Application Development

Chapter 29 . Reading Information from the Database

The database interface provides access to a database engine through one of Panther's database drivers. You can enter SQL statements using the SQL syntax supported by your database engine. With the database interface, you also have access to a series of commands to help you return the information to Panther variables. These commands are included in each of Panther's database drivers and can be used in either JPL procedures or C functions.

A Panther application receives two types of information from a database:

This chapter discusses how this information flows from one or more databases to variables in a Panther application, in particular the destination and format of data returned by SQL SELECT statements. For information about error and status codes, refer to Chapter 37, "Processing Application Errors."

The SQL SELECT statements would be part of a client screen in a two-tier application and a service component in a three-tier application. In a three-tier application, client screens obtain database information by sending service requests to the application server. For information about writing service requests in a JetNet or Oracle Tuxedo application, refer to Chapter 5, "Defining Services in JetNet and Oracle Tuxedo Applications," in the JetNet/Oracle Tuxedo Guide.

An application can also receive data as the result of executing a stored procedure. Since all engines do not support stored procedures, and the syntax of commands varies among those that do, refer to the Database Drivers for more information.

The information on how data is mapped to Panther variables also applies to processing in the transaction manager even though most of the examples in this chapter use the DBMS QUERY command to construct the SQL SELECT statements.

Fetching Data Using SELECT Statements

When a SELECT statement is passed to an engine, Panther performs several steps before transferring data to Panther variables.

  1. Panther counts the number of columns in the query and records information on each column's name, length, and data type, noting whether it is a character, date or numeric data type.
  2. For each column, it searches for a Panther variable destination. If a destination exists, Panther records the length of the variable. If no Panther destination exists for a column, or if the destination is an LDB variable with initial content, Panther does no fetches for the column. Refer to the following section for more information on Panther destinations.
  3. It determines the number of rows to fetch. This number usually equals the number of occurrences in the smallest Panther destination variable, or 0 if there are no target variables. Refer to "Fetching Multiple Rows" for more information.
  4. Finally, Panther formats data before writing it to the destination variables if the database column has a date data type, or if the destination variable has a null, currency, or precision property specification. Refer to "Format of Select Results" for more information.

The sequence above describes a SQL SELECT that writes database column values to occurrences of a widget, JPL variable, or LDB variable. You can also direct the results of a SELECT to a text file or concatenate all the values in a row to a single Panther variable. Refer to page 29-19 for more information.

Targets for a SELECT Statement

For an application to retrieve data from a database, there must be an unambiguous mapping between a selected database column and its Panther destination. There are two ways of associating Panther target variables with database columns.

Automatic Mapping

By default when executing a SELECT statement, Panther will search for variables with the same names as the specified columns. These Panther variables can be widgets, JPL variables, or LDB variables. For the statement,

DBMS QUERY SELECT title_id, name, pricecat FROM titles

to return values to Panther variables, the table titles must have at least three columns: title_id, name, and pricecat. If any of these columns does not exist in the table titles, the engine returns an error.

The application can have a Panther destination variable for none, some, or every named column in the SQL SELECT statement. To return the values of all three columns to the application, there must be a Panther variable for each column. The variables can be named title_id, name and pricecat. If one of these variables does not exist, Panther ignores the values belonging to that particular column.

Panther also permits the use of the * in the SELECT statement,


Using automatic mapping, Panther looks for a variable for each column in the table titles. Columns without matching variables are simply ignored. This is not treated as an error.

using qualified column names

You can use one or more qualified column names in SELECT statements. For example,

DBMS QUERY SELECT titles.title_id,, 
titles.pricecat FROM titles

The Panther targets, however, must be given unqualified names: title_id, name, and pricecat.

matching the engine's case flag

When using automatic mapping, the case of the Panther variable names should correspond to the case flag used in the engine initialization. If the engine's case flag is DM_FORCE_TO_LOWER_CASE, the Panther variables for a SELECT statement should have lower case names. If the case flag is DM_FORCE_TO_UPPER_CASE, the Panther variables should have upper case names. If the case flag is DM_PRESERVE_CASE, the Panther variables should match the exact case of the database columns. For information on a particular engine's case flag, refer to the Database Drivers.


Aliasing is used when automatic mapping is inconvenient or impossible to use. In particular, aliasing is necessary when selecting any of the following:

Aliasing is not limited to these conditions. Any or all columns can be aliased if desired. For example, you can alias a column if its name is not descriptive or if you wish to name target variables for a particular table and column.

