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Load data into existing tables with APEX 19.1

Carsten Czarski
Consulting Member of technical Staff

In the latest Application Express release 19.1, the Data Loading component in SQL Workshop has been dramatically improved. Not only CSV files, but also JSON, XML and XLSX files can be loaded into tables in the APEX workspace.

However, some readers might already have noticed, that the new Data Loading wizard can only load into new tables. To accommodate SQL Workshop users needing to load data into existing tables, the functionality from previous APEX versions is still available: In the lower right corner there is a Task named Load into Existing Table.

Clicking that link leads you to the known pages from previous APEX versions. Note, that Load into existing tables is limited to CSV data.

The Load XML Files to existing tables is missing in APEX 19.1. This blog posting provides some approaches to use the new Data Loading functionality (and the ability to upload XLSX or JSON) to load into existing tables. Enabling the new Data Loading functionality to load into existing tables out of the box is one of the top items on the list for the next release 19.2

Load XML to existing tables - as it was before

The Load XML to existing tables functionality in previous APEX releases was basically a very small wrapper on top the the DBMS_XMLSTORE package - that package actually did all the work. Having this in mind, it is very easy and straightforward to build an APEX application which does exactly the same thing. First, we'll create a PL/SQL procedure which accepts a BLOB and a table name and which invokes DBMS_XMLSTORE - as APEX did.

create or replace procedure load_xml_to_existing_table(
    p_xml_content blob,
    p_table_name  varchar2,
    p_table_owner varchar2 default sys_context('userenv','current_user' ))
    l_clob                    clob;

    l_ins_ctx                 dbms_xmlstore.ctxType;
    l_rows                    number;
    l_date_format             varchar2(255); 

    l_nls_date_format         varchar2(255);
    l_nls_timestamp_format    varchar2(255);
    l_nls_timestamp_tz_format varchar2(255);

    c_nls_date_format         varchar2(255) := 'rrrr-MM-dd"T"HH24:mi:ss."000"';
    c_nls_timestamp_format    varchar2(255) := 'rrrr-MM-dd"T"HH24:mi:ss.FF3';
    c_nls_timestamp_tz_format varchar2(255) := 'rrrr-MM-dd"T"HH24:mi:ss.FF3 TZR';

    procedure convert_to_clob is
        l_dest_offset  number := 1;
        l_src_offset   number := 1;
        l_lang_context number := dbms_lob.default_lang_ctx;
        l_warning      number;
        dbms_lob.createtemporary ( l_clob, true );

            dest_lob      => l_clob,
            src_blob      => p_xml_content,
            amount        => dbms_lob.lobmaxsize,
            dest_offset   => l_dest_offset,
            src_offset    => l_src_offset,
            blob_csid     => nls_charset_id('AL32UTF8'),
            lang_context  => l_lang_context,
            warning       => l_warning );

    end convert_to_clob;


    for c1 in (
        select parameter, value
          from nls_session_parameters
         where parameter in ('NLS_DATE_FORMAT',
        if c1.parameter = 'NLS_DATE_FORMAT'            then 
            l_nls_date_format         := c1.value;
        elsif c1.parameter = 'NLS_TIMESTAMP_FORMAT'    then 
            l_nls_timestamp_format    := c1.value;
        elsif c1.parameter = 'NLS_TIMESTAMP_TZ_FORMAT' then 
            l_nls_timestamp_tz_format := c1.value;
        end if;
    end loop;

    dbms_session.set_nls( 'NLS_DATE_FORMAT',         
                          '''' || c_nls_date_format || '''');
    dbms_session.set_nls( 'NLS_TIMESTAMP_FORMAT',    
                          '''' || c_nls_timestamp_format || '''');
    dbms_session.set_nls( 'NLS_TIMESTAMP_TZ_FORMAT', 
                          '''' || c_nls_timestamp_tz_format || '''');

    l_ins_ctx := dbms_xmlstore.newContext( 
                                   dbms_assert.enquote_name( p_table_owner ) || '.' || 
                                   dbms_assert.enquote_name( p_table_name ) );

    dbms_xmlstore.setrowtag( l_ins_ctx, 'ROW' );
    l_rows := dbms_xmlstore.insertxml( l_ins_ctx, l_clob );
    dbms_xmlstore.closecontext( l_ins_ctx );

