Solved: change nls_date_format permanently

The NLS parameters in Oracle databases play a critical role in managing international applications. Such parameters are commonly used to govern both the language used for messages and the way Oracle SQL handles data and date formatting. One parameter of significant value is the `nls_date_format`, which controls how date values are displayed within your SQL sessions. In many situations, database administrators and developers may have a need to change the `nls_date_format` permanently to suit specific requirements.

NLS_DATE_FORMAT and Its Importance

The NLS_DATE_FORMAT is a parameter which allows you to determine the way date values are represented — whether it’s DD-MM-YYYY, YYYY-MM-DD, etc. It’s fundamental because it forms the backbone of how dates are visualized, thus driving the usability of any date-driven data. It can be controlled temporarily within a session using the ALTER SESSION command, but for a permanent solution, other steps are required.

Changing NLS_DATE_FORMAT Permanently

A practical way to change the `nls_date_format` permanently is to modify the configuration at the initialization parameter level. This can be achieved by making changes to the init.ora or spfile.ora files.

Digital caveat: Any adjustments to these files must be undertaken with care, and a backup is always recommended before any modification.


This code makes the changes directly in the spfile.ora file, making them effective after a database restart. The SCOPE parameter dictates when the change takes effect, with SPFILE directing Oracle to make the changes to the spfile.ora file and make them active post restart.

Step by Step Code Explanation

The solution to changing the `nls_date_format` permanently involves a few lines of explicit Oracle SQL code.


1. The ALTER SYSTEM SET command is used to modify system settings for the Oracle Database. Here, it’s used to adjust the NLS_DATE_FORMAT to the YYYY/MM/DD pattern (you can replace YYYY/MM/DD with your preferred date format).

2. The SCOPE = SPFILE portion is instructive to Oracle to apply the alteration to the spfile.


3. SHUTDOWN IMMEDIATE is employed immediately after to safely close the database and disconnect all sessions.


4. The last command, STARTUP, is utilized to start up the database again. Since the changes were written to the SPFILE, the new NLS_DATE_FORMAT will now be effectively in use.

Note, whenever you take any action that requires shutting down the database, ensure to alert all users and schedule the activity to cause minimal disruption.

Alternative Tools and Libraries

Besides altering the initialization parameter files, alternatives like triggers and nls_session_parameters can also be used. Triggers allow firing of particular SQL code when specific actions or events occur, and nls_session_parameters help set up the session level parameters which override database level settings.

Understanding these fine points of configuring Oracle databasing for date formatting is fundamental for smooth data and database management. Thus, mastering these aspects will solidify your SQL skills and streamline your data handling efficiency.

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