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Help for Oracle Database Online Documentation

Help for Browsing Documentation

Browsing Books by Category

On the top-level pages of the library, you can browse through different categories of books, such as Administration and Application Development. To see all the books in a category, click the appropriate category name from the list on the left side of the page. On each page, the categories are subdivided into portlets that show related books. To jump directly to a particular portlet, expand the tree view on the left side by clicking the + icon next to a category name, and click one of the portlet names.

To see all the categories and portlets listed at once, click Expand All on the left-hand side.

Each book page also has a navigation area that lists the main categories. You can quickly return to any category page no matter where you are in the library.

Looking Up Books by Title

To find a book by looking up its title, use the alphabetical list of books. Click the Master Book List link underneath the Search box on the left side.

Within the Master Book List, you can click on one of the shortcut links to jump to books based on the first three letters of their abbreviated title. You can also take advantage of any "Find in page" facility offered by the browser you are using.

Choosing Favorite Books

Below the list of categories on the left side of each page is a choice called Favorites. Once you have selected any favorite books, that choice takes you to a page listing the books you have selected as favorites, so that you can always get to them quickly.

To set up favorite books, click the Master Book List link underneath the Search box on the left side. If you are signed into your Oracle Technology Network account, each book in the Master Book List will include a link "Add to Favorites". If you are not signed in, or do not have an Oracle Technology Network account, sign in or register first.

To remove a book from your list of favorites, return to the Master Book List, and now the link next to that book title will be "Remove from Favorites".

Help for Searching Documentation


The most popular way to find information is to enter a word or phrase and perform a search. Depending on which product and release you're searching, and whether you are using a documentation CD or the OTN documentation web site, you will either see a search form on the opening page, or a tab or button labeled Search that brings up the search form.

In general, it is best to enter a general search term that produces many matches, and use the links on the results page to fine-tune the results. Searching for long phrases or several ANDed words might return zero hits.

What If There Are Too Many Results?

You might find on your first few searches that you get so many results that you cannot tell which match to look at.

What If There Are Too Few Results?

You might occasionally find that you get no results at all.

Searching within a Single Book

The first dropdown on the search form lets you pick some of the widely used books and search within those. To restrict the search to a book not listed in the dropdown, go to the alphabetical list of books, which lets you pick any book and search in it.

Interpreting the Search Results

By default, the search results begin as a list of books, showing how many matching topics are in each one. You can use the book title to help decide which book is appropriate, or use the number of matching topics to find the books with the most information.

The search results are always ordered the same way:

Performing Boolean Searches

You can enter the words AND, OR, and NOT in your search terms to perform boolean searches:

For example, here are some search terms you might enter:

create tablespace
create tablespace and parallel
datatype or data type
stored procedure not java
{AND operator}

Performing Wildcard Searches

By default, all search terms longer than 3 characters are surrounded by wildcards on both sides. For example, searching for intermedia also finds intermediate. Searching for sql or aq does not use wildcards, because those terms are 3 characters or less.

If you include typical wildcard characters such as %, _, *, and ? in your search terms, they are interpreted as literal characters rather than wildcards.

To turn off the wildcard expansion, you can surround the search term with curly braces. For example, {intermedia} does not match intermediate. Depending on the product and release, you might also have an option Match whole word which also turns off wildcards.

Dealing with Information that is Scattered, Buried, or at the Wrong Level of Detail

If the information you need is scattered across books, buried deep within a book, or you can't find information to match your experience level, the Virtual Book is your answer.

The Virtual Book uses special processing to categorize information. The categories roughly correspond to different levels of experience and detail:

High-level information that is useful when you are first learning about a subject. Typically, you only need to read it once.
Includes both step-by-step procedures and more general explanations of how to do things. You can find the topic you want based on your objective, such as creating a table or granting a role. You can also scan the list of tasks to see what the possible actions are for an object.
If you are experienced, or just like to learn by example, you might only need to look at one of these topics to understand how to do something. Because there is some overlap between tasks and the associated examples, some topics are listed in both places.
This is strictly factual information, usually concerning syntax or similar details.
This information helps recover when something goes wrong. It usually concerns errors, exceptions, and tasks such as debugging. If you want to plan ahead, you can read this information before starting an operation, so that you know what problems to avoid.

