Copies data from the database tables into a file.


UNLOAD TO filename [ DELIMITER delimiter]
  1. filename is a string expression containing the name of the file the data is written to.
  2. delimiter is the character used as the value delimiter. When not specified, default is | pipe, or DBDELIMITER environment variable when set. The DELIMITER clause can also specify "CSV" or "TSV", to get respectively a Comma Separated Values format, or a TAB Separated Values format.
  3. select-statement is static SELECT statement.
  4. select-string is string expression containing the SELECT statement.


The UNLOAD instruction serializes into a file the SQL data produced by a SELECT statement.

A data file used by LOAD or UNLOAD instructions looks like this (when the delimiter is the pipe), and the record has an INTEGER, VARCHAR and DATE fields:
The UNLOAD command cannot be used in a PREPARE statement. However, the UNLOAD command accepts a string literal in place of a static SELECT statement:
UNLOAD TO file-name

The filename after the TO keyword identifies an output file in which to store the rows retrieved from the database by the SELECT statement. In the default (U.S. English) locale, this file contains only ASCII characters. (In other locales, output from UNLOAD can contain characters from the codeset of the locale.)

The UNLOAD statement must include a SELECT statement (directly, or in a variable) to specify what rows to copy into filename. UNLOAD does not delete the copied data.

A single character delimiter instruct UNLOAD to write data in the default format. When using "CSV" or "TSV" as delimiter specification, the UNLOAD instruction will write the data in CSV or TSV format.

If the DELIMITER clause is not specified, the delimiter is defined by the DBDELIMITER environment variable. If the DBDELIMITER environment variable is not set, the default is a | pipe. The field delimiter can be a blank character. It cannot be backslash or any hexadecimal digit (0-9, A-F, a-f). If the delimiter specified in the DELIMITER clause is NULL, the runtime system will use the default delimiter or DBDELIMITER if the variable is defined.

When using a select-string, do not attempt to substitute question marks (?) in place of host variables to make the SELECT statement dynamic, because this usage has binding problems.

At this time, data type description of the output file fields is implicit; in order to create the fetch buffers to hold the column values, the UNLOAD instruction uses the current database connection to get the column data types of the generated result set. Those data types depend on the type of database server. For example, IBM® Informix® INTEGER columns are integers of 4 bytes, while the Oracle INTEGER data type is actually a NUMBER(10,0) type. Therefore, be aware when using this instruction that if your application connects to different kinds of database servers, you may get data conversion errors.

Rules for single-char delimiter format

Single-char delimiter formatting rules apply when a unique character is specified as delimiter. These rules are slightly different as when using a DSV delimiter.

Character strings must be encoded in the current application locale: Not charset conversion is done.

Trailing blanks are dropped from CHAR and TEXT, but not from VARCHAR values.

Character-type data need a backslash ( \ ) before any literal backslash or delimiter character and before a NEWLINE character in a character value. When reading character-type data, values can have more characters than the declared maximum length of the column, but any extra characters are ignored. Blank values can be represented as one or more blank characters between delimiters, but leading blanks must not precede other CHAR, VARCHAR, or TEXT values.

Numeric-typed data representation depends on DBFORMAT/DBMONEY environment variables.

DATE value formatting is based on the DBDATE environment variable. The day and month must be a 2-digit number, and the year must be a 4-digit number.

When reading for MONEY types, values can include currency symbols, but these are not required.

DATETIME values are represented in the format year-month-day hour:minute:second.fraction or a contiguous subset. Time units outside the reference type precision are omitted. The year must be a four-digit number; all other time units (except fraction) require two digits.

INTERVAL values are formatted year-month or day hour:minute:second.fraction or a contiguous subset. Time units outside the reference type precision are omitted.

BYTE values must be ASCII-hexadecimals; without leading or trailing blanks.

NULL values of any data type are represented by consecutive delimiters, without any characters between the delimiter symbols.

The backslash symbol (\) serves as an escape character to indicate that the next character in a data value is a literal that needs to be escaped, such as a backslash, NEWLINE, or the delimiter character.

Rules for Delimiter Separated Values format

The Delimiter Separated Values (DSV) formatting rules apply when using "CSV" (Comma Separated Values), "TSV" (TAB Separated Values), or "DSV=sep" as delimiter.

DSV serialization and de-serialization rules are similar to the single-char delimiter formatting rules when using a regular single-character delimiter, with the following differences:

  • Leading and trailing blanks are kept (no truncation).
  • No ending delimiter is expected at the end of the input record.
  • Values might be surrounded with " double quotes, if the data contains characters such as the " double quote, \ backslash, new-line, or the delimiter character, and that character is not escaped.


  DATABASE stores
  LET x = 123
  UNLOAD TO "items.unl"
    SELECT * FROM items WHERE item_num > x