Altova DatabaseSpy makes DBs user-friendly
Boasting some impressive features, easy-to-use query tool is a boon for non-DBAs
When discussions of the enterprise-data explosion get under way, the focus tends toward topics such as how to manage large amounts of data, how to keep it secure, and how to make it highly available. One subject that often gets overlooked is how the data deluge has affected the everyday work habits of the non-IT worker, or even the non-DBA: It's forcing ordinary end-users to get up to speed on the complexities of DBs and working with data.
Altova's DatabaseSpy 2007 does a pretty good job of lowering the learning curve for a lot of common database tasks so that employees can concentrate on their jobs instead of becoming DBAs. All in all, it's quite a nice tool that's quick and easy to set up and use. Although it lacks some administrative functionality that would be attractive to admins, it still boasts some surprisingly rich features, such as IntelliSense code-completion. It's safe to predict that Altova has some pretty big plans in store.
For my tests, I started off by installing DatabaseSpy on my new Vista machine. The setup was very easy with few choices to make. Most anyone should have no trouble at all getting DatabaseSpy running.
DatabaseSpy's editing features were the most impressive of the product's capabilities. For starters, there's the very nice IntelliSense code-completion feature that beats SQL Server Management Studio's hands down. (Oh that's right: SSMS doesn't have IntelliSense.) IntelliSense not only fills in table names and other objects as you type, but it also gives you reserved words. Notably, the features work only for SQL Server, although DatabaseSpy works with all databases.
Surprisingly, the IntelliSense gives you all of the DBCCs (database console commands), the internal procedures DBAs use to perform much of their admin functions such as re-indexing. This is pretty advanced functionality for what essentially equates to an end-user tool. If you ask me, it's proof positive that Altova has much bigger plans for this product.
Another really nice feature is the Favorites section in the tree view. By adding any objects in a project to your Favorites list, you no longer have to keep searching through hundreds of objects to find it; rather, you'll have easy access to it whenever you like. This, too, is lacking in competitors' native tools.
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DatabaseSpy also has very useful import/export functionality. It allows you to import data quite easily from flat files and export it to a number of destinations, including CSV, XLS, HTML, XML, XML Structure, and -- that's right, you guessed it -- directly to XMLSpy, the company's XML editing/modeling tool. (I love it when tools work well with one another, especially when they're from the same company.)