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When I was trying to create a report that included a decimal-implied number column that needs to be a fixed length of six characters, I chose to go the route of converting to char, replacing the decimal with '', and then using RIGHT() to pad zeros on the left hand side, turning 15.52 into 001552, 1.11 into 000111, etc... My code looked like:

  SELECT RIGHT( '000000' + REPLACE(CONVERT(CHAR(8), ISNULL([TotalModePremium], 0)), '.', ''), 6) AS TotalModePremium
  FROM <Database>.<Schema>.<Table>

This created unexpected behavior where it would clip off my results, making a max length of 3 characters. 15.52 would become 552. However, rows with 0 would become 00--only two characters. When I would change the CHAR(8) to CHAR(7), 15.52 would become 1552, but 0 would become 000.

I then change the CHAR(n) to VARCHAR(n), and it now works as desired. 15.52 becomes 001552, 0 becomes 000000, etc...

My question is, why would increasing or decreasing the value in CHAR(n) create those sorts of results when combined with the RIGHT() function to pad zeros, but the use of VARCHAR() eliminates that behavior?

3

It's because of how the CHAR data type works.

Take a look at this example:

 DECLARE @d decimal(15,2)
 SET @d = 15.52

 SELECT CAST(@d AS CHAR(8)) AS CharD
 SELECT DATALENGTH(CAST(@d AS CHAR(8))) AS LengthCharD

 SELECT CAST(@d AS VARCHAR(8)) AS VarcharD
 SELECT DATALENGTH(CAST(@d AS VARCHAR(8))) AS LengthVarcharD

Notice the length of @d is 8 when it's CHAR but 5 when it's VARCHAR. CHAR is fixed width and thus padded with blanks.

Once you add '000000' to it and remove the decimal, you've now got a 13 character string: '0000001552< blank>< blank>< blank>. When the RIGHT function gets just the right 6 characters, the result is 552< blank>< blank>< blank>.

'000000' is VARCHAR. VARCHAR + your CHAR string will result in a VARCHAR string but still includes the blanks from the CHAR.

VARCHAR does not pad with blanks and thus avoids this < blank> issue.

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