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Using Online Resources to Explore SQL Server 2000

What type of documentation is on SQL Server 2000? Microsoft has worked hard to ensure that plenty of documentation is available on time and when you need it. In this excerpt from SQL Server 2000 Database Development From Scratch, author Rob Hawthorne discusses Books Online, which ships with SQL Server 2000. It is very comprehensive, and can help you with almost everything you need to know about the different aspects of SQL Server 2000.
This article is excerpted from the author's book SQL Server 2000 Database Development From Scratch.
This chapter is from the book

What type of documentation is on SQL Server 2000? The question really should be "What kind of documentation isn't available for SQL Server 2000?"

Microsoft has worked hard to ensure that plenty of documentation is available on time and when you need it!

Books Online ships with SQL Server 2000. This is for SQL Server 2000, earlier versions (where appropriate), and related technologies documentation, such as ADO and SQL DMO. It is very comprehensive and can help you with almost everything you need to know about the different aspects of SQL Server 2000.

For example, if you are a little unsure of the syntax of a CREATE TABLE statement, you can check it out in Books Online. If you need to get an overview of Analysis Services, you can get all the information you need in Books Online.

Where do I find Books Online? There are two ways that you can get to Books Online.

  • The first way is through the Start menu. There is a Books Online icon in the SQL Server 2000 program group, as shown in Figure 1.

    Figure 1 Where to find Books Online within the SQL Server 2000 program group.

  • The second way is with the F1 key within Enterprise Manager, Query Analyzer, or any of the other SQL Server 2000 tools. Usually, this help is context sensitive. If you have the table designer open in Enterprise Manager and press F1, Books Online will open with information relevant to the table designer.

Search and Retrieval Tips for Books Online

How do I get the most relevant information from Books Online? Books Online provides the same three basic ways as other Microsoft Help files when you want to locate information. You're most likely familiar with the Contents, Index, and Search tabs. In this section, I show you some hints for honing your searches.

Books Online has a great search engine, but you need to learn how to search well, a little like with the search engines on the Net. For example, if you want to search on Analysis Services, you will locate more hits if you enter the keywords Analysis Services than you will if you enter "Analysis Services" inside quotation marks. Why? The first search gets all the topics that contain the words "Analysis" and "Services." The second search gets all the topics that have the words "Analysis Services" together.

Use quotation marks wisely because you could limit your search far more than you intended to.

Books Online has some basic font standards that apply to make navigation much easier.

  • Monospace—This indicates code samples, error messages, and text that is displayed.

  • Uppercase—Key Transact-SQL words, for example CREATE PROCEDURE.

  • Italic—This shows you where to enter your names for variables, tables and so forth, for example CREATE TABLE tablename.

  • Bold—Used for stored procedures names, variable type names, table names, and so forth, and indicates that the word needs to be typed exactly as shown.

SQL Server 2000 Books Online also has navigation standards that will help you get the most out of the books.

  • Glossary of terms—Contains keywords and brief descriptions of the keywords.

  • Expanding text—This is indicated with a plus (+) icon next to the text. Click the plus icon to expand the text and view further help.

  • Related topics—This is indicated with an icon in the top right of the topic. Click the icon to view the related topics.

  • Hyperlinks—This will navigate you to related topics within Books Online or to external Web sites that will provide help on the topic. This will be noted by colored, underlined text.

  • Home page—SQL Server 2000 Books Online is browser based and has standard browser features including a Home button, Forward, Back, Previous, Next, and so forth.

  • Favorites—Books Online has a Favorites folder, similar to that in Internet Explorer. If you regularly require help on a topic, you can add it your Favorites by clicking the Favorites folder, and then clicking Add, as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2 Adding a topic to the Favorites folder within Books Online.

Although Books Online is very comprehensive and can seem a little daunting, one of the best ways to get information out is to use the context-sensitive help functionality.

If you are importing data from an Excel spreadsheet within the Import and Export Data Wizard, click the Help button or press F1. Books Online will then bring up help related to the subject of importing data via DTS.

Finding Help on the Web

Occasionally you can come across problems that you cannot solve with Books Online alone. Microsoft has recognized this and has provided developers and DBAs alike with other major documentation features.

  • Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN)—This is almost the be-all and end-all of developer resources. Although this is subscription based, you can find most of the information online, http://msdn.microsoft.com, and it is free! MSDN contains code samples on many different topics including VB, VBScript, Visual C++, SQL Server, ADO—you name it, it's there!

  • Microsoft TechNet (MSTN) —This is more of a technical resource and will help you find workarounds to known bugs and common problems. Like MSDN, it is also subscription based, but is available on the Web for free at http://www.microsoft.com/technet. This resource will answer most of those common questions for you.

  • Microsoft's SQL Server site— This site contains all sorts of useful information, including excerpts from developer books, professional advice, best practices, online conferences, and so forth. You can find it at http://www.microsoft.com/sql.

  • PASS—This is the Professional Association for SQL Server. This site contains many helpful hints from DBAs, developers, and so forth. The organization is a not-for-profit group that wants to advocate SQL Server as a development platform. You can find PASS at http://www.sqlpass.org.

  • There are also numerous newsgroups that have regular discussions on SQL Server topics.

Remember that these groups, books, and online resources have been set up to help you. Make sure you use them, or we will lose them!

You will not be an ineffectual DBA if you have to look up something in Books Online. There's nothing worse than a new DBA who keeps pestering more senior DBAs because she does not use the tools that are available to her to answer simple questions. So research first, and then ask.

However, if you are struggling with a problem, do not struggle on and on before asking for help. Most DBAs will enjoy taking a moment out of their day to help you; after all, they know what it was like to start from scratch. An old saying I heard once that I keep in the back of my mind most times when I ask a question is

"It is better to look like a fool for a moment than remain a fool for a lifetime."

We have now had a quick look at getting help on a topic when you need it most.

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