Supposing we have a table with four columns
(a,b,c,d) of the same data type.
Is it possible to select all distinct values within the data in the columns and return them as a single column or do I have to create a function to achieve this?
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Update: Tested all 5 queries in SQLfiddle with 100K rows (and 2 separate cases, one with few (25) distinct values and another with lots (around 25K values).
A very simple query would be to use
I think it would be most efficient if there is a separate index on each of the four columns It would be efficient with a separate index on each of the four columns, if Postgres had implemented Loose Index Scan optimization, which it hasn't. So this query will not be efficient as it requires 4 scans of the table (and no index is used):
-- Query 1. (334 ms, 368ms) SELECT a AS abcd FROM tablename UNION -- means UNION DISTINCT SELECT b FROM tablename UNION SELECT c FROM tablename UNION SELECT d FROM tablename ;
Another would be to first
UNION ALL and then use
DISTINCT. This will also require 4 table scans (and no use of indexes). Not bad efficiency when the values are few, and with more values becomes the fastest in my (not extensive) test:
-- Query 2. (87 ms, 117 ms) SELECT DISTINCT a AS abcd FROM ( SELECT a FROM tablename UNION ALL SELECT b FROM tablename UNION ALL SELECT c FROM tablename UNION ALL SELECT d FROM tablename ) AS x ;
The other answers have provided with more options using array functions or the
LATERAL syntax. Jack's query (
187 ms, 261 ms) has reasonable performance but AndriyM's query seems more efficient (
125 ms, 155 ms). Both of them do one sequential scan of the table and do not use any index.
Actually Jack's query results are a bit better than shown above (if we remove the
order by) and can be further improved by removing the 4 internal
distinct and leaving only the external one.
Finally, if - and only if - the distinct values of the 4 columns are relatively few, you can use the
WITH RECURSIVE hack/optimization described in the above Loose Index Scan page and use all 4 indexes, with remarkably fast result! Tested with the same 100K rows and approximately 25 distinct values spread across the 4 columns (runs in only 2 ms!) while with 25K distinct values it's the slowest with 368 ms:
-- Query 3. (2 ms, 368ms) WITH RECURSIVE da AS ( SELECT min(a) AS n FROM observations UNION ALL SELECT (SELECT min(a) FROM observations WHERE a > s.n) FROM da AS s WHERE s.n IS NOT NULL ), db AS ( SELECT min(b) AS n FROM observations UNION ALL SELECT (SELECT min(b) FROM observations WHERE b > s.n) FROM db AS s WHERE s.n IS NOT NULL ), dc AS ( SELECT min(c) AS n FROM observations UNION ALL SELECT (SELECT min(c) FROM observations WHERE c > s.n) FROM dc AS s WHERE s.n IS NOT NULL ), dd AS ( SELECT min(d) AS n FROM observations UNION ALL SELECT (SELECT min(d) FROM observations WHERE d > s.n) FROM db AS s WHERE s.n IS NOT NULL ) SELECT n FROM ( TABLE da UNION TABLE db UNION TABLE dc UNION TABLE dd ) AS x WHERE n IS NOT NULL ;
To summarize, when the distinct values are few, the recursive query is the absolute winner while with lots of values, my 2nd one, Jack's (improved version below) and AndriyM's queries are the best performers.
Late additions, a variation on the 1st query which despite the extra distinct operations, performs much better than the original 1st and only slightly worse than the 2nd:
-- Query 1b. (85 ms, 149 ms) SELECT DISTINCT a AS n FROM observations UNION SELECT DISTINCT b FROM observations UNION SELECT DISTINCT c FROM observations UNION SELECT DISTINCT d FROM observations ;
and Jack's improved:
-- Query 4b. (104 ms, 128 ms) select distinct unnest( array_agg(a)|| array_agg(b)|| array_agg(c)|| array_agg(d) ) from t ;
You could use LATERAL, like in this query:
SELECT DISTINCT x.n FROM atable CROSS JOIN LATERAL ( VALUES (a), (b), (c), (d) ) AS x (n) ;
The LATERAL keyword allows the right side of the join to reference objects from the left side. In this case, the right side is a VALUES constructor that builds a single-column subset out of the column values you want to put into a single column. The main query simply references the new column, also applying DISTINCT to it.
