SQL From Nothing to Something – A Hands-On Beginning Tutorial Using SQL Server Express Edition

Why learn Structured Query Language (SQL)? One Simple reason: it’s arguably the most widely used data manipulation language. Database Administrators and Application Developers use it daily for storing and retrieving data. Even non-technical staff may use it for reporting and analysis. Anyone with access to databases or reporting tools will find knowledge of SQL essential. Plus, working knowledge of SQL looks good on a resume.

In this tutorial, you won’t merely read about SQL, you’ll actually write and execute SQL queries on your own computer. Don’t worry, it’s easy. You will need an internet connection and enough hard drive space to install the needed software (not much). This tutorial will use Microsoft’s SQL Server Express Edition. SQL Server is one of today’s leading database programs. The free Express Edition provides enough functionality to get anyone started with SQL. It’s probably the best place to start. To begin, type the following text into a search engine: “SQL Server Express 2008 Download” to download SQL Server Express Edition to your computer (follow the on-screen instructions).

After the file downloads, locate it on your computer and double-click it. This starts the installation. If prompted to run the file, do so. A variety of screens will open and close until the SQL Installation Center displays. Click “new installation” and follow the screens that appear. When prompted, enter an instance name of your choosing. One screen will ask for a user name and password. For the purposes of this tutorial, use your regular login information along with “Windows Authentication.” Unfortunately, the installation process involves waiting. Get a snack or take a lap around the block. If an error occurs during installation, type the error message into a search engine to find a solution. When installation completes, you’ll see a “complete” screen.

You’re now very close to writing actual SQL. Find and open the program called “SQL Server Management Studio” in the Microsoft SQL Server folder of your start menu programs. Management Studio (often called “SSMS”) provides an environment for writing SQL statements. When the program opens it will prompt you for a server name. Use the name you typed in for “instance name” during installation and make sure the “Authentication” box reads “Windows Authentication.” Then click “connect.”

Now you’re in the main Management Studio screen. You should see the name of your instance in the “Object Explorer” box and probably a lot of blank space. At this point you’re missing one vital piece, the most vital of all, and that’s data. You need to load data to write SQL. Since most people don’t have data lying around, you’re probably wondering where to get some. Luckily, Microsoft has made a sample database, called “AdventureWorks” freely available at the following website: msftdbprodsamples.codeplex.com.

Find the appropriate sample database package (likely SQL Server 2008R2 or SQL Server 2008, look for the version that you installed) and click to download an installation file. Once you have downloaded an executable file, locate the file and double click it to install the sample database. Follow the onscreen instructions and choose the same instance name you typed in during installation. Your database should now contain plenty of data. Verify this by clicking on “Databases” in the “Object Explorer” of Management Studio. You should see a list of AdventureWorks databases. Now we’re ready to write some SQL.

In the upper left corner, find a button called “new query” and click it. This opens a new window for writing SQL. Next, find a drop down box just below the “new query” button (it probably says “master”) and select “AdventureWorks.” This selects the database called “AdventureWorks” and any SQL you write will apply to this database.

Now click in the large blank space that opened up when you clicked “new query.” We will finally write some SQL and see some data. Type the following SQL statement into the query window:

FROM Sales. Individual

Now click the “Execute” button (just above the left side of the query window). Right below your query you should see columns of data appear. The SQL statement you entered asked the database to return everything (or “*”, which roughly translates as “everything”) from the Sales.Individual table. You have now officially typed SQL in your own database environment.

Let’s look at one more SQL example. What if you don’t want to see everything? Type the following into the query window:

SELECT CustomerID, ModifiedDate
FROM Sales.individual

This time when you click the “Execute” button only 2 rows of data appear. It should not surprise you that these columns correspond to the 2 rows in the SQL statement. In this case you’re seeing a section of the data. SQL allows you to see what you choose.

You are now ready to take your SQL learning to the next level. Try to find some free online tutorials by typing “SQL Tutorial” into any search engine. Many good SQL books also exist. Search Amazon reviews for recommendations. This will help you know what to buy, or what not to buy.

This short tutorial provided a tiny sample of the power of SQL. Don’t stop here. Keep learning and soon you’ll find yourself writing impressive SQL queries.

Tom Robbins has over 10 years of technical experience, including extensive use of SQL queries, programming, project management and business analysis.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Visual Studio Team Foundation Server is the Way to Go For State-of-the-Art Project Tracking

Visual Studio Team Foundation Server is Microsoft’s package for project tracking, source control, and data collection and reporting. It is specially designed for software development projects in which there are many collaborating developers, even when these are located around the world. The basic unit in Team Foundation Server is the work item, which represents an individual unit of work which must be completed. A work item consists of fields which define e.g. Area, Assignee, Iteration, Reported By, file attachments and history, and many other possible variables. Each work item has control policy associated with it which determines who is permitted to access or change the item. It also possesses logging and notification capabilities which log the creation, access and change events, and can even notify specified users when particular events occur. A team project consists of user-defined work items, reports, and source branches which are managed by the TFS.

