogram. For example:

      LANGUAGE JAVA NAME 'CLASS1.METHODNAME(int) return int'; 

      RETURN F1(P1); 

Here, F2 can call F1, as F1 has been declared to be WNDS.

The other approach is to mark only the caller, which may then make a call to any subprogram without complaint. For example:

      LANGUAGE JAVA NAME 'CLASS1.METHODNAME(int) return int'; 
      RETURN F1(P1); 

Here, F2 can call F1 because while F2 is promised to be WNDS (because TRUST is specified), the body of F2 is not actually examined to determine if it truly satisfies the WNDS restriction. Because F2 is not examined, its call to F1 is allowed, even though there is no PRAGMA RESTRICT_REFERENCES for F1.

Differences between Static and Dynamic SQL Statements.

Static INSERT, UPDATE, and DELETE statements do not violate RNDS if these statements do not explicitly read any database states, such as columns of a table. However, dynamic INSERT, UPDATE, and DELETE statements always violate RNDS, regardless of whether or not the statements explicitly read database states.

The following INSERT violates RNDS if it is executed dynamically, but it does not violate RNDS if it is executed statically.

INSERT INTO my_table values(3, 'SCOTT'); 

The following UPDATE always violates RNDS statically and dynamically, because it explicitly reads the column name of my_table.

UPDATE my_table SET id=777 WHERE name='SCOTT';
Overloading Packaged PL/SQL Functions

PL/SQL lets you overload packaged (but not standalone) functions: You can use the same name for different functions if their formal parameters differ in number, order, or datatype family.

However, a RESTRICT_REFERENCES pragma can apply to only one function declaration. Therefore, a pragma that references the name of overloaded functions always applies to the nearest preceding function declaration.

In this example, the pragma applies to the second declaration of valid:


Serially Reusable PL/SQL Packages

PL/SQL packages usually consume user global area (UGA) memory corresponding to the number of package variables and cursors in the package. This limits scalability, because the memory increases linearly with the number of users. The solution is to allow some packages to be marked as SERIALLY_REUSABLE (using pragma syntax).

For serially reusable packages, the package global memory is not kept in the UGA for each user; rather, it is kept in a small pool and reused for different users. This means that the global memory for such a package is only used within a unit of work. At the end of that unit of work, the memory can therefore be released to the pool to be reused by another user (after running the initialization code for all the global variables).

The unit of work for serially reusable packages is implicitly a call to the server; for example, an OCI call to the server, or a PL/SQL RPC call from a client to a server, or an RPC call from a server to another server.

Package States

The state of a nonreusable package (one not marked SERIALLY_REUSABLE) persists for the lifetime of a session. A package state includes global variables, cursors, and so on.

The state of a serially reusable package persists only for the lifetime of a call to the server. On a subsequent call to the server, if a reference is made to the serially reusable package, then Oracle Database creates a new instantiation of the serially reusable package and initializes all the global variables to NULL or to the default values provided. Any changes made to the serially reusable package state in the previous calls to the server are not visible.


Creating a new instantiation of a serially reusable package on a call to the server does not necessarily imply that Oracle Database allocates memory or configures the instantiation object. Oracle Database looks for an available instantiation work area (which is allocated and configured) for this package in a least-recently used (LRU) pool in the SGA.

At the end of the call to the server, this work area is returned back to the LRU pool. The reason for keeping the pool in the SGA is that the work area can be reused across users who have requests for the same package.

Why Serially Reusable Packages?

Because the state of a non-reusable package persists for the lifetime of the session, this locks up UGA memory for the whole session. In applications, such as Oracle Office, a log-on session can typically exist for days together. Applications often need to use certain packages only for certain localized periods in the session and would ideally like to de-instantiate the package state in the middle of the session, after they are done using the package.

With SERIALLY_REUSABLE packages, application developers have a way of modelling their applications to manage their memory better for scalability. Package state that they care about only for the duration of a call to the server should be captured in SERIALLY_REUSABLE packages.

Syntax of Serially Reusable Packages

A package can be marked serially reusable by a pragma. The syntax of the pragma is:


A package specification can be marked serially reusable, whether or not it has a corresponding package body. If the package has a body, then the body must have the serially reusable pragma, if its corresponding specification has the pragma; it cannot have the serially reusable pragma unless the specification also has the pragma.

