Review: mssqlXpress

Somerton, Victoria, Australia
+61 3 9308 7526

Over the years I've looked at quite a few applications designed to help the SQL Server developer with their day-to-day work. I've always gone back to the native Microsoft applications, primarily Query Analyzer and Enterprise Manager, because the third-party alternatives didn't offer enough extra value to be worth paying for. mssqlXpress might well change that for me; it offers just about everything the native tools do, and brings some impressive new features to the table as well.

The big win here is source code control. Doing source code control with Microsoft's SQL Server tools is, frankly, a big pain in the butt. You need to save out build scripts, dump them into a source code control database, and remember to update them when you make changes. Not pretty. With mssqlXpress, it's all integrated. You can specify a Visual SourceSafe database and project to match any SQL Server project, and then check in, check out, and revert to previous versions directly from the mssqlXpress editor windows. In addition to VSS, mssqlXpress supports any source code control system that supports the standard SCC API.

Of course, there's an MDI editor for SQL statements here. In addition to the color-coding that you're used to from Query Analyzer, it adds a bunch of other goodies. My pick of the litter is "verify", which verifies syntax, executes a SQL statement, shows you the results - and then rolls back any data changes. That's an excellent tool for developing tricky statements. You also get IntelliSense-like name completion, as well as the ability to insert code templates and snippets easily. Of course you can maintain your own additions to the library of snippets.

If writing SQL is too hard for you, there's the Query Designer. Similar in concept to those you'll find in Microsoft Access or Visual Studio .NET, this allows you to put together SELECT statements and aggregate queries just by pointing and clicking.

There are plenty of other nice touches here as well: undelete for objects, a user interface for generating SELECT INTO and INSERT INTO statements, clipboard history, quick jump bookmarks, keyboard macros, permission editing, and the ability to store SQL snippets as part of your database, for example. Microsoft will be bringing us some of the features of mssqlXpress in the Yukon timeframe, when the SQL Server tools move into the Visual Studio .NET shell. If you need to do SQL Server development right now, though, instead of some time next year, this application is definitely worth looking at. You can grab a fully-functional but time-limited evaluation version from their Web site.

About the Author

Mike Gunderloy has been developing software for a quarter-century now, and writing about it for nearly as long. He walked away from a .NET development career in 2006 and has been a happy Rails user ever since. Mike blogs at A Fresh Cup.


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