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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
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
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.