The left function provides a way to retrieve the first n (number you specify) characters from a string. One often use of this function is to extract dates from a string, although postgresql does provide some better functions for getting dates. In this article, we will learn how to use left with Postgres.
The basic syntax of a LEFT is as follows:
SELECT LEFT(string, n);
We will be using docker in this article, but feel free to install your database locally instead. Once you have docker installed, create a new file called
docker-compose.yml and add the following.
version: '3' services: db: image: 'postgres:latest' ports: - 5432:5432 environment: POSTGRES_USER: username POSTGRES_PASSWORD: password POSTGRES_DB: default_database volumes: - psqldata:/var/lib/postgresql phpmyadmin: image: phpmyadmin/phpmyadmin links: - db environment: PMA_HOST: db PMA_PORT: 3306 PMA_ARBITRARY: 1 restart: always ports: - 8081:80 volumes: psqldata:
Now, navigate to
http://localhost:8081/ to access phpMyAdmin. Then log in with the username
root and pass
Click the SQL tab and you are ready to go.
In this article, we will need some data to work with. If you don't understand these commands, don't worry, we will cover them in later articles.
We will be using the sample db provided here: https://dev.mysql.com/doc/sakila/en/. However, we will only enter what we need rather than import the whole db.
Next, let's create an
film table. This is a slightly simplified version of the sakila database.
CREATE TABLE employees ( emp_no INT NOT NULL, birth_date DATE NOT NULL, first_name VARCHAR(14) NOT NULL, last_name VARCHAR(16) NOT NULL, gender VARCHAR(1), hire_date DATE NOT NULL, PRIMARY KEY (emp_no) );
Now, let's enter a few rows
INSERT INTO employees VALUES (10001,'1953-09-02','Georgi','Facello','M','1986-06-26'), (10002,'1964-06-02','Bezalel','Simmel','F','1985-11-21'), (10003,'1959-12-03','Parto','Bamford','M','1986-08-28'), (10004,'1954-05-01','Chirstian','Koblick','M','1986-12-01'), (10005,'1955-01-21','Kyoichi','Maliniak','M','1989-09-12');
Let's start with an example of extracting the first 3 characters from each of the employees last name. This could be use to construct a unique id or an email.
select left(last_name, 3) as LastName from employees e;
Let's also do an example where we extract the year from the birth dates of our employees. Notice we have to convert birth date to a varchar (string)
select left(birth_date::varchar , 4) as BirthDate from employees e;