Copying New Line Data out of SQL Server

 

A lot of the time, DBAs are asked to run adhoc reports for various business people and, more often than not, the expected medium for these reports is Excel.

Now for the most part this seems simple enough…

  • Run the T-SQL report
  • Highlight the results
  • Copy the results
  • Paste into an Excel worksheet

Simples!…right?

How do you deal with carriage returns though? New line feeds? Tabs? Commas when you’re trying to comma delimit?

Try and copy them into an Excel worksheet and what you’re going to get is confusion, alarm, and vexation.

Not exactly the clear reporting that the business people are hoping for.

So what can we do? Panic? Grab another coffee? Roll your “r’s”?

Yes, yes, and not yet…


Karaoke…

I have mentioned before that we can use CHAR(10) and CHAR(13) for new lines and carriage returns in SQL Server so I’ll leave it up to an exercise to the reader to create a table with these “troublesome” bits of information in them (plus if you came here from Google, I assume you already have a table with them in it).

For me, I’ve just created a single table dbo.NewLineNotes that has a single entry with a new line in it.

CopyingNewLineTwoLines
SQL Server is left, Report is right

So a straight-up copy and paste isn’t going to cut it here. If we have more than 1 row, we’re not going to get a 1 entry to 1 row in the report that we are looking for. How do people deal with this?

1 Way:

Well, depending on what tool you have, the answer could be as simple as a right-click and selecting “Open in Excel”

RedGate_OpenInExcel
Intact but on 1 line 🙂

Or Another:

Let’s proceed with the impression that you do not have RedGate tools (cough free trial cough) and cannot avail of the right-click righteousness, what do you do then.

Well…have you thought about PowerShell?

Hear me out on this but you probably already have your query but found the new lines are screwing up the report. So let’s throw that query into a variable

$NewLineQuery = 'SELECT Notes FROM dbo.NewLineNotes'

Then what we have to do is somehow connect to the SQL Server instance and database.

Let’s go with the very basics here as that’s all we really need. Invoke-SqlCmd, and yes I know it has problems. I’ve linked and talked about them before. It works for us in this situation though.

FirstResults
Yup, that’s good old VS code!
Now the more code-centered readers among you may have spotted and asked why I used -ExpandProperty and not just -Property , or even why I included it at all.
Well, apart from the thought that code online should be like code in scripts (legible with no aliases), we’re dealing with new lines here!
If we don’t specify ​-expand then what we actually get is…
SecondResults
comma delimited or ellipses delimited?

How does that help us with Reports?

If you work with PowerShell for the smallest amount of time, then I hope you’ve run into the command Export-CSV. See help for details…

help Export-Csv -Full

This will output a delimited file (defaults to comma but we can change that if we want) to wherever we want. We can then open it up in Excel or whatever other tool you use.

Let’s see if that splits our information into a new line!

ThirdResult
IT’S ALIVE!!! ugh I mean…IT WORKS!!!

Another another…

There are tons of different ways to do this but this is what I used.

Quick, dirty, and effective.

In the short term, I’m okay with that!

 

Dealing with System.Data.DataRow.

Words: 1018

Time to read: ~ 5 minutes

Tl;Dr: Make sure you’re calling the property, not just the variable i.e. $Var.ColumnName, not just $Var

Expert Opinion.

I had being sitting on this blog post for a while but then came a recent blog post by Mike Fal ( b | t ) that defended the use of  Invoke-Sqlcmd. Well, it turns out that Mike’s post was in response to Drew Furgiuele’s ( b | t ) blog post condeming it!

If that wasn’t bad enough, I then came across an article by Steven Swenson ( b | t ) that was in response to Mike’s article. Guess what? Another condemnation of  Invoke-Sqlcmd!

It seems that Invoke-Sqlcmd is the Marmite of the PowerShell/SQL Server world. That’s the equivalent of the Crunchy Peanut Butter versus Smooth Peanut Butter debate for my American readers. (Hi Aunt Kate and Uncle Tom!)

Now if you want some real concise, knowledgeable, and professional opinions on the pros and cons of this command, I encourage you to check out those blog posts. I’ve linked to them and I’ve read them all, each with a blend of “oh yeah” and “huh, good point” comments thrown in.

Let’s Get Personal.

The reason that I wanted to throw in my thoughts in this debate is because, as much as I love Mike’s article, it doesn’t deal with the biggest problem that I had with Invoke-Sqlcmd.

Dealing with those stupid, annoying System.Data.DataRow

system-data-datarow
Look at them there…taunting us!

I eventually  figured out how to deal with these and wanted to pass the information on.

The Set Up.

