Download the new update to SQL Server Books Online (BOL)—and do it today.

Readers and clients often ask me, "What's the best SQL Server book for me?" As a consultant, I've learned the correct answer to any question is "it depends," and this question is no different. However, I always qualify my book recommendations with, "Have you checked out SQL Server BOL?" SQL Server novices are often surprised by BOL's rich content. BOL contains the requisite syntax information you'd expect in online help. But it also contains a tremendous amount of how-to information supported by rich architectural content. BOL should be the first source serious SQL Server professionals consult. And now its content just got better.

Microsoft recently released—for the first time—a full update of SQL Server BOL. (In the past, Microsoft occasionally released updated BOL content, usually in a standalone format that wasn't directly integrated with BOL search and indexing engines.) The newly released SQL Server BOL is an outstanding resource. As with any product, however, BOL occasionally contains errors, so Microsoft is working hard to make sure users are referencing the most up-to-date and correct information available. You can download the new BOL from Microsoft's Web site.

Alan Brewer, the technology lead for Microsoft's SQL Server documentation team, said that Microsoft focused on several concerns when it prepared the new BOL release:

  • Improving the Microsoft SQL Server Desktop Engine (MSDE) setup documentation under Building Applications\Distributing SQL Server Applications. Customers had requested additional information about this topic, and Microsoft wanted to address that request.
  • Incorporating as much feedback as possible from the messages customers have sent to the company by using the BOL feedback button.
  • Fixing miscellaneous "issues" that SQL Server support and development teams pointed out after SQL Server 2000 shipped—a politically correct description for bug fixes.
  • Designing the SQL Server 2000 BOL with the ability to distribute updates as needed.

According to Brewer, this BOL release represents the first time in SQL Server's history that the company has been able to build an updated BOL, translate it to all the languages SQL Server supports, and distribute all the updated language versions. Without this capability, users who sent in feedback wouldn't see their requests implemented until the next SQL Server release. Now Microsoft can deliver BOL updates in a timely manner. Exactly when the company delivers updates will depend primarily on customer demand and the amount of changes their requests require.

I'm sure SQL Server Magazine UPDATE subscribers memorized the entire set of BOL years ago. So how will they be able to find the new content? Simple: All new or changed BOL topics contain the tag, "New Information—September 2001" (the date will change with later updates). You can get a feel for the updated topics by searching on the string "new information." The search results indicate that Microsoft updated many topics. However, Brewer said that for most topics, Microsoft needed to update only a small amount of material to make it more accurate and less confusing or to cover details that users found important but were undocumented. Microsoft considered using change bars to make it easier for users to find each topic's updated information, but not all the products that ship SQL Server BOL support change bars.

You can install the new BOL on a machine that doesn't have SQL Server. You can also install the BOL refresh side by side with the old version of BOL or choose to have the new version overwrite the existing set.

Should you be using the new BOL version? BOL has always been a source of valuable information, and the update is even more accurate than the original. So get cracking! Download and apply the BOL update today.