The Virtual Book includes other navigation mechanisms like a paper book:

Shows all the index terms containing the search term, together with their second-level and third-level entries. The index terms are collected from the indexes of all the books in the library.
The links from the Virtual Book transport you to various places in the library. You might want to print out some relevant sections, but it is more convenient to print PDF than HTML. The bibliography lists all the books that are represented in the Virtual Book output, and shows which chapters contain the matching topics. You can follow the link to the PDF file for a book, and print out only those chapters containing relevant topics.

To keep the number of matches to a reasonable level, the Virtual Book always searches the title text rather than the complete text of each topic. It also does not support the AND and OR operators as in the regular search. The dropdowns and other checkboxes on the search form have no effect on the Virtual Book output: it always examines all the books and all the topics in the library.

Case-Sensitive Searches Not Available

Because all searches work the same for uppercase and lowercase terms, you do not need to enter a word in all capital letters.

If you are searching for a keyword that matches a commonly used word, such as FROM, use one of these methods:

When Should I Not Use the Search?

If you are searching for a keyword that is the same as a commonly used word, such as FROM, it is faster to use another method rather than sifting through thousands of matches. The Master Index has entries for keywords like these. For SQL, PL/SQL, and SQL*Plus keywords, a combined online quick reference lets you navigate to the definition.

What if the System is Responding Slowly?

If the system is responding slowly, you may not want to re-run the same search several times to check the results in different books. A checkbox lets you see the search results in an expanded tree view.

If the system is responding slowly because your search returned many thousands of matches, use some of the tips for reducing the number of matches.

Search Tips

If you are delving into an area for the first time, you can check the box for the Virtual Book feature to see how much coverage that area has in the documentation. The Virtual Book presents all the introductory topics first, so that you can get a quick overview of that area.

If you know the exact name of the item you want, you may be able to get directly to that topic using the links in the upper left. You can quickly find SQL and PL/SQL syntax, initialization parameters, and catalog views.

When you are familiar with the book or group of books containing your answer, you can use some shortcuts to get there:

Downloading, Printing, Viewing, and Searching PDF Files

To download one or more PDF files for printing, go to the alphabetical list of books.

The books are listed alphabetically, by their short titles, usually without the initial "Oracle", "Oracle8i", "Oracle9i", and so on. They are alphabetized according to their usual short names, so the "SQL Reference" is under S and the "OCI Guide" is under O.

You can use the list of shortcuts at the top to jump directly to a particular book. Besides the official titles, these shortcuts include entries for some informal short titles. For example, the library includes "Application Developer's Guide - Large Objects (LOBs)" which is often referred to as the "LOBs book", so the shortcuts include an entry LOB.

The books are listed on a single page, making it faster to find a single book and easy to download multiple PDF files without switching pages. If you are on a slow or unreliable connection, right click on the PDF link and choose "Save Link/Target As". If the download succeeds, you will be able to print multiple copies from the downloaded PDF file. This method is also sometimes more reliable than viewing the PDF through a browser plug-in.

To see which books belong to a particular category, such as Administration or Application Development, use the dropdown above the list of book titles. Where appropriate, books are listed in multiple categories.

The links next to each book name let you jump to the most appropriate spot in the book:

To view the PDF documentation from the CD or local installation, open the top-level booklist.pdf with Acrobat. The file contains a list of documents available on the CD with hyperlinks to other PDF documents.

Searching the PDF Documentation

When space permits, the documentation CD includes a PDF index (with extension .pdx) that enables cross-book search in PDF.

You can search all the PDF documentation at once using the Acrobat Search facility. Searching allows you to scan through all the PDF files on the CD at once. Finding, on the other hand, allows you to scan through only the currently active document.

Before you can search the documentation, you need to add the PDF index for the CD to your Available Indexes. Click Tools > Search > Indexes, click Add, then add index.pdx. Click Tools > Search > Query to search the documentation. Refer to your Acrobat help for more information.

If the Book You Want Is Not in the List

This system includes only some of the books that Oracle publishes. For other subjects or products, you may need to look elsewhere.

In particular, this system does not include:

Looking Up Keywords by Name

If you know the name of a function, statement, database term, or other kind of keyword, you can look it up in an alphabetical list rather than doing a full-text search. This technique is especially effective for keywords that are also common English words, such as "select" and "where".

In addition to showing you the definitions of keyword, some pages also let you do focused searches, such as for examples that use a particular SQL statement.

Looking Up SQL and PL/SQL Syntax and Examples

This quick reference shows keywords that are used in SQL and PL/SQL programming:

You can see the definition of the keyword, including its purpose, syntax, parameters, and sometimes usage information and examples. You can also search the entire library for code examples or tutorials where it is used. For example, searching for examples of the CREATE TRIGGER statement might find relevant examples in books about data warehousing, parallel execution, and Java.

