SQL Server Compact & SQLite Toolbox 4.3 – Visual Guide of new features

After more than 415.000 downloads, version 4.3 of my SQL Server Compact & SQLite Toolbox extension for Visual Studio 2010 and later is now available for download and available via Tools/Extensions and Updates in Visual Studio. This blog post is a visual guide to the new features, improvements and bug fixes included in this release, many suggested by users of the tool via the CodePlex issue tracker

This new version was released in July at the time that Visual Studio 2015 went live, and is of tested with Visual Studio 2015 – keep in mind that all extensions now work with the free Visual Studio Community Edition. This release has a couple of new features that improves on the SQLite support originally added in version 4.0

Scan solution for SQLite database files

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The “Add Connections from Solution” feature has been enhanced to scan all projects in the current solution for any SQL Server Compact and SQLite files. If any are found (based on the file patterns defined in Options), the Toolbox will attempt to add them as new connections.

The current file patterns are defined as shown below, but you can change them to anything you like:

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Rename Connection name

The names of connections currently defaults to simply the file name of the database file. This becomes an issue, if you have many same named files in different folders connected. Therefore, you can now rename the Connection name:

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SQLite-net DataAccess.cs improvements

The SQLIite-net code generation feature has received a couple of small updates based on user feedback:

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The generated classes will also contain any views defined in the SQLite database, and nullable values will be mapped accordingly (for example int?).

NULL value display

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NULL values are now displayed as ‘NULL’ in Query results text and grid. Remember that you can see query results both as text and in a grid, the default is text for performance reasons, but this can easily be changed in Options:

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Also notice that if you prefer the previous behaviour, this can be changed here, via the ShowNullValuesAsNULL option.

Other improvements

Unique indexes now always scripted as UNIQUE constraints (a long standing omission, which hit me when I was creating the reverse engineering for the SQL Server Compact providers for Entity Framework 7)

As usual, any feedback and comments are welcome, and if you like my free tools, I am always very grateful for a review on Visual Studio Gallery

“SQL Server Compact & SQLite Toolbox” related news

This blog post contains three bits of news, that all relate to my SQL Server Compact / SQLite Toolbox Visual Studio add-in

Visual Studio 2013 Community Edition

Microsoft recently released Visual Studio 2013 Community, a free, full featured edition of Visual Studio, has essentially all features found in VS Professional, expect some Office/SharePoint project templates, and is free for many scenarios (please check the licensing requirements). Previously, users of the SQL Server Compact Toolbox with VS Express had to use the standalone edition of the Toolbox. If you replace your Express edition with Community, this is no longer the case, as it supports all VSIX extensions from the VS Gallery / Extensions and Updates dialog in Visual Studio. A very bold move from Microsoft, and a major  boost for open source/hobby developers. If you have any questions about this VS edition, start by reading the Q&A here

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Visual Studio Auto Updater

Mads Kristensen, a Microsoft Program Manager (and fellow Dane), recently released the “one extension to rule them all”, the Visual Studio Auto Updater extension. It allows you to specify which of your Visual Studio extensions you want to automatically update when a new version is released. I have submitted a pull request to have the SQL Server Compact / SQLite Toolbox included in the list of extensions that are always updated. Highly recommended, ensures that you Visual Studio installation is always fresh.

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SQLite Toolbox on the Channel 9 “Visual Studio Toolbox” show

In early November last year I had the opportunity to appear on the popular Channel 9 show “Visual Studio Toolbox” hosted by Robert Green. In the show, I present the new SQLite support in the Toolbox. A good intro if you want to get started using the Toolbox.

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Version 4.2 preview

The next release of the Toolbox, version 4.2, is currently available in preview from CodePlex. The main focus for this release is a number of (overdue) improvements to the SQL query editor:

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1: The editor now has proper “file” handling, with Save and Save As buttons, and the saved file name appearing in the tab caption.

2: Keyboard shortcuts have been enabled, allowing you to use F5 to execute queries, and use Ctrl+O to open scripts, and Ctrl+S to save scripts.

3: A button to export the current result as CSV (Excel) format has been added.

Try out the preview, and let me know if you have any suggestions or find any issues via the CodePlex issue tracker.

SQL Server Compact Toolbox 3.7.3 – Visual Guide of new features

After nearly 290.000 downloads, version 3.7.3 of my SQL Server Compact Toolbox extension for Visual Studio  “14”, 2013, 2012 and 2010 is now available for download. This blog post is a visual guide to the new features included in this release, many suggested by users of the tool via the CodePlex issue tracker.