For all those playing along at home, I’ve got a SQL Server 2016 Developer Edition with a copy of WideWorldImporters, as well as PowerShell version 5.

Let’s see how many customesr we have…

SELECT COUNT(*)
FROM Sales.Customers;
CustomerCount
I am not adding 2 more customers, no matter what!

Now I don’t know about you but when I query stuff in a SQL database, it’s to do something to/with the results. They could be a list of servers that I monitor, they could be a list of databases that I want to check the recovery model of, or it could be a list of tables that I want to see how much space they are using. The main point is that I want to do something with the results.

But for this simple case, I just want to list out the customer name from this table. Simple? Yes, but this is just a test case to prove a point.

So let’s PowerShell this!

And so our problems begin.

Now, the basic premise is this:

For each customer name, I just want to output the line “Currently working on” & the customer name.

Now this is based on a real world example where it was a list of servers and I wanted to include this in Write-Debug.

Pain 1.

Invoke-Sqlcmd -ServerInstance localhost -Database WideWorldImporters -Query @"
SELECT CustomerName AS Name
FROM Sales.Customers;
"@ | ForEach-Object {
  "Currently working on $_"
}

Nice and simple PowerShell command, what I would call a “Ronseal” but when we run it…

system-data-datarow
grr!

I’m just going to follow this up with code and pictures of what I tried to do to get this to work…Hopefully you’ll get some amusement out of this…

Pain 2.

In this case I figured maybe I should put the results into a variable first and then see if it could work.

$Employees = Invoke-Sqlcmd -ServerInstance localhost -Database WideWorldImporters -Query @"
SELECT CustomerName AS Name
FROM Sales.Customers;
"@

foreach ($employee in $Employees) {
    "Currently working on $employee"
}
system-data-datarow
Nope!

Pain 3.

Well I know that PowerShell arrays start at 0, and I know that I can get the count of elements in an array by using <variable>.count so maybe that will work?

0..$Employees.Count |
    ForEach-Object {
        [int]$i = $_

        $employeeRange = $Employees[$i]

        "Currently working on $employeeRange"
    }

 

 

0basedArrayNotHighlighted
Nope!

Pain 4.

A quick check on Google points me to using ItemArray with my loops so I try that.

0..$Employees.Count |
    ForEach-Object {
        [int]$i = $_

        $employeeRange = $Employees[$i].ItemArray

        "Currently working on $employeeRange"
    }
0basedArray
YES!!! Wait…what the?

Ahhh! I know that PowerShell is 0 based but I didn’t realize that means the count is going to give me 1 extra row! Plus that’s a bit too much lines for my liking. All that just to output a customer name? Nah let me try again.

Pain 5.

for ($i = 0; $i -lt ($Employees.Count);, $i++) {

    $EmployeeFor = $Employees[$i].ItemArray

    "Currently working on $EmployeeFor"
}
forgood
FORtunately FOR gets me the FORenames (get it?)

The Real Solution.

If only I had run this…

$Employees | Get-Member

You know, there’s a reason that they say the 3 best commands are Get-Help, Get-Command, and Get-Member.

It’s because they save so much time if you just look at them.

$Employees | Get-Member
e_gm
If I may direct your attention to the MemberType of “Property”…

As it turns out there is such an easier way to get the data values back from Invoke-Sqlcmd,

if you want the data, just change $_ to $_.<property>

Let’s see if it works for us.

Pleasure 1.

If we “correct” our original code…

Invoke-Sqlcmd -ServerInstance localhost -Database WideWorldImporters -Query @"
SELECT CustomerName AS Name
FROM Sales.Customers;
"@ | ForEach-Object {
    "Currently working on $($_.Name)"
}

 

forgood
Oh…that’s lovely!

Pleasure 2.

And what about with variables?

foreach ($employee in $Employees.Name) {
"Currently working on $employee"
}
forgood
Brings a tear to my eye, it does 🙂

It looks like we finally have a proper Ronseal moment.

Final Thoughts.

I have absolutely no problem with Invoke-Sqlcmd, so I suppose I fall into Mike’s side of the camp.

Do I use it all the time though? Not really.

The SMO objects have an amazing amount of information that is just too difficult to get with Invoke-Sqlcmd so I’ve started to use the SMO more and more.

But Invoke-Sqlcmd is a tool, just like everything else. There’s no point in throwing away a tool just because it isn’t the most optimal anymore, especially when it is so useful in adhoc situations.

There are some cases where a small handheld screwdriver is more useful than an electric one, just like there are some cases where Invoke-Sqlcmd is more useful than the SMO objects.

Just know your tools…