Microsoft SQL server does not support a method of identifying the row numbers
for records stored on disk, although there are a number of different techniques
to associate a sequential number with a row. You might want to display a set of
records might where each record is listed with a generated number that
identifies the records position relative to the rest of the records in the set.
The numbers might be sequential that start at 1 and are incremented by 1 for
each following record, like 1,2,3,4, etc.. Or in other case you may want to
sequentially number groupings of records where each specific set of records are
numbered starting at 1 and incremented by 1 until the next set is reach where
the sequence starts over. This article will show a number of different methods
of assigning a record sequence number to records returned from a query.
Sequentially Numbering Records By Having an Identity Column
Even though Microsoft SQL Server does not physically have a row number stored
with each record, you can include one of your own. To have your own record
number, all you need to do is include an identity column in your table
definition. When you define the identity column you can specify an initial seed
value of 1, and a increment value of 1. By doing this the identity column will
sequentially number each row inserted into the table. Let me show you a simple
CREATE TABLE statement that defines a ROW_NUMBER column, which will sequentially
SET NOCOUNT ON CREATE TABLE SEQ_NUMBER_EXAMPLE ( RECORD_NUMBER INT IDENTITY (1,1), DESCRIPTION VARCHAR(40)) INSERT INTO SEQ_NUMBER_EXAMPLE VALUES('FIRST RECORD') INSERT INTO SEQ_NUMBER_EXAMPLE VALUES('SECOND RECORD') INSERT INTO SEQ_NUMBER_EXAMPLE VALUES('THIRD RECORD') INSERT INTO SEQ_NUMBER_EXAMPLE VALUES('FOURTH RECORD') INSERT INTO SEQ_NUMBER_EXAMPLE VALUES('FIFTH RECORD') SELECT * FROM SEQ_NUMBER_EXAMPLE DROP TABLE SEQ_NUMBER_EXAMPLE
When you run this code it produces the following output:
RECORD_NUMBER DESCRIPTION ------------- ---------------------------------------- 1 FIRST RECORD 2 SECOND RECORD 3 THIRD RECORD 4 FOURTH RECORD 5 FIFTH RECORD
Now as you can see, each record has been automatically numbered using the
identity column RECORD_NUMBER. One thing to consider when using this method is
that there is no guarantee that these numbers are physically stored next to each
other on disk, unless there is a clustered index on the RECORD_NUMBER column. If
you use this method either create a clustered index, or have an ORDER BY
RECORD_NUMBER clause to ensure that the records are returned in sequential
order. Also remember if you should delete records, then your sequential number
will have missing values for each record deleted.
Sequentially Numbering Records by Using a Temporary Table
Now you might not have designed your table to have an identity column, or
even want to place one on your existing table, so another option is to insert
the records you desired to have a sequence number into a temporary table. Here
is some code that takes the Northwind.dbo.Employees table and copies only the
Sales Representatives into a temporary table. This example uses this temporary
table with a rank identity column to show a ranking of Sales Representatives by
create table #HireDate (rank int identity, HireDate datetime, LastName nvarchar(20), FirstName nvarchar(20) ) insert into #HireDate (HireDate, LastName, FirstName) select Hiredate, LastName, Firstname from northwind.dbo.employees where Title = 'Sales Representative' order by HireDate Select cast(rank as char(4)) as Rank, cast(hiredate as varchar(23)) as HireDate, LastName, FirstName from #HireDate Drop table #HireDate
The output of this example looks like this:
Rank HireDate LastName FirstName ---- ----------------------- -------------------- --------------- 1 Apr 1 1992 12:00AM Leverling Janet 2 May 1 1992 12:00AM Davolio Nancy 3 May 3 1993 12:00AM Peacock Margaret 4 Oct 17 1993 12:00AM Suyama Michael 5 Jan 2 1994 12:00AM King Robert 6 Nov 15 1994 12:00AM Dodsworth Anne
Sequentially Numbering Records by Altering Table
Ok, so you don’t want to create a temporary table, but instead you want to
use the existing table to identify the row numbers for each record. You can
still do this provided you don’t have a problem with altering the table. To have
row numbers, all you need to do is alter the table to add an identity column
with a initial seed value of 1 and an increment of 1. This will number your rows
from 1 to N where N is the number of rows in the table. Lets look at an example
of this method using the pub.dbo.titles table.
set nocount on alter table pubs.dbo.titles add rownum int identity(1,1) go select rownum, title from pubs.dbo.titles where rownum < 6 order by rownum go alter table pubs.dbo.titles drop column rownum
Note this example first alters the table, then displays the first 5 rows, and
lastly drops the identity column. This way the row numbers are produced,
displayed and finally removed, so in effect the table is left as it was prior to
running the script. The output from the above script would look like this.
