ADO, XML, and IDEs: Full-Featured Tools Spell Success for Developers

In the development arena, a large number of players made competition in these categories stiff. In recent years, vendors have had to create development tools that not only make the developer's job easier, but that also foster better communication and integration with a variety of IT professionals and business users. The vendors in this space have more than risen to that challenge, offering rich, sophisticated features that improve productivity for an organization's entire team. This year, heavy hitters Embarcadero Technologies and DataDirect Technologies rose above the competition to dominate the development space.

Best Application-Testing/-Debugging Software. Embarcadero Technologies' Extreme Test was the voters' choice to preempt application-performance problems and achieve service-level goals. The product offers an integrated environment for end-to-end testing. Embarcadero Extreme Test uses a goals-based approach to performance testing, allowing performance managers and quality-assurance professionals not only to test the load on a given application, but also to set thresholds and parameters on the test to ensure that the outcome meets all defined requirements. Once the load exceeds the set thresholds, the tests are aborted. The reliable platform accommodates a variety of testing scenarios and delivers meaningful test results, which performance managers can use to identify performance problems and optimize components, perform detailed historical analysis of test procedures and results, improve processes, and make better predictions of system performance.

Best Database-Testing/-Debugging Software. From our voters' perspective, Embarcadero Technologies' SQL Debugger is the best product for isolating and fixing database bugs. The product lets you step through code as it executes so that you can watch database logic and quickly identify the source of errors. In addition, you can set a code-profiling option that displays the cost of each line of code as it executes, revealing potential performance bottlenecks in the code that's executing. SQL Debugger lets you debug procedures, triggers, and ad hoc SQL scripts. And the product provides a common UI for all major DBMS platforms.

Best Database-Modeling/Design Software. Embarcadero Technologies continued its winning streak with ER/Studio, which garnered the most votes for database modeling and design. Data architects, DBAs, and developers use this multi-level data-modeling application for logical and physical database design and construction. Using model-driven data-architecture and database-design concepts, the product clarifies complex data-design problems through visual blueprints and documents databases, data warehouses, and database-driven applications. The product's comprehensive feature set led one voter to label it "the bomb of data modeling!"

Best IDE. Imceda Software's Speed SQL IDE (now a Quest Software product) wowed our voters with its full-featured integrated development environment (IDE). The product's programming and editing features give both beginner and expert database developers the functionality of a database-development and -management tool and a SQL editor in one application. SQL IDE features include functionality to speed code development, the ability to store and share code, and checks to ensure code accuracy and suitability. An Object History feature stores a record of every object change, and the project is integrated with Microsoft Visual SourceSafe and other Source Code Control (SCC)-compliant version-control systems.

Best .NET Development Tool and Best Middleware/Connectivity Tool. DataDirect Technologies scored three development-category wins, two of which are for its DataDirect Connect product line. DataDirect Connect for .NET is the industry's only ADO.NET data provider with a 100-percent managed-code architecture that eliminates the need for database clients. Developers can use the product to establish flexible, secure connections to SQL Server, Oracle, IBM DB2, and Sybase databases. The product provides platform interoperability by abstracting differences between diverse databases and database versions. One voter praised the managed-code environment as "great for XSLT and XML schema." DataDirect Connect for JDBC, a fast, comprehensive suite of Type 4 JDBC drivers, supports advanced functionality such as distributed transactions, connection pooling, updating BLOB and CLOB data types, and Windows Authentication for SQL Server and Oracle. And DataDirect for ODBC uses a unique wire-protocol design to eliminate the need for database client software and libraries.

Best Source-Code-Control Software. Microsoft got the ultimate vote of confidence from its customers in this category: A landslide of write-in votes heralded Visual SourceSafe 6.0 as the source-code-control system of choice. Developers can access the team-development features of Visual SourceSafe from within the familiar Visual Studio environment they already use. Versioning features such as labels provide snapshots of a project for quick retrieval of previous versions in the software life cycle. Parallel development features such as branching let teams split the development process into parallel projects and files. The product also provides many advanced features for Web-site management, including extensive deployment support.

