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Oracle® Call Interface Programmer's Guide
11g Release 2 (11.2)

Part Number E10646-06
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18 OCI Navigational and Type Functions

This chapter describes the OCI navigational functions that are used to navigate through objects retrieved from an Oracle database. It also contains the descriptions of the functions that are used to obtain type descriptor objects (TDOs).

See Also:

For code examples, see the demonstration programs included with your Oracle Database installation. For additional information, see Appendix B.

This chapter contains these topics:

Introduction to the Navigational and Type Functions

In an object navigational paradigm, data is represented as a graph of objects connected by references. Objects in the graph are reached by following the references. OCI provides a navigational interface to objects in an Oracle database. Those calls are described in this chapter.

The OCI object environment is initialized when the application calls OCIInitialize() in OCI_OBJECT mode.

See Also:

Chapter 11 and Chapter 14 for more information about using the calls in this chapter

Object Types and Lifetimes

An object instance is an occurrence of a type defined in an Oracle database. This section describes how an object instance can be represented in OCI. In OCI, an object instance can be classified based on the type, the lifetime, and referenceability:

  • A persistent object is an instance of an object type. A persistent object resides in a row of a table in the server and can exist longer than the duration of a session (connection). Persistent objects can be identified by object references that contain the object identifiers. A persistent object is obtained by pinning its object reference.

  • A transient object is an instance of an object type. A transient object cannot exist longer than the duration of a session, and it is used to contain temporary computing results. Transient objects can also be identified by references that contain transient object identifiers.

  • A value is an instance of a user-defined type (object type or collection type) or any built-in Oracle type. Unlike objects, values of object types are identified by memory pointers, rather than by references.

A value can be standalone or embedded. A standalone value is usually obtained by issuing a select statement. OCI also allows the client program to select a row of object table into a value by issuing a SQL statement. A referenceable object in the database can be represented as a value that cannot be identified by a reference. A standalone value can also be an out-of-line attribute in an object, such as VARCHAR or RAW, or an out-of-line element in a collection, such as VARCHAR, RAW, or object.

An embedded value is physically included in a containing instance. An embedded value can be an inline attribute in an object (such as number or nested object), or an inline element in a collection.

All values are considered to be transient by OCI, which means that OCI does not support automatic flushing of a value to the database, and the client must explicitly execute a SQL statement to store a value into the database. Embedded values are flushed when their containing instances are flushed.

Figure 18-1 shows how instances can be classified according to their type and lifetime. The type can be an object or the value of an object. The lifetime can be persistent (can exist longer than the duration of a session) or transient (can exist no long than the duration of the session).

Figure 18-1 Classification of Instances by Type and Lifetime

Description of Figure 18-1 follows
Description of "Figure 18-1 Classification of Instances by Type and Lifetime"

The distinction between various instances is further described in Table 18-1.

Table 18-1 Type and Lifetime of Instances

Characteristic Persistent Object Transient Object Value


object type

object type

object type, built-in, collection

Maximum Lifetime

until object is deleted












The remainder of this chapter uses the following terms:

  • An object is generally used to refer to a persistent object, a transient object, a standalone value of object type, or an embedded value of object type.

  • A referenceable object refers to a persistent object or a transient object.

  • A standalone object refers to a persistent object, a transient object, or a standalone value of object type.

  • An embedded object refers to a embedded value of object type.

  • An object is dirty if it has been created (newed), marked as updated, or marked as deleted.

    See Also:

    "Persistent Objects, Transient Objects, and Values" for further discussion of the terms used to refer to different types of objects

Conventions for OCI Functions

The entries for each function contain the following information:


A brief description of what the function does.


The function declaration.


A description of each of the function's parameters. This includes the parameter's mode. The mode of a parameter has three possible values, as described in Table 18-2.

Table 18-2 Mode of a Parameter

Mode Description


A parameter that passes data to the OCI


A parameter that receives data from the OCI on this call


A parameter that passes data on the call and receives data on the return from this or a subsequent call


Detailed information about the function (if available). This may include restrictions on the use of the function, or other information that might be useful when using the function in an application.


A description of what value is returned by the function if the function returns something other than the standard return codes listed in Table 18-3.

Related Functions

A list of related calls that may provide additional useful information.

Navigational Function Return Values

Table 18-3 lists the values that OCI navigational functions typically return.

Table 18-3 Return Values of Navigational Functions

Return Value Meaning


The operation succeeded.


The operation failed. The specific error can be retrieved by calling OCIErrorGet() on the error handle passed to the function.


The OCI handle passed to the function is invalid.

Function-specific return information follows the description of each function in this chapter. Information about specific error codes returned by each function is presented in the following section.

See Also:

"Error Handling in OCI" for more information about return codes and error handling

Server Round-Trips for Cache and Object Functions

For a table showing the number of server round-trips required for individual OCI cache and object functions, see Table C-3.

Navigational Function Error Codes

Table 18-4 lists the external Oracle error codes that can be returned by each of the OCI navigational functions. The list following the table identifies what each error represents.

Table 18-4 OCI Navigational Functions Error Codes

Function Possible ORA Errors


24350, 21560, 21705


24350, 21560, 21705


24350, 21560, 21705


24350, 21560, 21705


24350, 21560, 21705


24350, 21560


24350, 21560, 21705, 21710


24350, 21560, 21710


24350, 21560, 21701, 21703, 21708, 21710


24350, 21560, 21603, 21710


21560, 21600, 22305


24350, 21560, 21710


24350, 21560, 21710


24350, 21560, 21710


24350, 21560, 21710


24350, 21560, 21710


24350, 21560, 21701, 21708, 21710


24350, 21560, 21701, 21708, 21710


24350, 21560, 21700, 21701, 21702, 21710


24350, 21560


24350, 21560, 21700, 21701, 21710


24350, 21560, 21705, 21710


24350, 21560, 21700, 21702


24350, 21560, 21710


24350, 21560, 21705


24350, 21560, 21709, 21710


21560, 21600, 22305, 22279, 21601


24350, 21560, 21710


24350, 21560


24350, 21560, 21710

The ORA errors in Table 18-4 have the following meanings.

  • ORA-21560 - name argument should not be NULL

  • ORA-21600 - path expression too long

  • ORA-21601 - attribute is not an instance of user-defined type

  • ORA-21603 - cannot free a dirtied persistent object

  • ORA-21700 - object does not exist or has been deleted

  • ORA-21701 - invalid object

  • ORA-21702 - object is not instantiated in the cache

  • ORA-21703 - cannot flush an object that is not modified

  • ORA-21704 - cannot terminate cache or connection without flushing

  • ORA-21705 - service context is invalid

  • ORA-21708 - operations cannot be performed on a transient object

  • ORA-21709 - operations can only be performed on a current object

  • ORA-21710 - invalid pointer or value passed to the function

  • ORA-22279 - cannot perform operation with LOB buffering enabled

  • ORA-22305 - name argument is invalid

  • ORA-24350 - this OCI call is not allowed from external subroutines