I have a Jdatabasetable having a comma separated field. What would be the best way (according to Joomla coding standards) to count the number of elements separated by commas. Like in the case below :

id comma separated values

01 (2,5,6,7,8,9,21,24,28)

It should return : 9

If I am not wrong, one of the ways to achieve it using mysql would be this :

SELECT (LENGTH(column_name) - LENGTH(REPLACE(column_name,",","")) + 1) AS MyColumnCounts
FROM table_name;

But is this the best way?

Help would be appreciated.

  • Personally I would select the entire thing then use PHP to explode the values into an array, then count the array values. May not be the best approach though
    – Lodder
    Aug 21, 2016 at 17:24
  • I trust you, kindly write it in code.
    – saibbyweb
    Aug 21, 2016 at 18:39

2 Answers 2


One approach would be the following:

$db = JFactory::getDbo();
$id = 20; // Example ID

$query = $db->getQuery(true);
      ->where($db->qn('Id') . ' = '. $id);

$result = $db->loadResult();

Then explode the result into an array, like so:

$array = explode(',', $result);

Then count the items in the array, like so:

$count = count($array);
  • Please note this is a personal preference. I'm not a backend developer so there's probably a better method
    – Lodder
    Aug 21, 2016 at 18:54
  • Still a far more better approach than what I thought. Much thanks.
    – saibbyweb
    Aug 21, 2016 at 19:22

Your question is not specifically about Joomla, and it isn't far from how I'd recommend doing it.

SQL Demo

SELECT SUM(CHAR_LENGTH(csv) - CHAR_LENGTH(REPLACE(csv, ',', '')) + 1) AS num_of_commas

CHAR_LENGTH() is slightly more reliable versus LENGTH(). If/When you try to process multi-byte characters with LENGTH() you will generate incorrect results.

Of course, if you wish to see the raw query translated to a Joomla select() method call, there isn't much to change:

$query = $db->getQuery(true)
            ->select("SUM(CHAR_LENGTH(" . $db->qn("column_name") . " - CHAR_LENGTH(REPLACE(" . $db->qn("column_name") . ", ',', '')) + 1) AS MyColumnCounts")

If your table_name/column_name values do not contain a space, are not MySQL reserved keywords, and are not supplied from untrustworthy sources (user-submitted), then you can safely omit the $db->qn() calls.

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