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Oracle® Database Express Edition 2 Day Developer Guide
10g Release 2 (10.2)

Part Number B25108-01
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A Using SQL Command Line

This section provides an introduction to SQL Command Line (SQL*Plus), an interactive and batch command-line query tool that is installed with Oracle Database Express Edition.

This section contains the following topics:

For information about running SQL language statements, see Chapter 3, "Using SQL".

See Also:

Overview of SQL Command Line

SQL Command Line (SQL*Plus) is a command-line tool for accessing Oracle Database XE. It enables you to enter and run SQL, PL/SQL, and SQL*Plus commands and statements to:

You can use SQL Command Line to generate reports interactively, to generate reports as batch processes, and to write the results to a text file, to a screen, or to an HTML file for browsing on the Internet.

Using SQL Command Line

This section describes SQL Command Line (SQL*Plus), a command-line utility to run SQL and PL/SQL.

This contains the following topics:


Before starting SQL Command Line, make sure that the necessary environmental variables have been set up properly. See Oracle Database Express Edition 2 Day DBA for information about setting environmental variables for SQL Command Line.

Starting and Exiting SQL Command Line

To start SQL Command Line from the operating-system command prompt, enter the following:


When prompted, enter the username and password of the user account (schema) that you want to access in the local database. For example, enter HR for the username and my_hr_password for the password when prompted.

You can also include the username and password when you start SQL Command Line. For example:

sqlplus hr/my_hr_password

If you want to connect to a database running on a remote system, you need to include a connect string when starting SQL Command Line. For example:

sqlplus hr/my_hr_password@host_computer_name

After you have started SQL Command Line, the SQL> prompt displays as follows:


At the SQL> prompt, you can enter SQL statements.

When you want to exit SQL Command Line, enter EXIT at the SQL prompt, as follows:


Displaying Help With SQL Command Line

To display a list of Help topics for SQL Command Line, enter HELP INDEX at the SQL prompt as follows:


From the list of SQL Command Line Help topics, you can display Help about an individual topic by entering HELP with a topic name. For example, the following displays Help about the SQL Command Line COLUMN command, which enables you to format column output:


Entering and Executing SQL Statements and Commands

To enter and execute SQL statements or commands, enter the statement or command at the SQL prompt. At the end of a SQL statement, put a semi-colon (;) and then press the Enter key to execute the statement. For example:

SQL> SELECT * FROM employees;

If the statement does not fit on one line, enter the first line and press the Enter key. Continue entering lines, and terminate the last line with a semi-colon (;). For example:

SQL> SELECT employee_id, first_name, last_name
  2  FROM employees
  3  WHERE employee_id >= 105 AND employee_id <= 110;

The output from the previous SELECT statement is similar to:

----------- -------------------- -----------------------
        105 David                Austin
        106 Valli                Pataballa
        107 Diana                Lorentz
        108 Nancy                Greenberg
        109 Daniel               Faviet
        110 John                 Chen
6 rows selected.

Note that a terminating semi-colon (;) is optional with SQL Command Line commands, such as DESCRIBE o r SET, but required with SQL statements.

SQL Command Line DESCRIBE Command

SQL Command Line provides the DESCRIBE command to display a description of a database object. For example, the following displays the structure of the employees table. This description is useful when constructing SQL statements that manipulate the employees table.

SQL> DESCRIBE employees
Name                                        Null? Type
---------------------------------------- -------- ------------
EMPLOYEE_ID                              NOT NULL NUMBER(6)
FIRST_NAME                                        VARCHAR2(20)
LAST_NAME                                NOT NULL VARCHAR2(25)
EMAIL                                    NOT NULL VARCHAR2(25)
PHONE_NUMBER                                      VARCHAR2(20)
HIRE_DATE                                NOT NULL DATE
JOB_ID                                   NOT NULL VARCHAR2(10)
SALARY                                            NUMBER(8,2)
COMMISSION_PCT                                    NUMBER(2,2)
MANAGER_ID                                        NUMBER(6)
DEPARTMENT_ID                                     NUMBER(4)

SQL Command Line SET Commands

The SQL Command Line SET commands can be used to specify various SQL Command Line settings, such as the format of the output from SQL SELECT statements. For example, the following SET commands specify the number of lines for each page and the number of characters for each line in the output:


To enable output from PL/SQL blocks with DBMS_OUTPUT.PUT_LINE, use the following:


To view all the settings, enter the following at the SQL prompt:


For information about the SQL Command Line SERVEROUTPUT setting to display output from a PL/SQL program, see "Inputting and Outputting Data with PL/SQL".

