19

Full question re-write

I'm looking for a First() aggregate function.

Here I found something that almost works:

CREATE OR REPLACE FUNCTION public.first_agg ( anyelement, anyelement )
RETURNS anyelement LANGUAGE sql IMMUTABLE STRICT AS $$
        SELECT $1;
$$;

-- And then wrap an aggregate around it
CREATE AGGREGATE public.first (
        sfunc    = public.first_agg,
        basetype = anyelement,
        stype    = anyelement
);

The problem is that when a varchar(n) column passes through the first() function, it's converted into simple varchar (without a size). Trying to return the query in a function as RETURNS SETOF anyelement, I get the following error:

ERROR: structure of query does not match function result type Estado de SQL:42804 Detalhe:Returned type character varying does not match expected type character varying(40) in column 2. Contexto:PL/pgSQL function vsr_table_at_time(anyelement,timestamp without time zone) line 31 at RETURN QUERY

In the same wiki page there is a link to a C Version of the function that would replace the above. I don't know how to install it, but I wonder if this version could solve my problem.

Meanwhile, is there a way I can change the above function so it returns the exact same type of the input column?

13

DISTINCT ON()

Just as a side note, this is precisely what DISTINCT ON() does (not to be confused with DISTINCT)

SELECT DISTINCT ON ( expression [, ...] ) keeps only the first row of each set of rows where the given expressions evaluate to equal. The DISTINCT ON expressions are interpreted using the same rules as for ORDER BY (see above). Note that the "first row" of each set is unpredictable unless ORDER BY is used to ensure that the desired row appears first. For example

So if you were to write,

SELECT myFirstAgg(z)
FROM foo
GROUP BY x,y;

It's effectively

SELECT DISTINCT ON(x,y) z
FROM foo;
-- ORDER BY z;

In that it takes the first z. There are two important differences,

  1. You can also select other columns at no cost of further aggregation..

    SELECT DISTINCT ON(x,y) z, k, r, t, v
    FROM foo;
    -- ORDER BY z, k, r, t, v;
    
  2. Because there is no GROUP BY you can not use (real) aggregates with it.

    CREATE TABLE foo AS
    SELECT * FROM ( VALUES
      (1,2,3),
      (1,2,4),
      (1,2,5)
    ) AS t(x,y,z);
    
    SELECT DISTINCT ON (x,y) z, sum(z)
    FROM foo;
    
    -- fails, as you should expect.
    SELECT DISTINCT ON (x,y) z, sum(z)
    FROM foo;
    
    -- would not otherwise fail.
    SELECT myFirstAgg(z), sum(z)
    FROM foo
    GROUP BY x,y;
    

Don't forget ORDER BY

Also, while I didn't bold it then I will now

Note that the "first row" of each set is unpredictable unless ORDER BY is used to ensure that the desired row appears first. For example

Always use an ORDER BY with DISTINCT ON

Using an Ordered-Set Aggregate Function

I imagine a lot of people are looking for first_value, Ordered-Set Aggregate Functions. Just wanted to throw that out there. It would look like this, if the function existed:

SELECT a, b, first_value() WITHIN GROUP (ORDER BY z)    
FROM foo
GROUP BY a,b;

But, alas you can do this.

SELECT a, b, percentile_disc(0) WITHIN GROUP (ORDER BY z)   
FROM foo
GROUP BY a,b;
  • The problem with this answer is that it only works if you want ONE aggregate in your select list, which is not implied by the question. If for example you want to select from one table and find several ordered first values, DISTINCT ON will not work in this case. It's not an aggregate function, you are actually filtering the data and so you can only do it once. – DB140141 Dec 17 '18 at 19:27
6

Yay, I've found out an easy way with your case by using some features in PostgreSQL 9.4+

Let's see this example:

select  (array_agg(val ORDER BY i))[1] as first_value_orderby_i,
    (array_agg(val ORDER BY i DESC))[1] as last_value_orderby_i,
    (array_agg(val))[1] as last_value_all,
    (array_agg(val))[array_length(array_agg(val),1)] as last_value_all
   FROM (
        SELECT i, random() as val
        FROM generate_series(1,100) s(i)
        ORDER BY random()
    ) tmp_tbl

I hope it will help you at your case.

  • The problm with this solution is that it doesn't work with DOMAIN data types, or other small exceptions. It is also much more complex and time consuming, building up an array of the entire data set. The simple solution would be to create a custom aggregate, but so far I haven't found the ideal solution even with that. Window functions are also bad, since they can't be used the same way as you could use aggregates (with FILTER statements, or in CROSS JOIN LATERAL) – AlexanderMP Dec 19 '17 at 15:50
5

Not a direct answer to your question but you should try the first_value window function. It works like this:

CREATE TABLE test (
    id SERIAL NOT NULL PRIMARY KEY,
    cat TEXT,
    value VARCHAR(2)
    date TIMESTAMP WITH TIME ZONE

);

Then, if you want the first item in each cat (category) you will query like that:

SELECT
    cat,
    first_value(date) OVER (PARTITION BY cat ORDER BY date)
FROM
    test;

or:

SELECT
    cat,
    first_value(date) OVER w
FROM
    test
WINDOW w AS (PARTITION BY cat ORDER BY date);
  • Sorry, I don't think this apply to my use case. First_value is not an aggregation function, showing all records of the with a certain common value (your example cat) that is evaluated as being the first according to some order (your example date). My need is different. I need to, in the same select, agregate several columns by choosing the first not null value. That is, it should output a single record for each of value combinations in GROUP BY. – Alexandre Neto Nov 28 '14 at 17:16
  • 2
    The above can be made to work by throwing distinct into the mix: select distinct x, first_value(y) over (partition by x), first_value(z) over (partition by x) from .... Probably inefficient but enough for me to get on with prototyping. Definitely something to revisit though! – Max Murphy May 31 '16 at 14:20

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