SQL Server

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Have you ever needed to write a script that would store the Windows login of the user that executes the script in a table, without hard-coding it?  And you couldn’t find your way through the user jungle of T-SQL?  Then read on!

A normal approach would be to rely on the IntelliSense feature of SSMS and start typing something like:

select use

Which gives you a dropdown like:


Cool you think, there are four system functions to return something user-related, one of them would be the Windows user, right?  Well, wrong.

Let’s find out what these functions actually return, and locate a method that does return what we require.

The Different User-Related System Functions


According to the BOL:

Allows a system-supplied value for the database user name of the current user to be inserted into a table when no default value is specified.

So, how many times did you read that?  And do you now know what you’ll get?  Me neither.  As far as I understand it, you’ll get the database user name of the connection context.  Not what we need.


According to BOL:

Returns the identification number for a database user.

The function accepts one argument that accepts a string representing a username.  When no argument is provided, it will return the user ID of the execution context.

But that’s not important because the BOL also mentions that it will be removed in a future version and that you thus shouldn’t use it anymore.  No problem if you need it though, its replacement is called DATABASE_PRINCIPAL_ID.


According to BOL:

Returns a database user name from a specified identification number.

This is the inverse of USER_ID.  It accepts one argument representing the user ID.  When omitted, the user of the current execution context will be returned.  Which is actually the equivalent of the USER function.

Still no Windows user though, so let’s move on to the next one.


Not documented in the BOL.

It seems to represent the sid column found through following query:

select * from sys.sysusers

And the sys.sysusers view is documented.  Apparently “sid” stands for “security identifier” and it’s a varbinary.  But not only is the view documented, it is also deprecated.  You should use the following view instead:

select * from sys.database_principals

That query returns a list of principals in the current database, and one of the fields is indeed our dear sid.  However, we can now conclude that sid is definitely not what we’re looking for in this little quest, it doesn’t even closely resemble a Windows user name.  So let’s move on again!


Hmm, “current user”, will this finally be the Windows user with which I’m running my queries?

According to BOL:

Returns the name of the current user. This function is equivalent to USER_NAME().

Equivalent to USER_NAME, so still not what we’re looking for.


According to BOL:

SESSION_USER returns the user name of the current context in the current database.

You can probably guess by now that again this is not what we’re searching for.  Next.


According to BOL:

Allows a system-supplied value for the current login to be inserted into a table when no default value is specified.

Ah, finally a description that contains the word “login”!  And indeed, here’s what it returns:


That is indeed my Windows user.  Mission accomplished!

Please note: if you’re running this through a window connected via a SQL Server login, you will get that login as opposed to your Windows login.  And if you get ‘sa’ while you’re connected to a production server you should look into making some security changes. :-)


Two more similar functions exist: SUSER_NAME and SUSER_SNAME.

Both return a login name as well, and both accept a parameter.  When executed without parameter, they return the login name of the current user.  Their only difference is the parameter that they accept.  SUSER_NAME accepts the “login identification number of the user”, which is an int, and SUSER_SNAME accepts the “login security identification number”, a varbinary(85) (remember sid from above?).

Quick Query

The following query shows how to use all the functions, with the default values for any parameters.


Have fun!


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Here’s a quick post about one of my favorite pages on the Microsoft Support site.  The page explains how to retrieve your SQL Server version, and also mentions the different version numbers of all major releases and service packs.

One of my favorite statements since many years is the following:

select @@version;

Here’s the output that it produces on my laptop running Windows 7, while connected to my R2 server:

Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 (RTM) – 10.50.1600.1 (X64)   Apr  2 2010 15:48:46   Copyright (c) Microsoft Corporation  Enterprise Edition (64-bit) on Windows NT 6.1 <X64> (Build 7600: )

It not only retrieves the version, edition and CPU architecture of SQL Server, on top of that it also shows you the operating system version on which it is running!

