I'VE BEEN WRITING AND TALKING ABOUT the Visual Database Tools for several years now.
Visual Basic version 5.0 really introduced the first of the tools—the User Connection Designer. The User Connection Designer was originally designed to make the process of creating an RDO application easier, and that it did. It reduced 40-some-odd lines of code to about 4. It had the capability to deal with most of the fundamental issues associated with executing SQL Server or Oracle stored procedures. However, the User Connection Designer stopped short of many of the features exposed in the Visual Basic 6.0 Data View window, Data Environment Designer, or the new data wizards. My Hitchhiker's Guide to Visual Basic and SQL Serverdiscusses these tools in the context of accessing SQL Server from Visual Basic in far more detail than does this chapter. The Visual Basic 6.0 Visual Database Tools are all capable of accessing more than just SQL Server. Because they leverage the latest providers exposed by OLE DB and ADO, they can be used to access Jet (3.5 and 4.0), Oracle, DB2, and many other data sources. While functionality varies dramatically from provider to provider, many support at least the basic functionality of the Visual Database Tools.
Visual Database Tools is reborn in Visual Studio 6.0, and instead of being installed and run as a separate application, the tools are now fully integrated into Visual Basic's user interface as the Data View window, Data Environment Designer, and Visual Query Designer. These tools appear in both Professional and Enterprise editions of Visual Basic. The Pro version does not have many of the more important features, so you probably won't be happy without the Enterprise Edition. Visual Database Tools also appear in one form or another in SQL Server 7.0, Visual InterDev, and most of the other Visual Studio languages. This chapter walks you through the Data View window, the Data Environment Designer, and the Data Object Wizard.
Visual Basic 6.0's Visual Database Tools were intended to revolutionize the way developers work with database tables and stored procedures. They were intended to make both developers and applications more productive and yield better performance. Whether they met that goal or not is an unanswered question. While the Visual Database Tools eliminated the need to use Microsoft Access to build queries, and exposed a great deal of new, useful functionality, some of the implementation details leave something to be desired. In my opinion, the tools give the impression of being unpolished. After having worked with the tools and with customers trying to do the same, the development community and I have found too many uncompleted features, incompatibilities, problematic interfaces, and downright bugs. Because many of the Visual Database Tools were released in their "1.0" version, we have (sadly) grown to expect somewhat limited functionality.
This chapter is not intended to be a Visual Database Tools bash. On the contrary, this chapter is designed to help developers and their customers get the most out of what's there—to let them know what's working and what can make their job easier, without getting hung up on the rough edges.
Now in its 6th edition (Microsoft Press, ISBN: 1-57231-848-1).