Semantics of Serially Reusable Packages

A package that is marked SERIALLY_REUSABLE has the following properties:

  • Its package variables are meant for use only within the work boundaries, which correspond to calls to the server (either OCI call boundaries or PL/SQL RPC calls to the server).


    If the application programmer makes a mistake and depends on a package variable that is set in a previous unit of work, then the application program can fail. PL/SQL cannot check for such cases.

  • A pool of package instantiations is kept, and whenever a "unit of work" needs this package, one of the instantiations is "reused", as follows:

    • The package variables are reinitialized (for example, if the package variables have default values, then those values are reinitialized).

    • The initialization code in the package body is run again.

  • At the "end work" boundary, cleanup is done.

    • If any cursors were left open, then they are silently closed.

    • Some non-reusable secondary memory is freed (such as memory for collection variables or long VARCHAR2s).

    • This package instantiation is returned back to the pool of reusable instantiations kept for this package.

  • Serially reusable packages cannot be accessed from database triggers or other PL/SQL subprograms that are called from SQL statements. If you try, then Oracle Database generates an error.

Examples of Serially Reusable Packages

This section presents a few examples of serially reusable packages.

Example 1: How Package Variables Act Across Call Boundaries

This example has a serially reusable package specification (there is no body).

CONNECT Scott/Tiger 

  N NUMBER := 5;                -- default initialization 
END Sr_pkg; 

Suppose your Enterprise Manager (or SQL*Plus) application issues the following:

CONNECT Scott/Tiger 

# first CALL to server 
   Sr_pkg.N := 10; 

# second CALL to server 

This program prints:



If the package had not had the pragma SERIALLY_REUSABLE, the program would have printed '10'.

Example 2: How Package Variables Act Across Call Boundaries

This example has both a package specification and package body, which are serially reusable.

CONNECT Scott/Tiger 

   Num     NUMBER        := 10;
   Str     VARCHAR2(200) := 'default-init-str';
   Str_tab STR_TABLE_TYPE;
    PROCEDURE Print_pkg;
    PROCEDURE Init_and_print_pkg(N NUMBER, V VARCHAR2);
END Sr_pkg;
   -- the body is required to have the pragma because the
  -- specification of this package has the pragma
   PROCEDURE Print_pkg IS
      DBMS_OUTPUT.PUT_LINE('num: ' || Sr_pkg.Num);
      DBMS_OUTPUT.PUT_LINE('str: ' || Sr_pkg.Str);
      DBMS_OUTPUT.PUT_LINE('number of table elems: ' || Sr_pkg.Str_tab.Count);
      FOR i IN 1..Sr_pkg.Str_tab.Count LOOP
      END LOOP;
   PROCEDURE Init_and_print_pkg(N NUMBER, V VARCHAR2) IS
   -- init the package globals
      Sr_pkg.Num := N;
      Sr_pkg.Str := V;
      FOR i IN 1..n LOOP
         Sr_pkg.Str_tab(i) := V || ' ' || i;
   -- print the package
 END Sr_pkg;


Rem SR package access in a CALL:

   -- initialize and print the package
   DBMS_OUTPUT.PUT_LINE('Initing and printing pkg state..');
   Sr_pkg.Init_and_print_pkg(4, 'abracadabra');
   -- print it in the same call to the server.
   -- we should see the initialized values.
   DBMS_OUTPUT.PUT_LINE('Printing package state in the same CALL...');

Initing and printing pkg state..
num: 4
str: abracadabra
number of table elems: 4
abracadabra 1
abracadabra 2
abracadabra 3
abracadabra 4
Printing package state in the same CALL...
num: 4
str: abracadabra
number of table elems: 4
abracadabra 1
abracadabra 2
abracadabra 3
abracadabra 4

REM SR package access in subsequent CALL:
   -- print the package in the next call to the server. 
   -- We should that the package state is reset to the initial (default) values.
   DBMS_OUTPUT.PUT_LINE('Printing package state in the next CALL...');
Statement processed.
Printing package state in the next CALL...
num: 10
str: default-init-str
number of table elems: 0
Example 3: Open Cursors in Serially Reusable Packages at Call Boundaries

This example demonstrates that any open cursors in serially reusable packages get closed automatically at the end of a work boundary (which is a call). Also, in a new call, these cursors need to be opened again.

REM  For serially reusable pkg: At the end work boundaries
REM  (which is currently the OCI call boundary) all open
REM  cursors will be closed.
REM  Because the cursor is closed - every time we fetch we 
REM  will start at the first row again. 