Panther provides the command DBMS ALIAS to specify aliases. On some engines, you can also use the engine's SELECT syntax to specify aliases.


DBMS ALIAS is associated with a SELECT cursor, either a named cursor or the default SELECT cursor. If a cursor is not named, the aliases affect all SELECT statements executed with the default cursor. You can assign aliases by name or by position. The following syntax aliases a column name to a Panther variable:

DBMS [ WITH CURSOR cursor-name ] ALIAS column1 prol-var1 \
[, column2 prol-var2 ... ]

The following syntax aliases a column position to a Panther variable:

DBMS [ WITH CURSOR cursor-name ] ALIAS prol-var1 \
[, prol-var2 ... ]

Only one DBMS ALIAS statement can apply at any one time to any named or default cursor. In that statement, either named or positional aliasing can be used, but both forms can not be used in a single DBMS ALIAS statement.

turning off aliasing

To turn off aliasing, execute DBMS ALIAS without any arguments. Again, if a cursor name is given, aliasing is turned off on the named cursor. If no cursor name is given, aliasing is turned off on the default cursor.

The case of the column names in the DBMS ALIAS statement should correspond to the case flag used in the engine initialization. If the engine's case flag is DM_FORCE_TO_LOWER_CASE, the column names should be in lower case. If the case flag is DM_FORCE_TO_UPPER_CASE, the column names should be upper case. If the case flag is DM_PRESERVE_CASE, the column names should use the exact case of the database columns. The case of prol-var should always match the exact case of the Panther variable name. For information on a particular engine's case flag, refer to the Database Drivers.

If an application aliases a column to a Panther variable that does not exist, Panther ignores the column's values. This is not treated as an error.

Aliasing by Column Names

First, consider an example that aliases column names to Panther variables. For example:

DBMS ALIAS first_name first, last_name last
DBMS QUERY SELECT cust_id, first_name, last_name FROM customers

Panther writes the values from the column first_name to the variable first and it writes the values of column last_name to the variable last. Since no alias was given for cust_id, it maps it to a variable of the same name. This is illustrated in Figure 29-1.

Figure 29-1 The mapping of a SELECT statement when aliases are used.

Aliases can also be given after declaring a named cursor. For example:

cust#, member_date, member_status FROM customers
DBMS WITH CURSOR cust_cursor ALIAS "cust#" cust_num

Since cust# is not a legal Panther variable name, the application must declare an alias for the column if it is to receive the column's value. Before executing the cursor, the application aliases column cust# to variable cust_num. The cursor keeps this alias until the application turns it off with DBMS ALIAS or closes the cursor with DBMS CLOSE CURSOR. If a column name is not a valid Panther identifier, enclose it in quote characters; this ensures that Panther parses it correctly.

Aliasing by Column Positions

Consider an example that uses positional aliases. For example:

DBMS ALIAS min_rent, max_rent, avg_rent
DBMS QUERY SELECT MIN(num_rentals), MAX(num_rentals), AVG(num_rentals) FROM customers

Panther writes the aggregate function values to the alias variables. The value of MIN(num_rentals) is written to the variable min_rent, MAX(num_rentals) is written to the variable max_rent, and AVG(num_rentals) is written to the variable avg_rent. There is no automatic mapping available for values resulting from calculations or aggregate functions. If the application had not declared aliases, the values would not be written to Panther variables.

Of course, the application should turn off the positional aliases when it is finished. If it does not turn them off before executing the next SELECT statement on that cursor, Panther will attempt to write the values of the first three columns to the three positional alias variables. If those variables are no longer available, Panther will ignore the first three columns in the select set.

Aliasing with the Engine's SELECT Syntax

Many engines support aliasing in their SELECT statement syntax. In interactive mode, this permits the user to specify for a view a column heading that is different than the database column name. Typically, the syntax is

SELECT column1  heading1, column2  heading2...FROM table

In interactive mode, the values of column1 are placed under the heading heading1, and the values of column2 are places under the heading heading2. In this syntax, a space separates a column from its alias, and a comma separates the column-alias set from the next column or column-alias set. Some engines might support another syntax. Refer to your database engine documentation for details.

If an engine supports aliasing in a SELECT statement, Panther will also support it. You can follow the syntax of the engine, replacing heading with the name of the appropriate Panther variable.

