Tylenol Please – My “no brainer” is giving me a headache…

Well I guess my “no brainer” SQL tool has turned out to be a major pain…so I will have to reassess my decision. What’s up? Well a couple of days after I posted my review of Toad for MySQL I started getting an error saying that my freeware had expired. The product would no longer startup at all. I tried everything I could think of to fix this:

  • Reinstall
  • Download a new copy uninstall the old one and install the new one
  • Troll thru the registry looking for a date I could fix\

Nothing worked – I then looked at Quest’s forums for the software and that is a veritable ghost-town with virtual tumbleweeds rolling thru. I then tried to get into their yahoo groups – I’m still waiting for the moderator to “approve me” (5 days and counting). Well a lot of this really bothers me:

  • Why does a freeware package have an expiration? Given that Quest clearly says there is no support, why do they care if you are using a specific version?
  • If there is no support and no community I do not think the software is viable for long-term use.

My decision is to abandon Toad for MySQL 3. – which is too bad because it is a nice tool.

There is a version 4 in beta – and I have downloaded and installed it. The main new features are debugging for procedures and functions – you can check their site for more details. However given the concept that this one might also expire at some point I think I’ll essentially pass on the software. If I start using this then eventually won’t I land back in the same spot?

I talked with some people and found a couple of new packages to review:

MySQL GUI Tools 5.0 R12

MySQL supplies a set of tools that can help out with various management and query programming tasks. They are fairly basic, but they are also pretty intuitive. Using QueryBrowser you can do basic SQL coding with highlighting, but no real syntax checking and no code assit.There is some pretty nice quick links to help for syntax. That’s pretty cool:

In the tool there is also good support for adding objects and editing objects. Most of these can be done straight from the navigator tree (a UI concept the Toad 4.x beta has replaced for some crazy reason). All in all this is a decent, if basic, tool that works right off, is fast, installs easily, and is easy to learn for anyone generally with, er…well at least one intact hemisphere still remaining in their cranial cavity. The tools run on Windoze, Mac, Linux, and source available if you have something else.

SQuirreL SQL 2.6.4

SQuirreL is a pure Java application that is open-source. You can download and install it via an installable jar file. It should run on any system with a reasonably up to date Java install. On Vista it runs ok, however it will shut off Aero while it is running. Annoying, but I suppose ok. After installing the package, even though I picked off to install the MySQL driver, it had an error letting me know that I needed to install the driver…so I’m not sure what the installer did actually. Well no problem I already had the driver since in my previous post I had to do the same thing for SQL Developer and Eclipse DTP.

To create a connection is a little funky. What you need to do is create an “alias” and then mess around. It helps if you already know the syntax of a MySQL JDBC connection string. For example to connect to a local MySQL instance the dialog box should look like this:

No clue why they would not simply make a dialog that would hide this crap from you. Luckily I knew the JDBC string format already. I also don’t like that warning “passwords are saved in clear text”. Putting some basic secutrity is so easy these days guys: LOBC. Once you are logged in you will get a screen with tabs that pretty much looks like all the other tools. The layout of the whole system seems a little funky, but overall it is pretty easy to find your way around and navigate thru database objects and such:

Query authoring is supported thru a fairly plain vanilla interface. There is color highlighting support, and some limited code-assist. Code-assist will help with keyword support for SQL statements, but it does not seem to look up column names and things like that. For example if you type: “select * ” and hit CTRL-SPACE a pop-up will appear with a list of all commands. You need to kind of know what you’re doing…in this case at least know table starts with “t” and type that to go to the right command.

This tool lacks the nice MySQL syntax reference that the previous tool has. There is no dynamic SQL syntax checking either, but you can configure some nifty auto-corrections. alot of people always type FROM as FORM and in SQLirreL you can create a list of these that will “auto-correct” as you type. (I wish wordpress has the same thing – 9/10 times I type Druapl instead of Drupal) On the positive side the tool is pretty easy to use and will run on most operating systems. The tool also supports a huge number of RDBMS’s so if MySQL isn’t the only game in town for you then this is certainly a good choice.

Final Word?

So how to conclude? I’m bagging Toad for now – too bad because I liked it. I’m going to do more extensive testing between SQuirreL and MySQL tools to see which is more useful for me – if I find out interesting new things I’ll update this post or add a comment. Right now I’m really only interested in MySQL and I’m primarily using it on my Windows laptop so I predict that the MySQL tool will reign supreme for me for now.

