Well here is an interesting post that is not car related… or is it?
I have been jumping back in to doing some PHP and MySQL development and needed some reasonable database tools. I had seen a few that I liked and would love to have DBArtisan, but it’s just crazy expensive and it’s lower cost brother Rapid SQL but if you hit up the Embarcadero site you will not see pricing. That’s because you can’t afford it 🙂 So what you won’t find here is an in depth technical discussion of these products, just quick impressions as I evaluated them. Most are easy to get and you should spend some time with each before sticking with one. Lot’s of “2 Cent’s” opinion below take them or leave them.
My main database is MySQL/MariaDB, with some MS-SQL and possibly Firebird (I always liked that database). I’m not a DBA nor would I think of myself as a hard core developer. I can cut code and figure things out and rely on a solid tool base to help out with that task.
My development environment is typically the database on a windows machine where I just do SQL work, or if I’m trying to hack some Yii/PHP I will spin up a VirtualBox instance (yeah I know it’s Oracle) with my Mint development environment and SSH Tunnel with the windows tools into that. The windows tools are just so much better then anything on Linux from a polished UI standpoint (yes that is my opinion).
So on a quest to find a good windows based database tool I came across a few that looked useable. And lets get this off the plate pretty early in this discussion, most tools like Oracle’s MySQL Workbench blow, and I’ll say the UI for most Java based tools are just off a bit. About the only one that I would consider would be Aqua Studio, it has vast support for databases (looks like mostly through JDBC). It looks OK under windows, it’s ugly under Linux which could be just taking a bunch of time working with fonts and settings but I have no time for that. Their are a couple of free version in various stages of development some support only MySQL/MariaDB and they were looked at too. I’ll put a list of the tools I looked at later on in the post. And PLEASE don’t complain if I didn’t find tool ‘XYZ as it’s the best’. Post a comment if you have one, these are just the ones I came across and liked and could afford.
I looked at MySQL workbench. First strike it’s under the umbrella of the Oralce Corp. I don’t like them much. Then it has a smelly odd Java based UI that I just didn’t like. It does do a lot of things for you and a good FREE tool for MySQL. Looks better on Windows then Linux. It was off the list early. Just didn’t like it.
You will need to use and install this. But I will say that if you are doing a lot of database work you will ditch this tool as fast as you can. It’s nice that it is almost ubiquitous with any LAMP stack install and generally available when you can’t get SSH or other shell access to you development machine. Other then that I find it slow (due to clunky web interface) and sometime just doesn’t work as expected due to the odd way you work with it’s interface. Again you should know how to use this and make it your friend but I would not want to be the one that uses this as a primary tool unless I really needed to.
I liked this one, and I think has some good promise. The interface was nice, supported native 32 bit and 64 bit Windows and supports MS-SQL as well as MySQL/MariaDB. I had actually found this as I recall it came with the MariaDB installation package for windows. This looks to be very actively developed and seemed to work well given it’s set of functionality. I didn’t do a lot with it but looked at the overall functionality and seem like a good start and has a good growth path, but lacking in some of the more hard core database management tools that some of the others have. If you are looking for a good free tool I would put this on the short list. Interface was snappy an overall seemed like a good tool with a fair amount of functionality.
I had come across Database Workbench while of all things reminiscing about Interbase and the Firebird database. I had come across this gem on one of the pages that listed applications that supported the Firebird database. It’s a nice looking application written in the beloved Delphi. Looked interesting so I took a look not expecting it to support any other databases. What I found was a big surprise, it seems that not only did it support Firebird, but a good amount of databases, including Interbase, MySQL, Oracle, MS-SQL Server, SQL Anywhere and one called NexusDB. They also had a full suite of SQL debuggers, Data Generators, etc for the extra hard core DBA. Much of that stuff in some form is supported in the Database Workbench PRO package. The tool is available in a FREE and paid version. The Free version is limited to supporting a small set of databases (you can only access the first 5 and can’t pick which 5), and doesn’t contain some of the higher end functions of the PRO version. I really liked the windows interface, flexible, fast and felt like it was not an impediment to doing work. That being said it was just a bit more of a learning curve then some of the simpler tools, but once you get familiar with the interface it’s fast and powerful. I like the way the SQL Editor works as well as SQL execution. Navigation is nice via the typical tree which shows a lot of information without having to dump DDL. I had used some of the data pump in trying to move a MS-SQL database to MySQL with good results, not perfect, but very good with minimal rework to get things moved. The PRO version has diagramming and other useful additions to the free version, and about the only thing that is not included in the PRO version is a generic report generator (or I have not found it). One other nice feature is that the tool is smart, it is not just doing work for you, but helps you when it see something common, i.e., when dumping contents of a database with an auto increment field it’s notifies you as such and options how to deal with it. That is a simple case but I see lots of forethought like this in the tool to help the bewildered developer like myself! So far this was at the top of my list. Pricing model for the PRO was a base price for the application and additional per supported database. Prices were reasonable given I don’t really need access to Oracle or Sybase but could add it at a later date. One nice missing feature was SSH tunnel into a remote box directly from the tool. While it didn’t directly support it, it’s easy to accomplish with Putty (free) so only a minor inconvenience. The tools also had a good amount of configuration and option settings, which is a nice thing. This tool was a final contender!
I started looking at Navicat’s website prior to looking at some of these tools and liked what I saw, but trying to figure out the pricing and option model from their site was confusing. I just ended up looking at the Navicat Premium which includes all databases and options. Pricing was not bad inline with Upscene’s Database workbench, but potentially better if you need a few different database support. I think this tool has a lot of promise, and was pretty easy to use it out of the box. I though I would like the interface a lot, but the more I used it the more I found it odd. That’s right ODD. It has a nice clean look, but it just doesn’t flow well. The tree navigation only supports a view of some database object, missing in my mind are things like constraints, indexs, keys, that sort of drill down. They are all buried in some other form. Double clicking on some objects take you to data editors vs. table editors things like that. Data editing is pretty good on a side note. Many things are dockable and adjustable in the interface so you can make it look and feel how you want. It has a nice modeler and what looks like a really flexible generic report generator. I had spent some time with the tool editing (read hacking) some SQL and found I hated the key strokes to run selected SQL. I do this like a million time since I’m bad at it, and CTRL+SHIFT+R is cumbersome. The options setting also doesn’t have much in the way of customizing many aspects of the application. One very nice thing that the Navicat folks put into the tool was SSH tunnel support for logging in to remote servers. This is a nice alternative to PHPMyAdmin’s web interface if you can get SSH into the box. Overall I still find the tool useful and while evaluating the Premium version they offered a special for the pack at a highly discounted rate so I had to buy it. I think this is a good tool, but with some interesting ways of doing things. This still makes it to the short list as it does work well.
For the free tools I would definitely look at HeidiSQL, I liked that it was free and seemed to have ties to MariaDB. Looks also like a good community behind it.
For the pay to play tools it would have been a tough choice if I had to buy just one, and if I did it would be Upscene’s Database Workbench. It just has a ton more functionality then anything else in the price range. Navicat Premium gets the OK as database support is good and again an OK interface with reasonable pricing for the developer, I think this tool is still evolving and is a good alternative. So as it works out I have 2 very good tools and the budget was not blown out. Both have had support releases for enhancements and bug fixes and that also makes me feel good that the tools are supported as well as both have responded quickly to technical questions. Overall very happy with the tools.
If you are looking for a nice tools set for windows here are a few that might make your short list. If you have other send them and I’m always interested in looking.