For example, if the syntax shown above is supported by the engine, than the following could be used in a Panther application,

DBMS QUERY SELECT title_id id, name, pricecat price
FROM titles

When this statement is executed, the DBMS tells Panther that the columns id, name, and price were selected. Panther looks for variables with those names. If there is a variable title_id available, this SELECT statement will not write to it because the engine has aliased it to id.

Although this form is supported, using DBMS ALIAS is recommended, especially for applications accessing more than one engine. Panther provides identical support for DBMS ALIAS on all engines.

Fetching Multiple Rows

Since a select set often contains more than one row, you must specify how many rows to fetch at one time. In addition, the application architecture determines whether you can fetch additional rows from the database. In two-tier applications with a direct connection to the database, DBMS CONTINUE commands can be used to fetch subsequent rows. In three-tier applications, all rows must be fetched at once.

Determining the Number of Occurrences

Panther uses the following guidelines in determining the number of rows to fetch:

Be careful of LDB variables that are unintentional targets of a SELECT especially when using the wild card * in a SELECT or when executing a SELECT in a screen entry function.

For example, consider an application using the wild card:


The application has onscreen widgets for some of the columns in the table. The LDB, however, contains an entry with the name of one of these unrepresented columns. If the onscreen fields have 20 occurrences and the LDB entry has 5 occurrences, only five rows will be fetched.

Also, consider an application that executes a SELECT in a screen entry function. By default, Panther first searches the LDB and then the screen for Panther variables when executing screen entry functions. Therefore, if a variable is represented both as an onscreen field and as an LDB variable, a screen entry function will write to the LDB variable before the LDB merge writes to the onscreen field. If the LDB variable and the field do not have the same number of occurrences, data is lost or appears lost when the LDB merge updates the screen fields.

Scrolling Through a SELECT Set

Most applications must be capable of handling a fluctuating number of data rows. Based on the type of data selected and the hardware in use, you can use either or both types of scrolling—scrolling arrays or non-scrolling arrays.

If scrolling arrays are used as the destination variables of a SELECT statement, the entire select set is fetched in a single step. To view the rows, press the page up and page down keys (logical keys SPGU and SPGD).

Otherwise, the application uses single-element fields or non-scrolling arrays as the destination variables of a SELECT statement. The select set is fetched incrementally. To permit the user to scroll backward and forward in the set, the application must set up a method to execute the Panther scrolling commands.

The two methods are described in detail below.

Using Scrolling Arrays

Scrolling arrays are useful for small to mid-sized sets. Set the scrolling property (under Geometry) to PV_YES. Set the # of Occurrences (num_occurrences) property or leave it blank, in which case the number of occurrences is determined by the max_fetches property. By default, this property is set to 1000. Because the application must keep the entire select set in memory, you might want to lower the maximum number of occurrences depending on the platform or for a SELECT involving many columns.

With this approach, you create large scrolling arrays with more occurrences than the number of rows you expect to be in the select set. When the SELECT is executed at runtime, there is no penalty for unused occurrences; Panther allocates only whatever memory is needed to hold the returned rows. Therefore, a Panther screen might contain variables each with 10 elements and 1000 occurrences. If a select set contained only 75 rows, Panther would allocate memory for 75 occurrences in each of the variables; it would not allocate memory for the 925 unused occurrences.

There are several ways of verifying that the arrays actually contained enough occurrences to hold the entire select set. Most often the application examines the value of the global variable @dmretcode. Panther writes a no-more-rows status code to this variable when the engine signals that it has returned all requested rows. The value of this variable can be examined after a SELECT statement.

Refer to Table 37-1 for more information on @dmretcode and related variables. An example procedure is shown below:

proc select_all
DBMS QUERY SELECT cust_id, first_name, last_name, member_status
FROM customers
if @dmretcode == DM_NO_MORE_ROWS
msg esmg "All rows returned."
msg emsg "Application could not display all customers."

This approach is very easy to use. Since all the rows are fetched at once, the application makes only one request of the database server and it is free to use the default SELECT cursor to make new selects.

It is not the best method for large SELECT sets. If the application is too slow displaying the data or is sluggish after the rows have been fetched, you should consider using non-scrolling arrays or some other alternative scroll driver.

Using Non-scrolling Arrays

Non-scrolling arrays are useful for mid-sized to large select sets. Panther does not impose any limit on the number of rows that can be displayed with this method.

For widgets to be non-scrolling arrays, the array_size property is set to > 1 and scrolling is set to PV_NO. At least two JPL procedures are needed to view the select set. The first procedure executes the SELECT statement and fetches the first screenful of rows. The second procedure executes a DBMS CONTINUE to fetch the next screenful of rows from the select set. The second procedure might be executed many times before the user sees all the rows.

