This month, I present the seven coolest database integration features in Visual Studio. Although Microsoft introduced some of these features in Visual Studio 97, the new features in Visual Studio 6.0 make it worthy of being called "the database release."

7. ODBC 3.51 Driver


Visual Studio 6.0 contains a new ODBC 3.51 driver, which supports the enhancements Microsoft made to the 3.x ODBC specification. Also, the new driver offers ODBC 2.x compatibility for existing ODBC applications. ODBC 3.51 driver capabilities include file data sources and connection pooling.

6. Visual Component Manager


Visual Studio has always made it easy for you to create components and objects, but keeping track of those objects so that you can effectively reuse them has been tough. The Visual Component Manager provides a central location for storing and cataloging components and other development objects. The Visual Component Manager can optionally store these development objects in a SQL Server database.

5. Data View


The Data View is a graphical design-time tool that you can use to add database connections to your project. You can use these database connections as you would a standard ADO connection object in your applications.

4. Query Designer


The Query Designer is a visual tool that lets you graphically construct queries. The Query Designer builds the SQL required to perform the query. The Query Designer works with any ODBC-compliant database and lets you create SELECT queries and action queries that insert, update, and delete data.

3. SQL Script Editing and Debugging


Visual Studio 6.0 contains the Source Code Editor, which lets you write Transact-SQL (T-SQL) scripts, stored procedures, and triggers. Like ISQL/w or the Query Analyzer, the Source Code Editor provides color-coded keywords and the ability to save recall scripts. However, the Source Code Editor also lets you interactively debug SQL scripts and stored procedures.

2. Database Designer


You can use the Database Designer to create, modify, and delete tables from a database, and to modify triggers, modify stored procedures, and print database schemas. The Database Designer works offline, so it doesn't change the target database until you save your changes.

1. OLE DB and ADO 2.0 Object Library


To me, the most important new data-access tools in Visual Studio 6.0 are the OLE DB provider and the ADO 2.0 object library. The ADO object library provides an object layer over OLE DB. The object library allows easy access to SQL Server for custom applications you write in languages such as Visual Basic (VB), and it allows Web access through Active Server Pages (ASP). The new version includes support for client- and server-side cursors, asynchronous operations, hierarchical recordsets, session pooling and many other features.