See Also:

SQL*Plus User's Guide and Reference for information about setting up the SQL Command Line environment with a login file

Running Scripts From SQL Command Line

You can use a text editor to create SQL Command Line script files that contain SQL*Plus, SQL, and PL/SQL statements. For consistency, use the .sql extension for the script file name.

A SQL script file is executed with a START or @ command. For example, in a Windows environment, you can execute a SQL script as follows:

SQL> @c:\my_scripts\my_sql_script.sql

A SQL script file can be executed in a Linux environment as follows:

SQL> START /home/cjones/my_scripts/my_sql_script.sql

You can use SET ECHO ON to cause a script to echo each statement that is executed. You can use SET TERMOUT OFF to prevent the script output from displaying on the screen.

When running a script, you need to include the full path name unless the script is located in the directory from which SQL Command Line was started, or the script is located in the default script location specified by the SQLPATH environment variable.

See Also:

Spooling From SQL Command Line

The SPOOL command can be used to direct the output from SQL Command Line to a disk file, which enables you to save the output for future review.

To start spooling the output to an operating system file, you enter the SPOOL command followed by a file name. For example:

SQL> SPOOL my_log_file.log

If you want to append the output to an existing file:

SQL> SPOOL my_log_file.log APPEND

To stop spooling and close a file, enter the following:


Using Variables With SQL Command Line

You can create queries that use variables to make SELECT statements more flexible. You can define the variable before running a SQL statement, or you specify that the statement prompts for a variable value at the time that the SQL statement is run.

When using a variable in a SQL statement, the variable name must be begin with an ampersand (&).

This section contains the following topics:

For information about using bind variables in PL/SQL code, see "Using Bind Variables With PL/SQL".

Prompting for a Variable Value in a Query

You can use & to identify a variable that you want to define dynamically. In Example A-1, including the &employee_id variable causes the SQL statement to prompt for a value when the statement is executed. You can then enter a value for the employee_id that corresponds to the employee information that you want to display, such as employee ID 125. Note that you can use any name for the variable, such as &my_variable.

Example A-1 Prompting for a Variable Value in SQL Command Line

-- prompt for employee_id in a query, you need to enter a valid ID such as 125
SELECT employee_id, last_name, job_id FROM employees 
  WHERE employee_id = &employee_id;

When you run the previous SELECT statement, the output is similar to:

Enter value for employee_id: 125
----------- ------------------------- ----------
        125 Nayer                     ST_CLERK

Reusing a Variable Value in a Query

You can use && to identify a variable that you want to define dynamically multiple times, but only want to prompt the user once. In Example A-2, including the &&column_name variable causes the SQL statement to prompt for a value when the statement is executed. The value that is entered is substituted for all remaining occurrences of &&column_name in the SQL statement.

Example A-2 Reusing a Variable Value in SQL Command Line

-- prompt for a column name, such as job_id, which is then substituted in the
-- remaining identical substitution variables prefixed with &&
SELECT employee_id, last_name, &&column_name FROM employees
  ORDER BY &&column_name;

Defining a Variable Value for a Query

In Example A-3, the &job_id variable is defined before running the SQL statement with the DEFINE command, and the defined value is substituted for the variable when the statement is executed. Because the variable has already been defined, you are not prompted to enter a value.

Example A-3 Defining a Variable for a Query in SQL Command Line

-- define a variable value for a query as follows
DEFINE job_id = "ST_CLERK"
-- run a query using the defined value for job_id (ST_CLERK)
SELECT employee_id, last_name FROM employees WHERE job_id = '&job_id';