select, ? Select

Select all or part of a table, possibly with new columns


Syntax: select [cols] [by groups] from t [where filters]

select retrieves specified columns from a table. It has many forms; not all are described here.

A by clause with no cols specified returns the last row in each group.

q)tbl:([] id:1 1 2 2 2;val:100 200 300 400 500)
q)select by id from tbl
id| val
--| ---
1 | 200
2 | 500

Limiting results

To limit the returned results you can also use these forms:

select[m n]


  • n limits the result to the first n rows of the selection if positive, or the last n rows if negative
  • m is the number of the first row to be returned: useful for stepping through query results one block of n at a time
  • order is a column (or table) and sort order: use < for ascending, > for descending
select[3;>price] from bids where sym=s,size>0

This would return the three best prices for symbol s with a size greater than 0.

This construct works on in-memory tables but not on memory-mapped tables loaded from splayed or partitioned files.

Where there is a by-clause, and no sort order is specified, the result is sorted ascending by its key.

Performance characteristic

select[n] applies the where-clause on all rows of the table, and takes the first n rows, before applying the select-clause. So if you are paging it is better to store the result of the query somewhere and select[n,m] from there, rather than run the filter again.


  • Select only the columns you will use.
  • Use the most restrictive constraint first.
  • Ensure you have a suitable attribute on the first non-virtual constraint (e.g.`p or `g on sym).
  • Constraints should have the unmodified column name on the left of the constraint operator (e.g. where sym in syms,…)
  • When aggregating, use the virtual field first in the by-clause. (E.g. select .. by date,sym from …)


…where `g=,`s within …
Maybe rare to get much speedup, but if the `g goes to 100,000 and then `s is 1 hour of 24 you might see some overall improvement (with overall table of 30 million).


The following pattern will make use of slave threads via peach

select … by sym, … from t where sym in …, … 

when sym has a `g or `p attribute. (Since V3.2 2014.05.02)

It uses peach for both in-memory and on-disk tables. For single-threaded, this is approx 6× faster in memory, 2× faster on disk, and uses less memory than previous releases – but mileage will vary. This is also applicable for partitioned DBs as

select … by sym, … from t where date …, sym in …, …

Special functions

The following functions (essentially .Q.a0 in q.k) receive special treatment within select:

count, first, last, sum, prd, min, max, med, avg, wsum, wavg, var, dev, cov, cor

When used explicitly, such that it can recognize the usage, q will perform additional steps, such as enlisting results or aggregating across partitions. However, when wrapped inside another function, q does not know that it needs to perform these additional steps, and it is then left to the programmer to insert them.

q)select sum a from ([]a:1 2 3)
q)select {(),sum x}a from ([]a:1 2 3)

Cond is not supported inside q-SQL expressions

Enclose in a lambda or use Vector Conditional instead.


Name resolution

Resolution of a name within select/exec/update is as follows:

  1. column name
  2. local name in (or param of) the encapsulating function
  3. global name in the current working namespace – not necessarily the space in which the function was defined


You can refer explicitly to namespaces:

select (`. `toplevel) x from t

Implicit arguments

When compiling functions, the implicit args x, y, z are visible to the compiler only when they are not inside the select-, by- and where-clauses. The from-clause is not masked. This can be observed by taking the value of the function and observing the second item: the args.

q)args:{(value x)1}
q)args{} / no explicit args, so x is a default implicit arg of identity (::)
q)/from clause is not masked, y is detected as an implicit arg here
q)args{select from y where a=x,b=z}
q)args{[x;y;z]select from y where a=x,b=z} / x,y,z are now explicit args
q)/call with wrong number of args results in rank error
q){select from ([]a:0 1;b:2 3) where a=x,b=y}[0;2]
  [0]  {select from ([]a:0 1;b:2 3) where a=x,b=y}[0;2]
q)/works with explicit args
q){[x;y]select from ([]a:0 1;b:2 3) where a=x,b=y}[0;2]
a b
0 2

Q for Mortals: §9.3 The select Template
Basics: qSQL

? Select

For functional Select, see Basics: Functional qSQL