Team Foundation Server pricing includes templates to assist in the setup process, so that project roadmap and report definitions can be updated in real time to assist in ongoing management. TFS integrates with MS Excel to create and track project items which are created and edited in Excel, and then the resulting spreadsheet is exported to TFS where the data is integrated into the project manager. TFS employs a source control repository which stores code – as well as current checkouts and changes – in an SQL Server database. Unlike earlier, file-based source control, this capability quickly and easily enables simultaneous checkouts, shelving and unshelving pending changes, conflict resolution, and branching and merging. Multiple branches can easily be merged, and the built-in conflict resolution algorithm automatically reconciles the conflicting differences, or else flags them for manual inspection. The control repository contains not only source code, but also provides a version controlled library of other documents which are used by the project as well, such as project plans and requirements, and feature-analysis documents. All of the documents in the source control repository can be linked to any other work item, and the access can be controlled with access policy definitions.

The Team Foundation Server price includes a reporting capability which is perhaps its greatest strength. It is possible to include such data as listings of bugs which don’t have test cases, rate of change of code over time, regressions on previous passing tests, and so forth. Reports are built with the SQL Server Report Service, and they can be exported using many different formats, such as Excel, PDF, XML and TIFF. The different developers involved in a project can track its progress and communicate with one another through a SharePoint site created specially for that project, which lists the work items and source-controlled documents for that project. Developers can keep track of the project’s progress using the Team Build capability, which records every build whether successful or not. When a build succeeds the Team Build analyzes what changes have occurred in the source control since the previous successful build, and it updates all work items accordingly.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

What is Visual Studio Team Foundation Server?

Microsoft Visual Studio is a complete set of tools for developing Web applications including Visual Basic, Visual C++, Visual C#, JScript, Visual Web Developer, and Visual Studio Team Foundation Server. The Visual Studio Team System is an integrated software development platform which helps teams of software developers to improve their collaboration and communication throughout the entire process of software development. Its main purpose is to enable team cooperation to make it simpler to build a new product or to complete an ongoing project. Team Foundation is a collection of techniques and tools which permit teams to coordinate their efforts enhancing team communications, tracking work status, enacting team process, integrating team tools, and supporting team roles. Modules for tracking work items, source control, process guidance, and reporting make Team Foundation an indispensable support system for team efforts to deliver the highest quality software products. Enhancing team communication guarantees that no work or information is lost when tasks are passed from one member of the team to another.

The basic concept here is the team project, which is stored on the Team Foundation Server, and which provides a centralized location which all members of the team can access to coordinate their work (for small teams of five or fewer members, the Team Foundation Server Workgroup edition is available at reduced cost; and it can easily be upgraded as needed). Every project has a project portal which is a Windows SharePoint website. Member of the team use the project portal to store their documents, to find reports, and to use other SharePoint features such as lists and calendars. The team project is navigated with the Team Explorer, which displays the team projects and allows each team member to find and to update work items, to manage documents, to view reports, and to work with builds. An essential feature of Team Foundation system are alerts which are sent to team members via email whenever something changes on the project: alerts can be sent out when a check in occurs, when there is a change in the status of a work item, when a build is finished, or when the status of a build is changed.

Team Foundation Server pricing includes version control capabilities which permit the team to manage all of the source files for a given project. The Team Foundation Build capability allows the team to generate and to manage product builds on a regular basis. As an example, teams can create daily builds, and then post them to a common server. Additionally, the Team Foundation Build provides reports on the quality and status of each build. Team Foundation work status tracking capability enables all team members to understand how well the project is going, who is assigned to what tasks, and what the status of each task is. The work item concept allows each basic task to be tracked: there are different types of work items which can be employed depending upon the type of task under consideration. As an example, a bug work item can track problems; a task work item can track testing and planned development. Work item queries can be used to search for work items matching a given criteria. Work items are filed in a database which can be exported to Microsoft Excel or Microsoft Project.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Visual Studio 2010 Vs Visual Studio 2012 – A Brief Comparison

The Visual Studio 2010 is may simplify the common tasks and provides a much better user interface. Along with that, it also provides the user with freedom of designing, coding, testing and deploying the applications on various platforms. There are quite a few superior coding, debugging and testing tools available with it which ensure a rich application in less time.

Some of the excellent features of Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 are listed below:

1. Database Development:

Database development is as important as application development in any process. The VS 2010 provides the facility of change management and deployment, and also supports the synchronization between the database and applications.

2. Testing Tools:

Visual Studio 2010 carries quite a few testing tools which ensure the delivery of quality code. Unite testing, code coverage and test impact analysis are some other features which make it one of the most popular development tools.

3. Integrated Development Environment:

It helps customizing the features and also supports multi-monitoring for tracking the development process in a better manner. The feature is compatible with all latest platforms.

