Assuming you're joining on columns with no duplicates, which is a very common case:

An inner join of A and B gives the result of A intersect B, i.e. the inner part of a Venn diagram intersection.

An outer join of A and B gives the results of A union B, i.e. the outer parts of a Venn diagram union.

**Examples**

Suppose you have two tables, with a single column each, and data as follows:

```
A B
- -
1 3
2 4
3 5
4 6
```

Note that (1,2) are unique to A, (3,4) are common, and (5,6) are unique to B.

**Inner join**

An inner join using either of the equivalent queries gives the intersection of the two tables, i.e. the two rows they have in common.

```
select * from a INNER JOIN b on a.a = b.b;
select a.*, b.* from a,b where a.a = b.b;
a | b
--+--
3 | 3
4 | 4
```

**Left outer join**

A left outer join will give all rows in A, plus any common rows in B.

```
select * from a LEFT OUTER JOIN b on a.a = b.b;
select a.*, b.* from a,b where a.a = b.b(+);
a | b
--+-----
1 | null
2 | null
3 | 3
4 | 4
```

**Right outer join**

A right outer join will give all rows in B, plus any common rows in A.

```
select * from a RIGHT OUTER JOIN b on a.a = b.b;
select a.*, b.* from a,b where a.a(+) = b.b;
a | b
-----+----
3 | 3
4 | 4
null | 5
null | 6
```

**Full outer join**

A full outer join will give you the union of A and B, i.e. all the rows in A and all the rows in B. If something in A doesn't have a corresponding datum in B, then the B portion is null, and vice versa.

```
select * from a FULL OUTER JOIN b on a.a = b.b;
a | b
-----+-----
1 | null
2 | null
3 | 3
4 | 4
null | 6
null | 5
```

## Best Solution

Sub-queries are the logically correct way to solve problems of the form, "Get facts from A, conditional on facts from B". In such instances, it makes more logical sense to stick B in a sub-query than to do a join. It is also safer, in a practical sense, since you don't have to be cautious about getting duplicated facts from A due to multiple matches against B.

Practically speaking, however, the answer usually comes down to performance. Some optimisers suck lemons when given a join vs a sub-query, and some suck lemons the other way, and this is optimiser-specific, DBMS-version-specific and query-specific.

Historically, explicit joins usually win, hence the established wisdom that joins are better, but optimisers are getting better all the time, and so I prefer to write queries first in a logically coherent way, and then restructure if performance constraints warrant this.