VARCHAR(m,r) data type

The VARCHAR data type stores character strings of varying length that contain single-byte and (if the locale supports them) multibyte characters, where m is the maximum size (in bytes) of the column and r is the minimum number of bytes reserved for that column.

A column declared as VARCHAR without parentheses or parameters has a maximum size of one byte, and a reserved size of zero.

The VARCHAR data type is the IBM® Informix® implementation of a character varying data type. The ANSI standard data type for varying-length character strings is CHARACTER VARYING.

The size of the maximum size (m) parameter of a VARCHAR column can range from 1 to 255 bytes. If you are placing an index on a VARCHAR column, the maximum size is 254 bytes. You can store character strings that are shorter, but not longer, than the m value that you specify.

Specifying the minimum reserved space (r) parameter is optional. This value can range from 0 to 255 bytes but must be less than the maximum size (m) of the VARCHAR column. If you do not specify any minimum value, it defaults to 0. You should specify this parameter when you initially intend to insert rows with short or NULL character strings in the column but later expect the data to be updated with longer values.

For variable-length strings longer than 255 bytes, you can use the LVARCHAR data type, whose upper limit is 32,739 bytes, instead of VARCHAR.

In an index based on a VARCHAR column (or on a NVARCHAR column), each index key has a length that is based on the data values that are actually entered, rather than on the declared maximum size of the column. (See, however, IFX_PAD_VARCHAR environment variable for information about how you can configure the effective size of VARCHAR and NVARCHAR data strings that IBM Informix sends or receives.)

When you store a string in a VARCHAR column, only the actual data characters are stored. The database server does not strip a VARCHAR string of any user-entered trailing blanks, nor pad a VARCHAR value to the declared length of the column. If you specify a reserved space (r), but some data strings are shorter than r bytes, some space reserved for rows goes unused.

VARCHAR values are compared to other VARCHAR values (and to other character-string data types) in the same way that CHAR values are compared. The shorter value is padded on the right with blank spaces until the values have equal lengths; then they are compared for the full length.

No more than 195 columns of the same table can be VARCHAR data types.

Nonprintable Characters with VARCHAR

Nonprintable VARCHAR characters are entered, displayed, and treated in the same way that nonprintable characters in CHAR values are treated. For details, see Nonprintable Characters with CHAR.

Storing Numeric Values in a VARCHAR Column

When you insert a numeric value in a VARCHAR column, the stored value does not get padded with trailing blanks to the maximum length of the column. The number of digits in a numeric VARCHAR value is the number of characters that are required to store that value. For example, in the next example, the value stored in table mytab is 1.

create table mytab (col1 varchar(10));
insert into mytab values (1);
Tip: VARCHAR treats C null (binary 0) and string terminators as termination characters for nonprintable characters.

In some East Asian locales, VARCHAR data types can store multibyte characters if the database locale supports a multibyte code set. If you store multibyte characters, make sure to calculate the number of bytes needed. For more information, see the IBM Informix GLS User's Guide.

Multibyte Characters with VARCHAR

The first parameter in VARCHAR data type declarations can be affected by the SQL_LOGICAL_CHAR feature that is described in the section Logical Character Semantics in Character Type Declarations.

Collating VARCHAR Values

The main difference between the NVARCHAR and the VARCHAR data types (like the difference between CHAR and NCHAR) is the difference in collating order. In general, collation of VARCHAR (like CHAR and LVARCHAR ) values is in the order of the characters as they exist in the code set.

An exception is the MATCHES operator, which applies a localized collation to NVARCHAR and VARCHAR values (and to CHAR, LVARCHAR, and NCHAR values) if you use bracket ( [ ] ) symbols to define ranges when DB_LOCALE (or SET COLLATION) has specified a localized collating order. For more information, see the IBM Informix GLS User's Guide.

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