rownum title ----------- ---------------------------------------------------------------- 1 But Is It User Friendly? 2 Computer Phobic AND Non-Phobic Individuals: Behavior Variations 3 Cooking with Computers: Surreptitious Balance Sheets 4 Emotional Security: A New Algorithm 5 Fifty Years in Buckingham Palace Kitchens
Sequentially Numbering Records by Using a Self Join
Now say your table does not have an identify column, you don’t want to use a
temporary table or alter your existing table, but you still would like to have a
record number associated with each record. In this case you could use a self
join to return a record number for each row. Here is an example that calculates
a RecNum column, and displays the LastName for each record in the
Northwind.dbo.Employees table. This example uses count(*) to count the number of
records that are greater than or equal LastName in this self join.
SELECT count(*) RecNum, a.LastName FROM Northwind.dbo.Employees a join Northwind.dbo.Employees b on a.LastName >= b.LastName group by a.LastName order by a.LastName
The results from this query looks like this:
RecNum LastName ----------- -------------------- 1 Buchanan 2 Callahan 3 Davolio 4 Dodsworth 5 Fuller 6 King 7 Leverling 8 Peacock 9 Suyama
This method works good for a small number of records, a few hundred or less.
Since the number of records counts produced by a self join can grows quite big
when large sets are involved, causing the performance of this technique to have
a slow response times for large set. This method also does not work if there are
duplicate values in the columns used in the self join. If there are duplicates
then the RecNum column will contain missing values.
Sequentially Number Records by Using a Cursor
A cursor can be used to associate a sequential number with records. To use
this method you would allocate a cursor, then process through each cursor record
one at a time associating a record number with each record. Here is an example
that does just that. This example displays the authors last and first name with
a calculated recnum value for each author in the pubs.dbo.authors table where
the authors last name is less than ‘G’. Each author is displayed in order by
last name and first name with the first author alphabetically being assigned a
recnum of 1, and for each successive author the recnum is incremented by one.
declare @i int declare @name varchar(200) declare authors_cursor cursor for select rtrim(au_lname) + ', ' + rtrim(au_fname) from pubs.dbo.authors where au_lname < 'G' order by au_lname, au_fname open authors_cursor fetch next from authors_cursor into @name set @i = 0 print 'recnum name' print '------ -------------------------------' while @@fetch_status = 0 begin set @i = @i + 1 print cast(@i as char(7)) + rtrim(@name) fetch next from authors_cursor into @name end close authors_cursor deallocate authors_cursor
Output from the cursor query looks like this.
RecNum Name ------ ------------------------------- 1 Bennet, Abraham 2 Blotchet-Halls, Reginald 3 Carson, Cheryl 4 DeFrance, Michel 5 del Castillo, Innes 6 Dull, Ann
Sequentially Numbering Groups of Records
Another case I have run across for sequentially number records, is where you
want to number groups of records. Where each group starts numbering from 1 to N,
where N is the number of records in the group, and then starts over again from
1, when the next group is encountered.
For an example of what I am talking about, lets say you have a set of order
detail records for different orders, where you want to associate a line number
with each order detailed record. The line number will ranges from 1 to N, where
N is the number of order detail records per order. The following code produces
line numbers for orders in the Northwind Order Detail table.
select OD.OrderID, LineNumber, OD.ProductID, UnitPrice, Quantity, Discount from Northwind.dbo.[Order Details] OD join (select count(*) LineNumber, a.OrderID, a.ProductID from Northwind.dbo.[Order Details] A join Northwind.dbo.[Order Details] B on A.ProductID >= B.ProductID and A.OrderID = B.OrderID group by A.OrderID, A.ProductID) N on OD.OrderID= N.OrderID and OD.ProductID = N.ProductID where OD.OrderID < 10251 order by OD.OrderID, OD.ProductID
This code is similar to the prior self join example, except this code
calculates the LineNumber as part of a subquery. This way the LineNumber
calculated in the subquery can be joined with the complete Order Detail record.
The above query produces the following output:
OrderID LineNumber ProductID UnitPrice Quantity Discount ----------- ----------- ----------- --------------------- -------- --------------- 10248 1 11 14.0000 12 0.0 10248 2 42 9.8000 10 0.0 10248 3 72 34.8000 5 0.0 10249 1 14 18.6000 9 0.0 10249 2 51 42.4000 40 0.0 10250 1 41 7.7000 10 0.0 10250 2 51 42.4000 35 0.15000001 10250 3 65 16.8000 15 0.15000001
These examples represent a number of different approaches at sequentially
numbering a sets for records. None of these methods are perfect. But hopefully
these methods will give you some ideas on how you might be able to tackle your
sequential record numbering issues