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The Appearance of the Flat File Wizard.

By Phil Factor,

SQL Server Management Studio was almost unchanging for so long, five years I'm told, that many of us gave up on expecting any startlingly new features from it. It did, of course, accommodate the enhancements in SQL Server, but one got the impression that the application was in 'do not resuscitate' mode. Now, suddenly, SSMS has a genuinely useful new tool, the 'import flat file' wizard. It may be lacking some obvious features, and has some quirks, but it is like seeing the first crocus of spring.

I'm expecting more spring flowers soon. A couple of years ago, there was a sudden change: a long list of connect items got fixed, and a new team was in put in place to revive the slumbering giant. They have had to refactor a sprawling application. Before they could get anywhere near current practices in continuous releases, they had to reduce all the interdependencies with other parts of the SQL Server behemoth. Management Studio is now a completely standalone product, not tied to any specific version or edition of SQL Server, and no longer requires licensing of any kind. There has been a new release roughly every six weeks. A lot has, at last, got fixed but there has been little time to spend on planning the way ahead.

There are, of course some other features pushing up through the permafrost such as the XEvent Profiler and the updated Waits Filtering in the Performance Dashboard, but these sorts of features are too rarified to appeal to the average member of the Visual Studio brigade. There isn't much else to make the pulses race: we were able to contain our excitement over previous enhancements, such as Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA), and enhancements to the SSIS scale-out management application.

I think that everyone has their own ideas of what to see in SSMS. There is a whole industry that is geared to making it easier to use SSMS. However, I suspect we are being too subtle. Here, with the new 'import flat file' wizard, we start instead at the level of, "Wow. I managed to create a database, now how on earth do I get data into it?" Surely, at their most basic level, databases should be as simple to create and alter as spreadsheets in file directories. We do ourselves no favors at all in making things unnecessarily complicated. No wonder 'document databases' such as Mongo can so easily steal our lunch. I shall be hectoring Microsoft for improvements to what I reckon is a good direction to develop SSMS. "Wow, I imported that flat file! But I have three hundred tables – am I expected to run that wizard three hundred times?"

Phil Factor.

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