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11.4.1. The CHAR and VARCHAR Types

The CHAR and VARCHAR types are similar, but differ in the way they are stored and retrieved. They also differ in maximum length and in whether trailing spaces are retained. No lettercase conversion takes place during storage or retrieval.

The CHAR and VARCHAR types are declared with a length that indicates the maximum number of characters you want to store. For example, CHAR(30) can hold up to 30 characters.

The length of a CHAR column is fixed to the length that you declare when you create the table. The length can be any value from 0 to 255. When CHAR values are stored, they are right-padded with spaces to the specified length. When CHAR values are retrieved, trailing spaces are removed.

Values in VARCHAR columns are variable-length strings. The length can be specified as a value from 0 to 65,535. (The maximum effective length of a VARCHAR is determined by the maximum row size and the character set used. The maximum length overall is 65,532 bytes.)

In contrast to CHAR, VARCHAR values are stored using only as many characters as are needed, plus one byte to record the length (two bytes for columns that are declared with a length longer than 255).

VARCHAR values are not padded when they are stored. Trailing spaces are retained when values are stored and retrieved, in conformance with standard SQL.

If you assign a value to a CHAR or VARCHAR column that exceeds the column's maximum length, the value is truncated to fit. If the truncated characters are not spaces, a warning is generated. For truncation of non-space characters, you can cause an error to occur (rather than a warning) and suppress insertion of the value by using strict SQL mode. See Section 5.2.5, “The Server SQL Mode”.

The following table illustrates the differences between CHAR and VARCHAR by showing the result of storing various string values into CHAR(4) and VARCHAR(4) columns:

Value CHAR(4) Storage Required VARCHAR(4) Storage Required
'' '    ' 4 bytes '' 1 byte
'ab' 'ab  ' 4 bytes 'ab ' 3 bytes
'abcd' 'abcd' 4 bytes 'abcd' 5 bytes
'abcdefgh' 'abcd' 4 bytes 'abcd' 5 bytes

Note that the values shown as stored in the last row of the table apply only when not using strict mode; if MySQL is running in strict mode, values that exceed the column length are not stored, and an error results.

If a given value is stored into the CHAR(4) and VARCHAR(4) columns, the values retrieved from the columns are not always the same because trailing spaces are removed from CHAR columns upon retrieval. The following example illustrates this difference:

mysql> CREATE TABLE vc (v VARCHAR(4), c CHAR(4));
Query OK, 0 rows affected (0.01 sec)

mysql> INSERT INTO vc VALUES ('ab  ', 'ab  ');
Query OK, 1 row affected (0.00 sec)

mysql> SELECT CONCAT('(', v, ')'), CONCAT('(', c, ')') FROM vc;
+---------------------+---------------------+
| CONCAT('(', v, ')') | CONCAT('(', c, ')') |
+---------------------+---------------------+
| (ab  )              | (ab)                |
+---------------------+---------------------+
1 row in set (0.06 sec)

Values in CHAR and VARCHAR columns are sorted and compared according to the character set collation assigned to the column.

Note that all MySQL collations are of type PADSPACE. This means that all CHAR and VARCHAR values in MySQL are compared without regard to any trailing spaces. For example:

mysql> CREATE TABLE names (myname CHAR(10), yourname VARCHAR(10));
Query OK, 0 rows affected (0.09 sec)

mysql> INSERT INTO names VALUES ('Monty ', 'Monty ');
Query OK, 1 row affected (0.00 sec)

mysql> SELECT myname = 'Monty  ', yourname = 'Monty  ' FROM names;
+--------------------+----------------------+
| myname = 'Monty  ' | yourname = 'Monty  ' |
+--------------------+----------------------+
|                  1 |                    1 |
+--------------------+----------------------+
1 row in set (0.00 sec)

Note that this is true for all MySQL versions, and that it is not affected by the server SQL mode.

For those cases where trailing pad characters are stripped or comparisons ignore them, if a column has an index that requires unique values, inserting into the column values that differ only in number of trailing pad characters will result in a duplicate-key error. For example, if a table contains 'a', an attempt to store 'a ' causes a duplicate-key error.


 
 
  Published under the terms of the GNU General Public License Design by Interspire