Oracle ODBC Connectivity FAQ

What is ODBC and where does it come from?
ODBC (Open Database Connectivity) provides a way for client programs (eg Visual Basic, Excel, Access, Q+E etc) to access a wide range of databases or data sources.
ODBC is a standardized API, developed according to the specifications of the SQL Access Group, that allows one to connect to SQL databases. It defines a set of function calls, error codes and datatypes that can be used to develop database independent applications.
ODBC is usually used when database independance or simultaneous access to different data sources is required.

Are there alternative products that can be used?
Yes, look at Oracle Objects for OLE (OO4O).

Where can I get ODBC drivers for Oracle7/8 and Oracle Rdb?
The Oracle ODBC drivers can be downloaded, free of charge, from the Oracle home page. There is also a free, open source ODBC driver available from
If you are still using Oracle V6, you can use the ODBC driver that comes with Microsoft Access 1.1 or an equivalent driver from whatever source.
Since ODBC is a standard, there are alternative drivers available via other vendors. The following vendors provide ODBC drivers that can run from Windows and Unix:
 InterBase Software Corp.
 OpenLink Software
 Merant (formerly Intersolv)
 SimbaExpress
 etc...
Note: If you plan to use a 16-bit application with ODBC (even if it is running on Windows95 or Windows NT), you will need to use a 16-bit Windows 3.1 ODBC driver.

What do I need to get ODBC to work?
A working Oracle ODBC stack looks like this:

+--------------------+ Visual Basic, Excel, Access,
| ODBC Application | Oracle Power Objects, etc.
| Driver Manager | This is ODBC.DLL
+--------------------+ This is the Oracle ODBC Driver
| ODBC Driver | (SQORA7x.DLL or SQO32_7x.DLL) or
+--------------------+ driver for a different data source/ vendor
+--------------------+ Oracle's SQL*Net (only for remote database)
| Database Transport | or other database transport
+--------------------+ TCP/IP or
| Network Transport | other protocol driver
+--------------------+ (optional - only for remote connections)
+--------------------+ Your Oracle database or
| Data Source | other data source you connect to

Do I need SQL*Net to connect to Oracle via ODBC?
For Oracle's ODBC drivers, YES.
Some multi-tier ODBC drivers (eg. Openlink and Visionware) do not require SQL*Net on the client as one has to install an 'ODBC server component' on the server. The ODBC drivers then use the underlying network protocol (eg. TCP/IP) without using SQL*Net.

How do I create a Data Source?
A data source is a logical name for a data repository or database. To define a data source, open the ODBC manager by double clicking on the ODBC icon in the Control Panel. Select the "add" button, then select the ODBC Driver for the database you want to connect to. The data source definition screen will appear. Define the data source name and other information as it pertains to your configuration.

What ODBC Conformance Level is supported by Oracle?
ODBC provides 4 conformance levels depending upon how much of the ODBC specification is implemented in the driver. The levels are:
 LEVEL 3 - latest spec.
The Oracle7 ODBC driver supports ODBC Version 2.5 and 3.0 Level 2 only.
Oracle does not support Level 3 ODBC, but Level 1 is all that is necessary to do standard operations. If you develop applications that will run on different databases, you might want to limit yourself to level 1 ODBC calls.

Should I give ODBC to my end-users?
It all depends... for performance reasons I would not allow end-users to access an OLTP (On-line Transaction Processing) system via ODBC. Rather, setup a Data Warehouse or Data Mart and let users enter their "queries from hell" against that database.

How secure is ODBC?
Any ODBC sniffer will be able to trace everything from an ODBC perspective. This includes data, usernames, passwords etc. However, if you are using an ODBC driver that provides encryption, you can increase your level of security.
Since any front-end tool can effectively connect to and modify your databases, you need to enforce security at the server level.
On the other hand, if you use TCP/IP, ODBC security should be the least of your concerns!!!

How fast is ODBC?
According to Oracle, their ODBC driver, on average, runs about 3% slower than native Oracle access.
My experience, however, is that ODBC can be extremely slow!!!

How can I test if ODBC is setup correctly?
Execute the ODBCTST.EXE program that comes with your ODBC driver to ensure that all your connections are properly configured and that you can connect to your data source.

How can I trace ODBC calls?
The Microsoft ODBC Administrator (My Computer/ Control Panel/ ODBC) provides a simple ODBC call trace that logs ODBC calls to a file. To use this facility, click the Options button on the initial Data Sources form. Check the box labeled "Trace ODBC Calls" and change the default log filename (SQL.LOG) if desired. The underlying ODBC calls the front-end application makes to communicate with the ODBC Driver will be logged to this file.
Specialized ODBC trace programs, such as Microsoft's ODBC Spy (included in the ODBC SDK 2.0), ODBC Inspector and ODBC Agent can be used to capture detailed ODBC call information and the return code for each call.

How do I tell which driver version I have installed?
Run the ODBC administrator from the desktop (ODBCADM.EXE or ODBCAD32.EXE):
 Click the "Drivers" button
 Choose the desired ODBC driver
 Click the "About" button
Version information will be displayed for the selected driver.

Use the ODBC SQLPASSTHROUGH option when you need to pass your SQL statement to the ODBC data source directly. No massaging or local processing is done on the statement, it is passed to the database server AS IS. This improves performance, but the resulting dynaset is not updatable. Example:
db.ExecuteSQL("BEGIN procedurename(param1,param2,param3); END;", SQLPASSTHROUGH)

How does one attach an Oracle table in MS-Access?
Create a linked table under the table tab in Access. Right click; select link table. A dialog box opens, at the bottom, change the "files of type" box to ODBC Databases. This will open the Data Source dialog box. Select your data source, file or machine (note the type you created earlier). You will now be prompted to login to the Oracle database.
One can also link a table programmatically. Open a new MODULE in Access, add this code to it and RUN (F5):
Option Compare Database
Option Explicit

Function AttachTable() As Variant
On Error GoTo AttachTable_Err

Dim db As Database
Dim tdef As TableDef
Dim strConnect As String

Set db = CurrentDb()
strConnect = "ODBC;DSN=oraweb;DBQ=qit-uq-cbiw_oraweb;DATABASE="
' NOTE: DSN is your ODBC Data Source Name; DBQ is your TNSNAMES.ORA entry name

Set tdef = db.CreateTableDef("MY_ACCESS_TABLENAME")
' tdef.Attributes DB_ATTACHEDODBC
tdef.Connect = strConnect
tdef.SourceTableName = "MY_ORACLE_TABLENAME"
db.TableDefs.Append tdef

Exit Function

MsgBox "Error: " & Str(Err) & " - " & Error$ & " occured in global module."
Resume AttachTable_Exit

End Function

How does one get Oracle data into MS-Excel?
There are several ways to extract Oracle data from Microsoft Excel. Look at these methods:
 From sqlplus, spool records into a file, then import into Excel. Eg:
set echo off pagesize 0 head off feed off veri off trimspool on
spool data.txt
select COL1 || ',' || COL2 || ',' || COL3 ....
spool off

 Load Oracle Objects for OLE (OO4O) on your PC. See the OO4O FAQ for more details.
 Download Oraxcel Lite, a freeware plug-in used to run SQL statements directly from Excel. Oraxcel requires OO4O to be installed on your PC.

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