One of an occasional series of blogs about things that I do that perhaps others don’t. From very early on in my dealings with SQL Server Management Studio I started using Solutions and Projects. This means that I started using them when writing sessions and it wasn’t until speaking with someone at PASS Summit 2013 that I found out that this was a process that was unheard of by some people. So, here we go, a run through how I create and manage code and other documents that I use in presentations. For people unsure what solutions and projects are;
- Solution – a container for one or more projects.
- Project – a container for files, .sql files are grouped as Queries, all other files are stored as Misc.
How do I start?
Open Management Studio as normal, and then click File | New and select Project:
This will bring up the New Project dialog box and you can select/add details as necessary in the places indicated. If this is the first project you are creating then be sure to select the Create directory for solution check box (4). If know in advance that you are going to have more than one project in the solution then you may want to edit the Solution name (3) as by default it will take the name of the project that you enter at (2).
This will lead you to the following folder structure (depending on the location that you chose in 3) above.
In SSMS you need to turn on the Solution Explorer, either via the View menu or pressing Ctrl + Alt + L.
This will bring up a dockable window that will let you quickly access the files that you choose to include in the Solution.
Can we get to work and write some code yet please? Yes, we can. As with many Microsoft products there are several ways to go about this, let’s look at the easiest way when creating new code. When writing a presentation I usually start from the position we are currently in – a brand new solution and project with no code. Later on we will look at incorporating existing code files into the Project where we need it.
Right-click on the Project name and choose Add New Query:
As soon as you click this you will be prompted to select the sql server that you want to connect to and once you have done that you will have your new query open in the text editor and the Solution Explorer will now look like this, showing your server connection and your new query.
And the Project folder will look like this
Now once you have written your code don’t press save, choose Save As and give the code a better name than QueryX.sql. SSMS will interpret this as a request to rename Query1 and your Project and the Project folder will show that SQLQuery1.sql no longer exists but there is now a file named as you requested. If you happen to click save in error then right-click the query in the project and choose rename.
You can then alter the name as you like, even when open in the SSMS text editor, and the file will be renamed.
When creating a set of scripts for a presentation I name files with a numeric prefix so that when they are sorted by name they are in the order that I need to use them during the session.
I love this idea but I’ve got loads of existing scripts I want to put in Projects Excellent, adding existing files to a project is easy, let’s consider that you have query files in your My Documents folder and you want to bring them into the Project we have just created. Right-click on the Project and choose Add | Existing Item
Navigate to the location of your chosen file and select it. The file will open in SSMS text editor and the Project will be updated to show that the selected query is now part of your project. If you look in Windows Explorer you will see that the query file has been copied into the Project folder, the original file still remains in your My Documents (or wherever it existed). I’ll leave it as an exercise for the reader to explore creating further Projects within a solution but will happily answer questions if you get into difficulties.
What other advantages do I get from this? Well, as all your code is neatly in one Solution folder and the folder contains only files that are pertinent to the session you are presenting then it makes it very easy to share this code, simply copy the whole folder onto a USB stick, Blog, FTP location, wherever you choose and it’s all there in one self-contained parcel. You don’t have to limit yourself to .sql query files, you can add any sort of document via the Add Existing Item method, just try it out. Right-click on the protect and choose Add | Existing Item
Change the file type filter.
You can multi select items here using Ctrl as you click each item you want. When you are done, click the Add button and the items will be brought into your project.
Again, using this process means the files are copied into the project folder, leaving you original files untouched in their original location. Once they are here you can double click them in the SSMS Solution Explorer to open them, for files with a specific file type then the appropriate application will be launched – ie Word, Excel etc. However, if the files are something that the SSMS Text editor can display then they will open in a tab in SSMS. Try it out with a text file or even a PS1 file …
This sounds excellent but what do I need to watch out for? One big thing to consider when working like this is the version of SSMS that you are using. There is something fundamentally different between the different versions in the way that the project (.ssmssqlproj) and solution (.sqlsuo and .ssmssln) files are formatted. If you create a solution in an older version of SSMS and then open it in a newer version you will be given the option to upgrade it. Once you do this upgrade then the older version of SSMS will not be able to open the solution any more. Now this ranks as more of an annoyance than disaster as the files within the projects are not affected in any way, you would just have to delete the files mentioned and recreate the solution in the older version again.
So, here we have seen how using SSMS Projects and Solutions can help keep related code files (and other document types) together in a neat structure so that they can be quickly navigated during a presentation and it also makes it incredibly simple to distribute your code and share it with others.
I hope this is of use to you and helps you bring more order into your sql files, whether you are a person that does technical presentations or not, having your code grouped and managed can make for a lot of advantages as your code library expands.