New features

Export SQL Server database to SQLite script (beta)

This feature enables you to create a script of all tables and data in an existing SQL Server database, that can be run using the SQLite3.exe tool as described in my blog post here, allowing you to quickly migrate to SQLite, for example for use in Windows Store/Phone Apps.

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“Set Password” option added to Maintenance menu

This feature enables you to set or change the password of an existing database.

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Enable entry of multiline text in DataGridView

This feature allows you to enter multi line text in the data edit grid, by pressing Shift+Enter to get to a new line.

Support for VS “14” CTP

Support for VS “14” was actually already enabled, but there was a minor issue with registration of the simple DDEX providers, that has now been fixed.

UPDATE: Microsoft has blocked add-ins that claim to support VS 14 from VS 2013, so in the meantime you can download a build for VS “14” from here:

https://sqlcetoolbox.codeplex.com/releases/view/123666

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Bug Fixes

Result Grid column headers were displayed without the first _ (underscore) character if they had one

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Download Count now fetched async, so the About dialog opens faster.

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Add Column – defaults to Allow Null

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“Migrate” and “Export” features broken for large databases with multiple script files

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Entity Framework 6 & SQL Server Compact (8) –Logging SQL statements

I previously blogged about how to enable logging of INSERT/UPDATE/DELETE statements with SQL Server Compact and Entity Framework 4. Keep in mind that there is no “SQL Profiler” equivalent for SQL Server Compact, which makes this feature a vital tool for debugging, understanding and improving queries and CUD operations.

In Entity Framework version 6.1, this has been made much simpler, thanks to the implementation of the new System.Data.Entity.Infrastructure.Interception.DatabaseLogger class. In version 6.0, you could enable logging in code by using

db.Database.Log = Console.Write;

In version 6.1, it is now possible to enable logging by adding entries to your app.config file, making it possible to add logging to a deployed application.

Enabling logging is as simple as adding the following section to your app.config/web.config file in the entityFramework section.

<interceptors> 
<interceptor type="System.Data.Entity.Infrastructure.Interception.DatabaseLogger, EntityFramework">
<parameters>
<parameter value="C:TempLogOutput.txt"/>
<parameter value="true" type="System.Boolean"/>
</parameters>
</interceptor>
</interceptors>

The first parameter is the name of the file to log to (if this is not specified, logging will be sent to Console.Out). The second parameter specifies that the file should be appended to rather than being overwritten (default).

I am sure you will find this new feature useful.

Entity Framework ”reboot” – EF7 – Get a sneak peek via TechEd US live stream

The next version of Entity Framework has just been named “EF7” (code name EF EveryWhere). Before the presentation, which will be streamed live on Channel 9 during TechEd US on Wednesday May 14 at 1:30 PM CDT (Houston, Texas), allow me to summarize what we know so far about the next version of Entity Framework.

The Entity Framework team has already published some thoughts about the new Framework here, and based on this and other sources, we can summarize the following (some or maybe most of which is me guessing, of course):

– A completely new codebase, will not be based on the 1 million+ line codebase of EF6

– Will be open source, and accept pull requests and other community feedback

– Will support Windows Phone, Windows Store, Windows Desktop/Server/Cloud, and also support Mono/Xamarin platforms

– Will be based on a provider model, so SQL and NoSQL data sources can “plug in”. Will initially support SQLite on Phone and Store apps. Will also support SQL Server and Azure Table Storage

– Will only include a productive subset of the current, huge API – Code First Mappings, DbContext, POCO classes, and less mapping schemes. So current investments in DbContext, Code First/Second and POCO will be forward reusable.

– Will not contain ObjectContext, Entity SQL, EntityConnection, EntityCommand etc. Phew.

Sounds ambitious and great to me. Can’t wait to see some code and start playing!

UPDATE: The source code is now available on Github as part of ASP.NET vNext. And Rowan Miller, Program Manager on the EF team speaks about and demonstrates EF7 in this TechEd session available online.

“Shop Talk” with Eric Sink, Zumero for SQL Server founder

In my last blog post I introduced you to Zumero, an Enterprise solution, that allow you to replicate and sync SQL Server data across all your team’s mobile devices.

I had the pleasure of meeting up with Zumero founder, Eric Sink, @eric_sink at the recent SQL Saturday event in Copenhagen.

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We agreed to do a short interview by mail, so I could share my Zumero questions with my blog readers. So without further ado, let’s get started.

I know you have been involved with other software products (SourceGear). What is the story behind Zumero?

We think of Zumero as a new start-up that is incubating inside SourceGear, so there is much shared history.

We started SourceGear in 1997, initially as a contracting shop building custom software for mobile devices.  We did a lot of work with Blackberry devices and some very early Motorola smart phones.

