The Integrated Environment
Those who have been working with SQL Server for a long time may remember the SQL Enterprise Manager that came with SQL Server 6.5. In some respects, with SSMS, Microsoft has moved back to the paradigm that existed then. Like the SQL Server 6.5 Enterprise Manager, SSMS provides an integrated environment where developers and DBAs alike can perform the database tasks they need. Say goodbye to Query Analyzer, Analysis Manager, and a number of other desperate tools and say hello to SSMS, which provides “one-stop shopping” for most of your database needs.
Figure 3.1 shows a sample configuration for the SSMS main display. The environment and the windows that are displayed are completely customizable, with the exception of the document window area. Figure 3.1 shows the document window area displaying the Summary page. The Summary page is the default, but other pages, such as a Query Editor window, can take the focus in this tab-oriented section of the SSMS display.
Figure 3.1 The SSMS main display.
The dialogs that form the rest of the SSMS display are referred to as components and include the Registered Servers and Object Explorer windows that are shown in Figure 3.1, as well as a number of other components that can be displayed via the View menu found at the top of the SSMS display. You can configure each of the component windows in a number of ways; for example, you can have them float, or you can hide, dock, Auto Hide, or display them as tabbed documents in the document window area.
The configuration that you choose for your SSMS display depends on the type of work you do with SQL Server as well as the type of person you are. The Auto Hide feature causes the component window to shrink to a tab along the left or right side of the display. When you mouse over the tab, the window automatically expands and stays expanded as long as the mouse cursor remains in the component window area. Auto Hide helps maximize the working real estate that is available in the document window for query development and the like. Docking many windows can clutter the screen, but it allows you to view many different types of information all at once. This is a matter of personal preference, and SSMS has made it very easy to change.
The other big changes to the SSMS window environment include non-modal windows that are sizable. The change to non-modal windows allows you to perform multiple tasks at once without needing to open another instance of the SSMS application. Enterprise Manager users of SQL Server 2000 were forced to open another instance of the application during many administrative tasks in order to continue with other work. With SSMS, you can launch a backup with the Back Up Database dialog box and then continue working with the Object Explorer or other components in SSMS while the backup is running. This is a great timesaver and helps improve overall productivity.
The ability to size the dialog boxes is another user-friendly change that may seem minor but is quite handy on certain windows. For example, the SQL Server 2000 Enterprise Manager Restore dialog had a fixed size. Viewing the backup set information in this relatively small (nonsizable) dialog box was a challenge. The Restore dialog in SQL Server 2005’s SSMS can contain a slew of information related to the backup sets available for restore. The ability to size the windows allows for much more information to be displayed.
The tabbed document window area provides some usability improvements as well. This area, as described earlier, is fixed and is always displayed in SSMS. Component windows can be displayed in this area, along with windows for the Query Editor, diagrams, and other design windows. If desired, you can change the environment from a tabbed display to multiple-document interface (MDI) mode. In this mode, each document is opened in its own window within the document window. The MDI mode manages windows like the SQL Server 2000 Query Analyzer and may be more user-friendly for some people. You can change to MDI mode by selecting Tools, Options and then selecting MDI Environment from the General page.
One particularly useful window that can be displayed in the document window is the Summary page. This new window displays information relative to the node that is selected in the Object Explorer and includes options to produce detailed reports and graphs. The Summary page is displayed in the document window by default when SSMS is launched, but you can also display it by pressing F7 or choosing Summary from the View menu.
The reports that are available on the Summary page are often overlooked. Part of the reason for this may be that the reports are not available for every node in the Object Explorer tree. Top-level nodes in the tree are where most of the reports are found. For example, if you select a database in the Object Explorer tree and view the Summary page, you see a Report icon that is enabled on the toolbar at the top of the Summary page. If you click the drop-down arrow next to that icon, you find a list of reports that are available for creation. These reports include Disk Usage, Backup and Restore Events, Top Transactions by Age, and a host of others. Graphs are included with some reports, and you can export or print all these reports. Figure 3.2 shows an example of the Disk Usage report for the AdventureWorks database.
Figure 3.2 A Disk Usage summary report.
The graphs are easy to read, and some sections of the report can be expanded to provide more detail. Bullets at the bottom of a report are nodes that can be expanded. For example, the bullets Disk Space Used by Data Files and Disk Space Used by Table at the bottom of Figure 3.2 can be expanded.
SSMS offers an expanded set of help facilities as well as improved integration into the application environment. The Help sources have been expanded to include both local and online resources. Local help is similar to the Help resources available in past versions and references files that are installed on your machine during the installation process. Local help includes the local SQL Server Books Online resources. Local help files are static and get updated only if another documentation installation is run on the local machine.
Online help is new to SQL Server 2005 and provides access to content that is not static and can be updated with the very latest changes. Three default online resources are provided by default:
MSDN Online—MSDN Online contains the latest version of the MSDN documentation, including the latest quarterly releases.
Codezone Community—Codezone Community includes a set of third-party websites that have partnered with Microsoft and provide a wealth of information from sources outside Microsoft.
Questions—The Questions option allows you to search the forum archives for answers to questions that others have already asked. It also allows you to post your own questions.
The help resources you use on your machine are configurable. You can choose to search online resources first, followed by local help, or you can choose an option that searches local help resources first, followed by online resources. You can also choose specific Codezone online resources to search, or you can eliminate the search of all online resources. Figure 3.3 shows the online help Options window, which allows you to configure your Help options. You access this dialog by selecting Tools, Options.
Figure 3.3 Setting Help options.
The Help resources you select are used when you search for content within the Help facility. When you use both local and online resources options, you see results from multiple locations in your search results. Figure 3.4 shows a sample Books Online Document Explorer window with results from a search on “Management Studio.” Notice that the panel on the right side of the window lists entries under Local Help, MSDN Online, Codezone Community, and Questions. Each of these sections contains search results that you can access by simply clicking on that area. The number of search results for each section is displayed in parentheses after the section name.
Figure 3.4 A Books Online search.
One other significant change to the help facilities in SSMS is the addition of Dynamic Help. Dynamic Help is a carryover from the Visual Studio environment. It is a help facility that automatically displays topics in a Help window that are related to what you are doing in SSMS. For example, if you are working in a query window and type the word SELECT to start your query, the Dynamic Help window displays several topics related to the SELECT statement. If you are working in the Object Explorer, it displays Help topics related to the Object Explorer.
Dynamic Help is one of the component windows that you can dock or position on the SSMS surface. To use Dynamic Help, you select Help, Dynamic Help. Figure 3.5 shows an example of the SSMS environment with the Dynamic Help window docked on the right side of the window. The Dynamic Help topics in this example are relative to the SELECT keyword that is typed in the Query Editor window in the middle of the screen.
Figure 3.5 Dynamic Help.