One thing that is pretty neat about windowing functions in PostgreSQL 8.4 aside from built-in windowing functions (row_number(), rank(), lead(), lag(), dense_rank(), percent_rank(), cume_dist(), first_value, last_value, nth_value) as documented in the manual Windowing Functions is that you can use windows with most aggregate functions (built-in or custom defined) as well as define your own specific windowing functions. In a later article, we'll demonstrate creating custom windowing functions.
In our PGCon 2009 PostGIS presentation one of the last slides demonstrates using lead() and lag() windowing functions
to show a family's income level in the same record with the income levels of the next door neighbors in the fictitious town we created. This is not terribly useful unless you live
in a somewhat dysfunctional neighborhood where everyone is concerned about how rich their neighbors are compared to themselves. Our town was very dysfunctional but mostly geographically dysfunctional. We will have much more useful use cases of this as applied to GIS in our upcoming PostGIS in Action book.
Those who have used SQL Server 2005+, Oracle or IBM DBII are probably familar or have run into examples of Windowing functions in those products. Windowing in PostgreSQL 8.4 works more or less the same way. In a prior article, we demonstrated how to return running totals and sums using rudimentary SQL.
To precelebrate the eminent arrival of PostgreSQL 8.4 and the current PostgreSQL 8.4 beta 2 release, we shall demonstrate the same exercise using the new ANSI SQL:2003 Windowing functionality built
into the upcoming PostgreSQL 8.4.