Then we got into version control tools, which has been a great business for us over the last 15 years.  We are still serving a large customer base with on-going active development of SourceGear Vault.

But in the last few years, the world of mobile has been drawing us back in.  🙂

And from a certain point of view, our work on version control means that we have been doing “sync” for 15 years.

And SourceGear Vault has always been built on SQL Server.

So that’s how we got the three main ingredients of Zumero:  SQL Server, mobile, and sync.

Some of the features that Merge Replication provide are: – Minimal client code, secure, compressed transfer over https, server side filtering, read-only tables, conflict handling. How does Zumero stack up?

I /think/ we stack up pretty well, although we still have many ideas for how to make our product better.

“minimal client code”  — The Zumero Client SDK tries to make everything easy.  Just call the Zumero sync function and Zumero will synchronize changes in both directions.

“secure” — Zumero is designed to work over SSL/https.  The protocol includes authentication.  And on the client, Zumero is compatible with bulk encryption libraries such as SQLCipher.

“compressed transfer over https” — All packages exchanged between Zumero client and server are compressed.  In fact, the packages from server to client are often “deltified” to make them very small indeed.

“server side filtering” — Zumero does support the ability to exclude tables, or columns from tables, or to filter rows on a custom WHERE clause.

“read only tables” — This can be accomplished with Zumero’s authentication and permissions.

“conflict handling” — Zumero handle conflict resolution on the server.  The default rules seem to be appropriate for most cases, but those rules can be customized to do whatever is needed for a given situation.

In addition, Zumero adds a few things that SQL CE merge replication does not, most notably, support for iOS and Android devices.

OTOH, Zumero is built on SQLite, which does not resemble SQL Server as closely as SQL CE does.  We are constantly working to provide Zumero customers with a smooth experience by improving features, tooling and documentation.  My blog series on the differences between SQL Server and SQLite is a part of those efforts:

Rob Tiffany has demonstrated scaling Merge Replication. How does Zumero scale?

This is one area where Zumero’s youth is evident, and I shall not pretend.  There is much more experiential knowledge about scaling with merge replication.  Rob Tiffany’s “cheat sheet” is a gold mine of information:

And some of his advice would be applicable to Zumero as well.

However, we are quite happy with the scalability results we have achieved so far and we continue to push further.

(a)  We do a lot of “crowd testing”, using lots of clients to abuse the Zumero server so we can tune it for reliability and performance.

(b) We are currently working with some customers who are integrating Zumero into an environment where merge replication is already in use (as a scaling solution for the SQL Server backend, not as a mobile sync solution).  We have some additional testing to do here, but we hope to able to publish some guidelines about the compatibility of Zumero with this kind of situation.

(c) Finally, we have tested and verified another way of scaling out, by having multiple Zumero servers talking to a single instance of SQL Server.  This can make a significant difference and is not difficult to set up behind a round robin DNS.

You are using Triggers and tracking tables on SQL Server, and not the built-in Change Tracking. Why?

The real reason is that Zumero’s core sync code existed before we made the decision to make SQL Server the primary focus of the product.

That said, the documentation for Change Tracking raises questions for us.  We wonder if it would require changes to our sync algorithm.  We wonder if our support for tracking schema changes would still work.  We wonder about the apparent dependence on snapshot isolation.

We may explore this further in the future, but right now, we’ve got a solution which is robust, so we don’t feel much pressure to change it.

Do you provide a Windows Mobile (.NET Compact Framework) client library?

Currently, no, but we are planning to do so.  The implementation work for Windows Mobile 6 support is done, but it has not yet been released as part of the product.  If a Zumero customer needs this, we would be ready to discuss and coordinate making it available.

What do you recommend for use as data access API towards SQLite on Windows platforms?

Right now, there is no API we can recommend without caveats.  Or rather, there are several good choices, but no clear winner.

For desktop Windows only, the core SQLite team products System.Data.SQLite, an ADO.NET provider which is fully compatible with EF6.  If you’re not using mobile, this is almost certainly the best choice.

Frank Krueger’s sqlite-net wrapper is quite popular, and for some very good reasons.  But last I knew, none of the various PCL forks have been folded back in, and that has been an issue for some.  Nonetheless, this is the wrapper we encounter most often.

WinRT without System.Data is a story with a big hole in it.  We remain hopeful that Microsoft has some more good stuff in the pipeline.  

