SQLServerCentral Editorial

The Importance of Thick Clients


I've used a number of clients with SQL Server across the last 30 years. I worked early on with the command line and isql (now SQLCMD and soon Go-SQLCMD). That was handy with DOS and Windows 3.1. However, I soon moved to GUI tools and spent years in ISQL/W,  which was how I ran Query Analyzer. Enterprise Manager was the next evolution, though I used Rapid SQL for awhile to get offline query work while on a plane. This was handy for me in documenting and commenting code without a server. Amazing to think I used to work without a SQL instance on my laptop.

SSMS (Management Studio) has become the de facto way I've written queries for over a decade. Microsoft has tried to push people to Azure Data Studio (ADS), but I don't see a lot of people moving to it. It's fast, but also, not attractive, at least not to me.

I saw a post recently from Chris Webb, asking if it was possible to do all one's development in the Power BI Web interface. He asks the question since lots of BI people have Macs and you can't run Power BI Desktop on MacOS. That's one reason why ADS was created, to provide a cross-platform tool. Chris says the web isn't quite up to snuff, though it's been improving. So for now, you need Windows.

I feel the same way. I do wish SSMS was available cross-platform. When I had a MacBook, I constantly had a Windows VM running to get to SSMS and SQL Server. These days I could run a Linux version of SQL Server on MacOS (or a container), but not SSMS. I could run ADS, but I don't love it.

I'm not completely sure why ADS bothers me, but I think a big reason is the familiarity of a thick client and Windows GUI controls. I always felt many of the Linux GUI elements feel like cheap imitations of their Windows counterparts. The smoothness of the Win32 applications, the way that grid results come across, the rendering of text, smooth menus, etc. run is just better. Even when it's not great, it's better.

I like the thick Windows clients.

I do think there are some nice Electron-based apps that look and work well in Windows and Linux. In fact, Redgate's own direction has been Flyway Desktop rather than continuing to insist on SSMS, precisely because we find more and more customers aren't standardized on Windows. This is especially true for RDBMSs other than SQL Server. That UI looks pretty good, though admittedly, I'm not writing queries.

Especially in SSMS, the way a thick client works is much better than ADS. Especially with SQL Prompt. Intellisense in ADS leaves a lot to be desired and the constant need for me to use the command palette for things is annoying. Give me menu items and better shortcuts. I'm not sure why I don't think it works as well, but it doesn't. Not for me.

I wonder how many of you feel the same way. I know some people love DataGrip, but that is often because they work cross-platform or they are full-stack people that like Rider for their other work.

I do like VS Code, but I'm almost always just writing code, not looking at results or managing a server instance. When I look at other platform tools, MySQL WorkbenchpgAdmin, SQL Developer, I see why SQL Server and SSMS are preferred by many. Those tools are just poorly built compared to SSMS.

What do you think? I know many of us dislike things about SSMS, but still find it indispensable for daily work. Do you love/hate SSMS or have you found another tool that works well for you?


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