MySQL order by before group by

The Question :

251 people think this question is useful

There are plenty of similar questions to be found on here but I don’t think that any answer the question adequately.

I’ll continue from the current most popular question and use their example if that’s alright.

The task in this instance is to get the latest post for each author in the database.

The example query produces unusable results as its not always the latest post that is returned.

SELECT wp_posts.* FROM wp_posts
    WHERE wp_posts.post_status='publish'
    AND wp_posts.post_type='post'
    GROUP BY wp_posts.post_author           
    ORDER BY wp_posts.post_date DESC

The current accepted answer is

SELECT
    wp_posts.*
FROM wp_posts
WHERE
    wp_posts.post_status='publish'
    AND wp_posts.post_type='post'
GROUP BY wp_posts.post_author
HAVING wp_posts.post_date = MAX(wp_posts.post_date) <- ONLY THE LAST POST FOR EACH AUTHOR
ORDER BY wp_posts.post_date DESC

Unfortunately this answer is plain and simple wrong and in many cases produces less stable results than the orginal query.

My best solution is to use a subquery of the form

SELECT wp_posts.* FROM 
(
    SELECT * 
    FROM wp_posts
    ORDER BY wp_posts.post_date DESC
) AS wp_posts
WHERE wp_posts.post_status='publish'
AND wp_posts.post_type='post'
GROUP BY wp_posts.post_author 

My question is a simple one then: Is there anyway to order rows before grouping without resorting to a subquery?

Edit: This question was a continuation from another question and the specifics of my situation are slightly different. You can (and should) assume that there is also a wp_posts.id that is a unique identifier for that particular post.

The Question Comments :
  • As you mentioned in the comments to the given answers, it might be possible to have some posts with the same Timestamp. If so, please give an example with data and the expected result. And please describe, why you expect this result. post_author and post_date are not enough to get a unique row, so there has to be more to get a unique row per post_author
  • @SirRufo You’re right, I’ve added in an edit for you.
  • There are plenty of similar questions to be found on here but I don't think that any answer the question adequately. That’s what bounties are for.
  • @LightnessRacesinOrbit, if the current question already has an accepted answer that in my opinion is wrong, what would you suggest doing?
  • Wondering why you accepted an answer that uses a subquery – when your question clearly asks… ” “Is there anyway to order rows before grouping without resorting to a subquery?” ???

The Answer 1

391 people think this answer is useful

Using an ORDER BY in a subquery is not the best solution to this problem.

The best solution to get the max(post_date) by author is to use a subquery to return the max date and then join that to your table on both the post_author and the max date.

The solution should be:

SELECT p1.* 
FROM wp_posts p1
INNER JOIN
(
    SELECT max(post_date) MaxPostDate, post_author
    FROM wp_posts
    WHERE post_status='publish'
       AND post_type='post'
    GROUP BY post_author
) p2
  ON p1.post_author = p2.post_author
  AND p1.post_date = p2.MaxPostDate
WHERE p1.post_status='publish'
  AND p1.post_type='post'
order by p1.post_date desc

If you have the following sample data:

CREATE TABLE wp_posts
    (`id` int, `title` varchar(6), `post_date` datetime, `post_author` varchar(3))
;

INSERT INTO wp_posts
    (`id`, `title`, `post_date`, `post_author`)
VALUES
    (1, 'Title1', '2013-01-01 00:00:00', 'Jim'),
    (2, 'Title2', '2013-02-01 00:00:00', 'Jim')
;

The subquery is going to return the max date and author of:

MaxPostDate | Author
2/1/2013    | Jim

Then since you are joining that back to the table, on both values you will return the full details of that post.

See SQL Fiddle with Demo.

To expand on my comments about using a subquery to accurate return this data.

MySQL does not force you to GROUP BY every column that you include in the SELECT list. As a result, if you only GROUP BY one column but return 10 columns in total, there is no guarantee that the other column values which belong to the post_author that is returned. If the column is not in a GROUP BY MySQL chooses what value should be returned.

Using the subquery with the aggregate function will guarantee that the correct author and post is returned every time.

As a side note, while MySQL allows you to use an ORDER BY in a subquery and allows you to apply a GROUP BY to not every column in the SELECT list this behavior is not allowed in other databases including SQL Server.

The Answer 2

24 people think this answer is useful

Your solution makes use of an extension to GROUP BY clause that permits to group by some fields (in this case, just post_author):

GROUP BY wp_posts.post_author

and select nonaggregated columns:

SELECT wp_posts.*

that are not listed in the group by clause, or that are not used in an aggregate function (MIN, MAX, COUNT, etc.).

Correct use of extension to GROUP BY clause

This is useful when all values of non-aggregated columns are equal for every row.

