Guide to the ORDER BY Clause in MySQL

# Guide to the ORDER BY Clause in MySQL

### Introduction

MySQL is a popular open-source database management system that is widely used in web applications. One of the fundamental tasks in working with MySQL is querying data from tables. The ORDER BY clause is a key feature of MySQL queries that enables you to sort the result set based on one or more columns. By default, MySQL sorts the result set in ascending order based on the specified column(s), but you can also sort the data in descending order or use functions to sort the data.

In this guide, we'll take a closer look at the ORDER BY clause in MySQL and how it works. We'll start by discussing what the ORDER BY clause is and how it works in MySQL. Then, we'll cover the syntax of the ORDER BY clause and explain the different components of the syntax. We'll also discuss the different types of sorting in MySQL and how to sort data in ascending and descending order. We'll explore how to use the ORDER BY clause with multiple columns and functions, and how to limit the results of the query. By the end of this guide, you'll have a solid understanding of how to use the ORDER BY clause in MySQL to sort and limit your query results.

### What is the ORDER BY Clause?

The ORDER BY clause is a feature of MySQL that enables you to sort the result of a query based on one or more columns. It allows you to control the order in which the data is presented in the query result.

By default, MySQL sorts the result in ascending order based on the specified column(s). For example, if you have a table of customer names, you can use the ORDER BY clause to sort the names alphabetically:

SELECT * FROM customers
ORDER BY name;


Note: Don't worry if you don't fully understand the ORDER BY clause yet. This section provides a brief overview of what you can do with it, and later on, we'll dive into the details of each clause mentioned so that you can master this powerful tool.

You can also use the ORDER BY clause to sort data in descending order. To do this, you can add the DESC keyword after the column name:

SELECT * FROM customers
ORDER BY name DESC;


In addition to sorting by a column, you can also use functions to sort the data. For example, you can use the LENGTH function to sort the data by the length of a column:

SELECT * FROM customers
ORDER BY LENGTH(name);


Now, let's take a look at the syntax of the ORDER BY clause in MySQL.

### Syntax of ORDER BY Clause

The syntax of the ORDER BY clause in MySQL is as follows:

SELECT column_name(s)
FROM table_name
WHERE condition
ORDER BY column_name1, column_name2, ..., column_nameN ASC|DESC;


The ORDER BY clause is used at the end of the SELECT statement, after the WHERE clause (if one is used), and before any LIMIT clause (if one is used).

Let's break down the components of the syntax:

• column_name(s) - Specifies the columns to be selected in the query result. You can specify one or more columns separated by commas.
• table_name - Specifies the name of the table from which to retrieve the data.
• condition - Specifies a condition that must be met for the rows to be included in the result set. This is an optional component.
• column_name1, column_name2, ..., column_nameN - Specifies the columns by which to sort the result set. You can specify one or more columns separated by commas. If you don't specify the sorting order, MySQL will sort the result set in ascending ORDER BY default.
• ASC|DESC - Specifies the sorting order for the columns. ASC stands for ascending order (which is the default), and DESC stands for descending order.

Here's an example of the ORDER BY clause in action:

SELECT name, age, email
FROM customers
WHERE age > 25
ORDER BY name DESC, age ASC;


This query will return the name, age, and email columns from the customers table for all rows where the age is greater than 25. The result set will be sorted by the name column in descending order and then by the age column in ascending order.

To sum it all up, the syntax of the ORDER BY clause consists of specifying the columns to be selected, the table from which to retrieve the data, an optional condition, and the columns by which to sort the result set, along with their sorting order.

### Different Ways to Sort Data in MySQL

The ORDER BY clause in MySQL allows you to sort the result set of a query based on one or more columns. You can sort the data in ascending or descending order and use functions to sort the data. Let's take a look at several different ways you can sort data in MySQL.

#### Sorting in Ascending Order in MySQL

As we've seen earlier, MySQL sorts the result set in ascending order based on the specified column(s) by default. To sort the data in ascending order, you can simply specify the column name(s) in the ORDER BY clause:

SELECT * FROM customers
ORDER BY name;


This query will return all the rows from the customers table and order them by the name column in ascending order.

