The biggest SQL Server news from TechEd Europe this year was the debut of SQL Server 2005 Express Edition. As the newest version of Microsoft SQL Server Desktop Engine (MSDE), SQL Server Express may not sport all the advanced features that we'll see in SQL Server 2005, but it will provide a simple development environment for building data-driven applications as well as a preview into some of the features that Microsoft is adding to SQL Server 2005. For more information about SQL Server Express's features and limitations, see William Vaughn's "MSDE Reborn," October 2004. Here are the six features I like best in SQL Server Express.

Better Name

The MSDE name created much confusion regarding the product's SQL Server heritage. Many people mistakenly believed that MSDE was completely different from SQL Server. SQL Server Express leaves no doubt about the product's relationship to the SQL Server line.

Free Use

Although Microsoft has branded for-purchase products such as Visual Basic Express and Visual C# Express with the Express name, SQL Server Express is free, and there's no charge for redistributing the product with your applications.

Easy Deployment

A new XCopy feature lets you easily deploy your SQL Server Express database along with your applications. In contrast, MSDE databases must be deployed separately from the applications that use them.

Database and Memory Size

SQL Server Express doubles MSDE 2000's 2GB database-size restriction by supporting databases as large as 4GB. However, the Express version's addressable memory of 1GB is scaled back from MSDE 2000's 2GB RAM capacity.

No Workflow Governor

If MSDE's most confusing characteristic is its name, the second-most misunderstood feature is its workflow governor (Microsoft's attempt to restrict MSDE to personal use). SQL Server Express removes the governor, relying on the single-CPU and RAM limitations to restrict usage.

New Management Tools

The biggest improvement in SQL Server Express is the addition of management tools. SQL Server Express Manager (XM), a GUI tool, provides database management through either task wizards or a Query Editor that executes T-SQL statements and scripts. SQL Server Computer Manager, a Microsoft Management Console (MMC) snap-in, helps you configure basic service and network protocols.