Looking Up Definitions in the Master Glossary

The Master Glossary contains short definitions of specialized database and Oracle terms. Selecting a term pops up a small window, showing the definition from the glossary of a particular book. If more than one book defines the term in its glossary, you can pick the book that is most relevant to you.

The glossary typically does not define terms that are keywords or special names, such as the names of catalog or data dictionary views. These special keywords are listed in separate reports that are linked from the home page.

Looking Up Index Terms in the Master Index

To find the most relevant topics for a given term, you can use the Master Index. It is a compilation of the indexes for all the books. It is useful if you are not sure of the exact spelling, or if a full-text search gives too many matches.

Because the Master Index contains a huge number of entries:

Looking Up Catalog / Data Dictionary Views

Catalog views, also known as data dictionary views, allow you to query database settings and usage information. They are widely used for administration, programming, and troubleshooting. There are specialized sets of views related to performance and backup/recovery.

You can see an alphabetical list of these views. You can see the view definition, which includes its purpose and its columns. You can also search for all places where the view is mentioned, which often turns up how-to information or examples in the administration and performance documentation.

Looking Up Initialization Parameters

Initialization parameters allow you to permanently choose various database settings. They often have corresponding dynamic parameters that can take effect for a particular session. They are widely used for performance tuning, ensuring compatibility, and trading off between available features and memory usage.

You can see an alphabetical list of these parameters. You can see the parameter definition, which includes its purpose and its possible values. You can also search for all places where the parameter is mentioned, which often turns up how-to information or examples in the administration and performance documentation.

Looking Up Error Messages

If you receive an error message, you can look up the corresponding cause and recommended action using the special Error Search form. This is either a separate search form on the Search tab, or a link from the opening page.

The search form comes with the common message prefix ORA- already filled in. You can just supply the number, or overwrite it with a different message prefix. Because messages are sometimes listed inconsistently, such as ORA-01234 and ORA-1234, a search that does not use a leading zero will also match messages that have the leading zero.

The matching message or messages are shown in the top frame. When you follow the link to the message information, that text is shown in the bottom frame.

The cause and recovery information in the published manual is brief. To see whether there are bugs filed or tutorials written for particular error messages, you can use online Oracle services such as Metalink.

Tips for Faster Web Browsing

The following tips work across many web sites. They can help you find information faster and avoid getting lost.

Finding Information within a Large Page

When a web page is several screens long, you might find it faster to use the browser's "Find" function to find a word within the page. The "Find" function is usually available from a menu, and is different from the "Search" function that might go to another web site.

Saving Your Position with Bookmarks

The various reports, searches, virtual books, and so on from this system can all be bookmarked. So if you find a set of useful information by doing a complicated search, you can bookmark the URL and return to that page later or send it to someone else.

Tips for Using the Back Button

When you have followed several links and want to go back to the original page, you can choose how far back to go rather than pressing "Back" several times. Depending on the browser, either click and hold on the "Back" button, or click on the narrow dropdown next to the "Back" button. You will see a dropdown list of page titles, and can go directly to any one.

Opening Multiple Windows

If you want to keep a particular page available while following links from that page, you can open a link in a new browser window. Right-click on the link, and pick the "open in new window" choice from the popup menu. You can close the window later, and the original page is still available in the original window. This technique is useful for exploring several paths at once.

By default, this system's search function opens its result page as a separate window. This allows you to navigate through a set of search queries, and switch to the original window at any time to try a different way of finding the information.

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some common questions and answers about the online documentation.

Why Can't I Connect to the Server?

If you are outside Oracle, you need an Internet connection to perform searches. There is a search form on the documentation home page, and links to search on other pages such as the list of books, list of initialization parameters, and so on.

You can also perform searches using the PDF files.

If you are inside Oracle, you may be experiencing a proxy problem. In the proxy settings for your browser, remove "oracle.com" and "www.oracle.com" from the list of proxy exceptions, so that the browser uses a proxy for all hosts in the oracle.com domain.

How to Stop the Glossary from Using Pop-Up Windows?

The pop-up windows are intended to show a single definition at a time. If you want to see the definitions in a full-sized window, right-click on a link in the Master Glossary, and choose "Open in New Window". You will also get a new full-sized window for each glossary definition if Javascript is turned off in your browser.