Notes: In multi-user environments, you should know how the engine ensures read consistency—the guarantee that data seen by a SELECT does not change during statement execution. The engine might be using rollback segments or shared locks to provide read consistency. Since a shared lock prevents other users from updating locked rows, applications on these engines should release the lock as soon as possible.

For example, the current screen has widgets named for the columns in the table titles. Each widget has array_size set to 5. The application uses procedures like the following to select data from a table and view additional rows:

proc select_video 
proc continue_select

as well as control strings like the following to execute the procedures:


Assume that table titles contains 12 rows. When you press the PF1 key, the application executes the JPL procedure select_video and writes rows 1 through 5 to the screen. If you press PF2, the application executes the procedure continue_select which clears the arrays and writes rows 6 through 10 to the screen. If you press PF2 again, the application executes continue_select again which clears the arrays and writes rows 11 and 12 to the screen. If you press PF2 a third time, the application does nothing because there are no more rows in the select set.

Non-scrolling arrays use less memory than scrolling arrays. With non-scrolling arrays, the application needs only enough memory for the rows displayed on screen. The other rows are buffered either in a binary disk file or by the database server. With large select sets, this approach often improves the application's performance and response time.

This approach requires a little more work. The application needs procedures to handle the scrolling and possibly the remapping of cursor control keys. Also, the method restricts the SELECT cursor. If the application needs to perform other SELECT statements while scrolling through this set, the application must declare named cursors to execute additional SQL statements.

Scrolling Commands

In addition to DBMS CONTINUE, an application can simulate scrolling through a SELECT set by using the following commands:


Scrolls to the last screenful of rows


Scrolls to the first screenful of rows


Scrolls up a screenful of rows

Some engines have native support for these commands. For example, the engine might buffer the rows in memory on the server. However, Panther also provides its own support for these commands. Use DBMS STORE FILE to set up a continuation file for a named or default SELECT cursor. When it is used, Panther buffers SELECT rows in a temporary binary file. The syntax of the command is:

DBMS [ WITH CURSOR cursor-name ] STORE FILE [ filename ]

The command is supported on all engines. To select and view data, an application uses procedures like the following:

proc select_video
proc scroll_down
proc scroll_up
proc scroll_top
proc scroll_end

Then, you attach these procedures to push buttons or function keys. The following example attaches the procedures to function keys:


Using the same number of rows and occurrences as earlier, when you press the PF1 key, the application executes the JPL procedure select_video and writes rows 1 through 5 to the screen. If you press PF2, the application executes the procedure scroll_down which clears the arrays and writes rows 6 through 10 to the screen. If you press PF3, the application executes scroll_up which clears the arrays and writes rows 1 through 5 to the screen. If you press PF5 the application executes scroll_end which clears the arrays and writes the last 5 rows in the SELECT set, rows 8 through 12, to the screen.

Remapping Logical Keys for Scrolling

Instead of using function keys or push buttons to call the JPL procedures which execute the Panther scrolling commands, you might prefer the standard page up and page down keys to the PF keys. The values of the logical keys SPGU and SPGD can be reassigned with the Panther library function sm_keyoption. Therefore, the application might use an entry and exit function to change how SPGU and SPGD work on a screen or in a field. The entry function calls sm_keyoption so that SPGD acts like the function key that calls the scroll up procedure, and calls sm_keyoption so that SPGU acts like the function key that calls the scroll down procedure. The exit function calls sm_keyoption to restore the default behavior.

An example of this behavior in a widget entry and exit function is shown below. The widget's entry_function and exit_function properties are set to entry_exit which calls sm_keyoption. The function keys APP1 and APP2 are set to call the JPL procedures scroll_up and scroll_down described above. When you click on the widget, the standard page up and page down keys can be used to scroll through the data.

// APP1=^scroll_up
// APP2=^scroll_down
proc entry_exit(f_no f_data, f_occ, f_flag)
if (f_flag & K_ENTRY)
call sm_keyoption (SPGD, KEY_XLATE, APP1)
call sm_keyoption (SPGU, KEY_XLATE, APP2)
else if (f_flag & K_EXIT)
call sm_keyoption (SPGU, KEY_XLATE, SPGU)
call sm_keyoption (SPGD, KEY_XLATE, SPGD)

Controlling the Number of Rows Fetched

If you use widget or LDB arrays as the destinations of a SELECT, you can specify the maximum number of rows to fetch and the first occurrence to write to in the array destination. The command is

DBMS [ WITH CURSOR cursor-name ] OCCUR int [ MAX int ]
DBMS [ WITH CURSOR cursor-name ] OCCUR CURRENT [ MAX int ]

Refer to page 11-37 in the Programming Guide for more information on this command.

