5 Quick Tips For Using SQL Server Management Studio

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1) Script multiple objects by using the Object Explorer Details.

Scripting objects like tables and stored procedures is one great feature of SQL Server Management Studio.  But the way to script multiple tables at one time is not very straight forward.

To script multiple objects, first thing you need to do is open the Object Explorer Details window.  This is located under the VIEW menu at the top of the screen.

Object Explorer Details

When you click on an object’s folder (Tables, Stored Procedures, Views, etc) in the Object Explorer (located on the left of the screen), the Object Explorer Details window will show all of the available tables.  You can now highlight multiple objects… then right click and select the Script As option.

SQL Server Object Explorer-details-window-script

 
 
2) Add Line Numbers To The Query Window

Line numbers can be very useful when doing development.  By default, SQL Server Management Studio has this turned off.  To turn this on:

  1. Select Tools -> Options
  2. In the tree on the left, select Text Editor -> All Languages. Under the Display heading, check the box for Line numbers.

Enable Line Numbering

 
 
3) How To Refresh The IntelliSense Cache

If you’ve ever added a table or stored procedure, you know that the IntelliSense does not know about it.  You can refresh the cache pretty easily.  To refresh the IntelliSense cache, just selecting Edit -> IntelliSense -> Refresh Local Cache.

SQL Server IntelliSense Refresh Cache

 
 
4) Highlight Columns Of Text In Query Window

This trick actually works in Visual Studio also.  You can highlight and manipulate text in different rows without having to highlight the entire row.  This is a little hard to explain, so I will show you pictures of what I mean.

Query Highlight Columns

To do this fancy trick, all you need to do is hold down the ALT key while you click and drag.

So, how is this useful you ask… good question.  I use it for 2 different things.

  • First is for aligning the sql statement. If you highlight text you can just hit tab and it will tab the highlighted text in more.
  • The second thing I use it for is copying data. If you only want to pull out a specific set of data, this is super easy.

 
 
5) Drag And Drop Objects On To Query Window

If you ever want a fast way to place a table name, column name, or other object in to a query… you can just drag and drop.  Just drag the object (table, column, store procedure, etc…) from the object browser and place it where you want it on the query window.  It will insert the fully qualified name in to the query with no typing needed.

Drag-Drop Objects

Cannot Insert Explicit Value For Identity Column

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If you try to insert in to a table with an ID column, you could get this error “Cannot insert explicit value for identity column in table ‘<<table>>’ when IDENTITY_INSERT is set to OFF.”  This is not the end of the world and is actually pretty easy to get around.

 
Why Are You Getting This Error?

The reason you’re getting this error is because you are trying to tell SQL Server what the ID value for a row in the table should be.  If you have an identity column on your table, SQL Server will want to generate that ID value for you automatically.  The error is essentially saying, “Hey, I’m supposed to generate the ID for you… you aren’t supposed to tell me what it is!”

 
How Can You Fix This?

There are two easy ways to get around this.

 
If You Want To Tell SQL Server What The ID Value Should Be

If want to specify what the ID values should be for the records you are inserting, then before you execute the INSERT statement, you need to run a small sql command to turn identity inserts on.  Identity inserts allow you to populate the value of an identity column with a specific value.

NOTE: You can only have identity insert on for one table at a time.  To insert in to a second table, you will need to turn the identity insert off on the first table before inserting in to the second table.

 
If You Want To Allow SQL Server To Generate The ID

If you don’t care about what the ID values are for these records, you should just allow SQL Server to generate the ID values for you.  To do this, just specify the columns that are in the table and leave off the identity column.

 
Reference: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ms188059.aspx

Case Sensitive Compare

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Occasionally we need to do a string comparison in SQL Server as a case sensitive compare.  By default, case sensitive compare is not turned on for tables in SQL Server.  It’s actually pretty easy to change a string comparison to a case sensitive compare.  You can do this by using the COLLATE clause.

Read below to find out why this works and other tips on doing a case sensitive compare.

 
 
What Is The COLLATE Clause

The COLLATE clause is something that you can add to the end of an expression to set the collation of the operation to a specific collation.  So in the example… the string equal comparison is being changed to a collation of SQL_Latin1_General_CP1_CS_AS.

A collation in SQL Server is something defines how data is compared.  This could be things like case sensitivity, acceptable characters, etc…  Most of the time (for English installations of SQL Server) it will be a collation type of SQL_Latin1_General_CP1_CI_AS.  This is because the Latin character set covers English and other Latin based languages.

The two most common collations that I deal with are SQL_Latin1_General_CP1_CI_AS and SQL_Latin1_General_CP1_CS_AS.  You can see that they are very similar.  In fact… the only difference is the _CI_ and _CS_.  These actually stand for Case-Insensitive and Case-Sensitive.
 
 
Field Level Case Sensitivity

Even better… you don’t need to set the collation on every sql statement that you want to make case sensitive.  There is actually a setting that you can apply to a field in a table.

NOTE: that if you are joining on this table, both collations must be the same or you will need to specify the collation to use.

Create a new table with a case sensitive field

Change a table’s column to be case sensitive