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The SQL Guru Answers your Questions...

Today's question is as follows:

I've moved up to SQL after several years of working with Access. In Access, it was extremely convenient to attach descriptions to tables, queries, fields etc. This doesn't appear to be true for SQL although there are some features for diagramming and for DTS documentation. Are there any third-party add-ins you recommend for documenting SQL objects? I see Sylvain Faust offers such an add-in; however, it appears to require the purchase of their SQL development environment. Any suggestions?

Well, SQL Server doesn't really have a lot to offer in this area. True, Microsoft has added the database diagramming in InterDev and (starting with 7.0) Enterprise Manager. However, there are better design tools out there.

I'm pretty fond of ERwin from Platinum software. It's a pretty comprehensive data modeling tool, and you can wrap all of your logical and physical models plus comments into a single file. You can also create views to focus in on groups of tables... nice for those huge data models. It also has reverse/forward engineering capabilities, so you can diagram an existing database / create a database from a diagram. The big problems with ERwin are 1)it's expensive, 2)the user interface is, um, somewhat odd in places, so expect a pretty steep learning curve.

I haven't looked at it in about 6 months or so, but another promising tool is ERstudio from Embarcadero. It's easier to use than ERwin, and less expensive (last time I looked). However, it isn't as fully-featured as ERwin... Actually, I just went out to www.embarcadero.com; it looks like there is a new version out that is closely matched to ERwin's features.

Both of these tools are good at producing database documentation, provided you enter descriptions and comments in the appropriate places. Plus, they support different database servers and desktop databases, so they're a pretty good investment.


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