Microsoft's determination to search the world for more and more ways to connect to SQL Server has continued incessantly with a major update of the mssql extension for the ubiquitous Visual Studio Code.
Developers with a longing for SQL Server are not far from options, with the venerable SQL Management Studio and the upstart Azure Data Studio, both making a decent fist to connect to the data cabin.
However, since many developers these days prefer the default world of Visual Studio Code, Microsoft has issued a substantial update that brings the SQL Server Management Studio Object Explorer and command line support to the platform of SQL Server, as well as some AI in the form of IntelliCode.
Naturally, we had to look and point a copy of Visual Studio 1.39, updated with the new extension, in a local preview of SQL Sever 2019 to see how things worked.
First, Object Explorer works as advertised, inflicting the tree view found in the other Microsoft data finders in the VS code to jog through a hierarchical view of a given SQL instance.
For those who need such graphic fripperies (and as this was the most requested feature) you will be welcome, although for those happier on the command line, the SQLCMD mode is equally useful.
The feature activated Azure Data Studio in September and allows users to write and edit queries as SQLCMD scripts. Enabling SQLCMD mode makes the extension useful for script riders who want to add the odd command or two between the T-SQL.
However, although its implementation in SQL Server Management Studio has been significantly improved over the years, and even Azure Data Studio has an obvious "Enable SQLCMD" button in the query window, things in VS Code are A little less intuitive. A switch on the status bar can turn the thing on and off, and the team points to a lever on the VS Code system symbol, but we found it all a bit awkward.
It is, of course, the first iteration of the SQLCMD implementation, and we suspect that the limitations imposed by the VS Code extension model are preventing some of the freewheel of the SSMS incarnation, so we will reduce the slack.
The final main setting is IntelliCode support, which IntelliSense improves by presenting suggestions that the algorithm has calculated that the user needs at the top of the list. It is a useful feature, but it is hard to say that there is a lot of AI involved.
However, it is a notable improvement over IntelliSense, although it still does not seem to scan our horribly written triggers and stored procedures by guessing what we might try to do in a consultation, thank God.
In general, if you are using Visual Studio Code and SQL Server, this is a useful tool and will save a jolt in SSMS or Azure Data Studio. It's nice to have Object Explorer, although SQLCMD support is still a bit annoying for those more accustomed to a friendly button or a query option. ®
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