What are my favourite Oracle books? and why?

This post was inspired by a comment on Martin Windlake’s blog.

I am an Oracle Developer who actually likes reading technical books, not only about Oracle technologies but also the wider Software Development world. (Does that put me in a minority?)

As a self taught programmer I have read many Oracle books since I started working with the Database. Whilst most of the books I have read have been at best, perfunctory,  the books that have made it on to this list, which are in no particular order, all have had a very positive impact on I how work with the Oracle Database and it’s related technologies.

Effective Oracle By Design by Tom Kyte

This book is the Code Complete for Oracle developers.

It was the book that first made me aware, when working with PL/SQL less is definitely more and to start thinking in sets. It highlighted the importance of instrumentation within your code, to be wary of universal best practises and also included the only road map I have yet to see for the Oracle Documentation.

PL/SQL From SQL a chapter by Adrian Billington from the book Expert PL/SQL Practises

I found this book to be very hit and miss but I believe Adrian’s single chapter “PL/SQL from SQL” is by itself worth the price of the book.

For many years every relevant Oracle tome I have read had the dire warning “beware of context switching” Oracle Developers know it is has to affect performance when you switch from SQL to PL/SQL within the same statement but exactly how bad it actually is was rarely, if ever disclosed. Adrian’s chapter is the first I know which shows the true cost of context switching. The first part of the chapter explains the term “Context Switching” and goes on to show’s the cost with easy to follow “Then and Now”  SQL.  The second part of the chapter then moves on to explaining how you can start reducing the cost of PL/SQL functions when called from SQL along with some non – PL/SQL alternatives.

Troubleshooting Oracle Performance by Christian Antognini

The book on Oracle performance.

It covers the whole spectrum of Oracle Performance tuning. From identifying and the prioritisation of problems from a business perspective to in depth discussion of the DBMS_XPLAN package.

Oracle PL/SQL Programming by Steven Feuerstein

The seminal book on working with the PL/SQL language. I hesitate to recommend it for learning the language simply because I struggled to learn PL/SQL using the 2nd Edition but once you are up and running there is no better resource for PL/SQL.

Expert Application Express by John Scott, et al

This is a book that should be within reach if you are working with Oracle Application Express. With thirteen chapters written by many of today’s Application Express luminaries it covers topics from the myriad of choices you have for selecting the webserver to how to develop tabular forms effectively and working the Apex 4 features such as Dynamic Actions. My favourite is Doug Gault’s chapter on Debugging.

Where are the Jonathan Lewis books? Whilst I never miss a Jonathan Lewis presentation at the UKOUG events, I have struggled with his books and so at the moment they do not appear on my list. However this list is very much live so one may appear as I periodically review this post.

Oracle File Watcher on a Windows PC


Introduced in Oracle 11g Release 2, the File Watcher enables jobs to be triggered when a file arrives in an Operating System Folder.

In this article I am going to set up a new file watcher on my Windows PC. The example inserts the contents of the newly arrived file into a database table.  The information shown here is distilled from the Oracle documentation

Before getting into the detail, here is a quick run down of the key components and their versions that was used to create the example.

  1. Microsoft Windows XP with Service Pack 3 running via Oracle Virtual Box
  2. Oracle Database 11g Enterprise Edition Release
  3. Oracle SQL Developer
  4. The user running all the code is logged in with the DBA role

Step 1 Alter the File Watcher Interval (Optional)

File watchers check for the arrival of files every ten minutes by default. If you want to change the interval, connect as sys user and run the set_attribute procedure of dbms_scheduler.

The following example changes the interval to one minute.


      'freq=minutely; interval=1'


Step 2 Create a credential

In order for the File Watcher to be able to access the file(s) on Windows, a  Scheduler credential object is required. The following code creates a credential called “watch_credential”


      credential_name => 'watch_credential',
      username        => 'your operating system username',
      password        => 'your operating system password',


Step 3 File Location Details

The call to create_file_watcher (unsurprisingly) creates the file watcher object and tells it where to “watch” for incoming files along with the name of the file that you are interested in.

