In this age of the ubiquitous Internet, finding downloads for SQL Server is fairly easy. However, finding downloads that are useful and practical is often another story altogether. Here are my top eight practical and useful downloads for SQL Server.

AdventureWorks 2012

AdventureWorks is no longer shipped as a part of SQL Server, so it's typically one of the first things you’ll need to download, especially after upgrading to a later version of SQL Server, such as SQL Server 2012. You can download the new AdventureWorks 2012 versions from the CodePlex web page "Microsoft SQL Server Community Projects & Samples."

SQLPing

SQL Ping is a cool utility that's useful for both discovering SQL Server systems in your environments as well as determining their health. SQLPing looks for servers on port UDP 1434, and it’s particularly useful for finding stealth SQL Server Express instances. You can find it at the Vulnerability Assessment.co.uk site.

SQL Server Cache Manager

Another one of the great CodePlex tools you can download is SQL Server Cache Manager. It lets you view the contents of the SQL Server Procedure Cache, where you can see what type of queries are being processed and their level of reuse. Get it at CodePlex's web page "SQL Server Cache Manager."

Internals Viewer for SQL Server

The Internals Viewer for SQL Server helps you to understand what the storage engine is doing by letting you see the Transaction log and the layout of tables and indexes, as well as displaying data pages and index pages. It's integrated into SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS). Download it from CodePlex's web page "Internals Viewer for SQL Server."

SSMS Keyboard Shortcuts for SQL Server Data Tool

If you’ve just upgraded to SQL Server 2012 and are having trouble getting used to the new SQL Server Data Tools environment, you might want to try out the SSMS keyboard shortcut for SQL Server Data Tool (SSDT), which let you use the familiar SSMS key mappings in SSDT. You can download the keyboard profile from the Microsoft web page "SqlServerManagement.vssettings profile."

DTLoggedExec

Finding out why a SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS) package crashed can be a difficult puzzle to solve. While SSIS package offers logging, it doesn’t always capture everything you need. The CodePlex DTLoggedExec tool offers more detailed package-logging information that you can easily switch on and off. It's at the CodePlex "DTLoggedExec" web page.

Red Gate SQL Search

Surprisingly, SSMS doesn’t have a good way to search databases for all occurrences of a given object. Red Gate’s SQL Search addresses this problem by enabling you to find SQL Server objects quickly. Download it from Red Gate's SQL Search web page.

Idera SQL check

Another useful and fun tool in this roundup is Idera’s SQL check. SQL check is a performance-monitoring dashboard that's a lightweight version of Idera's SQL diagnostic manager. SQL check is limited to a single SQL Server instance, but its easy-to-read GUI shows wait times, locks, reads and writes, and more. Find it at Idera's SQL check web page.