To be clear, I'd use
union as ypercube suggests, but it is also possible with arrays:
select distinct unnest( array_agg(distinct a)|| array_agg(distinct b)|| array_agg(distinct c)|| array_agg(distinct d) ) from t order by 1;| unnest | | :----- | | 0 | | 1 | | 2 | | 3 | | 5 | | 6 | | 8 | | 9 |
SELECT DISTINCT n FROM observations, unnest(ARRAY[a,b,c,d]) n;
A less verbose version of Andriy's idea is only slightly longer, but more elegant and faster.
For many distinct / few duplicate values:
SELECT DISTINCT n FROM observations, LATERAL (VALUES (a),(b),(c),(d)) t(n);
With an index on each involved column!
For few distinct / many duplicate values:
WITH RECURSIVE ta AS ( (SELECT a FROM observations ORDER BY a LIMIT 1) -- parentheses required! UNION ALL SELECT o.a FROM ta t , LATERAL (SELECT a FROM observations WHERE a > t.a ORDER BY a LIMIT 1) o ) , tb AS ( (SELECT b FROM observations ORDER BY b LIMIT 1) UNION ALL SELECT o.b FROM tb t , LATERAL (SELECT b FROM observations WHERE b > t.b ORDER BY b LIMIT 1) o ) , tc AS ( (SELECT c FROM observations ORDER BY c LIMIT 1) UNION ALL SELECT o.c FROM tc t , LATERAL (SELECT c FROM observations WHERE c > t.c ORDER BY c LIMIT 1) o ) , td AS ( (SELECT d FROM observations ORDER BY d LIMIT 1) UNION ALL SELECT o.d FROM td t , LATERAL (SELECT d FROM observations WHERE d > t.d ORDER BY d LIMIT 1) o ) SELECT a FROM ( TABLE ta UNION TABLE tb UNION TABLE tc UNION TABLE td ) sub;
This is another rCTE variant, similar to the one @ypercube already posted, but I use
ORDER BY 1 LIMIT 1 instead of
min(a) which is typically a bit faster. I also need no additional predicate to exclude NULL values.
LATERAL instead of a correlated subquery, because it's cleaner (not necessarily faster).
Detailed explanation in my go-to answer for this technique:
I updated ypercube's SQL Fiddle and added mine to the playlist.
You can, but as I wrote and tested the function I felt wrong. It is a resources waste.
Just please use a union and more select. Only advantage (if it is), one single scan from main table.
In sql fiddle you need to change separator from $ to something else, like /
CREATE TABLE observations ( id serial , a int not null , b int not null , c int not null , d int not null , created_at timestamp , foo text ); INSERT INTO observations (a, b, c, d, created_at, foo) SELECT (random() * 20)::int AS a -- few values for a,b,c,d , (15 + random() * 10)::int , (10 + random() * 10)::int , ( 5 + random() * 20)::int , '2014-01-01 0:0'::timestamp + interval '1s' * g AS created_at -- ascending (probably like in real life) , 'aöguihaophgaduigha' || g AS foo -- random ballast FROM generate_series (1, 10) g; -- 10k rows CREATE INDEX observations_a_idx ON observations (a); CREATE INDEX observations_b_idx ON observations (b); CREATE INDEX observations_c_idx ON observations (c); CREATE INDEX observations_d_idx ON observations (d); CREATE OR REPLACE FUNCTION fn_readuniqu() RETURNS SETOF text AS $$ DECLARE a_array text; b_array text; c_array text; d_array text; r text; BEGIN SELECT INTO a_array, b_array, c_array, d_array array_agg(a), array_agg(b), array_agg(c), array_agg(d) FROM observations; FOR r IN SELECT DISTINCT x FROM ( SELECT unnest(a_array) AS x UNION SELECT unnest(b_array) AS x UNION SELECT unnest(c_array) AS x UNION SELECT unnest(d_array) AS x ) AS a LOOP RETURN NEXT r; END LOOP; END; $$ LANGUAGE plpgsql STABLE COST 100 ROWS 1000; SELECT * FROM fn_readuniqu();