The statement is easy to remember and gives you all the details that you need.  Well, that depends on the situation of course.  In one of my previous jobs I was, as developer, last-line support for an application that was used worldwide.  Which means that now and then I had people on the phone that had “some vague issue” with our application.  And even though I speak four languages (more or less), I can assure you that getting details through a phone line can be a tough job.  I remember one case where I had to spend half an hour to get the person on the other side find the Start button.  Yes, that stupid thing on the bottom left, the thing that you need all the time as a regular Windows user.  And no, they we’re not on Windows 3.x anymore!  In those times, it even had the letters S T A R and T all over it!  But alas, it remained impossible to find.  Then I switched to finding the clock.  Guess what: wasn’t in the right bottom corner either!  Further during the conversation I tried all other corners, also tried to explain that the status bar may have been set to automatically hide.  Oh well, at a certain point they’d suddenly found it!  I don’t know where, maybe on another PC, at that point I didn’t care anymore, I just wanted them to open up the Management Studio, er, Query Analyzer more likely.

Anyway, at times like that, you’re glad that easy SQL commands still exist.

The statement above is not the only possibility to get details about the SQL Server version.  Another method is through the SERVERPROPERTY function.  Here’s a sample statement (from the Books Online) to retrieve version information:

SELECT SERVERPROPERTY('ProductVersion') AS ProductVersion,
    SERVERPROPERTY('ProductLevel') AS ProductLevel,
    SERVERPROPERTY('Edition') AS Edition,
    SERVERPROPERTY('EngineEdition') AS EngineEdition;

Try getting that to the other side of the phone line!  And no, email was not an option either…

Here’s the statement’s output:

Output of SERVERPROPERTY sample statement

Not only is the statement more difficult to remember, the output is less readable too.  For instance you need to know that EngineEdition 3 means Enterprise Edition.

Nevertheless, it is a useful function with more possibilities than @@version.  Check out the BOL for all the details and available properties.

Let’s get back on topic now.  I was going to mention a certain page on the Microsoft Support site.  Here it is: How to identify your SQL Server version and edition.

I think this page is a great reference in terms of versions.  If someone wants to know what version of SQL Server he’s running and doesn’t know the version numbers, this is the place to be!  I just whish that Microsoft would keep it more up-to-date.  At this moment it’s not even mentioning SQL Server 2008 R2, while that was released about half a year ago.  No sign of SP2 for SQL Server 2008 either.  I’m going to provide feedback through the textbox at the bottom of the page with this exact statement.  Hopefully that has some effect.

In case you are looking for those latest version numbers, here they are:

SQL Server 2008 SP2 10.00.4000.00
SQL Server 2008 R2 RTM 10.50.1600.1


Have fun!



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As a BI developer I regularly use Excel to analyze my data on correctness.  In Excel it’s easy to filter out unrelated records, as you’ll probably already know.

How do I get my data in Excel?

With a simple copy/paste.  Since SQL Server 2008, you can just right-click on the results in the Management Studio and select Copy with Headers.  This will put the selected data into memory, including the column headers.

SSMS 2008: right-click on results to Copy with Headers

You can even make a selection in the Results pane and only copy that, as shown in the screenshot above.  Here’s what it looks like when pasted into Excel:

Data with headers pasted into Excel

How do I make the columns wider?

Excel will not expand the column widths by default, shown in that last screenshot.  You could manually enlarge them one by one, but that’s not convenient when you last filled column is called “DI”.  Instead, I use the following trick.  First I select the whole sheet by clicking on the grey square in the top-left corner:

Select the whole sheet using the grey square

Then I double-click on the vertical divider in between columns A and B.  This will adjust all column widths so that the data fits nicely.

Double-click the divider in between two columns to adjust width automatically

Does Excel know SELECT DISTINCT?

