Oracle and Pro*C - Part 1

Wednesday Mar 9th 2005 by Steve Callan

Pro*C is another one of those tools or features from Oracle that keeps a low profile, quietly waiting its turn for you to use it when the need arises. Learn where to get Pro*C, and how to configure the environment.

Pro*C is another one of those tools or features from Oracle that keeps a low profile, quietly waiting its turn for you to use it when the need arises. With a little searching on various Oracle-related Web sites, you can read about how others have used Pro*C to greatly reduce processing time for some operation or procedure. One of C's features, being a compiled language, is its processing speed. You may find yourself in a situation where Oracle lacks the heavy duty processing speed you need, but at the same time, find that your external application (written in C or C++) lacks the data processing capabilities of Oracle.

What is Pro*C? The Pro*C/C++ Precompiler Getting Started for Windows guide found in the Oracle documentation library starts off with this very question.

The Pro*C/C++ precompiler enables you to create applications that access your Oracle database whenever rapid development and compatibility with other systems are your priorities.

The Pro*C/C++ programming tool enables you to embed Structured Query Language (SQL) statements in a C or C++ program. The Pro*C/C++ precompiler translates these statements into standard Oracle runtime library calls, then generates a modified source program that you can compile, link, and run in the usual way.

Another key reference book is the Pro*C/C++ Precompiler Programmer's Guide, and it lists some reasons why you want to use Pro*C. Some of the reasons are shown below.

The Oracle Pro*C/C++ Precompiler lets you use the power and flexibility of SQL in your application programs. A convenient, easy to use interface lets your application access Oracle directly.

Unlike many application development tools, Pro*C/C++ lets you create highly customized applications. For example, you can create user interfaces that incorporate the latest windowing and mouse technology. You can also create applications that run in the background without the need for user interaction.

Furthermore, Pro*C/C++ helps you fine-tune your applications. It allows close monitoring of resource use, SQL statement execution, and various runtime indicators. With this information, you can change program parameters for maximum performance.

Where is Pro*C and How Do You Get It?

I will use the Windows platform as an example throughout the remainder of this article. After a typical installation of Oracle software, there will be a directory named precomp under ORACLE_HOME. Within precomp, you will see several other subdirectories. If you want to use the sample programs, you will have to restart Oracle Universal Installer and perform a custom installation. The place you are looking for is in the development tools section.

Once you get to the Available Product Components section, select Oracle Programmer (the option may show Reinstall; the screen shot shows Installed because I have already reinstalled this component).

Continue with the installation (it takes a few minutes) and then exit the installer. Look in the precomp directory, and under it, in the demo\proc directory. You should see quite a few folders similar to those shown below.

The getting started for Windows guide includes a description of each demo program. The demos generally require the Scott/Tiger schema to be in place, so rebuild that if you have to (running ORACLE_HOME\rdbms\admin\utlsampl.sql is one way). Some of the demos require additional scripts to be run, so check Table 3-1 as needed.

What Else Do You Need?

The files you use with Pro*C are "pc" files, and if you are familiar with C or C++, you are probably looking for .c or .cpp files. They are there, kind of sort of. After running the precompiler, a .c or .cpp file is created, depending on what you asked for (we will be using .c). Once the .c file is created, you can compile the file in a normal fashion to create the executable. If on UNIX, the make command is used, and on Windows, you can use, for example, Microsoft Visual C++ 6.0, and that answers the "what else do you need" question. How do you get Visual C++ (or Visual Studio)? Many C or C++ textbooks (the Deitel and Deitel series for one) provide a limited or introductory version of Visual C++, and for learning purposes, that is all you need for your Pro*C adventure.

Configuring Your Pro*C Environment

Configuration is actually a two-part process. The first step is to configure your Pro*C environment, and after that is complete, configure Visual C++ so that the generated .c file will successfully compile, link, and run.

Oracle did a poor job of stating all of the necessary steps to configure your environment. There are some fairly obscure references to what is needed, and what is provided (the project files in the demo area) more than likely needs adjusting.

The .c files can be generated in one of two ways: via the command line or by using a GUI tool Oracle provides. To keep things simple, I will use the command line interface (using the "proc" command) and the pcscfg.cfg configuration file found in precomp\admin. With a properly configured pcscfg.cfg file, all that will be needed to generate the .c file is a simple "proc iname=input_file_name.pc" at the command prompt.

Assuming you are using the Scott/Tiger schema, your ORACLE_HOME is in C:\ora9i, and you have Visual C++ in C:\Program Files, this is what you need in the configuration file:

include=(C:\Program Files\Microsoft 
   Visual Studio\VC98\Include)

Let's use the sample9 project (it extracts data based on the department number you provide). Change directory to sample9 in the demo\proc area. To create the sample9.c file, at the command prompt, enter

proc iname=sample9.pc

You should have a sample9.c file now. Earlier, I alluded to the fact that the .c file was "kind of sort of" already present. In a text editor such as TextPad (yes, it is a shameless plug), open the sample9.pc and sample9.c files and note the huge difference between them.

Configuring the Visual C++ Environment

If you are familiar with Visual Studio and jumped ahead, you will have noticed that the sample9.c file compiles okay, but fails to link. Here are the steps to enable a successful compile-link-run process:

1) Add the Pro*C executable to the Executable files directory

2) Add the Pro*C include files to the Include files directory

3) Add the path to oraSQL9.lib to the Library files directory

4) Add the Oracle library to the link line

Double-click the sample9.c file to start Visual C++. You should end up with a window like this:

Go to Tools>Options and select the Directories tab. Add the path to your ORACLE_HOME\bin directory (C:\ora9i\bin in my case) under the Executable files menu option for "Show directories for." Change the menu option to Include files and enter ORACLE_HOME\precomp\public. Change the menu option to Library files and enter ORACLE_HOME\precomp\lib\msvc (there should be a file named oraSQL9.lib there).

Adding the path for proc

Adding the path for the Pro*C include files

Adding the path for the oraSQL9.lib file

Add the oraSQL9.lib file to the Object/library modules under the Link tab in Project>Settings.

You are now ready to link and run. What sample9.exe does is shown below.

Okay, the results aren't that impressive, but if there were millions of rows, how well Pro*C, via C, performs may make you sit up and pay attention to what the utility can offer with respect to shaving significant amounts of time off of a query.

In Closing

With a little bit of C and a little bit of Oracle, you now have at your disposal the means to work outside of Oracle and create an application whose interface with Oracle is transparent to a user. In the next part of this series, I will demonstrate how you can build your own version of SQL*Loader.

» See All Articles by Columnist Steve Callan

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