The Fast Track to Learning SQL Server
by Michael Otey, [email protected]
One question that people often ask me is, "What's the best way to learn about SQL Server and database technology in general?" Without a doubt, for someone who wants to learn about SQL Server, a great place to begin is to use Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Express Edition. Microsoft lets you download SQL Server Express Edition and distribute it with your software or application for free. This pricing scheme makes SQL Server Express Edition a really cost-effective choice--especially for students who can’t afford to shell out hundreds of dollars for a learning tool.
Although SQL Server Express Edition might not have as many features as the Microsoft SQL Server 2005 or Microsoft SQL Server 2000 Enterprise editions, it's a relational database that anyone can use to build personal and business applications. SQL Server Express Edition uses the same core database engine that the more expensive (and feature-packed) SQL Server 2005 and SQL Server Enterprise editions use. SQL Server Express supports the same data types--including the new XML and varbinary (max)--that other SQL products support. And after Microsoft releases SQL Server Management Studio Express (SSMSE), all the SQL Server products will include this full-featured graphical management tool that lets you create and manage SQL databases. You can download the SSMSE community technology preview--CTP--for free from the Microsoft Web site at
Be aware that the CTP version of SSMSE has fewer features than the version that ships with the other editions of SQL Server 2005 does.
Finally, if you download SQL Server Express Edition and the CTP of SSMSE to your platform, you can learn about SQL Server and its core database technology for a price point that can’t be beat. All the skills you learn while using SQL Server Express Edition or SSMSE are equally transferable to the other products in the SQL Server family. Moving from SSMSE to SQL Server Management Studio requires very little effort.
If you're learning about databases, you also need to learn about database applications. A great way to start learning about building custom database applications is by investigating the Microsoft Visual Studio Express Editions. The Visual Studio Express Editions family consists of Visual Basic 2005 Express Edition, Visual C# Express Edition, Visual C++ Express Edition, Visual J# Express, and Visual Web Developer 2005 Express Edition. All these products come with the core Visual Studio 2005 IDE, and you can use any of them to build database applications that can connect to SQL Server Express.
Finding Installed MSDE Instances
by Michael Otey, [email protected]
If you’re planning to upgrade from SQL Server 7.0 (powered by Microsoft Data Engine—MSDE) to SQL Server 2005, one important task you’ll need to undertake is finding installed MSDE instances so that you can upgrade them. (You might want to upgrade a single instance or a selection of instances.) In most cases, only a single default MSDE instance will be installed, but as many as 16 different instances of MSDE can be installed on one system. One way to find installed MSDE instances is to look in the system registry. To begin, start regedit and navigate to the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Microsoft SQL Server\InstalledInstances subkey. Regedit lists all installed MSDE instances under this registry key. If you find the MSSQLSERVER value for the subkey, the MSDE default instance is installed on the system.
Product Highlight: Microsoft Encourages Using Microsoft Express Products
Free is a great price. Microsoft has always planned to provide SQL Server Express for free, but that hasn't been the plan for the other members of the Visual Studio Express Editions. Microsoft’s starter set of development tools, the Visual Studio Express Editions (i.e., Visual Basic 2005 Express Edition, Visual C# Express Edition, Visual C++ Express Edition, Visual J# Express Edition, Visual Web Developer 2005 Express Edition) originally were to sell for $49 each. However, to encourage users to begin using Visual Studio Express Editions on the release to manufacturing (RTM) date of November 7, 2005, Microsoft decided to let users download the entire line of Visual Studio Express Editions free for 1 year. The offer ends November 6, 2006. You can find the Visual Studio Express Editions at:
Teach Yourself SQL
by Blake Eno, [email protected]
O’Reilly released "Learning SQL," an introductory guide for getting up to speed with SQL. The book by Alan Beaulieu is for anyone writing applications, performing database administration, and generating reports. The book shows you how to collect and return related information from many tables at once, take a set-oriented approach to working with data, embed conditional logic into SQL statements, use CASE expressions to write queries within queries, and employ SQL's built-in functions to transform and reinterpret data. Beaulieu sticks to standard SQL syntax so that you can apply your knowledge to multiple databases. "Learning SQL" costs $34.95. For more information, contact O’Reilly at 800-998-9938 or 707-827-7000.