CONNECT Scott/Tiger
CREATE TABLE People (Name VARCHAR2(20));
END Sr_pkg;
Name VARCHAR2(200);
   IF (Sr_pkg.C%ISOPEN) THEN
      DBMS_OUTPUT.PUT_LINE('cursor is already open.');
      DBMS_OUTPUT.PUT_LINE('cursor is closed; opening now.');
      OPEN Sr_pkg.C;
   END IF;
   -- fetching from cursor.
   FETCH sr_pkg.C INTO name;
   DBMS_OUTPUT.PUT_LINE('fetched: ' || Name);
   FETCH Sr_pkg.C INTO name;
   DBMS_OUTPUT.PUT_LINE('fetched: ' || Name);
   -- Oops forgot to close the cursor (Sr_pkg.C).
   -- But, because it is a Serially Reusable pkg's cursor, 
   -- it will be closed at the end of this CALL to the server.
EXECUTE fetch_from_cursor;
cursor is closed; opening now.
fetched: ET
fetched: RAMBO

Returning Large Amounts of Data from a Function

In a data warehousing environment, you might use a PL/SQL function to transform large amounts of data. Perhaps the data is passed through a series of transformations, each performed by a different function. PL/SQL table functions let you perform such transformations without significant memory overhead or the need to store the data in tables between each transformation stage. These functions can accept and return multiple rows, can return rows as they are ready rather than all at once, and can be parallelized.

In this technique:

  • The producer function uses the PIPELINED keyword in its declaration.

  • The producer function uses an OUT parameter that is a record, corresponding to a row in the result set.

  • As each output record is completed, it is sent to the consumer function using the PIPE ROW keyword.

  • The producer function ends with a RETURN statement that does not specify any return value.

  • The consumer function or SQL statement uses the TABLE keyword to treat the resulting rows like a regular table.

For example:

CREATE FUNCTION StockPivot(p refcur_pkg.refcur_t) RETURN TickerTypeSet PIPELINED IS
  out_rec TickerType := TickerType(NULL,NULL,NULL);
  in_rec p%ROWTYPE;
-- Function accepts multiple rows through a REF CURSOR argument.
    FETCH p INTO in_rec;
-- Return value is a record type that matches the table definition.
    out_rec.ticker := in_rec.Ticker;
    out_rec.PriceType := 'O';
    out_rec.price := in_rec.OpenPrice;
-- Once a result row is ready, we send it back to the calling program,
-- and continue processing.
    PIPE ROW(out_rec);
-- This function outputs twice as many rows as it receives as input.
    out_rec.PriceType := 'C';
    out_rec.Price := in_rec.ClosePrice;
    PIPE ROW(out_rec);
  CLOSE p;
-- The function ends with a RETURN statement that does not specify any value.

-- Here we use the result of this function in a SQL query.

-- Here we use the result of this function in a PL/SQL block.
  total NUMBER := 0;
  price_type VARCHAR2(1);
  FOR item IN (SELECT * FROM TABLE(StockPivot(CURSOR(SELECT * FROM StockTable))))
-- Access the values of each output row.
-- We know the column names based on the declaration of the output type.
-- This computation is just for illustration.
    total := total + item.price;
    price_type := item.price_type;

Coding Your Own Aggregate Functions

To analyze a set of rows and compute a result value, you can code your own aggregate function that works the same as a built-in aggregate like SUM:

  • Define a SQL object type that defines these member functions:

    • ODCIAggregateInitialize

    • ODCIAggregateIterate

    • ODCIAggregateMerge

    • ODCIAggregateTerminate

  • Code the member functions. In particular, ODCIAggregateIterate accumulates the result as it is called once for each row that is processed. Store any intermediate results using the attributes of the object type.

  • Create the aggregate function, and associate it with the new object type.

  • Call the aggregate function from SQL queries, DML statements, or other places that you might use the built-in aggregates. You can include typical options such as DISTINCT and ALL in the calls to the aggregate function.

See Also:

Oracle Database Data Cartridge Developer's Guide for details of this process and the requirements for the member functions

Footnote Legend

Footnote 1: You may need to set up the following data structures for certain examples to work: CONNECT SYS/password AS SYSDBA;CREATE USER Jward IDENTIFIED BY Jward;GRANT CREATE ANY PACKAGE TO Jward;GRANT CREATE SESSION TO Jward;GRANT EXECUTE ANY PROCEDURE TO Jward;CONNECT Scott/Tiger