Looking beyond Windows to include iOS and Android as well, things can get complicated.  Both of these other platforms include a [different] version of SQLite as part of the mobile OS.  Many apps use those.  Some bundle their own.  Some replace SQLite with SQLCipher.  Things can get tricky.  In addressing this set of problems with our customers, we’ve built some stuff that we are planning to make available to the community as open source (to be announced on my blog, soon, I hope). [Ed: Available as source code on Github, and NuGet packages coming soon]

An alternative to Merge Replication with SQL Server and SQL Server Compact – Zumero for SQL Server

While looking for a migration path for a customer currently using Merge Replication with SQL Server and Windows Mobile, I came across the recently released solution from Zumero, Zumero for SQL Server. As mentioned in my previous blog post, Merge Replication between SQL Server Compact and SQL Server 2014 is no longer possible, and in addition, SQL Server Compact 3.5 SP2 only supports a limited number of client platforms (Windows Mobile/CE and Windows desktop). Microsoft is promoting Azure Mobile Services with Offline support, but for obvious reasons, this solution does not work for on premise databases.

Zumero for SQL Server enables you to synchronize any mobile device with tables on a central SQL Server, using essentially the same components that we know from Merge Replication:

1: Configuration of tables to be synchronized, and added metadata/tracking to those. Before: Using SQL Server Management Studio to create a Merge Publication with articles (tables)
Now: Using ZSS Manager to create a DBFile with Tables

2: An IIS based agent, that exposes a http(s) endpoint for performing the sync process.
Before: Configure Web Synchronization Wizard
Now: ZSS Server

3: Client library for performing sync.
Before: System.Data.SqlServerCe.SqlCeReplication class, part of the SQL Server Compact ADO.NET provider
Now: Zumero Client SDK and SQLite.

using Zumero;

ZumeroClient.Sync(
"/path/to/sqlite.db", // full path to local db file
null,
"http://MY_ZUMERO_SERVER:8080",
"test", // remote DBFile name
null,
null,
null);

To get started testing out Zumero, simply follow the instructions here: http://zumero.com/get-started/ or start by watching the short, introductory videos here: http://zumero.com/howto/

Notice that Zumero works with any edition of SQL Server 2008 R2 Express or higher/later. Zumero Server is not free, but works with the free SQL Server Express for small scale solutions.

On the client side, the following impressive list client Operating Systems are supported:

Android (native and PhoneGap)
iOS (native and PhoneGap)
Xamarin
Windows, WinRT and Windows Phone 8
Mac OS X
Linux (Ubuntu 12.04+, Fedora 17+)

In my next blog post, I will be doing an interview:  “Hard Talk” with Eric Sink, Zumero founder.

Disclaimer: I am simply a Zumero user, and not affiliated in any way.

Entity Framework 6 & SQL Server Compact (7) –New features and fixes in version 6.1

Entity Framework 6.1 is now available on NuGet, and this blog post by Rowan Miller, Program Manager for the Entity Framework team, covers the major new features in this release. Most of the new features are also applicable to SQL Server Compact users, for example Code First Model from Database in the EDM Wizard, which is also available with SQL Server Compact if the latest SQL Server Compact Toolbox version is  installed. Rather than repeating the blog post from Rowan, this blog post will look at some of the minor features in EF 6.1 affecting SQL Server Compact. (A few of which I have had Pull Requests accepted)

#824 Designer: DDL Generation Template for SQL CE should separate each statement with GO

This fix allows you to run the script created by the “Generate Database from Model” EF Tools feature in the latest version of the Toolbox, as described here.

#898 Reverse Engineer Code First: Using database name as entity container name causes issues when database name has invalid chars (bad for SQL Compact)

This fix effectively makes “Code First from Database” work with SQL Server Compact, as it was previously broken.

#1322 SqlCePropertyMaxLengthConvention should be updated to reflect changes in the standard PropertyMaxLengthConvention

This fix makes code more portable between database engines

#1852 Migration for EF 6.0 wrong migration script for altering property (required->non required) for SQL CE 4

This fix ensures that NULL or NOT NULL is always specified in migration SQL when changing between [Required] and not required

#1863 Add DbProvider registration to SQL Server Compact NuGet package

This fix enables private deployment of SQL Server Compact, both for use in desktop, web and unit test scenarios (and makes the workaround I describe here obsolete)

#1878 Add SQL Server Compact 3.5 provider + NuGet package

This feature enables you to use SQL Server Compact 3.5 with Entity Framework 6.x, via the EntityFramework.SqlServerCompact.Legacy NuGet package, and includes all the same fixes and features as the SQL Compact 4.0 provider. I blogged about the new provider earlier.

