Most SQL Server development is done using SQL Server Enterprise Manager or Query Analyzer. The former provides a nice, hierarchical view of the entire server and its attendant database objects, but has many limitations. The latter provides the power of a command line, but is strictly for experts only since it provides nothing like a query builder or object explorer.
Quest Software Inc.'s TOAD for SQL Server was written to address many of these problems and solve a few others for good measure. TOAD is a development environment for SQL Server that also works as an object explorer, dependency checker and object manager.
The interface is patterned loosely after Microsoft Visual Studio. One can explore several servers and databases at once through a tabbed interface; another layer of tabs lets you explore the different types of objects in each database. An additional tab brings you to the Toad Online portal, which provides program tips and information about the full version of the product.
When you bring up a table (or any other object), you can explore all the properties of that table through a set of tabs: columns in the table, the data itself, constraints, triggers and object dependencies in both directions. You can also generate scripts for the object with many different options (to check for the object's existence, object permissions, foreign and primary keys, etc.). The Object Search function lets you find any object by name, regardless of what it is or which database it may be in.
The free version of TOAD is fully functional, but it expires after 90 days and must be reinstalled. The commercial version includes advanced features such as tuning and modeling functions, a powerful stored procedure debugger and more. A single-seat license is $470 and includes a year of maintenance.
About the author: Serdar Yegulalp is editor of the Windows Power Users Newsletter. Check it out for the latest advice and musings on the world of Windows network administrators -- and please share your thoughts as well!