    dbms_session.set_nls( 'NLS_DATE_FORMAT',         
                          '''' || l_nls_date_format || '''');
    dbms_session.set_nls( 'NLS_TIMESTAMP_FORMAT',    
                          '''' || l_nls_timestamp_format || '''');
    dbms_session.set_nls( 'NLS_TIMESTAMP_TZ_FORMAT', 
                          '''' || l_nls_timestamp_tz_format || '''');

    if dbms_lob.istemporary( l_clob ) = 1 then
        dbms_lob.freetemporary( l_clob );
    end if;
end load_xml_to_existing_table;

With this PL/SQL procedure, we can create an APEX application as follows:

  • Create an empty page with one region of type Static HTML
  • Add a page item PX_XML_FILE of the File Browse type. Choose Table APEX_APPLICATION_TEMP_FILES as the Storage Type
  • Add a select list named PX_TABLE to pick the existing table. You can use select table_name d, table_name r from user_tables as the List Of Values Query.
  • Add a button named LOAD to submit the page.
  • Add process of type PL/SQL to the page. Have it executed when the LOAD button has been clicked. Use the following PL/SQL code.
        l_blob blob;
        select blob_content
          into l_blob
          from apex_application_temp_files
         where name = :PX_XML_FILE;
            p_table_name => :PX_TABLE, 
            p_xml_content => l_blob );

And you are done. The page should look as follows ...

Using the new Data Loader functionality

The goal for this blog posting is to load CSV data into an existing table as follows:

Name       Null?      Typ            
---------- ---------- -----------------------
EMPNO      NOT NULL   NUMBER(4)      
ENAME                 VARCHAR2(10)   
JOB                   VARCHAR2(9)    
MGR                   NUMBER(4)      
HIREDATE              DATE           
SAL                   NUMBER(7,2)    
COMM                  NUMBER(7,2)    
DEPTNO                NUMBER(2)      

We'll use the following CSV data

7369,"SMITH","CLERK",7902,17.12.1980 00:00:00,800,,20
7499,"ALLEN","SALESMAN",7698,20.02.1981 00:00:00,1600,300,30
7521,"WARD","SALESMAN",7698,22.02.1981 00:00:00,1250,500,30
7566,"JONES","MANAGER",7839,02.04.1981 00:00:00,2975,,20
7654,"MARTIN","SALESMAN",7698,28.09.1981 00:00:00,1250,1400,30
7698,"BLAKE","MANAGER",7839,01.05.1981 00:00:00,2850,,30
7782,"CLARK","MANAGER",7839,09.06.1981 00:00:00,2450,,10
7788,"SCOTT","ANALYST",7566,09.12.1982 00:00:00,3000,,20
7839,"KING","PRESIDENT",,17.11.1981 00:00:00,5000,,10
7844,"TURNER","SALESMAN",7698,08.09.1981 00:00:00,1500,0,30
7876,"ADAMS","CLERK",7788,12.01.1983 00:00:00,1100,,20
7900,"JAMES","CLERK",7698,03.12.1981 00:00:00,950,,30
7902,"FORD","ANALYST",7566,03.12.1981 00:00:00,3000,,20
7934,"MILLER","CLERK",7782,23.01.1982 00:00:00,1300,,10

Use SQL Workshop

SQL Workshop is targeted to developers - not end users. So developers can always execute additional SQL Statements to process uploaded data. So, first upload the CSV data to a new table as follows:

After uploading, you will see a message indicating how many rows are loaded successfully - and how many are failed.

Now, we have a table EMP_NEW, containing the uploaded data ...

