Visual Studio .NET, the latest evolutionary step of Microsoft's premier application-development platform, includes more database-integration tools than earlier versions of Visual Studio (VS). Many of the new tools are direct descendants of the tools in Enterprise Manager. Here are seven of the best new database features in Visual Studio .NET.

7. Server Explorer


In Visual Studio .NET, the Server Explorer window has replaced the old Data window. Server Explorer provides database-object browsing capabilities. And you can drag database objects such as tables and views from the Server Explorer window onto the IDE to automatically generate database-access code.

6. Database Designer


The Visual Studio .NET Database Designer feature lets you visualize or create a database and its relationships. To create a new database diagram, add a Data Connection to Server Explorer, then right-click the Database Designer object in Server Explorer. Next, select New Diagram from the pop-up menu. Finally, save the diagram to build the database objects that it represents.

5. Generate Create Script


The Generate Create Script feature can automatically build a script that creates an entire database or just one database object. To generate database object creation scripts in Visual Studio .NET, add a Data Connection to Server Explorer, right-click the database name or a database object, then select Generate Create Script from the pop-up menu.

4. Table Designer


The Table Designer shows how Visual Studio .NET has begun incorporating SQL Server management functions into the Visual Studio .NET design environment. After adding a Data Connection to Server Explorer, you invoke the Visual Studio .NET Table Designer by right-clicking Server Explorer's Tables collection, then selecting New Table from the pop-up menu.

3. Query and View Designer


The Visual Studio .NET Query and View Designer lets you drag tables and visually define links to create a query or view. To start the Query and View Designer, open a Data Connection in Server Explorer, right-click the Views collection, then select New View from the pop-up menu.

2. Retrieve Data


Similar to Enterprise Manager's Open Table option, Visual Studio .NET's Retrieve Data feature lets you quickly browse the contents of a table or view. First, add a Data Connection to Server Explorer, then expand the tables, right-click the desired table, and select Retrieve Data from Table from the pop-up menu.

1. System.Data.SqlClient


Although this feature isn't visible (unlike the other features in this list), the new Tabular Data Stream (TDS) capability in the ADO.NET System.Data.SqlClient class is a vital SQL Server database feature in Visual Studio .NET. Unlike earlier ADO versions, which use OLE DB to communicate with SQL Server, the new ADO.NET System.Data.SqlClient class uses SQL Server's native TDS protocol to connect to SQL Server. This native connection provides the fastest database connection possible between an application and SQL Server.

Learn more from "Visual Studio 2012 New Features" and "Visual Studio.NET FAQS."