Formatting numeric values

Numeric values must be formatted when converted to strings.

When does numeric formatting take place?

Numeric formatting occurs when converting a number to a string with the USING operator, for example in a LET, DISPLAY or PRINT instruction, and when displaying numeric values in form fields defined with the FORMAT attribute.

Numeric values can be of type such as INTEGER, FLOAT, DECIMAL, MONEY, etc.

This example formats a DECIMAL(10,2) value with the USING operator:

MAIN
  DEFINE d DECIMAL(10,2)
  LET d = -123456.78
  DISPLAY d USING "-,---,--&.&& @"
END MAIN
Front currency symbol, thousands separator, decimal separator and back currency symbol are defined with the DBFORMAT (or DBMONEY) environment variable. For example, if DBFORMAT is defined as ":.:,:E", the previous code example will produce the following output:
 -123,456.78 E

Default formatting occurs when USING or FORMAT are not used, and a numeric value has to be converted to a character string, for example when passing a DECIMAL(p,s) to a function expecting a VARCHAR(n). For more details about default formatting, see Data type conversion reference.

This topic describes the syntax of the format-string in the USING "format-string" operator and FORMAT = "format-string" form field attribute.

Formatting symbols for numbers

When formatting numeric values, the format-string of the USING operator or FORMAT attribute consists of a set of place holders that represent digits, currency symbols, thousands and decimal separators. For example, "###.##@" defines three places to the left of the decimal point and exactly two to the right, plus a "back" currency symbol at the end of the string.

Note: The USING operator or FORMAT attribute are required to display the thousands separator defined in DBFORMAT.

The format-string must use normalized placeholders described in Table 1. The placeholders will be replaced by digits, blanks or by the elements defined in the DBFORMAT (or DBMONEY) environment variables. Any other character will be interpreted as a literal, and can be used at any place in the format string.

If the numeric value is too large to fit in the number of characters defined by the format, the result string is filled with a set of star characters (********), indicating an overflow. Note that this includes the +/- sign.
Note: If the numeric values can be negative numbers, specify one additional - (minus) placeholder for the sign. Otherwise, if the value is negative and not enough placeholders are defined, overflow star characters will be displayed.

The minus sign ( - ), plus sign ( + ), parentheses ( ( ) ), and dollar sign ( $ ) float. This means that when you specify multiple leading occurrences of one of these characters, the result string gets only a single character immediately to the left of the first digit.

Table 1. Format-string symbols for Numeric data types
Placeholder Description
* The star placeholder fills with asterisks any position that would otherwise be blank.
& The ampersand placeholder is used to define the position of a digit, and is replaced by a zero if that position would otherwise be blank.
# The hash placeholder is used to define the position of a digit, it is used to specify a maximum width for the resulting string. The # is replaced by a blank, if no digit is to be displayed at that position.
< Consecutive "less than" characters cause left alignment and define digit positions.
- Displays a minus sign if the value is negative, or a blank if the value is positive. When you group several minus signs in the format string, a single minus sign floats immediately to the left of the first digit.
+ Displays a minus sign if the value is negative, or a plus sign if the value is positive. When you group several plus signs in the format string, a single plus sign floats immediately to the left of the first digit.
( Displayed as left parenthesis for negative numbers. It is used to display "accounting parentheses" instead of a minus sign for negative numbers. Consecutive left parentheses display a single left parenthesis to the left of the first digit.
) Displayed as right parenthesis for negative numbers. This wildcard character is used in conjunction with a open brace to display "accounting parentheses" for negative numbers.
, (comma) The comma placeholder is used to define the position for the thousand separator defined in DBFORMAT. The thousand separator will only be displayed if there is a number on the left of it.
. (period) The period placeholder is used to define the position for the decimal separator defined in DBFORMAT. You can only have one decimal separator in a number format string.
$ The dollar sign is the placeholder for the front currency symbol defined in DBFORMAT. When you group several consecutive dollar signs, a single front currency symbol floats immediately to the left of the first digit. The front currency symbol can be defined in DBFORMAT with more than one character (EUR, USD).
@ The "at" sign is the placeholder for the back currency symbol defined in DBFORMAT. Put several consecutive @ signs at the end of the format string to display a currency symbol defined in DBFORMAT with more than one character.
Table 2. Numeric formatting examples
Format String Value DBFORMAT Result string
[######.##] 0 :.:,: [______,__]
[######.##] -1234.56 :.:,: [__1234,56] (no sign!)
[######.##] -1234567.89 :.:,: [*********] (overflow)
[######.##] +1234.56 :.:,: [__1234,56]
[#####&.&&] 0 :.:,: [_____0,00]
[******.**] 0 :.:,: [******,00]
[******.**] -12.34 :.:,: [****12,34] (no sign!)
[******.**] +12.34 :.:,: [****12,34]
[<<<<<<.<<] -12.34 :.:,: [12,34] (no sign!)
[<<<<<<.<<] +12.34 :.:,: [12,34]
[---,--&.&&] -1234.56 :.:,: [_-1.234,56]
[+++,++&.&&] -1234.56 :.:,: [_-1.234,56]
[+++,++&.&&] +1234.56 :.:,: [_+1.234,56]
[$---,--&.&&] -1234.56 E:.:,: [E_-1.234,56]
[$---,--&.&&] +1234.56 E:.:,: [E__1.234,56]
[$$$---,--&.&&] +1234.56 E:.:,: [_E___1.234,56]
[$$$---,--&.&&] +1234.56 EUR:.:,: [EUR__1.234,56]
[-,---,-$&.&&] -12.34 E:.:,: [_____-E12,34]
[-,---,-$&.&&] -1234.56 E:.:,: [__-E1.234,56]
[-,-$$,$$&.&&] -12.34 E:.:,: [__-___E12,34]
[-,-$$,$$&.&&] -1234.56 E:.:,: [__-E1.234,56]
[---,--&.&&@] -1234.56 :.:,:E [_-1.234,56E]
[---,--&.&&@] +1234.56 :.:,:E [__1.234,56E]
[---,--&.&&@@@] +1234.56 :.:,:EUR [__1.234,56EUR]
[($---,--&.&&)] -1234.56 E:.:,: [(E_-1.234,56)]
[($###,##&.&&)] -1234.56 E:.:,: [(E__1.234,56)] (no sign!)
[((((,(($.&&)] 0 E:.:,: [_______E,00_]
[((((,(($.&&)] -12.34 E:.:,: [____(E12,34)] (no sign!)
[((((,(($.&&)] +12.34 E:.:,: [_____E12,34_]
[((((,(($.&&)] -1234.56 E:.:,: [_(E1.234,56)] (no sign!)
[((((,(($.&&)] +1234.56 E:.:,: [__E1.234,56_]
Note: In the first and last columns, the strings are shown with opening and closing square brackets. These brackets mark the start and the end of the string. In the result column, underscore characters are used to represent spaces. This is important when examining the result string, as it shows where spaces exist.