RFC 21: OGR SQL type cast and field name alias

Author: Tamas Szekeres

Contact: szekerest@gmail.com

Status: Adopted


This proposal provides support for changing the column name and the column type in the OGR SQL select list.

The main motivation of this change is to provide better control when transferring the OGR_STYLE special field from each data source to the other. For example we can use ogr2ogr for this purpose using the following command line:

ogr2ogr -f "ESRI Shapefile" -sql "select *, OGR_STYLE from rivers" rivers.shp rivers.tab

The shape driver will truncate the OGR_STYLE field to 80 characters by default in length that may not be enough to hold the actual value. So as to fix this issue we might want to specify the desired length in the select list, like:

ogr2ogr -f "ESRI Shapefile" -sql "select *, CAST(OGR_STYLE AS character(255)) from rivers" rivers.shp rivers.tab

In some cases it would also be useful to change the name of the field in the target data source:

ogr2ogr -f "ESRI Shapefile" -sql "select *, CAST(OGR_STYLE AS character(255)) AS 'STYLE' from rivers" rivers.shp rivers.tab

Main concepts

To support these new features we will extend the current OGR SQL syntax. The proposed addition will keep the syntax conform to the SQL92 specification:

SELECT <field-list> FROM <table_def>
     [LEFT JOIN <table_def>
      ON [<table_ref>.]<key_field> = [<table_ref>.].<key_field>]*
     [WHERE <where-expr>]
     [ORDER BY <sort specification list>]

<field-list> ::= <column-spec> [ { , <column-spec> }... ]

<column-spec> ::= <field-spec> [ <as clause> ]
                 | CAST ( <field-spec> AS <data type> ) [ <as clause> ]

<field-spec> ::= [DISTINCT] <field_ref>
                 | <field_func> ( [DISTINCT] <field-ref> )
                 | Count(*)

<as clause> ::= [ AS ] <column_name>

<data type> ::= character [ ( field_length ) ]
                | float [ ( field_length ) ]
                | numeric [ ( field_length [, field_precision ] ) ]
                | integer [ ( field_length ) ]
                | date [ ( field_length ) ]
                | time [ ( field_length ) ]
                | timestamp [ ( field_length ) ]

<field-func> ::= AVG | MAX | MIN | SUM | COUNT

<field_ref>  ::= [<table_ref>.]field_name

<sort specification list> ::=
              <sort specification> [ { <comma> <sort specification> }... ]

<sort specification> ::= <sort key> [ <ordering specification> ]

<sort key> ::=  <field_ref>

<ordering specification> ::= ASC | DESC

<table_def> ::= ['<datasource name>'.]table_name [table_alias]

<table_ref> ::= table_name | table_alias

This RFC doesn't address implementing conversion to the 'integer list', 'double list' and 'string list' OGR data types, which doesn't conform to the SQL92 specification and the necessary conversion routines are missing in the OGR code.


To implement the addition the following changes should be made in the OGR codebase:

  1. In ogr_swq.h I'll have to add to 4 fields to swq_col_def to hold the field_alias the target_type, the field_length, and field_precision

  2. In ogr_swq.h SWQ_DATE, SWQ_TIME, SWQ_TIMESTAMP will be added to swq_field_type enum.

  3. In swq.c I'll have to change swq_select_preparse to take care of the field alias and the CAST specification.

  4. A new function (swq_parse_typename) will be added to parse the supported typenames.

  5. In ogr_gensql.cpp the .ctor of OGRGenSQLResultsLayer will be changed to set up the field name and the field length to the target data source

  6. In ogr_gensql.cpp TranslateFeature will be modified to take care of the type change if specified.

Backward Compatibility

The backward compatibility for the current SQL syntax will be retained. This addition doesn't require changes in the OGR C and SWIG API.


The OGR SQL document will be updated to reflect the new features. I'll take care of updating the OGR Style Documentation with the support of transferring the styles between the data sources.

Implementation Staffing

Tamas Szekeres will implement the RFC in the development version.

Frank Warmerdam will implement the regression test scripts according to this new functionality.


  • Tracking bug for this feature (containing all of the proposed code changes): #2171

Voting History

Frank Warmerdam +1

Daniel Morissette +1

Howard Butler +1

Even Rouault +1

Tamas Szekeres +1

Andrey Kiselev +0