Now I’m off to mess around with PHPCake an MVC framework for PHP applications. Looks really cool and now that I have a good SQL tool I can create my data layer and model easily. Bye-bye command line. 🙂

9 Comments

  1. Rob Manning

    I’m glad that you found SQuirreL. I was a TOAD user once myself. That was before Quest came along and gobbled them up. They did the same thing essentially to the windows port of TOra (Tool for ORAcle developers), which was licensed commercially, though the linux version was open source. That’s when I decided to start using an open source tool, regardless of whether or not it had every feature that I had come to rely on. I picked SQuirreL because it could run on a Java VM and it was open source, and at the time there weren’t many other options. I figured that since I was a Java developer I might even have a shot at tweaking things that were obviously broken or could be done better. Reading your evaluation reminds me of my first impressions of the tool as well. I’ll admit that I have become accustomed to the layout, rather than seek to re-arrange things to be more intuitive (or at least what I would call intuitive; I’m not very skilled with UI Design). I had a chuckle when I read your remarks regarding the layout – you are right, there.
    I want to point out a couple of clarifications though. One is that the the MySQl “option” that is in the installer does install extensions to SQuirreL that we call a “plugin” which gives it abilities to do things in MySQL, for which there isn’t a generic way to do with Java’s JDBC API. You can consult the help for those MySQL-specific features. The installer doesn’t install the JDBC driver. I could see that shipping open source drivers might be nice and get some folks going more quickly, but might also be confusing – only open source drivers, but SQuirreL works with commercial DBs too. Which version of each of the drivers, etc? Maybe once we have the update feature in, they could be packaged for automatic download – we’ll see.
    The second item is that there is support for code completion if the “standard” plugins were installed (which they are checked in the installer by default). At points where you might type a table name or column name you can type Ctrl-Space and a popup dialog with a list of possible values should appear. It’s not perfect but it works most of the time 🙂 I wish you well in your future endeavors.

    Rob

    Reply
  2. berenerchamion (Post author)

    Rob,

    Thanks for your comments. I’m going to continue to use SQLirreL and the MySQL tools to see which I prefer.

    Understood on the driver issue – perhaps a minimal improvement would be a pop up box telling the user to make sure they grab the driver and configure it.

    For some reason the code completion does not seem to work correctly. Ctrl-t does work to bring up the code correction stuff. I’ll look into why code completion does not seem to work – certainly I should change my review to say that it is in the product…that’s an error on my part…

    beren

    Reply
  3. berenerchamion (Post author)

    I did return to SQuirreL and update some of the info on “code-assit” or “completion” or whatever its called. I had an error – and I forgot another feature that I liked.

    I should also point out that I think I know why SQLirreL was screwing up Aero – I noticed that it was starting with JDK1.5 and I’ll bet a decent pint of beer that if I switch this to 1.6 then Aero will not shut off.

    beren

    Reply
  4. David

    I’m sorry about the delay in joining the forum but we have it is setup to require us to approve membership to weed out the spammers but generally legitimate memberships are approved within a day – I will find and fix whatever caused the delay you experienced but as of right now, all pending membership requests have been approved.

    While we do not offer the regular support channels for Toad for MySQL freeware, we do continue to improve the product and support it via the forums. You are right that there should not be an expiration date in this product since it is only offered as a freeware. If you could be so kind as to contact me via email I would like to track down the cause of this problem and correct it.

    Regards,
    David Christian
    Dev Mgr, Toad for MySQL

    Reply
  5. Dwight Fowler

    berenerchamion,

    I’d like to introduce myself. My name is Dwight Fowler. I am the project leader and one of the developers of Toad for Mysql. I think you might have found Toad for MySQL’s one Achilles’ heal: Windows Vista. The explanation for what happened to you is long and involved, but it boils down to this: Toad for MySQL (TfM) is one member of a software family. It grew out of a shared code-base that has licensing built into its core. We unshackled TfM, but discovered early last December that we did not cut all the chains. There is an issue with Vista (big surprise, eh?). I want to let you know that the time-out bug only happens on the Vista platform. I am sorry you had to run into it. It’s tricky and our licensing guru is trying to tease out a fix for it.

    Your experience with our user group is my fault. I went on vacation right as you were experiencing your problem. Plain and simply, I “flaked out” for four days and did not check the group. I truly apologize for leaving you hanging. This really isn’t the kind of experience that we want any of our Toad users to have. You guys are great. The info and suggestions that you give us are like gold. We can’t really do it without you. I know that when you are excited about a product and really want to see it work, encountering a ‘no-go’ scenario is a major joy kill. It wont happen, again.

    We probably have two strikes in your book, but I hope you will be willing to give us one more try. We are testing a fix for TfM on Vista (http://usdownloads.quest.com.edgesuite.net/Repository/www.toadsoft.com/MySQL/ToadForMySQLFreeware_3.1.0.433.zip), and we need Vista users to help us check it. We want to make sure it works on all possible Vista configurations. Your thoughts and suggestion *do* make a difference, and we need all the sharp-minded users that we can get.

    With apologies,

    Dwight

    Reply
  6. MRH

    Checkout SQLyog, free, and one of the better interface I have used for mysql

    Reply
  7. berenerchamion (Post author)

    I’ll grab the patch and test it – but now I have version 4 beta installed. Is that fix included in the 4 beta?

    Reply
  8. Dwight Fowler

    berenerchamion,

    The 4.0 beta does not have the Vista issue. You should be able to run it on Vista. Please, let me know if you have any problems.

    Dwight

    Reply
  9. berenerchamion (Post author)

    Yeah – true – I have the beta 4 running now without the timeout problem.

    Reply

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