Today I'm getting back to basics, whether you are new or veteran with the database engine you need a tool to get into, write queries, do some monitoring, tuning, etc.
If you have been using SQL for at least 5 years or any version older than SQL Server 2016 you will mostly only know one tool, as it was included with the installation media, however there are other tools available that you can use with which you can achieve the same goal, and at the same time offer some other benefits. In this post I will be writing about the top 3 and that are developed by Microsoft that you can use, in another posts I'll evaluate some others but for now lets use focus on this 3.
SQL Server Data Tools (SSDT) - SQL Server Data Tools, was introduced as an add-on with Visual Studio 2012 meaning that it has been here for a while now, it offered a lot of features that you can only find with third party tools at an extra cost such as schema and data comparison between two databases, it also offered connectivity with a Team Foundation Services Server (TFS) among other features. In later versions you begin to be able to develop Reporting Services reports with SSDT, so it removed the need of installing the Software Development Kit within your database server or sharing some installation media with other teams for them to develop or update SSRS Reports. With the latest version you are able to connect to SQL Servers from 2005, Azure SQL, Azure SQL Data Warehouse and SQL Server 2017 on Linux. It doesn't requires any license to be installed. If you are more familiar with Visual Studio, it is easier for you to adapt to this one or even better, you can add this package to your installation and work from there without the need on having a separate tool to do the database part. You can see the official documentation and download it from here: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/sql/ssdt/download-sql-server-data-tools-ssdt?view=sql-server-2017
SQL Operations Studio - SQL Operations Studio is a multi-platform tool you can use to connect to databases, if you are bored and tired of the limitation that SQL Server Management Studio offered or that there was no Data Tools for Linux, let me tell you that this is your tool, you can run Operations Studio on Windows, macOS and Linux. With this tool you can do almost all the administrative and development work you used to do with SSMS, there are still some items missing from SSMS, however most of the ones you used on a daily basis are here. It also includes a lot of reports you are used to see in SSMS with richer format. It doesn't requires any license to be purchased. It is a light weight file compared with the traditional management studio. You can download it for free here: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/sql/sql-operations-studio/download?view=sql-server-2017
SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS) - As I said at the beginning of this post, if you have been using SQL Server for at least 5 years, or if you have installed any SQL Server version older than SQL 2016, you might noticed that with SQL Server 2016 there was a big change with the installation media, and is that it didn't include the option of "Management tools" instead it was in a different section in the welcome screen of the setup and when you click on it, it route you to download the media, this because of a lot of different reasons (Performance, Security and starting SQL 2017 multi-platform). This tool continues to be the most utilized tool to manage and interact with databases whether you are running your database on-premises or cloud. The good thing of this change is that if you are not installing a SQL engine in your desktop you don't need the entire media that included the setup files for the SQL engine, instead you just download the latest version and there you have it, also in the past you could only download the express version for free which was very limited or download the media containing the Development version for SQL, that is no longer the case, with the current release format you will have all the features supported. It has improved a lot from the versions we used to know, as now you can develop your own monitoring reports with SSRS and import those into SSMS and have that visibility from there, for example if you have a ad-hoc query to monitor your SQL Servers you can convert it as a report and integrate it with your SSMS and you will no longer need to open a new query window and run it, instead you just run your report and presto!
Hope that this quick review help you get a better idea and start your desire to test different tools.
Thanks for reading!