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The BOOLEAN datatype in Access (ie, Jet/ACE) returns a -1 for True and 0 for False; the field is always required (i.e., it cannot be set to NULL). The SQL Server BIT type returns 1 for True and 0 for False and also allows NULLs.

I'm looking for a T-SQL column definition using a combination of smallint, check constraints, and NOT NULL to replicate the functionality of the Jet/ACE BOOLEAN datatype. In other words, the column would only accept the values 0 and -1.

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2 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

To address your concerns about BIT:

  1. You can set your BIT column to NOT NULL.
  2. You can use -1 when setting a BIT column to "true".
  3. You can create a view that translates to -1, but +1 should be fine anyway unless your application explicitly checks for the numeric -1 (anything but zero should yield true in your client language).

INSERT dbo.foo SELECT -1, 0;

SELECT bar, blat, -CONVERT(SMALLINT, bar), -CONVERT(SMALLINT, blat) FROM dbo.foo;


bar   blat   
----  ----  ----  ----
1     0     -1    0

The nice thing about BIT over TINYINT/SMALLINT is that if you have between 1-8 BIT columns, they can fit into a single byte.

In all of these cases, you still aren't going to be able to say

WHERE NOT BooleanColumn
-- or
WHERE !BooleanColumn

You will still have to say

WHERE BooleanColumn = 0
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I'll bow out my answer and plus one this one. I'll keep out of SQL-Server stuff for the time being... –  RolandoMySQLDBA Jul 19 '12 at 21:12
@RolandoMySQLDBA I don't know that you had to delete your answer; TINYINT is still an option if the OP can be convinced that he/she doesn't need to store -1, but it offers little over BIT because it is unsigned, requires an additional constraint, and can take up more space if there are multiple columns. –  Aaron Bertrand Jul 19 '12 at 21:22
+1: I'll have to do some quick testing in my front end (MS Access) to see if the 1 vs -1 will be an issue for me. One thing that I have relied on in the past is doing an ORDER BY on a Yes/No column in Access. In ASC order that means the TRUE items show first then the FALSE ones. There may be other considerations as well, but your point about up to 8 BIT columns fitting in a single byte is well taken. –  mwolfe02 Jul 19 '12 at 21:41
You can use a fairly simple expression for that: ORDER BY CASE BooleanColumn WHEN 1 THEN -1 ELSE 0 END ... or you could simply add DESC to your order by... –  Aaron Bertrand Jul 19 '12 at 21:48
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This will do it:

MyField smallint NOT NULL CONSTRAINT MyField_YesNo CHECK (MyField = 0 OR MyField = -1)
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+1 for use of CHECK constraint –  RolandoMySQLDBA Jul 19 '12 at 21:05
As discussed by the other answer: the reason to use SMALLINT is that TINYINT is unsigned, so you have to use a 16-bit field you you insist on using -1 for "true". –  Jon of All Trades Jul 19 '12 at 22:14
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