Choosing a Starting Row in the SELECT Set

You can also change the number of rows fetched by using the command

DBMS [ WITH CURSOR cursor-name ] START int

The command tells Panther to read and discard int - 1 rows before writing the rest of the select set to Panther variables.

Refer to page 11-49 in the Programming Guide for more information on this command.

Format of Select Results

Before writing a database column value to a Panther variable occurrence, Panther determines the data type of the database column.

In all cases, if the value equals the engine's null (for example, NULL), Panther clears the variable. If the variable has the null_field property set to PV_YES, Panther automatically converts the null string to the one assigned by the widget's property specification.

If any value is longer than the variable, the data is truncated.

Character Column

If a column has a character data type, the value is simply written to the target variable. If the variable has the word_wrap property set to PV_YES or the justification property set to PV_RIGHT, the property is applied.

Date-time Column

If a column has a date data type, Panther formats the value before writing it to a Panther variable. If the variable has a date-time specification, Panther uses it. If the variable does not, Panther uses the format assigned to the message file entry SM_0DEF_DTIME. By default, the entry is

SM_0DEF_DTIME = %m/%d/%2y %h:%0M

For example, April 1, 2015 10:05:03 would be formatted as 4/1/15 10:05. When the message file default is used, Panther assumes a 12-hour clock.

For information on date and time formats, refer to page 10-17 in the Using the Editors.

Numeric Column

If a column has an integral type, Panther converts the value to a long. Panther then converts the value to ASCII and writes it to the variable, truncating any data longer than the destination variable. If data_formatting is set to PV_NUMERIC and c_type is set to PV_DEFAULT, the numeric format is applied to the data.

If a column has a real type, Panther converts the value to a double. Before writing the value to a Panther variable, Panther examines the widget's Data Formatting and C Type properties to help determine the precision.

Refer to page 10-20 in the Using the Editors for more information on currency formats.

Binary Columns

If a column has an binary data type, Panther sets the column type to be DT_BINARY. Before writing data to the widget, Panther checks the c_type property. If the setting is PV_HEX_DEC, then Panther converts the binary data to a hexadecimal string. Otherwise, Panther passes the binary data as is.

Generally, binary data is fetched either into variables declared with DBMS BINARY or into widgets with a c_type property of PV_HEX_DEC. Otherwise, incorrect binding might result.

Fetching Unique Column Values

By default, when a column is selected, Panther returns all values. There is also a command for displaying only a column's unique values,

DBMS [ WITH CURSOR cursor-name ] UNIQUE column [, column ... ]

Panther replaces a repeating value with an empty string.

This command is useful if an application is selecting values from a table which uses two or more columns as the primary key. For example, if the table projects has the columns project_id, staff, task_code and the columns project_id and staff constitute the primary key, an application could suppress the repeating values in one of the columns of the primary key to improve readability on the screen. Figure 29-2 illustrates the data in the project table.

Figure 29-2 The primary key of the projects table is (project_id, staff).

The following commands select the data and format it to suppress repeating values:

SELECT * FROM projects ORDER BY project_id
DBMS WITH CURSOR proj_cur UNIQUE project_id

Figure 29-3 is a sample screen displaying the results.

Figure 29-3 The Panther layout is easier to read than the table layout.

Refer to page 11-53 in the Programming Guide for more information.

Redirecting Select Results to Other Targets

If you need other destinations for SELECT statements,

DBMS CATQUERY allows you to concatenate a full result row and write it to either a text file or a Panther variable.

DBMS [ WITH CURSOR cursor-name ] CATQUERY TO FILENAME filename \
[ SEPARATOR text ] [ HEADING [ ON | OFF ] ]
DBMS [ WITH CURSOR cursor-name ] CATQUERY TO prol-variable \
[ SEPARATOR text ] [ HEADING [ ON | OFF] ] ]

There is also a command for formatting the results,

DBMS [ WITH CURSOR cursor-name ] FORMAT [ column ] format

For more information on these commands, refer to page 11-10 and to page 11-35 in the Programming Guide.