Designing Database Diagrams

The Database Diagram Designer is a visual tool that allows you to design and visualize a database to which you are connected. When designing a database, you can use Database Diagram Designer to create, edit, or delete tables, columns, keys, indexes, relationships, and constraints. To visualize a database, you can create one or more diagrams illustrating some or all of the tables, columns, keys, and relationships in it.

Important note Important

You can use the Database Diagram Designer to update databases in SQL Server 2005, SQL Server 2008, and SQL Server 2008 R2. However, SQL Server 2012 doesn't support this feature.

Database Diagram Window showing Graphic Display

For any database, you can create as many database diagrams as you like; each database table can appear on any number of diagrams. Thus, you can create different diagrams to visualize different portions of the database, or to accentuate different aspects of the design. For example, you can create a large diagram showing all tables and columns, and you can create a smaller diagram showing all tables without showing the columns.

Each database diagram you create is stored in the associated database.


Your computer might show different names or locations for some of the Visual Studio user interface elements in the following instructions. The Visual Studio edition that you have and the settings that you use determine these elements. For more information, see Customizing Development Settings in Visual Studio.

Within a database diagram, each table can appear with three distinct features: a title bar, a row selector, and a set of property columns.

Title Bar   The title bar shows the name of the table

If you have modified a table and have not yet saved it, an asterisk (*) appears at the end of the table name to indicate unsaved changes. For information about saving modified tables and diagrams, see Working with Database Diagrams.

Row Selector   You can click the row selector to select a database column in the table. The row selector displays a key symbol if the column is in the table's primary key. For information about primary keys, see Working with Keys.

Property Columns   The set of property columns is visible only in the certain views of your table. You can view a table in any of five different views to help you manage the size and layout of your diagram.

For more information about table views, see How to: Customize the Amount of Information Displayed in Diagrams.

Within a database diagram, each relationship can appear with three distinct features: endpoints, a line style, and related tables.

Endpoints   The endpoints of the line indicate whether the relationship is one-to-one or one-to-many. If a relationship has a key at one endpoint and a figure-eight at the other, it is a one-to-many relationship. If a relationship has a key at each endpoint, it is a one-to-one relationship.

Line Style   The line itself (not its endpoints) indicates whether the Database Management System (DBMS) enforces referential integrity for the relationship when new data is added to the foreign-key table. If the line appears solid, the DBMS enforces referential integrity for the relationship when rows are added or modified in the foreign-key table. If the line appears dotted, the DBMS does not enforce referential integrity for the relationship when rows are added or modified in the foreign-key table.

Related Tables   The relationship line indicates that a foreign-key relationship exists between one table and another. For a one-to-many relationship, the foreign-key table is the table near the line's figure-eight symbol. If both endpoints of the line attach to the same table, the relationship is a reflexive relationship. For more information, see How to: Draw Reflexive Relationships.

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