In the following example I want the File Watcher to watch for files that appear in the Operating System directory C:etl_dir and as the names of the files could be all different but will have the .txt suffix I have set the file name parameter accordingly.


      file_watcher_name => 'the_file_watcher',
      directory_path    => 'C:etl_dir',
      file_name         => '*.txt',
      credential_name   => 'watch_credential',
      destination       => NULL,
      enabled           => FALSE


Step 4 Specify the program unit that will be executed when the file watcher runs

In this step I have specified that the stored procedure that will be executed by the File Watcher, when the file arrives. The stored procedure, sp_load_customer_files, doesn’t yet exist and will be created in Step 6.


      program_name        => 'file_watcher_prog',
      program_type        => 'stored_procedure',
      program_action      => 'sp_load_customer_files',
      number_of_arguments => 1,
      enabled             => FALSE

Step 5 Defining metadata

In order for the new stored procedure, sp_load_customer_files, to access attributes of event that started the File Watcher, a call to dbms_scheduler.define_metadata_argument is required.

For more information about this program unit please refer to the documentation.


      program_name       => 'file_watcher_prog',
      metadata_attribute => 'event_message',
      argument_position  => 1


Step 6 Creating the supporting objects

This step creates a table where the contents of the files will be inserted into, along with the file name. To keep the example concise, no primary keys, indexes etc have been defined.

CREATE TABLE files_from_customers(file_name     VARCHAR2(100),
                                  file_contents CLOB);

The stored procedure that was first referenced in step 4 is now created. This procedure uses some attributes from the filewatcher object to obtain the file name. It then uses the dbms_lob packages to load the data from the file into the table.

CREATE OR REPLACE PROCEDURE sp_load_customer_files
(pt_payload IN sys.scheduler_filewatcher_result)

 lc_clob           CLOB;
 lt_bfile          BFILE;
 li_warning        INTEGER;
 li_dest_offset    INTEGER := 1;
 li_src_offset     INTEGER := 1;
 li_lang_context   INTEGER := 0;

   INSERT INTO files_from_customers (file_name,
   pt_payload.directory_path || '' || pt_payload.actual_file_name,
   RETURNING file_contents INTO lc_clob;
   lt_bfile := BFILENAME(directory => 'ETL_DIR',
                         filename  => pt_payload.actual_file_name);

      file_loc => lt_bfile

      dest_lob     => lc_clob,
      src_bfile    => lt_bfile,
      amount       => dbms_lob.getlength(file_loc => lt_bfile),
      dest_offset  => li_dest_offset,
      src_offset   => li_src_offset,
      bfile_csid   => NLS_CHARSET_ID('UTF8'),
      lang_context => li_lang_context,
      warning      =>; li_warning

     file_loc => lt_bfile

END sp_load_customer_files

Step 7: Creating a job

Create an Event-Based Job That References the File Watcher.


      job_name        => 'file_watcher_job',
      program_name    => 'file_watcher_prog',
      event_condition => NULL,
      queue_spec      => 'the_file_watcher',
      auto_drop       => FALSE,
      enabled         => FALSE


Step 8: Enable All the objects

Enable all the objects that you have created by running:


      'the_file_watcher, file_watcher_prog, file_watcher_job'


Step 9: Seeing the results

Before a file arrives, query the table to show it is empty:

A file arrives into the directory that the File Watcher is monitoring.

When the File Watcher runs (as specified in Step 1) the contents of the new file are inserted into the table:

Step 10 Nothing has happened! (Optional)

So you have followed all the steps shown, double checked the code and nothing has happened. The file hasn’t loaded and your table is still empty.  You have my sympathy! As with anything with many moving parts something is bound not to work.

One tool I found invaluable in debugging these issues is looking at the run log for the job (This is the job created in step 7 and in is called “FILE_WATCHER_JOB” )

SQL Developer performs all the heavy listing when it comes to getting to this information.

From the SQL Developer Object Navigator select the Scheduler folder

Expand the folder and then the Jobs folder and you should see the job you created for the File Watcher, in this case it is called “FILE_WATCHER_JOB” (The job is created in Step 7)

Selecting the appropriate job will then bring up a list of tabs. Select the Run Log

From here you can see lots of useful information that should assist in your debugging.