In a prior article Use of Out and InOut Parameters
we demonstrated how to use OUT parameters and INOUT parameters to return a set of records from a PostgreSQL function.
There is another approach to doing this, and that is to use the ANSI Standard RETURNS TABLE construct.
If you come from a SQL Server or IBM DB2 background, the RETURNS TABLE construct is probably most familiar, but still
how you use it and what is legal in it is a little different than it is in SQL Server or IBM DB2. We'll save the
contrast compare as a topic for another article.
In terms of performance between using OUT vs. RETURNS TABLE, we haven't noticed much of a difference. The main thing that is
nice about RETURNS TABLE is just that it's syntactically more pleasing in the sense that its clearer the structure of what you are returning.
In these next examples, we'll demonstrate similar examples we showed in the aforementioned article except using the
Be warned that the RETURNS TABLE construct is only available for PostgreSQL 8.4+, while the OUT approach
has existed since PostgreSQL 8.1. With that said, if you need your code to work on 8.3 or lower, you can't use RETURNS TABLE.
When in doubt about a feature and you are creating code that needs to support earlier versions of PostgreSQL
(as we have to in the PostGIS development group),
or you want to get stubborn users off old antiquated versions of PostgreSQL and need a bit of ammunition
(as we have to (on PostGIS development including our own developers - and you know who you are :) ) )
PostgreSQL feature matrix.
It will save you a lot of grief.