Note, that the HIREDATE column has been loaded as VARCHAR2, not as DATE, since this very DATE format was not detected by Application Express. Now, head over to SQL Commands and copy the data over using the following SQL statement:

insert into emp ( empno, ename, job, mgr, hiredate, sal, comm, deptno ) 
    select empno, 
           to_date( hiredate, 'DD.MM.YYYY HH24:MI:SS'), 
      from emp_new 

Of course, one can also craft a stored procedure to do this ...

create or replace procedure copy_to_existing_table_emp( p_stage_table in varchar2 )
    -- copy data to the existing table
    execute immediate 
        'insert into emp ( empno, ename, 
                            job, mgr, 
                            hiredate, sal, 
                            comm, deptno ) (
              select empno, 
                     to_date( hiredate, ''DD.MM.YYYY HH24:MI:SS''), 
                from ' || sys.dbms_assert.enquote_name( p_stage_table ) || ')';

    -- drop the stage table
    execute immediate 'drop table ' || sys.dbms_assert.enquote_name( p_stage_table );

end copy_to_existing_table_emp;

Now, we just have to invoke the procedure named copy_to_existing_table_emp. This has the great advantage that we can do all sorts of additional data processing while inserting into the target table.

Use the new APEX_DATA_PARSER package

Data Loading in APEX 19.1 contains more than the new wizard in SQL Workshop - the new APEX_DATA_PARSER PL/SQL package provides a nice and easy developer interface to parse files. 

The APEX_DATA_PARSER package supports all file types which are supported by SQL Workshop data loading, that includes delimited files (CSV, Tab-Delimited), JSON, XML or XLSX). The parser is implemented as a table function - so the developer accesses parser results like a table. And the parser can thus be used like a table: With an INSERT ... SELECT statement, rows can be directly inserted into a table, existing tables can be joined in order to look up values or SQL and PL/SQL functions can be applied in order to process and refine the raw parsed data.

So we can create an APEX application which ...

  • Allows to upload a file
  • Uses APEX_DATA_PARSER to parse the file and to display the contents as a preview
  • loads the data into the target table using a SQL INSERT and the APEX_DATA_PARSER package

You can find an example for this in the Sample Data Loading packaged application.  

Once the application is installed, navigate to Parse Files (PL/SQL). This page shows how to upload a file and to display the file contents as a preview page.

The SQL query to display this preview is the following. 

select line_number, col001, col002, col003, col004, col005, col006, col007, col008, col009, col010
       -- more columns (col011 to col300) can be selected here.
  from apex_application_temp_files f, 
       table( apex_data_parser.parse(
                  p_content                     => f.blob_content,
                  p_add_headers_row             => 'Y',
                  p_max_rows                    => 500,
                  p_file_name                   => f.filename ) ) p
 where f.name = :PX_FILE

More details on how to use APEX_DATA_PARSER.PARSE can be found in the blog posting Super-Easy CSV, XLSX, JSON or XML parsing: About the APEX_DATA_PARSER package.

The Load Data (PL/SQL) page contains a PL/SQL page process which inserts the results of the APEX_DATA_PARSER package into the target table. The PL/SQL code is rather simple - it's just the above query, wrapped with an INSERT INTO statement.

insert into EMP (empno, ename, job, mgr, hiredate, sal, comm, deptno ) (
    select to_number( p.col001 ),
           upper( p.col002 ),
           upper( p.col003 ),        
           to_number( p.c004 ),
           to_date( p.col005, 'DD.MM.YYYY HH24:MI:SS' ), 
           to_number( p.col006 ), 
           to_number( p.col007 ), 
           to_number( p.c008 )
      from apex_application_temp_files f,
               p_content   => f.blob_content,
               p_skip_rows => 1,
               p_file_type => apex_data_parser.c_file_type_csv ) p
     where f.name = :PX_FILE 

This allows to implement "one-click" data loading flows. 

This approach allows to actually build applications leveraging the capabilities of the new Data Loading functionality. Such applications can provide a super-easy user interface without cumbersome column mapping dialogs and also load XLSX, JSON or XML files.


The new Data Loading functionality in SQL Workshop introduces many new features - not only uploading XLSX or JSON files, but also loading in the background or auto-detection of data types. However, it can only load into new tables in 19.1 - to load into existing tables, APEX still provides the Data Loading wizard from previous APEX versions. But  developers have a lot of options to achieve that functionality. Using some custom PL/SQL code together with the APEX_DATA_PARSER PL/SQL package is a very interesting alternative, since it supports all the file types and all the flexibility of the new Data Loading functionality. Developers can delegate all file parsing to this package and concentrate on the actual loading and processing part. This even allows to implement super-easy data loading flows with just a few mouse clicks is then only a small step.