What's New in Visual Database Tools
Visual Database Tools are the tools that help you create databases, maintain databases, and design the data manipulation portions of your Visual Studio database applications. With this release, you can test improvements and additions that make the tools easier to use, enlarge the set of tasks you can complete with the tools, and capitalize on new features of SQL Server.
Visual Studio now includes Server Explorer, which supplants the Data View window. Server Explorer provides the following features:
- Features Formerly Found in Data View Window
- In previous versions, the Data View window let you browse databases, modify databases, and drag database objects from and to other windows. These features are now found in Server Explorer.
- Database-Wide Operations
- Server Explorer exposes certain operations that you can perform on an entire database (rather than on particular objects within a database). For example, you can generate a set of script files that recreate a database's structure. (See "Additional Script Types" below.)
New Features of Database Project
Database projects have changed.
- Database References
- The database project now includes the concept of database reference. A database reference is simply a pointer to a database. Whenever you create a database reference, the database project immediately checks the list of database connections in Server Explorer and if there is no connection to that database, it creates such a connection for you automatically. A database reference differs from a database connection, because a reference is merely a pointer; it does not allow you to enumerate the contents of the database. A database connection, on the other hand, lets you inspect the contents of the database.
A database reference is persisted with the database project. When you save a project to disk, the reference is saved. When another user opens the project and begins using it, the reference is available to that user. Furthermore, when any user opens a database project, the project checks that user's Server Explorer for a corresponding connection and if no such connection exists, the database project automatically creates it.
- Script Behavior
- In previous versions, a database project required that each individual SQL script be associated with a particular database connection. This requirement no longer applies. Now, you can run scripts on any connection. Within Solution Explorer, right-click on the script, choose Run On, then indicate which database to run the script on. You indicate the database by selecting either a database connection or a database reference from within the Run On dialog.
In addition, Solution Explorer has several folders for the various kinds of scripts. There is a new kind of script, described in the next section.
New Kind of Script
Previous versions of the Visual Database Tools let you save change scripts. Now, you can also save another kind of script.
- Create Scripts
- A create script is one of a set of files containing SQL statements to recreate selected objects within a database. To learn how to generate a create script, see Generating Create Scripts.
For more information, see Working with Scripts.
Support for SQL Server 2000 Features
The Visual Database Tools have improved to accommodate new features of SQL Server 2000.
- Indexed Views
- SQL Server 2000 databases can include indexed views – views that are persisted in the database, with attendant indexes allowing fast access. For a description of the advantages of Indexed Views, see the SQL Server documentation. To learn how to create in indexed view see Creating Indexed Views.
- Cascading Referential Integrity
- When you create a relationship with Visual Database Tools, you can control the cascading referential integrity settings the SQL Server makes available. For details about controlling cascading referential integrity, see Create Relationship Dialog Box or Relationships Property Page.
- User-Defined Functions
- You can use user-defined functions in queries. In the FROM clause of a query, you can use a user-defined function that returns a table. In the column list of a query, you can use a user-defined function that returns a scalar value.
- New Data types
- SQL Server 2000 supports two new data types, SQL_Variant and BigInt. Visual Database Tools supports both of these data types.
Improved User Interface Features
Visual Studio's new Integrated Development Environment (IDE) provides many benefits, including the consolidation of similar tools from the various products into a set of shared tools used throughout Visual Studio.
- New Look and Feel for the Table Designer
- The Table Designer has an improved user interface. In previous versions, the Table Designer used a grid in which each grid row described the various properties of a database column. Because each database column has many properties (Name, Data type, etc.), the grid was wide; using it required inconvenient horizontal scrolling.
By contrast, the new Table Designer uses both an upper grid and a lower portion that looks like a property page. The grid shows only most commonly modified properties of each database column. The bottom portion of the Designer shows the remaining properties for whichever database column is currently selected in the grid.