T-SQL Programming Part 2 – Building a T-SQL Loop

This is the second article
in my T-SQL programming series. This article will discuss building a program
loop using T-SQL. In addition to talking about building a loop, I will also
discuss ways of controlling the loop processing, and different methods to break
out of a loop.

A programming loop is a
chunk of code that is executed over and over again. In the loop some logic is
executed repeatedly in an iterative fashion until some condition is met that
allows the code to break out of the loop. One example of where you might use a
loop would be to process through a set of records one record at a time.
Another example might be where you need to generate some test data and a loop
would allow you to insert a record into your test data table with slightly
different column values, each time the loop is executed. In this article I
will discuss the WHILE, BREAK, CONTINUE, and GOTO statements.

WHILE Statement

In T-SQL the WHILE statement
is the most commonly used way to execute a loop. Here is the basic syntax for
a WHILE loop:

	WHILE <Boolean expression> <code block>

Where a <Boolean
expression> is any expression that equates to a true or false answer, and
the <code block> is the desire code to be executed while the <Boolean
expression> is true. Let’s go through a real simple example.

In this example I will increment
a counter from 1 to 10 and display the counter each time through the WHILE

declare @counter int
set @counter = 0
while @counter < 10
set @counter = @counter + 1
print ‘The counter is ‘ + cast(@counter as char)

Here the code executes the
WHILE statement as long as the @counter integer variable is less than 10, this
is the Boolean expression of the WHILE loop. The @counter variable starts out
at zero, and each time through the WHILE loop it is incremented by 1. The
PRINT statement displays the value in the @counter variable each time through
the WHILE loop. The output from this sample looks like this:

The counter is 1
The counter is 2
The counter is 3
The counter is 4
The counter is 5
The counter is 6
The counter is 7
The counter is 8
The counter is 9
The counter is 10

As you can see, once the
@counter variable reaches 10 the Boolean expression that is controlling the WHILE
loop is no longer true, so the code within the while loop is no longer executed.

Not only can you have a
single while loop, but you can have WHILE loops inside WHILE loops. Or
commonly know as nesting of WHILE loops. There are lots of different uses
where nesting is valuable. I commonly use nesting of WHILE loops to generate
test data. My next example will use the WHILE loop to generate test records
for a PART table. A given PART record is uniquely identified by a Part_Id, and
a Category_Id. For each Part_Id there are three different Category_Id’s. Here
is my example that generates 6 unique records for my PART table using a nested
WHILE loop.

declare @Part_Id int
declare @Category_Id int
declare @Desc varchar(50)
create table PART (Part_Id int, Category_Id int, Description varchar(50))
set @Part_Id = 0
set @Category_Id = 0
while @Part_Id < 2
set @Part_Id = @Part_Id + 1
while @Category_Id < 3
set @Category_Id = @Category_Id + 1
set @Desc = ‘Part_Id is ‘ + cast(@Part_Id as char(1)) +
‘ Category_Id ‘ + cast(@Category_Id as char(1))
insert into PART values(@Part_Id,
@Desc )
set @Category_Id = 0
select * from PART
drop table PART

Here is the output from the
SELECT statement at the bottom of this nested WHILE loop example.

Part_Id Category_Id Description
———– ———– —————————————–
1 1 Part_Id is 1 Category_Id 1
1 2 Part_Id is 1 Category_Id 2
1 3 Part_Id is 1 Category_Id 3
2 1 Part_Id is 2 Category_Id 1
2 2 Part_Id is 2 Category_Id 2
2 3 Part_Id is 2 Category_Id 3

As you can see, by using a
nested WHILE loop each combination of Part_Id and Category_Id is unique. The
code within the first WHILE loop controlled the incrementing of the Part_Id,
where as the second WHILE loop set the Category_Id to a different value each
time through the loop. The code within the first while loop was executed only
twice, but the code inside the second WHILE loop was executed 6 times. Thus
giving me 6 sample PART records.

Gregory Larsen
Gregory Larsen
Gregory A. Larsen is a DBA at Washington State Department of Health (DOH). Greg is responsible for maintaining SQL Server and other database management software. Greg works with customers and developers to design and implement database changes, and solve database/application related problems. Greg builds homegrown solutions to simplify and streamline common database management tasks, such as capacity management.

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