New Toad tool offers Oracle database development with Visual Studio

Quest has released Toad Extension for Visual studio, a new database schema provider to improve Oracle database development.

Oracle developers can now benefit from Toad Extension for Visual Studio, a new database schema provider from Quest Software that allows users to use Microsoft’s Visual Studio 2010 to code against Oracle databases.

Microsoft, which already provides database support for SQL Server with Visual Studio, recently launched an extensible framework so that third-party software vendors can develop their own Visual Studio framework for a particular database. Application developers can then use this framework to control their database objects inside Visual Studio. Quest took on Oracle and developed Toad Extension for Visual Studio, which went live last month.

Daniel Wood, a development manager for Quest Software, said that the features in this new product help to offer complete application lifecycle management (ALM) for Oracle developers.

“The application side of development is much more mature than the database development,” Wood said. “So what we try to do is bridge that gap and bring up database development to be as mature as application development.”

Oracle developers can now control all their objects inside Toad Extension for Visual Studio. They can check them in and out of source control, receive immediate feedback on whether they have syntax errors, and use the tool’s Team Foundation Server to deploy back to Oracle.

But one of the unique features of this tool is that everything is done offline, Wood said. While Oracle does offer other development tools, none of them has offline development like Toad Extension for Visual Studio; rather, changes are made while connected to the Oracle database. When working with Toad Extension for Visual Studio offline, developers can make incremental deploys and roll back schema changes, both of which are very difficult to do with an online tool. The Toad extension is also extensible itself, Wood said, meaning that users can expand their database development options by building their own extensions and plug-ins.

The immediate roadmap for Toad Extension for Visual Studio will include a PL/SQL developer and debugger and more support for unit testing, all features that were not included in this first version, Wood said.

Developers also have new options in Toad for Oracle 10, as Toad 10.5 was released last month. Jeff Smith, a solution architect for Quest Software, said that while the release has new features for developers, DBAs and analysts, the majority of Toad 10 updates were made for the “hardcore developer.”

Many of these enhancements were made to Toad’s Predictive Editing technology, which helps improve productivity by automatically completing object names and variables as the developer enters code. Toad 10.5 also includes new debugging technology and a streamlined SQL Optimizer that allows code alternatives to be stored. When writing queries, users can rewrite their code based on the best alternatives with just a couple of clicks, Wood said.

Jim Graham, owner of Graham Consulting and a contractor for the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), is responsible for all the internal and external reporting of MDEQ’s system, which runs on Oracle. Graham, who started on Toad version 6 or 7 about 10 years ago, has already installed Toad 10.5. He said he’s finding many of its features helpful, especially the enhanced Predictive Editing, which allows him to use functions that he had saved previously without having to look them up. The Predictive Editing feature also renames and auto-populates variables and objects.

“I’m a lazy coder,” he said. “It makes it a lot easier to get things done.”

Graham also said he’s noticed a difference in the compatibility of the interface with his Windows 7. “In previous versions, the visual cues weren’t designed with Windows 7 in mind, or even Vista, and now it seems to fit the UI better,” he said.

Smith said Toad 10.5, like other Toad releases, was based on user feedback about the tool. He credits Quest’s involvement with users, including its user-driven site ToadWorld, as one of the reasons Toad has been so successful.

“That’s not the standard practice for software development,” Smith said of the user involvement. “It’s not necessarily the right way, but it’s the Toad way.”

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