Practical SQL Server
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SQL Server Management Studio 2014: Notes from the Field

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The primary video card in my (awesome) workstation sadly died earlier this month.

Which meant that rather than fiddle around with trying to get old drivers to uninstall correctly and new drivers to install optimally with my new/replacement video card, I just decided to repave from scratch and save myself some hassle. Benefits of repaving from scratch brought along the allure of the following benefits:

  • The option to install Windows 8.1 Update (from scratch)—which I’m actually quite enamored with as it packs some really great (though subtle) changes and improvements.
  • The ability to cut ties with .NET 2.0 and just go all 4.0 or higher by no longer bothering with Visual Studio 2012 and just going straight to Visual Studio 2013.
  • The ability to also cut SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS) 2012 out of the mix and install SSMS 2014 on to my box as my primary client tool for dev, tweaking, queries, tests, and all things T-SQL-y.
  • The ability to clear out crud, clutter, and cruft from running Windows 8 for over a year, and install a few bigger games and a couple of other apps I no longer want or need. (Or, in other words, to get that runs fast feeling that you get with a new install of Windows and which gradually disappears over time—even on insanely fast hardware like mine.)

Repaving a workstation from scratch is always fraught with a bit of danger or the potential for disaster—but I’ve done it enough times now that I’ve got it down to a science. It also doesn’t hurt that as of Windows 7 and higher, Microsoft has really made OS installation obscenely easy in terms of drivers and initial configuration.

Et Tu SSMS 2014?

There were, of course, a couple of surprises and even hiccups along the way—but the biggest of these was, sadly, in the form of a couple of problems I noted almost immediately when installing SSMS 2014 (and when using it over the next few days). And, just to be clear, I only installed SSMS 2014 and the client tools (I’ve got a VMware host where I run latest server builds and where I keep some dev servers for various tests and exploring—so I don’t need to install SQL Server Developer Edition locally).

At the risk of coming off a bit petty, here’s a round-up of the negatives I’ve encountered so far:

  • SSMS 2014 Still Requires .NET Framework 3.5.1. I’m making a bit too much out of this—but it was a bit of a letdown to have to install an older version of the .NET Framework on my box—just to get SSMS to run. And, to be clear, the problem isn’t disk space or even having multiple versions of the CLR running on my box (that works pretty much without a hitch); the issue is that this means that SSMS 2014 feels like it’s still operating in hand-me-down mode or where SSMS is a bit of a second-class citizen to Visual Studio 2013 (which does NOT require anything other than .NET 4.5.1).
  • No Local Installation of Books Online. With SQL Server 2012, you had to jump through a couple of hoops to install Books Online content locally (i.e., on your hard drive), but the option, at least, existed. So far, that’s not the case with SQL Server 2014. Personally, I hope that changes. Browsers and Google are fine and all, but they’re simply no match for being able to type something like sp_addmergearticle into a ‘search box’ and be able to get to full-blown, up-to-date, documentation within a matter of seconds. (i.e., if I type that into Google now, I end up at the following link—which is for SQL Server 2012—and there is (at the time of writing) no option to ‘bump’ the documentation for that special procedure up to SQL Server 2014 documentation.) With online-only versions of Help for SSMS 2014 (and SQL Server 2014), I find that accessing documentation is much more of a hassle/concern than it really should be. (Especially, for a solution that costs so much—i.e., if I had just paid, say, $2M for upgrades/licenses for a rollout of SQL Server 2014 in an enterprise, I think I’d be a bit cranky about MS trying to force me to use their (cough) pathetic web sites as the sole source of documentation for such an expensive product.)

    UPDATE: Aaron Bertrand has step-by-step instructions on how to get Books Online 2014 installed locally.

  • Remember Password Bug For SQL Authentication Still Exists. Originally logged against SQL Server 2005, I find it pretty galling that Microsoft still, patently, refuses to correct the fact that SSMS will not consistently remember passwords for servers via SQL Server Authentication. And, for the record, I get it: SQL Auth just isn’t as safe or enviable as Trusted Auth—so it is a second-class citizen. But SSMS also has a checkbox to "Remember password" and for hosted databases (i.e., via web hosting companies) AND for Azure databases, this is still the only/most-logical authentication mechanism there is—so it’s quite lame that SSMS won’t consistently remember these passwords and that Microsoft patently refuses to fix this bug that’s been in place for over 8 years now.

Granted, it’s quite easy to call out negatives and point out what’s wrong with new tools and services—as I’ve done. And, so, just to be perfectly clear: I’m definitely not saying that SSMS 2014 is flawed, or is somehow not worth it, or riddled with problems—by any stretch of the imagination. Instead, I’m just pointing out that SSMS is a complex application that does a ton of wonderful things and, with SSMS 2014, there are still a couple of quirks or issues—that I hope that Microsoft addresses or corrects someday. Because, other than these three almost knit-picks that I’ve outlined, SSMS 2014 has, otherwise, been all rainbows and unicorns to use, and I certainly haven’t regretted switching to it from SSMS 2012.

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