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An Inquiry into IN Query

I had to select a ton of records today for a project in ArcGIS. You know the normal method, hellish SQL repetition: ID = 1 OR ID = 5 OR ID = 6 OR ID = 12 OR ID = 14 OR ID = 27 OR ID = 41 OR ID = 43

The past few months I've been working a lot in SQL Server and this experience made this repetition seem like too much work. So I got lazy and I made an inquiry into IN query: ID IN (1,5,6,12,14,27,41,43)

And it just worked. There's no documentation in the main help file that even mentions it. If you do open the ArcGIS Help and search on "SQL Reference" nearly half way down you find a section on Subqueries. Here they explain that IN queries are supported in geodatabases and EXISTS is supported as well! Who knew? How was I supposed to know this if I hadn't gotten lazy?

Here's what you'll find in the ArcGIS Help File:
NOTE: Coverages, shapefiles, and other non-geodatabase file-based data sources do not support subqueries. Subqueries done on a versioned ArcSDE feature class which has been registered without the option to move edits to base will not return features stored in the delta tables. File geodatabases provide the limited support for subqueries explained in this section, while personal and ArcSDE geodatabases provide full support. For information on the full set of subquery capabilities of personal and ArcSDE geodatabases, refer to your DBMS documentation.

A subquery is a query nested within another query. It can be used to apply predicate or aggregate functions or to compare data with values stored in another table. This can be done with the IN or ANY keywords. For example, this query would select only the countries that are not also listed in the table indep_countries:


This query would return the features with a GDP2006 greater than the GDP2005 of any of the features contained in countries:

"GDP2006" > (SELECT MAX("GDP2005") FROM countries)

For each record in the table, a subquery may need to parse all the data in its target table. It may be extremely slow to execute on a large dataset.

Subquery support in file geodatabases is limited to the following:

IN predicate. For example:


Scalar subqueries with comparison operators. A scalar subquery returns a single value. For example:

"GDP2006" > (SELECT MAX("GDP2005") FROM countries)

For file geodatabases, the set functions AVG, COUNT, MIN, MAX, and SUM can only be used within scalar subqueries.

EXISTS predicate. For example:

EXISTS (SELECT * FROM indep_countries WHERE "COUNTRY_NAME" = 'Mexico')

[NOT] EXISTSReturns TRUE if the subquery returns at least one record; otherwise, it returns FALSE. For example, this expression returns TRUE if the OBJECTID field contains a value of 50:


EXISTS is supported in file, personal, and ArcSDE geodatabases only.

[NOT] INSelects a record if it has one of several strings or values in a field. When preceded by NOT, it selects a record if it doesn't have one of several strings or values in a field. For example, this expression searches for four different state names:

"STATE_NAME" IN ('Alabama', 'Alaska', 'California', 'Florida')

For file, personal, and ArcSDE geodatabases, this operator can also be applied to a subquery:


Remix IN with some external SQL that EXISTS here in ArcGIS One-to-Many Labeling and you might confuse ArcSDE for an RDMS. Just don't try look for anything meaningful in a RELATE.


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