#1962 SQL Server Compact data provider for EF does not support some Entity SQL canonical functions

It turned out, that the current SQL Server Compact data provider only supported the “canonical” functions defined for EF 1.0  – this fix adds support for most applicable functions from EF 4. The following functions are not supported due the SQL Server Compact having a limited number of data types and built-in functions:  StDev, StDevP, Var, VarP, Reverse, CurrentUtcDateTime, CurrentDateTimeOffset, GetTotalOffsetMinutes, CreateDateTimeOffset, CreateTime, AddMicroseconds, AddNanoseconds, DiffMicroseconds, DiffNanoseconds

SQL Server Compact Toolbox 3.7.2–Visual Guide of new features

After more than 260.000 downloads, version 3.7.2 of my SQL Server Compact Toolbox extension for Visual Studio 2013, 2012 and 2010 is now available for download. This blog post is a visual guide to the new features included in this release, many suggested by users of the tool via the CodePlex issue tracker. The focus for this release is a number of features that help improve the experience when using the new support for SQL Server Compact 3.5 (supplied by yours truly) in Entity Framework 6.1 and the related Entity Framework 6.1 Tools.

Run “Generate from Model” script without errors

When using the “Generate Database from Model” option in the Entity Data Model Tools, the tool generates a script to DROP and CREATE the generated objects in the database. If you have tried to run the script until now in the SQL Server Compact Toolbox, the script would fail. A new option “Ignore DDL errors” in the Toolbox SQL Editor will allow you to run the script without any errors:

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DDEX install requires VS restart

The simple DDEX providers supplied by the Toolbox for VS 2012 and VS 2013 are installed when the Toolbox is activated, and therefore require VS to be restarted to be used. A notification is now available to notify you of this. You can read more about the DDEX providers in my previous blog post here and here.

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(Also, notice the new, “modern” icons in the toolbar of the Toolbox.)

Preserve SQL Server date types

A new option is now available to control scripting of the SQL Server date, datetime2 and datetimeoffset data types. The default behaviour is to always convert these column types to datetime (SQL Server Compact does not have these datatypes). But this can cause data loss (as datetime has limited precision) or overflow errors, as datetime only supports dates from 1753 to 9999, unlike date, datetime2 and datetimeoffset, that all support dates from 0001 to 9999.

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Improved About dialog

The About dialog has been improved for readability, and contains a counter for the current number of Toolbox downloads:

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Bug fixes

EDMX generation feature failed if only VS 2012 and not VS 2013 was installed.

“Refresh” of tables, including refresh after schema changes, was broken

Scripting API improvements

– improved SQLCE runtime check

– datetimeoffset columns scripted as datetime by default now, not nvarchar()

– sql_variant and hierarchyid handling improved, to avoid getting wrong ordinal for identity and timestamp

– sqlite indexes are now always given unique names

The scripting API improvements are also included in the latest version of my SQL Compact command line export tool and Scripting API, available here.

Feedback

As usual, please provide feedback if you have any feature requests, ideas or encounter any issues (or even bugs!!) by using the CodePlex Issue tracker.

Entity Framework 6 & SQL Server Compact (6)–Entity Framework Reverse POCO Code First Generator

The Entity Framework Reverse POCO Code First Generator is a customizable T4 template, that reverse engineers an existing database and generates Entity Framework Code First POCO classes, Configuration mappings and DbContext It is available directly in Visual Studio via the Tools, Extensions and Updates menu item. It can be used with VS 2010 or later, and the latest version supports Entity Framework 6 and both SQL Server and SQL Server Compact (both 3.5 and 4.0).

This T4 template is similar to the Entity Framework Power Tools “Reverse Engineer Code First” feature, but much more versatile and flexible, and constantly updated by the developer. You can see how this project compares with the Power Tools feature here.

To get started using the template with SQL Server Compact, follow these simple steps:

Install the relevant Entity Framework NuGet package:

  • EntityFramework.SqlServerCompact.PrivateConfig (EF 6.0.2 with SQL CE 4.0)
  • EntityFramework.SqlServerCompact (EF 6.1 when released with SQL CE 4.0)
  • EntityFramework.SqlServerCompact.Legacy (EF 6.1 when released with SQL CE 3.5 – currently available as beta)

Add a connection string to your app.config/web.config:

<connectionStrings>
<add name="MyDbContext"
providerName="System.Data.SqlServerCe.4.0"
connectionString="Data Source=C:datamydb.sdf" />
</connectionStrings>

In Visual Studio, right click project and select “add – new item”.

Select Online, and search for “reverse poco”. 

Select the “EntityFramework Reverse POCO Code First Generator” template

Give the file a name, such as Database.tt and click Add.

Edit the Database.tt file and specify the connection string name as “MyDbContext” which matches your name in app.config.

Save the Database.tt file, which will now generate the Database.cs file.

There are many options you can use to customise the generated code. All of these settings are in the Database.tt files with comments attached.