Best Scripting Tool/Code Generator. Writing and testing database logic is often the most time-consuming and error-prone phase of building a database application. Embarcadero Technologies' Rapid SQL rounds out that company's development winners with a tool that eliminates the need to memorize and type SQL syntax. The product contains extensive code templates and offers graphical browsing capabilities that let you easily understand the structure and dependencies of database objects. In addition, the product includes features that enhance schema development, SQL scripting and development, and database project management. And built-in version controls let multiple developers work on the same project.

Best XML Development Tool. Tight competition in this category produced a tie between Altova's XMLSpy 2005 and DataDirect Technologies' Stylus Studio 6 XML Professional Edition. Altova XMLSpy 2005 provides a complete XML development environment for modeling, editing, debugging, and transforming all XML technologies, then automatically generating runtime code in multiple programming languages. The product gives .NET, J2EE, Eclipse, and database developers an intuitive UI and a variety of editing views and options. Five synchronized editing views let you work with any XML technology in a way that best suits the complexity of the document and your preferences. Intelligent editing features include auto completion, context-sensitive syntax help, and syntax coloring. When working with XML is easy, productivity increases, saving money and decreasing time-to-market for your applications.

DataDirect Stylus Studio 6 XML Professional Edition is an advanced XML IDE that provides a comprehensive set of XML tools and features for working with XML, XQuery, SQL/XML, Web services, and many other XML technologies. "This is the best IDE I've ever used," raved one voter. The product's feature set includes synchronized, visual XML editing views; comprehensive XSLT development support; support for visual XQuery editing, XQuery mapping, and XQuery debugging; and support for visual XML Schema editing. One voter asserted that Stylus Studio 6 XML is "the best value for the money, and butt-kicking features like integrated mappers and debugger make it a great time saver!"

Best Database Documentation Tool. Computer Associates' AllFusion ERwin Data Modeler is a data-modeling solution that can help you create and maintain databases, data warehouses, and enterprise data models. The product lets you work from a logical model of your information requirements and business rules that define your database to create a physical model optimized for the specific characteristics of your target database. The product helps you visually determine the proper structure, key elements, and optimal design for your database while letting you define and maintain naming standards, attributes, and data types. The product automatically generates tables and stored procedure and trigger code, and its Complete-Compare technology lets you keep your model synchronized with your database. In combination with AllFusion Model Manager, the product lets database designers, application developers, and end users share model information.

Best Development Tools

Best Application-Testing/-Debugging Software

Embarcadero Technologies, Extreme Test
Price: Starts at $13,750

Best Database-Testing/-Debugging Software

Embarcadero Technologies, SQL Debugger
Price: Starts at $495

Best Database-Modeling/-Design Software

Embarcadero Technologies, ER/Studio
Price: Starts at $3495

Best IDE

Imceda Software, Speed SQL IDE
888-763-7685, 781-229-6300,
Price: $954 per client

Best .NET Development Tool

DataDirect Technologies, DataDirect Connect for .NET
Price: $625 for a set of five licenses; call for pricing of server-based licenses

Best Middleware/Connectivity Tool

DataDirect Technologies, DataDirect Connect
Price: $625 for a set of five licenses; call for pricing of server-based licenses

Best Source-Code Control Software

Microsoft, Visual SourceSafe 6.0
Price: $549

Best Scripting Tool/Code Generator

Embarcadero Technologies, Rapid SQL
Price: Starts at $695

Best XML Development Tool—Tie

Altova, XMLSpy 2005
Price: Starts at $499 per license

DataDirect Technologies, Stylus Studio 6 XML Professional Edition
Price: Starts at $495

Best Database Documentation Tool

Computer Associates, AllFusion ERwin Data Modeler
Price: $3995

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