4. Template Queries

Another powerful feature of libtabula is being able to set up template queries. These are kind of like C’s printf() facility: you give libtabula a string containing the fixed parts of the query and placeholders for the variable parts, and you can later substitute in values into those placeholders.

The following program demonstrates how to use this feature. This is examples/tquery1.cpp:

#include "cmdline.h"
#include "printdata.h"

#include <iostream>

using namespace std;

main(int argc, char *argv[])
    // Get database access parameters from command line
    libtabula::examples::CommandLine cmdline(argc, argv);
    if (!cmdline) {
        return 1;

    try {
        // Establish the connection to the database server.
        libtabula::Connection con(libtabula::examples::db_name,
                cmdline.server(), cmdline.user(), cmdline.pass());

        // Build a template query to retrieve a stock item given by
        // item name.
        libtabula::Query query = con.query(
                "select * from stock where item = %0q");

        // Retrieve an item added by resetdb; it won't be there if
        // tquery* or ssqls3 is run since resetdb.
        libtabula::StoreQueryResult res1 = query.store("Nürnberger Brats");
        if (res1.empty()) {
            throw libtabula::BadQuery("UTF-8 bratwurst item not found in "
                    "table, run resetdb");

        // Replace the proper German name with a 7-bit ASCII
        // approximation using a different template query.
        query.reset();      // forget previous template query data
        query << "update stock set item = %0q where item = %1q";
        libtabula::SimpleResult res2 = query.execute("Nuerenberger Bratwurst",

        // Print the new table contents.
    catch (const libtabula::BadQuery& er) {
        // Handle any query errors
        cerr << "Query error: " << er.what() << endl;
        return -1;
    catch (const libtabula::BadConversion& er) {
        // Handle bad conversions
        cerr << "Conversion error: " << er.what() << endl <<
                "\tretrieved data size: " << er.retrieved <<
                ", actual size: " << er.actual_size << endl;
        return -1;
    catch (const libtabula::Exception& er) {
        // Catch-all for any other Libtabula exceptions
        cerr << "Error: " << er.what() << endl;
        return -1;

    return 0;

The line just before the call to query.parse() sets the template, and the parse call puts it into effect. From that point on, you can re-use this query by calling any of several Query member functions that accept query template parameters. In this example, we’re using Query::execute().

Let’s dig into this feature a little deeper.

4.1. Setting up Template Queries

To set up a template query, you simply insert it into the Query object, using numbered placeholders wherever you want to be able to change the query. Then, you call the parse() function to tell the Query object that the query string is a template query, and it needs to parse it:

query << "select (%2:field1, %3:field2) from stock where %1:wheref = %0q:what";

The format of the placeholder is:


Where “###” is a number up to three digits. It is the order of parameters given to a SQLQueryParms object, starting from 0.

“modifier” can be any one of the following:

%Print an actual “%”
""Don’t quote or escape no matter what.
qThis will escape and single-quote the item using the underlying C API, as necessary. For MySQL, we use mysql_escape_string(), for example. It is type-dependent, so integers for example pass through unchanged, whereas strings are both quoted and escaped.
QQuote but don’t escape based on the same rules as for “q”. This can save a bit of processing time if you know the strings will never need quoting

“:name” is for an optional name which aids in filling SQLQueryParms. Name can contain any alpha-numeric characters or the underscore. You can have a trailing colon, which will be ignored. If you need to represent an actual colon after the name, follow the name with two colons. The first one will end the name and the second one won’t be processed.

4.2. Setting the Parameters at Execution Time

To specify the parameters when you want to execute a query simply use Query::store(const SQLString &parm0, [..., const SQLString &parm11]). This type of multiple overload also exists for Query::storein(), Query::use() and Query::execute(). “parm0” corresponds to the first parameter, etc. You may specify up to 25 parameters. For example:

StoreQueryResult res = query.store("Dinner Rolls", "item", "item", "price")

with the template query provided above would produce:

select (item, price) from stock where item = "Dinner Rolls"

The reason we didn’t put the template parameters in numeric order...

select (%0:field1, %1:field2) from stock where %2:wheref = %3q:what

...will become apparent shortly.

4.3. Default Parameters

The template query mechanism allows you to set default parameter values. You simply assign a value for the parameter to the appropriate position in the Query::template_defaults array. You can refer to the parameters either by position or by name:

query.template_defaults[1] = "item";
query.template_defaults["wheref"] = "item";

Both do the same thing.

This mechanism works much like C++’s default function parameter mechanism: if you set defaults for the parameters at the end of the list, you can call one of Query’s query execution methods without passing all of the values. If the query takes four parameters and you’ve set defaults for the last three, you can execute the query using as little as just one explicit parameter.

Now you can see why we numbered the template query parameters the way we did a few sections earlier. We ordered them so that the ones less likely to change have higher numbers, so we don’t always have to pass them. We can just give them defaults and take those defaults when applicable. This is most useful when some parameters in a template query vary less often than other parameters. For example:

query.template_defaults["field1"] = "item"; 
query.template_defaults["field2"] = "price"; 
StoreQueryResult res1 = query.store("Hamburger Buns", "item"); 
StoreQueryResult res2 = query.store(1.25, "price"); 

This stores the result of the following queries in res1 and res2, respectively:

select (item, price) from stock where item = "Hamburger Buns"
select (item, price) from stock where price = 1.25

Default parameters are useful in this example because we have two queries to issue, and parameters 2 and 3 remain the same for both, while parameters 0 and 1 vary.

Some have been tempted into using this mechanism as a way to set all of the template parameters in a query:

query.template_defaults["what"] = "Hamburger Buns";
query.template_defaults["wheref"] = "item";
query.template_defaults["field1"] = "item"; 
query.template_defaults["field2"] = "price"; 
StoreQueryResult res1 = query.store();

This can work, but it is not designed to. In fact, it’s known to fail horribly in one common case. You will not get sympathy if you complain on the mailing list about it not working. If your code doesn’t actively reuse at least one of the parameters in subsequent queries, you’re abusing the library, and it is likely to take its revenge on you.

4.4. Error Handling

If for some reason you did not specify all the parameters when executing the query and the remaining parameters do not have their values set via Query::template_defaults, the query object will throw a BadParamCount object. If this happens, you can get an explanation of what happened by calling BadParamCount::what(), like so:

query.template_defaults["field1"] = "item"; 
query.template_defaults["field2"] = "price"; 
StoreQueryResult res = query.store(1.25); 

This would throw BadParamCount because the wheref is not specified.

In theory, this exception should never be thrown. If the exception is thrown it probably a logic error in your program.