The other day I needed to filter out all duplicate records out of a really large dataset.  I first tried by activating the regular filter.  This is an Excel feature that I use a lot.  Just clicking the Filter button on the Data ribbon will add the small dropdowns next to each column’s header:

Excel's Filter functionality

But in those dropdowns I couldn’t find an option which would get me to the required result.

(Note that I added a couple of duplicate records in my dataset.)

After a little search, I found the magic checkbox!  I didn’t know that it could be so easy.

To find it, click the Advanced button in the Data ribbon.

The Advanced button on the Data ribbon

In the Advanced Filter window that appears you see a checkbox called Unique records only.

Advanced Filter: Unique records only checkbox


And here’s the sheet with the duplicates filtered out:

Excel sheet after filtering out duplicate records with the "Unique records only" option

Do you also see that the filter dropdowns are gone, although I did not remove them?  The Advanced Filter cannot be used in combination with the regular filter.  Once you activate the regular filter by clicking the Filter button, your duplicates will re-appear.

If you want to further filter your data after filtering out all duplicate records, you should select the Copy to another location option in the Advanced Filter window.  Copy it below your data on the same sheet and apply the regular filter on that new set of data.

Filtered set of data below full dataset on same sheet

Copying to another sheet is not supported.  Apparently you can only copy to the active sheet.  Should you try it out anyway, you’ll get this message:

Warning: You can only copy filtered data to the active sheet

Happy filtering!



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Lately I’ve been using Visual Studio Team System 2008 Database Edition with the GDR R2 add-on, also known as “The Data Dude”, to compare databases with each other.

And during a schema compare I noticed that the dude can be quite stubborn now and then.

Here’s an example and an explanation of why, as far as I can tell, the dude is behaving that way.

The Scenario

At work we use the data dude’s schema compare to prepare our deployment scripts.  The most fun can be had when preparing a script to deploy the latest finalized version, version x, from the Development (DEV) to the Acceptance (UAT) environment.

In our DEV database there have already been changes for the next version, version x+1, so these changes need to be skipped.

Now imagine the following situation:

  • a table called TableA exists
  • a new field called NewFieldA was added to TableA
  • a view called ViewA exists and was modified – it uses TableA but not NewFieldA

The changes to ViewA belong with version x, while the changes to TableA are part of version x+1.  So the script that I’m going to generate should contain an ALTER VIEW ViewA … but not an ALTER TABLE TableA ….

The Behavior

Using the dude, I open up the dropdown on the line that states Different definition on TableA and I select Skip.  The value gets changed from Update to Skip.  However, when the focus changes to another line in the grid the value changes back to Update!  Furthermore, it’s now grayed out, impossible to change!

The first time that you see this happening you can’t believe your eyes and try it once more, first closing everything and then re-doing your actions.  Just to see if you didn’t select the wrong option somewhere.  But alas, the dude remains stubborn!

Tip: if you have just executed the compare and you find that some update actions cannot be modified, try to do a refresh (right-click on the background of the comparison window and click Refresh).  I noticed that after the refresh you will get the dropdown for these lines and thus will be able to change the Update Action.

The Explanation

It took me a while to realize, but here’s what seems to be happening.  Like with all things stubborn, it helps if you know what the thing in question is actually being stubborn for.

The dude knows that ViewA depends on TableA and it also knows that both ViewA and TableA where changed.  However, the dude is a little short-sighted, it doesn’t know that NewFieldA is not used in ViewA.  It doesn’t know that the change to ViewA was not related to the change on TableA.  So it automatically assumes that you’re making a mistake and prevents you from messing up.  It thinks, “You stupid user, I know it better, I am smart software!  And that’s not all, I AM THE DATA DUDE! And if there’s one thing you don’t want, that’s to mess with the Data Dude!”.

Here’s a screenshot of the dude’s stubbornness:

Grayed-out Update Action: the result of a stubborn data dude

In this particular case it refused to skip certain new tables, even though there were no dependent objects that needed those tables!  The first two lines show the grayed-out items.  These tables were located under a new schema and I had to put the schema’s Update Action to Skip to get the tables be skipped as well.  The Update Action for the tables was changed automatically when I modified the action for the schema.

