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i have 2 tables Message and Attachments as follows (note: this is a one to many relationship:

message: messageId, from, to, subject, body

Attachments: messageId, filename

i want to select the basic message data and include a bit field to denote whether the message has attachments or not. i am trying to use exists in my sql posted below. this doesn't work - whats the way to do what im lookign for?

hasAttachments = EXISTS(select AttachmentId from Attachment where messageId = M.messageId),
FROM Message M
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up vote 2 down vote accepted

I'd do it with a CASE statement:

    hasAttachments = CASE WHEN EXISTS(select * from Attachment where messageId = M.messageId) then 1 else 0 end
from Message M


select distinct 
    hasAttachments = CASE WHEN a.AttachmentId is not null then 1 else 0 end
from Message m
left join Attachment a on a.MessageId = m.MessageId
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The 2nd one would require an aggregate/distinct because it's zero to many – gbn May 17 '11 at 19:07
It's a left join.. what am I missing? I wrote it without any sql server in front, so I'm sure I might make a mistake, but can't see it now :). – Marian May 17 '11 at 19:09
many attachments for one message would give many output rows. When one is expected. Your first construct avoids that. I used CROSS APPLY not LEFT JOIN. Note: our first solutions do similar but your EXISTS is more efficient than my COUNT. – gbn May 17 '11 at 19:14
Ha, you're right, my bad. Thanks! – Marian May 17 '11 at 19:18
@gbn: i read that in sql2005 onward the count and exists are the same because count is treated like exists:… – kacalapy May 17 '11 at 19:39
   CAST(select COUNT(*) from Attachment A where A.messageId = M.messageId) AS bit) AS hasAttachments,
FROM Message M


   CAST(hasAttachments AS bit) AS hasAttachments,
  Message M
  (select COUNT(*) AS hasAttachments
   from Attachment A
    where A.messageId = M.messageId) A2
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How are the two options as far as performance? is one better? – kacalapy May 17 '11 at 19:35
probably the same... you'd have to test – gbn May 17 '11 at 19:48
I like this, and you can even avoid a cast to bit if you use select count(distinct 1) in the cross apply. – ajk May 18 '11 at 14:33
@AJ01: it'll still be int. I went for explicit bit type instead of just 0 or 1 – gbn May 18 '11 at 14:35
True enough, fair point. – ajk May 18 '11 at 15:15

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