4. Debugging and Diagnostics:

This helps avoiding the common coding-errors and saves the time of debugging. It makes coding easier and maintainable.

5. Team Foundation Server:

It automates the software delivery process and supports various applications which ensure all members of the development team can view the software development status.

6. Development Platform Support:

The VS 2010 supports a number of platforms like Windows, Windows Server, Web, Cloud, Office and Share Point. The better thing is that it can run all of them using a single IDE.

7. Application Life cycle Management:

Every successful development requires a combined effort of all team members. The Application Life cycle Management helps the team members to collaborate with each other to ensure a high quality product in time. It also reduces the efforts and cost involved in development process.

On the other hand, Microsoft has opened its bag in 2012 and launched an upgraded and better version in the form of Microsoft Visual Studio 2012. The new version seems to be much better than its predecessor and supports many advanced applications. Key features of VS 2012 are listed below:

1. Metro-style Applications:

This is certainly the most important feature of VS 2012. The user can create Metro applications using HTML, JavaScript or XML and VB, C# or C++. It also supports Windows phone applications.

2. New Solution Explorer:

It helps searching and previewing files, objects and external things. Thus, it may be considered as a link between the old object browser and class view.

3. Microsoft.Net Framework 4.5:

The 2012 version of Visual Studio is coming with much better and superior Microsoft.Net Framework 4.5. It supports parallelism and IPv6, along with zip compressing and HTML 5. It can also control asynchronous modules and handles.

4. Windows RunTime Support:

Windows RunTime is new programming module by Metro. It supports C++, C#, VB and JavaScript and does also support both Intel and ARM processors.

5. Light Switch:

In the previous versions of Visual Studio, the user had to purchase the Light Switch application separately. But the Visual Studio 2012 is arriving with this feature inbuilt. It’s a developer tool, not a user tool. Now it’s arriving with a new theme and improved performance.

6. Revamped UI:

This is basically an appearance feature which provides better desktop icons. If you compare it with the 2010 version, it is somewhere a drawback with the Visual Studio 2012 as the previous one was somewhere better than this.

7. IIS Express:

In its prior versions, Visual Studio was using its own ASP.NET development server. This has caused many problems and incompatibilities. But this setback is now eliminated by equipping the VS 2012 with new IIS Express. It’s a lightweight and self-contained version of IIS.

8. New SQL Server Object Explorer:

The Visual Studio 2012 is arriving with new SQL Server Object Explorer which is capable of displaying column data types with primary and foreign keys.

After going through the features of these two versions, it’s clear that both the variants are excellent at their places. Though, the Visual Studio 2012 has a better user interface and performance. Still, most of the companies prefer using both of them according to the convenience.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

What Is Visual Studio, Should You Learn It, and If So Which Visual Studio Version?

To understand what Visual Studio (often abbreviated to VS) is, it helps to go back a few years in time and see what came before it.

FrontPage and Visual InterDev

If you wanted to publish a website using Microsoft software, your choice a few years ago was either to use FrontPage (the Microsoft equivalent to DreamWeaver) or Visual InterDev, a development tool which was clunky to use. The technology used was Active Server Pages, which took data from (say) a SQL Server database and allowed you to publish it as HTML.

Visual Basic 6.0

If, on the other hand, you wanted to develop a forms application to run on a client computer, with no website in sight, your Microsoft product of choice would be Visual Basic 6.0.

Reports in SQL Server

Finally, if you wanted to create and publish reports based on SQL Server data, most people chose to use either Crystal reports or other third-party products such as ActiveReports from Data Dynamics.

The.NET Platform

On 13th February 2002 Microsoft released the.NET framework version 1.0 (the latest version is now 4.0). This provides a set of common classes which developers can use. For example, if you want to set a textbox background colour to pink, you can type in:

me.txtBox.BackColor = System.Drawing.Color.Pink

In this context, Pink belongs in the System.Drawing.Color namespace.

Visual Studio

At about the same time, Microsoft released Visual Studio, an all-encompassing development tool. However, although the interface is similar whatever you’re doing, it really enables you to do 3 (or more) completely separate things. You can use VS to create:

websites, using ASP.NET, the.NET successor to Active Server Pages
Windows Forms applications, using either Visual Basic or Visual C# (the successors to Visual Basic 6.)
Report server projects, allowing you to publish reports based on SQL Server data to your company’s Intranet

Most people would thus only use Visual Studio for one purpose, although the author does actually use all 3 types of application.

Visual Studio Versions

If you want to buy VS, the latest version is 2010, but you could use VS 2005 or VS 2008 without losing too much functionality. You can also download Visual Studio Express from the Microsoft website, which for most developers will work perfectly well – and has the advantage of being free!


So that’s Visual Studio: a 3-in-1 software application, allowing you to develop websites, forms-based applications and reports!

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off