#### Sorting in Descending Order in MySQL

To sort the data in descending order, you can add the DESC keyword after the column name in the ORDER BY clause:

SELECT * FROM customers
ORDER BY name DESC;


This query will return all the rows from the customers table and order them by the name column in descending order.

#### Sorting by Multiple Columns

In MySQL, you can use the ORDER BY clause to sort the result set of a query based on multiple columns. This can be useful when you want to sort the data by more than one criterion or have a lot of matching entries in a column, and wish to sort by a second criterion, such as "sort alphabetically" and on matching entries, "sort by tenure".

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To use the ORDER BY clause with multiple columns, simply specify the column names separated by commas in the ORDER BY clause. MySQL will first sort the data based on the first column specified, and then sort the data based on the second column if there are any ties:

SELECT * FROM products
ORDER BY category, price DESC;


This will return all the rows from the products table and order them by the category column in ascending order. If there are any ties, MySQL will then sort the tied rows by the price column in descending order.

You can also specify different sorting orders for each column. To sort the data in ascending order for the first column and descending order for the second column, you can use the ASC and DESC keywords respectively:

SELECT * FROM products
ORDER BY category ASC, price DESC;


This query will yield us with all the rows from the products table and order them by the category column in ascending order. If there are any ties, MySQL will then sort the tied rows by the price column in descending order.

#### Sorting with Functions in MySQL

You can also use functions and their results to sort data in MySQL. For example, you can use the LENGTH function to sort the data by the length of a column:

SELECT * FROM customers
ORDER BY LENGTH(name) ASC;


This will give you all the rows from the customers table and order them by the length of the name column in ascending order.

This query will give us all the rows from the products table and order them by the length of the name column in descending order. The LENGTH function is used to determine the length of the name column.

You can also use functions in combination with column names in the ORDER BY clause. This can be useful when you want to sort the data by a combination of a column's value and a calculated value:

SELECT * FROM products
ORDER BY category, price / quantity DESC;


This query will return all the rows from the products table and order them by the category column in ascending order. If there are any ties, MySQL will then sort the tied rows by the result of the price / quantity calculation in descending order.

Note: You can use a variety of functions within the ORDER BY clause in MySQL, including:

1. Aggregate functions such as COUNT, SUM, AVG, MIN, and MAX.
2. Mathematical functions such as ABS, CEILING, FLOOR, ROUND, and TRUNCATE.
3. String functions such as LENGTH, LEFT, RIGHT, UPPER, and LOWER.
4. Date and time functions such as NOW, DATE, TIME, MONTH, YEAR, and DAYOFWEEK.

### Limiting Results in ORDER BY Clause

In MySQL, you can use the LIMIT clause with the ORDER BY clause to limit the number of results returned by a query. This can be useful when you only want to display a certain number of rows or when dealing with large databases.

To use the LIMIT clause with the ORDER BY clause, simply specify the number of rows to return after the ORDER BY clause:

SELECT * FROM products
ORDER BY price DESC
LIMIT 5;


This will return the top 5 rows from the products table sorted by the price column in descending order.

You can also use the OFFSET clause with the LIMIT clause to skip a certain number of rows before returning the result set:

SELECT * FROM products
ORDER BY price DESC
LIMIT 5 OFFSET 5;


This will give you 5 rows from the products table sorted by the price column in descending order, starting from the 6th row.

In addition, you can also use variables to set the limit and offset values dynamically:

SET @limit = 5;
SET @offset = 5;
SELECT * FROM products
ORDER BY price DESC
LIMIT @limit OFFSET @offset;


### Conclusion

The ORDER BY clause in MySQL is a powerful tool that allows you to sort the result set of a query in a specific order based on one or more columns. By default, the ORDER BY clause sorts the result set in ascending order, but you can also specify descending ORDER BY using the DESC keyword.

In addition, you can use the ORDER BY clause with multiple columns to sort the data by more than one column, and with functions to sort the data based on the results of a function. Furthermore, you can use the LIMIT and OFFSET clauses to limit the number of results returned by a query.

If you're working with databases, then you simply cannot afford to ignore the ORDER BY clause in MySQL. It's the boss of sorting data and presenting it in a way that makes sense. And, with the insights you've gained from this guide, you're now the boss of the ORDER BY clause!

Last Updated: March 1st, 2023