Data Dictionary from within SQL Server 2000

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  • Nice article Mindy, very informative.

    Chris Kempster
    Author of "SQL Server Backup, Recovery & Troubleshooting"
    Author of "SQL Server 2k for the Oracle DBA"

  • I have found this usefull already and have been using it a while. Good article on the subject.

  • Nice article. I too tried this last year, but was a little ticked that I had to use a cursor to get this info. This should be queryable for all tables, but ...

    Anyway, well written and a useful technique.

    Steve Jones

  • Thanks for all your comments!


  • I saw your article only today.

    It is very usefull, and practical.

    I learned so many new things in your article.

    Thanks, Keep it up.


    Prithiviraj Kulasingham

  • Thankyou - this is exactly the answer I have been looking for!!

  • Great idea. I usually find it better to use the information_schema views so I altered your stored procedure as follows


    o.[table_name] as 'table_name',

    c.ordinal_position as 'column_order',

    c.[column_name] as 'column_name',

    e.value as 'column_description',

    C.DATA_TYPE as Type,

    coalesce(numeric_precision,character_maximum_length,0) as Length,

    coalesce(numeric_scale,0) as [Decimal Pos],


    from information_schema.tables o inner join information_schema.columns c on o.table_name =


    left join ::FN_LISTEXTENDEDPROPERTY(N'MS_Description',

    N'user',N'dbo',N'table', @table_name, N'column', null) e on c.column_name = e.objname

    where o.table_name = @table_name


  • I've been exploring this topic for a few days and noticed that the system table sysproperties contained records identified as MS_Description with <Binary> data in the 'value' column. I wrote the following query which returns these records matched with their corresponding records in sysobjects and syscolumns:

    SELECT TOP 100 PERCENT AS [Table Name], AS [Field Name], AS [Data Type],


    dbo.syscolumns.prec AS [Precision], CONVERT(varchar(500), dbo.sysproperties.[value]) AS Description


    dbo.sysobjects INNER JOIN

    dbo.syscolumns ON = INNER JOIN

    dbo.sysproperties ON = AND dbo.syscolumns.colid = dbo.sysproperties.smallid INNER JOIN

    dbo.systypes ON dbo.syscolumns.xtype = dbo.systypes.xtype

    GROUP BY, dbo.syscolumns.colid,,, dbo.syscolumns.length, dbo.syscolumns.prec,


    ORDER BY, dbo.syscolumns.colid

    I'm pretty new at this stuff, so my question is, is this any different than Mindy's solution or am I missing something?

  • Article is cool, now i know how to query the data dictionary. However i have created my own SQL statement that i use with MS Query, where i cannot define stored procedures but just SQL statements. Here are two simple statements that queries 1. all tables, 2. all tables with all columns.

    1. tables

    SELECT 'Table-name'

    FROM sysobjects sysobjects

    WHERE (sysobjects.type='U') AND (sysobjects.status>1)


    2. tables with columns

    SELECT 'Table-name', 'Column-name', syscolumns.length, syscolumns.xprec, syscolumns.xscale, syscolumns.colid, syscolumns.bitpos, syscolumns.isnullable

    FROM syscolumns syscolumns, sysobjects sysobjects

    WHERE (sysobjects.type='U') AND (

    ORDER BY, syscolumns.colid

    cheers, Peter

  • Well done, Mindy! This will help immensely with the documentation of my current project. 8D

  • Nice article, Mindy.

    DirkFrazier, I think your solution is equivalent to Mindy's. The [value] field on the [sysproperties] table is a sql_variant type, so you could store just about anything in there I think, though I haven't tried it yet.

    I bet there are some neat tricks you could use this for, like storing default formatting etc... the help file has some ideas for how applications could leverage this. I'm really just getting into XML but I see some potential to map some things that XML does to this property table that otherwise can't be directly stored as part of a database schema.

    Yet another reminder to me that I should read up on the system tables regularly to find new tricks. 🙂

    Matthew Galbraith

  • i've tended to use oracle-like names for views that have been quite useful. i use a few variations on this but datatype, length and columnorder are useful when it comes to reproducing the formats of adhoc queries

    /****** Object: View dbo.all_columns Script Date: 12/11/2001 3:47:11 PM ******/

    CREATE view ColumnDesc as

    select columnname, tablename, tableid, datatype, syscolumns.length length,syscolumns.colorder columnorder,syscolumns.isnullable isnullable, syscolumns.autoval autoval

    ,sysproperties.[value] [Description]

    from sysobjects,syscolumns,systypes,sysproperties

    where sysobjects.xtype='U'




    and syscolumns.xtype=systypes.xtype

    and sysproperties.type=4

    and sysproperties.smallid=syscolumns.colid

  • excellent

    paul warwick

    paul warwick

  • well yes, it's fine to query the data dictionary. i have written tools some years ago that did generate c struct headers according to the tables of a database in order to use them along with embedded sql. visual studio's wizard for example creates derived CRecordset classes with data taken from the data dictionary with all the fields as data members of the class. of course this is static stuff, if your tables change, you must recreate your classes. i prefer to use an OODBMS these days, so you can forget about the 40% of your code which is just for mapping.

    cheers, Peter

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