Affordable package one-ups SSMS
In "Toad for SQL Server" (SQL Server magazine, May 2009), I reviewed Quest Software's Toad Development Suite for SQL Server 4.1. There are also two other editions of Toad for SQL Server: Professional and Xpert. In this review, I'll be discussing the Professional Edition of Toad for SQL Server 5.0, which supports SQL Server 2000 and later. (Toad requires 512MB of RAM and 133MB of disk space and can be deployed on Windows Server 2003 and later or on Windows XP and later.)
Installation of Toad was simple. Its UI is solid, logical, and chock-full of features, options, and capabilities. Toad follows roughly the same paradigm and layout as SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS). It also uses many of the same core hot keys (e.g., F5, Ctrl+R) as SSMS, which makes getting used to working with it easier.
However, Toad isn't a simple replacement for SSMS. Instead, it one-ups SSMS by providing increased access to tools and metadata, as well as features, customizations, and options that aren't available in SSMS. For example, SSMS prompts users (by default) to save changes to files and solutions when exiting out of the application. As a DBA, I find that behavior annoying, but as a developer, I like being prompted to save changes. With Toad, you can create profiles (called desktops) in which you specify the prompts (and other options) you want. You can then flip back and forth between these profiles as desired. Options like desktops lead to a prevailing sentiment that Toad was built for SQL Server users by SQL Server users. Toad also offers scripting options and other instrumentation, controls, and capabilities that SQL Server power users will love having at their fingertips.
What makes Toad really shine, though, is all the extra features that Quest bundles into this attractively priced solution. For example, the Server Comparison tool makes it easy to quickly analyze servers for environmental differences and to migrate jobs, schedules, and logins. The Schema Comparison and Data Comparison tools are also full-featured and could easily compete with other standalone solutions (see "SQL Server Comparison and Synchronization Tools," March 2010, InstantDoc ID 103463). The same could be said for Toad's full-featured Transaction Log Reader. With it, I was able to isolate problematic transactions and generate "unplay" and "replay" scripts to recover from a mock disaster. Standalone log readers that offer such capabilities typically cost much more than Toad Professional 5.0—yet the Transaction Log Reader is just one of many extras that come with Toad.
While working with Toad, I didn't encounter any bugs or major issues. There was an intermittent 15 to 20 second lag when registering my servers, but other than that, Toad was very responsive. My only other criticism is that Toad's UI gets a bit cluttered when you use some of the more advanced extras such as the log reader and comparison tools. This clutter occurs because these tools are rendered in the center pane of Toad's UI instead of being given their own standalone UI.
It's important to point out that Toad does things differently than SSMS—and there are a couple of missing features and capabilities. For example, Toad does a better job of organizing the results of multiple execution plans by putting each plan into its own tab (see Figure 1), which makes for less scrolling. But Toad is missing some of the advanced execution plan details that you'd get from SSMS in the Properties window. Other similar trade-offs exist, which means that Toad might not be a perfect SSMS replacement for all users (even with all of its extra features). But make no mistake: Toad Professional is definitely a bargain and definitely worth an evaluation, even if only for the extras that it provides at such a competitive price.
Quest Software Toad for SQL Server 5.0, Professional Edition
PROS: Mature and highly customizable management and development solution; one-ups SSMS by including server, schema, and data comparison tools, a log reader, and a wide assortment of other options, capabilities, and utilities; fluid and easy-to-use UI
CONS: Intermittent lag when registering servers; UI can get cluttered
RATING: 5 diamonds out of 5
PRICE: $595; support and bulk-pricing options are available
RECOMMENDATION: It's a more than capable replacement for SSMS. Although its style might not fit the needs or preferences of all users, it's highly customizable and provides some great features and options that SSMS is lacking. It also includes extra tools, which are more than worth the price of the tool. It's definitely worth evaluating.
CONTACT: Quest Software · 949-754-8000 or 800-306-9329 · www.quest.com