At Portico Systems we do a lot of work with Oracle 8i, 9i, and 10g. I have been working with Oracle RDBMS's since personally plunking down $3000 of my own hard earned cash way back around 1992 to get Oracle 6 RDBMS for the Mac, join their developer program, and get Oracle Card (ouch!) and other tools and utilities. I am not kidding - this was the full blown database, running on the Mac OS back in the early 90's!
It had always been a fact of life that Oracle GUI client applications were (how to put this nicely?) rather lame compared to what Microsoft started to put out there for SQL Server. In the 90's many of us found ourselves explaining (over and over) to the Microsofties that SQLPlus was "lame for a reason." It was a "least common denominator" application, because the Oracle stack was truly cross platform.
Then there were the early GUI applications from Oracle, which were some of the first to leverage Java. Oracle had their own cool look and feel that had a curvy sculpted JFC/IFC (precursors to Swing) look to them. But they really weren't showcase Java GUI applications of their time. (remember SQL Worksheet?)
In the end many Oracle developers use third party tools to access and interact with the database. Years ago we discovered PL/SQL Developer which I felt had 90% of TOAD's functionality for much less cost. So Portico has standardized on PL/SQL Developer ever since. It really is a fantastic tool. (Many of the other developers at Portico still use PLEdit and Golden from Benthic Software.)
My only beef with PL/SQL Developer is that being a Windows native app, I can't use it on my Macs or Linux based desktops and servers. For those machines Aqua Data Studio, which rides on top of the JDBC layer and is compatible with many back-ends, is a contender. I have used it with great success on OS X, Linux, and Windows against SQL Server, Oracle, and MySQL.
So why the post today? There is big news from Oracle this month! They have come out with an all Java based tool called SQL Developer.
I have only installed it on my Windows laptop so far, and will have it up and running on other OS'es soon. It looks really great. After a little messing with it today I found myself wondering... what took them so long!!!
The tool does not match PL/SQL Developer's functionality, but it is a great second tier utility to throw on machines where you don't want or need to pay for something. I don't know it well enough to really give a thorough review, but here are a couple points as I see it so far:
- Snappy Swing based UI running under Java 5
- Nice integration of a "reporting" feature with lots of sample reports
- A cool "Snippets" tab with pasteable, uh, "snippets"
- 100% Java!!!
- Context sensitive pop-ups don't seem to fire on "aliases" in SQL (bummer!)
- XML export writes element text out as CDATA (why???)
- Export to outside tools (i.e. Excel) is a little too difficult
All in all, I am really excited about SQL Developer. It's definitely worth checking out. Back-end it with the even more amazing Oracle Database 10g Express Edition (also free!), and a developer can have a full Oracle 10g stack with a very functional graphical SQL tool. Life is good!