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Advanced Oracle PL/SQL Programming with Packages by Steven Feuerstein

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2.8. Overloading for Smart Packages

One of the most powerful aspects of the package is the ability to overload program units. When you overload, you define more than one program with the same name. These programs will differ in other ways (usually the number and types of parameters) so that at runtime the PL/SQL engine can figure out which of the programs to execute. You can take advantage of the overloading feature of packages to make your package-based features as accessible as possible.

Does overloading sound unfamiliar or strange? Well, have you ever used the TO_CHAR function? If so, then you have already been enjoying the creature comforts of overloading. TO_CHAR converts both numbers and dates to strings. Have you ever wondered why you don't have to call functions with names like TO_CHAR_FROM_DATE or TO_CHAR_FROM_NUMBER? Probably not. You probably just took TO_CHAR for granted, and that is how it should be.

In reality, there are two different TO_CHAR functions (both defined in the STANDARD package): one to convert dates and another to convert numbers. The reason that you don't have to care about such details and can simply execute TO_CHAR is that the PL/SQL runtime engine examines the kind of data you pass to TO_CHAR and then automatically figures out which of the two functions (with the same name) to execute. It's like magic, only it's better than magic: it's intelligent software!

When you build overloaded modules, you spend more time in design and implementation than ...

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