Yes, it’s still free, and yes, they’re still adding features. Yes, they removed database diagrams and the debugger. (Update Apr 27: if you want the debugger, use Visual Studio – download.) No, SSMS 18 doesn’t run on Windows 8 or older. Yes, it still has bugs (all software does), but they’ve been working hard on making it less buggy, as evidenced by the release notes:
You, dear reader, are so lucky. Every time there’s a new release of SQL Server or SQL Server Management Studio, you can grab the latest version of SSMS and keep right on keepin’ on. Your job still functions the same way using the same tool, and the tool keeps getting better.
And it’s free. You don’t have to ask the boss for upgrade money. You can just download it, install it, and take advantage of things like the cool new execution plan est-vs-actual numbers (which also cause presenters all over to curse, knowing that they have to redo a bunch of screenshots.)
I spend a lot of time jumping back & forth between SQL Server and Postgres, and lemme just tell you, the tooling options on the other side of the fence are a hot mess. It’s a sea of half-ass, fully-expensive tools with a mishmash of feature coverage. Pick one, and you just pray that the maker keeps updating it and adding new features. Sometimes they don’t. Often, they don’t.
Microsoft isn’t just building one good free tool.
In April 2019, most people who work with Microsoft SQL Server should be using SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS.) It’s free, very robust, and it’s easy to find tutorials that show you how to do what you want to do.
However, for some of us – a very small minority, and I’m in that group – mid-2019 marks the time to add a new tool to your toolkit. Azure Data Studio (ADS) is kinda like SSMS, but for developers. It’s less about management, and more about code authorship. As of this writing, it’s best suited for people who:
- Use Macs or Linux as their daily workstation
- Query both SQL Server and PostgreSQL
- Don’t need to tune those queries to make them go faster
- Need to source-control queries, say with Github
- Want to share some queries in an easy-to-follow-along format (Jupyter notebooks)
- Don’t mind using a less mature, less documented, rapidly changing tool
I’m being exceedingly careful here about marking a narrow audience. People who fall slightly outside of that audience – say, Windows users who need to performance tune queries – may also use ADS, but have a less satisfactory user experience. They might download & install it, use it a few times, and go, “What the hell, this tool is garbage.” The tool just isn’t ready for those users yet – maybe it will be in time, but right now, let’s focus on who it’s ready for.
Azure Data Studio is ready for me.
I’ve used Macs for over a decade, and for the last couple of years, I’ve been splitting time between SQL Server and PostgreSQL. Recently, I’ve been spending more and more time in Azure Data Studio accomplishing my work on both databases.
You still won’t see me using it in most of my training classes or presentations yet. As a trainer, I need to meet my students where they are, and the vast, vast majority of the SQL Server world is still in SSMS – and that’s totally fine. I’m not on a mission to migrate you.
If you’re more mainstream, go get the new release of SSMS 18.
Either way, it’s free, and you’re lucky.