Product Review: Red Gate Software’s SQL Prompt 5.1

If you enjoy the IntelliSense features that are included with SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS) 2008, it will take only a few minutes of using Red Gate’s SQL Prompt before you fall in love with it. Not only does SQL Prompt work from within SSMS 2008 to allow interaction with SQL Server 2005 and SQL Server 2000 databases, but it also works natively within SSMS 2005. Curiously, this functionality isn’t supported by SSMS’s native IntelliSense.

SQL Prompt is incredibly easy to install—the whole process takes just over a minute. After the program is deployed, you can leverage it against any SQL Server 2008, 2005, or 2000 database from within SSMS 2005 and later versions. (It also provides some functionality and support from within Visual Studio, but I’d rather not do T-SQL coding from within Visual Studio.)

Not only does SQL Prompt provide broader SQL Server support than SSMS 2008’s IntelliSense provides, but the features, user experience, and code-completion capabilities are also much better. Although these variables are difficult to quantify, SQL Prompt feels faster, crisper, and more capable of keeping up with coding than native SSMS IntelliSense.

However, it isn’t just the superior code-completion capabilities and coverage that make SQL Prompt so powerful. The product also provides a host of other productivity-enhancing features. For example, when you’re working with JOINs, SQL Prompt provides suggestions for the ON clause of JOIN conditions, even intelligently accounting for aliases. Likewise, you can highlight the wildcard symbol (*) in a SELECT * FROM someTable query and press Tab to have SQL Prompt replace the wildcard with the names of all the columns for the selected table (or view). In addition, if you briefly rest the mouse pointer over table names or other object names, SQL Prompt provides an optional pop-up that displays the object definition for the object, which makes it easy to peruse definitions and even paste them into your scripts.

I also love SQL Prompt’s support for snippets, which SSMS won’t support until SQL Server 2011 (code-named Denali) ships. With SQL Prompt, it’s easy to define new code snippets and insert them into your code. I use mnemonics, such as “cro” for Create Object, to create snippets that leverage standard T-SQL templating. Then, I can type cro, press Tab, and press Ctrl+Shift+M to specify an object type (e.g., U, P, FN) and an object name as part of an idiom that performs IF checks/DROPs for object creation and definition. Handy little features like these are what make SQL Prompt such a productivity booster. SQL Prompt makes it easy to address highly repetitive and semi-repetitive tasks.

Another thing that I love about SQL Prompt is the Format SQL functionality, which instantly reformats the contents of an entire query in SSMS (or just a highlighted subsection) against formatting rules and options that you modify to meet your needs, as Figure 1 shows. This functionality isn’t perfect; it’s missing just one or two formatting features or rules that would make it capable of adhering to my very picky formatting preferences. But I routinely use this feature when I’m looking at client code or teasing apart code created by other developers. It instantly makes even the ugliest code far more readable.

Figure 1: Using SQL Prompt’s Format SQL functionality
Figure 1: Using SQL Prompt’s Format SQL functionality

I can’t think of many drawbacks to using SQL Prompt. If I had to nitpick, I’d mention that the code-completion functionality doesn’t pick up the NEWSEQUENTIALID() function, but this is a pretty minor issue. And as long I’m being petty, I’ll mention that part of me also wishes that Red Gate would just ditch the professional and standard versions of SQL Prompt and offer a full-featured version for $250, just to streamline purchasing options a bit. But this just underscores how few negative things there are to say about this product. If you’re at all involved with SQL Server coding and haven’t given SQL Prompt a try, you’re missing out on a very powerful solution that can quickly and easily boost your productivity at an excellent price.

SQL Prompt 5.1
PROS: Better support and code-completion capabilities than with native SSMS 2008 IntelliSense; productivity-enhancing features such as code formatting, snippet management, object cleanup, and scripting options
CONS: No real show-stoppers or problems
RATING: 5 out of 5
PRICE: $295 for the professional version (as tested); $195 for the standard version; volume discounts available; free when purchased as part of certain Red Gate bundles
RECOMMENDATION: SQL Prompt is a great productivity enhancer for database architects or developers and will quickly pay for itself. It's well worth an evaluation if you do any sort of T-SQL coding.
CONTACT: Red Gate Software• 866-997-0397•

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