But, if you ask me, I don’t see why I shouldn’t be able to Skip a new table even when I am going to create the new schema to which it belongs?  It’s the table that depends on the schema, not the other way around.

The Feature Request

It would have been great if I could manually override the dude’s decision.  As that was not the case, I have to manually change the generated script so that it only contains the changes that I want.  As long as it’s technically feasible, I think manual changes to the Update Action should be allowed.

One More Tip

Take a good look at the following screenshot.

Beware the miniature exclamation mark in the icon's corner!

By default, the node that reads Different dependencies was collapsed.  So you think, good, the line says Skip so nothing will happen.  Except, did you notice that minuscule exclamation mark in the bottom-left corner of the icon?  That means that other actions may be happening further down the dependency tree, as illustrated in the screenshot.

So don’t let the dude mislead you into thinking nothing will happen when it says Skip.  Sometimes the actual actions are hidden further down and you need to open up every node with the exclamation mark on the icon to verify if that’s what you want.

Have fun training the dude,



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In this article I will show you a couple of different T-SQL queries to fetch aggregated data.  The main purpose is to illustrate how the OVER clause can be used to aggregate data.

For the examples I will use data from the AdventureWorks2008R2 database, available at CodePlex.

The Data

The AdventureWorks 2008 R2 database contains a view called Sales.vSalesPerson.  This is the data with which I’ll be working in the examples below.  Here’s what it looks like:

My Working Data

I’ve hidden some fields so that all the relevant ones are in view.

The Scenario

Your manager has asked you to create one query, to be executed on the Sales.vSalesPerson table, that returns a list of:

  • all employees (FirstName, LastName, JobTitle, CountryRegionName, StateProvinceName, City),
  • their sales of last year (SalesLastYear),
  • the sum of the sales of last year for their country,
  • the average of the sales of last year compared to all employees with the same type of phone (PhoneNumberType)
  • the overall average and sum of the sales of last year.

Using Derived Tables

No problem you say, coming right up.  So you start building your query, retrieving all fields as requested.

After quite some typing, here’s what your query looks like:

select S.FirstName, S.LastName, S.JobTitle, S.PhoneNumberType, S.CountryRegionName,
    S.StateProvinceName, S.City, S.SalesLastYear,
    SalesSUM.SalesLastYear_AVG, SalesSUM.SalesLastYear_SUM
from Sales.vSalesPerson S
--Derived Table 1: the overall aggregates
cross join (
    select SUM(SalesLastYear) SalesLastYear_SUM, AVG(SalesLastYear) SalesLastYear_AVG
    from Sales.vSalesPerson
) SalesSUM
--Derived Table 2: the aggregate on Country level
inner join (
    select CountryRegionName, SUM(SalesLastYear) SalesLastYearGeographic_SUM
    from Sales.vSalesPerson
    group by CountryRegionName
) GeographicSales on GeographicSales.CountryRegionName = S.CountryRegionName
--Derived Table 3: the aggregate on phone type
inner join (
    select PhoneNumberType, AVG(SalesLastYear) SalesLastYearByPhoneNumberType_AVG
    from Sales.vSalesPerson
    group by PhoneNumberType
) SalesByPhoneType on SalesByPhoneType.PhoneNumberType= S.PhoneNumberType;

The main query is retrieving all fields as requested.  Further down there are three derived table queries, each one retrieving aggregates on a different level.

The first derived table is retrieving the overall aggregates.  These are cross-joined with every record in our main query so for each record the totals will be the same, which is what we want.

The second derived table retrieves the aggregates on Country level, including the CountryRegionName.  This is done using the conventional GROUP BY method.  The CountryRegionName is the key on which the derived table is joined to the main table.

The third derived table uses a similar system, this time for the aggregate on phone type.

