What do you use to explorer an MSSQL database?

Having left CodeGear back in July and having now been out in the “real world” doing consulting for awhile I’m wondering what do MS SQL developers use to explore a SQL server database?

If you’re answer is SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS) that’s not what I’m looking for and I find it really lacking in numerous areas. I’m looking for something that includes things like:

  • Ability to view details of a table’s structure (column types, size etc.) without having to “design” the table
  • Ability to view the details of a foreign keys without having to “design” the table
  • Provide a “favorites” list where I can tag any entity in the DB as a “favorite”
  • Context menus that include a Copy command for selected items like table names, SPROCs etc.
  • A real Properties window unlike SSMS which displays properties of whatever the selected item is not just what’s in one window. Server explorer in VS.NET works the way I’d like but it’s missing on a table for keys, constraints, triggers, indexes…
  • Counts of objects (tables, fields, indices etc.)

The system I’m working has 100’s of tables, SPROCs etc. and is large which makes spelunking slow and tedious. I know Delphi includes the Database Explorer but that requires a full Delphi license and while I have a licensed copy I don’t want to install the entire IDE just for that.

So, what do you use?

5 thoughts on “What do you use to explorer an MSSQL database?

  1. Hi Kevin,
    Thanks for the link, I’m playing with it now. It looks very promising and of course it’s written in Delphi which is great! If I can get by with the Lite version that would be great and the full version has a pretty steep price tag.

  2. I actually do use SSMS but couple it with Visio, which has a great round-tripping engine.
    I thought SSMS could show a table’s structure without designing it, if you expand the table in the object explorer you can then open Columns and see column type, PK, FK and size, all in treeview.
    If you expand the Keys node you can then also see at least some info about the FK, since it’s usually named intelligently like "FK_Order_Details_Products" it’s pretty easy to figure out what it’s all about.
    Love the favorites idea, that would save quite a bit of time if you could bookmark certain areas. Agreed that a Copy command would be nice, though you can drag & drop from the Object Explorer into a query window, which is where I tend to live.
    Also, one thing that I’ve done that is highly low-tech but worked amazingly well was exporting the entire DB to a single huge SQL script, then opening it in a syntax highlighting text editor that has bookmark support. For just viewing the raw schema nothing beats that and you can in an instant determine what stored procs are using what tables just by doing a simple search, something I’m always struggling with. For detective work like that UI’s always just slow me down.

  3. Hey Shawn,
    Thanks for the comment. While you can see the columns in the tree you can’t see anything more about them, type, size etc. As for keys, I find it lacking and that I frequently need/want more than just the name even though in some cases it may be clear. I too dump to .SQL files and search those via an editor but IMO, that only underscores the fact that the tool is lacking.
    I can easily see having Google Desktop add-in that could provide the searching capabilities I’m looking for. Basically, I suppose it comes down to the fact that I’ve gotten so used to Googling things that to not be able to Google my DB has become a real pain point.

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