For example, suppose you have a table GardensFlowers (name of the garden, flower that grows in the garden):

INSERT INTO GardensFlowers VALUES
('Central Park',       'Magnolia'),
('Hyde Park',          'Tulip'),
('Gardens By The Bay', 'Peony'),
('Gardens By The Bay', 'Cherry Blossom');

and you want to extract all the flowers that grows in a garden, where multiple flowers grow. Then you have to use a subquery, for example you could use this:

SELECT GardensFlowers.*
FROM   GardensFlowers
WHERE  name IN (SELECT   name
                FROM     GardensFlowers
                GROUP BY name
                HAVING   COUNT(DISTINCT flower)>1);

If you need to extract all the flowers that are the only flowers in the garder instead, you could just change the HAVING condition to HAVING COUNT(DISTINCT flower)=1, but MySql also allows you to use this:

SELECT   GardensFlowers.*
FROM     GardensFlowers
GROUP BY name
HAVING   COUNT(DISTINCT flower)=1;

no subquery, not standard SQL, but simpler.

Incorrect use of extension to GROUP BY clause

But what happens if you SELECT non-aggregated columns that are non equal for every row? Which is the value that MySql chooses for that column?

It looks like MySql always chooses the FIRST value it encounters.

To make sure that the first value it encounters is exactly the value you want, you need to apply a GROUP BY to an ordered query, hence the need to use a subquery. You can’t do it otherwise.

Given the assumption that MySql always chooses the first row it encounters, you are correcly sorting the rows before the GROUP BY. But unfortunately, if you read the documentation carefully, you’ll notice that this assumption is not true.

When selecting non-aggregated columns that are not always the same, MySql is free to choose any value, so the resulting value that it actually shows is indeterminate.

I see that this trick to get the first value of a non-aggregated column is used a lot, and it usually/almost always works, I use it as well sometimes (at my own risk). But since it’s not documented, you can’t rely on this behaviour.

This link (thanks ypercube!) GROUP BY trick has been optimized away shows a situation in which the same query returns different results between MySql and MariaDB, probably because of a different optimization engine.

So, if this trick works, it’s just a matter of luck.

The accepted answer on the other question looks wrong to me:

HAVING wp_posts.post_date = MAX(wp_posts.post_date)

wp_posts.post_date is a non-aggregated column, and its value will be officially undetermined, but it will likely be the first post_date encountered. But since the GROUP BY trick is applied to an unordered table, it is not sure which is the first post_date encountered.

It will probably returns posts that are the only posts of a single author, but even this is not always certain.

A possible solution

I think that this could be a possible solution:

SELECT wp_posts.*
FROM   wp_posts
WHERE  id IN (
  SELECT max(id)
  FROM wp_posts
  WHERE (post_author, post_date) = (
    SELECT   post_author, max(post_date)
    FROM     wp_posts
    WHERE    wp_posts.post_status='publish'
             AND wp_posts.post_type='post'
    GROUP BY post_author
  ) AND wp_posts.post_status='publish'
    AND wp_posts.post_type='post'
  GROUP BY post_author
)

On the inner query I’m returning the maximum post date for every author. I’m then taking into consideration the fact that the same author could theorically have two posts at the same time, so I’m getting only the maximum ID. And then I’m returning all rows that have those maximum IDs. It could be made faster using joins instead of IN clause.

(If you’re sure that ID is only increasing, and if ID1 > ID2 also means that post_date1 > post_date2, then the query could be made much more simple, but I’m not sure if this is the case).

The Answer 3

9 people think this answer is useful

What you are going to read is rather hacky, so don’t try this at home!

In SQL in general the answer to your question is NO, but because of the relaxed mode of the GROUP BY (mentioned by @bluefeet), the answer is YES in MySQL.

Suppose, you have a BTREE index on (post_status, post_type, post_author, post_date). How does the index look like under the hood?

(post_status=’publish’, post_type=’post’, post_author=’user A’, post_date=’2012-12-01′) (post_status=’publish’, post_type=’post’, post_author=’user A’, post_date=’2012-12-31′) (post_status=’publish’, post_type=’post’, post_author=’user B’, post_date=’2012-10-01′) (post_status=’publish’, post_type=’post’, post_author=’user B’, post_date=’2012-12-01′)

That is data is sorted by all those fields in ascending order.

When you are doing a GROUP BY by default it sorts data by the grouping field (post_author, in our case; post_status, post_type are required by the WHERE clause) and if there is a matching index, it takes data for each first record in ascending order. That is the query will fetch the following (the first post for each user):

(post_status=’publish’, post_type=’post’, post_author=’user A’, post_date=’2012-12-01′) (post_status=’publish’, post_type=’post’, post_author=’user B’, post_date=’2012-10-01′)

But GROUP BY in MySQL allows you to specify the order explicitly. And when you request post_user in descending order, it will walk through our index in the opposite order, still taking the first record for each group which is actually last.

That is

...
WHERE wp_posts.post_status='publish' AND wp_posts.post_type='post'
GROUP BY wp_posts.post_author DESC

will give us

(post_status=’publish’, post_type=’post’, post_author=’user B’, post_date=’2012-12-01′) (post_status=’publish’, post_type=’post’, post_author=’user A’, post_date=’2012-12-31′)

Now, when you order the results of the grouping by post_date, you get the data you wanted.

