11.9. Operator Classes and Operator Families

An index definition can specify an operator class for each column of an index.

CREATE INDEX name ON table (column opclass [sort options] [, ...]);

The operator class identifies the operators to be used by the index for that column. For example, a B-tree index on the type int4 would use the int4_ops class; this operator class includes comparison functions for values of type int4. In practice the default operator class for the column's data type is usually sufficient. The main reason for having operator classes is that for some data types, there could be more than one meaningful index behavior. For example, we might want to sort a complex-number data type either by absolute value or by real part. We could do this by defining two operator classes for the data type and then selecting the proper class when making an index. The operator class determines the basic sort ordering (which can then be modified by adding sort options COLLATE, ASC/DESC and/or NULLS FIRST/NULLS LAST).

There are also some built-in operator classes besides the default ones:

The following query shows all defined operator classes:

SELECT am.amname AS index_method,
       opc.opcname AS opclass_name
    FROM pg_am am, pg_opclass opc
    WHERE opc.opcmethod = am.oid
    ORDER BY index_method, opclass_name;

An operator class is actually just a subset of a larger structure called an operator family. In cases where several data types have similar behaviors, it is frequently useful to define cross-data-type operators and allow these to work with indexes. To do this, the operator classes for each of the types must be grouped into the same operator family. The cross-type operators are members of the family, but are not associated with any single class within the family.

This query shows all defined operator families and all the operators included in each family:

SELECT am.amname AS index_method,
       opf.opfname AS opfamily_name,
       amop.amopopr::regoperator AS opfamily_operator
    FROM pg_am am, pg_opfamily opf, pg_amop amop
    WHERE opf.opfmethod = am.oid AND
          amop.amopfamily = opf.oid
    ORDER BY index_method, opfamily_name, opfamily_operator;
copyright  ©  August 01 2014 sean dreilinger url: http://durak.org/sean/pubs/software/postgresql/indexes-opclass.html