And here’s the query’s output:

Output of the query using subqueries

Happy with this result, you go up to the cafeteria to finally have lunch with your colleagues (who left 15 minutes earlier but you wanted to get your query finished first).

Using The OVER Clause

During lunch you explain to your peers what kind of funny request you got from management and told them how you solved it.

Then one of them speaks up and says: “Want to know how you can avoid all that typing?  Use the OVER clause!  I’ll show you when we are back at our desks.”

After lunch, here’s what your colleague helps to produce:

select S.FirstName, S.LastName, S.JobTitle, S.PhoneNumberType, S.CountryRegionName,
    S.StateProvinceName, S.City, S.SalesLastYear,
    SUM(SalesLastYear) OVER (PARTITION BY CountryRegionName)
    AVG(SalesLastYear) OVER (PARTITION BY PhoneNumberType)
    SalesSUM.SalesLastYear_AVG, SalesSUM.SalesLastYear_SUM
from Sales.vSalesPerson S
--Derived Table 1: the overall aggregates
cross join (
    select SUM(SalesLastYear) SalesLastYear_SUM, AVG(SalesLastYear) SalesLastYear_AVG
    from Sales.vSalesPerson
) SalesSUM;

As you can see, derived tables 2 and 3 are gone.  They have been replaced with the OVER clause, in combination with PARTITION BY.  What you say with the OVER clause is: “partition the dataset by the fields specified in the PARTITION BY and apply the aggregation on those partitions”.  Another word for this is aggregate window function.

As you like the approach, you ask your co-worker how you can get rid of that cross join.  He doesn’t really know but then another colleague who overheard your conversation says: “On this blog the other day I read that you can use the OVER clause and partition by anything you want.  As long as it’s a constant, it will work!”.

So you give that a try and you end up with the following final query:

select FirstName, LastName, JobTitle, PhoneNumberType, CountryRegionName,
    StateProvinceName, City, SalesLastYear,
    SUM(SalesLastYear) OVER (PARTITION BY CountryRegionName)
    AVG(SalesLastYear) OVER (PARTITION BY PhoneNumberType)
    AVG(SalesLastYear) OVER (PARTITION BY 'duh') SalesLastYear_AVG,
    SUM(SalesLastYear) OVER (PARTITION BY 1) SalesLastYear_SUM
from Sales.vSalesPerson;

As illustrated in the example, you can use any constant value to calculate overall aggregates over the whole dataset using the OVER clause.

You happily thank your colleagues and tell them that next time you’ll be able to join them for lunch on time.

About a week later you’re explaining to one of your friends how you’ve gotten to know the OVER clause. After hearing how you use it to aggregate over the whole dataset, he smiles and says: “I know how you can simplify it even more! Don’t partition at all!”.

Taking a closer look it turns out that the PARTITION BY is actually optional:

Ranking Window Functions
< OVER_CLAUSE > :: =     OVER ( [ PARTITION BY value_expression, ... [ n ] ]            <ORDER BY_Clause> )Aggregate Window Functions
< OVER_CLAUSE > :: =     OVER ( [ PARTITION BY value_expression, ... [ n ] ] )

See those square brackets? Means it’s optional.

So here is the real final query:

select FirstName, LastName, JobTitle, PhoneNumberType, CountryRegionName,
    StateProvinceName, City, SalesLastYear,
    SUM(SalesLastYear) OVER (PARTITION BY CountryRegionName)
    AVG(SalesLastYear) OVER (PARTITION BY PhoneNumberType)
    AVG(SalesLastYear) OVER () SalesLastYear_AVG,
    SUM(SalesLastYear) OVER () SalesLastYear_SUM
from Sales.vSalesPerson;


When you compare the final query with the first one, tell me, which one would you prefer to maintain?  Do you prefer to have lunch with your peers or to arrive late and miss all the fun?

Have fun!



OVER Clause (Transact-SQL)

Join Fundamentals

SELECT (Transact-SQL)


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