SELECT wp_posts.*
FROM wp_posts
WHERE wp_posts.post_status='publish' AND wp_posts.post_type='post'
GROUP BY wp_posts.post_author DESC
ORDER BY wp_posts.post_date DESC;

NB:

This is not what I would recommend for this particular query. In this case, I would use a slightly modified version of what @bluefeet suggests. But this technique might be very useful. Take a look at my answer here: Retrieving the last record in each group

Pitfalls: The disadvantages of the approach is that

  • the result of the query depends on the index, which is against the spirit of the SQL (indexes should only speed up queries);
  • index does not know anything about its influence on the query (you or someone else in future might find the index too resource-consuming and change it somehow, breaking the query results, not only its performance)
  • if you do not understand how the query works, most probably you’ll forget the explanation in a month and the query will confuse you and your colleagues.

The advantage is performance in hard cases. In this case, the performance of the query should be the same as in @bluefeet’s query, because of amount of data involved in sorting (all data is loaded into a temporary table and then sorted; btw, his query requires the (post_status, post_type, post_author, post_date) index as well).

What I would suggest:

As I said, those queries make MySQL waste time sorting potentially huge amounts of data in a temporary table. In case you need paging (that is LIMIT is involved) most of the data is even thrown off. What I would do is minimize the amount of sorted data: that is sort and limit a minimum of data in the subquery and then join back to the whole table.

SELECT * 
FROM wp_posts
INNER JOIN
(
  SELECT max(post_date) post_date, post_author
  FROM wp_posts
  WHERE post_status='publish' AND post_type='post'
  GROUP BY post_author
  ORDER BY post_date DESC
  -- LIMIT GOES HERE
) p2 USING (post_author, post_date)
WHERE post_status='publish' AND post_type='post';

The same query using the approach described above:

SELECT *
FROM (
  SELECT post_id
  FROM wp_posts
  WHERE post_status='publish' AND post_type='post'
  GROUP BY post_author DESC
  ORDER BY post_date DESC
  -- LIMIT GOES HERE
) as ids
JOIN wp_posts USING (post_id);

All those queries with their execution plans on SQLFiddle.

The Answer 4

8 people think this answer is useful

Try this one. Just get the list of latest post dates from each author. Thats it

SELECT wp_posts.* FROM wp_posts WHERE wp_posts.post_status='publish'
AND wp_posts.post_type='post' AND wp_posts.post_date IN(SELECT MAX(wp_posts.post_date) FROM wp_posts GROUP BY wp_posts.post_author) 

The Answer 5

3 people think this answer is useful

No. It makes no sense to order the records before grouping, since grouping is going to mutate the result set. The subquery way is the preferred way. If this is going too slow you would have to change your table design, for example by storing the id of of the last post for each author in a seperate table, or introduce a boolean column indicating for each author which of his post is the last one.

The Answer 6

3 people think this answer is useful

Just use the max function and group function

    select max(taskhistory.id) as id from taskhistory
            group by taskhistory.taskid
            order by taskhistory.datum desc

The Answer 7

0 people think this answer is useful

Just to recap, the standard solution uses an uncorrelated subquery and looks like this:

SELECT x.*
  FROM my_table x
  JOIN (SELECT grouping_criteria,MAX(ranking_criterion) max_n FROM my_table GROUP BY grouping_criteria) y
    ON y.grouping_criteria = x.grouping_criteria
   AND y.max_n = x.ranking_criterion;

If you’re using an ancient version of MySQL, or a fairly small data set, then you can use the following method:

SELECT x.*
  FROM my_table x
  LEFT
  JOIN my_table y
    ON y.joining_criteria = x.joining_criteria
   AND y.ranking_criteria < x.ranking_criteria
 WHERE y.some_non_null_column IS NULL;  

The Answer 8

-1 people think this answer is useful

** Sub queries may have a bad impact on performance when used with large datasets **

Original query

SELECT wp_posts.*
FROM   wp_posts
WHERE  wp_posts.post_status = 'publish'
       AND wp_posts.post_type = 'post'
GROUP  BY wp_posts.post_author
ORDER  BY wp_posts.post_date DESC; 

Modified query

SELECT p.post_status,
       p.post_type,
       Max(p.post_date),
       p.post_author
FROM   wp_posts P
WHERE  p.post_status = "publish"
       AND p.post_type = "post"
GROUP  BY p.post_author
ORDER  BY p.post_date; 

becasue i’m using max in the select clause ==> max(p.post_date) it is possible to avoid sub select queries and order by the max column after the group by.

The Answer 9

-4 people think this answer is useful

First, don’t use * in select, affects their performance and hinder the use of the group by and order by. Try this query:

SELECT wp_posts.post_author, wp_posts.post_date as pdate FROM wp_posts
WHERE wp_posts.post_status='publish'
AND wp_posts.post_type='post'
GROUP BY wp_posts.post_author           
ORDER BY pdate DESC

When you don’t specifies the table in ORDER BY, just the alias, they will order the result of the select.

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