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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
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    Unanswered: Looking for good diagraming tool

    I'm looking for a good diagramming tool to create diagrams appropriate for final documentation. So far nothing I have found excites me. I want something that has good layout capabilities; good formatting capabilities; and that is not a nightmare to maintain/keep in sync with the database. I'm using SQL Server 2008 R2.

    I'd appreciate any suggestions, short of drawing stuff from scratch!

    Some of my observations from software I've tried:
    • SSMS - Always up to date. Little to no formatting capability. Does not highlight which columns are foreing keys - making it impossible to know something is a foreign key if the corresponding primary key table is not in the diagram. You can do an initial automatic layout, however there is no continuous re-layout. If you move a table on top of a relationship, that relationship is now hidden.
    • Visio - Very flexible formatting and layouts. Automatic layouts, however relationship line end points don't always end up where you'd like them. Does a good job labeling foreign keys, although you can't tell which relationship goes with which key (should be obvious, but not always). A pain to reverse engineer, especially since Visio 2007 is not compatible with SQL Server 2008. Model can easily get out of sync if table is deleted on the Visio side - Refreshing model never brings back relationships associated with deleted table, even after table is restored
    • TOAD Development Studio - Always up to date. Does a nice job making relationship lines align with foreign key relationship; however relationships are always straight lines that go through other tables. Nice feature that a table can be expanded, or minimized, which is useful for capturing dependencies while avoiding details that may be shown in other diagrams. Each table ends up with a lot of white space even after "automatic resize". No formatting.
    • TOAD Data Modeler. Does a good job highlighting keys, defining relationships, etc. Allows some amount of formatting and change in colors. No automatic layout capability - if a table is moved on top of a relationship line, the line is not moved. Poor support of schemas. The schema is not listed as part of an Entities’ name in Model Explorer, so dbo.foo and my.foo both show up simply as "foo". Updating a reverse-engineered model is a very slow process.
    • Atlantis schema surf. Great for exploring the database entities, not so good for generating static diagrams.
    • DbVisualizer. Very quickly allows you to generate diagrams, and is especially good at generating import/export diagrams for one specific table. Initial autolayout is amongst the best, but then manual layout is not that great. No ability to format, change colors, etc. Creating diagrams across schemas that only include SOME tables is very labor intensive.
    • DeZign for Databases. Possibly the best custom layout besides Visio. Clearly shows keys, nullable fields, indices. Some amount of formatting. Great feature to hide attributes (say LastEdit/LastEditor) that appear in multiple tables. Limited autolayout and auto routing. Excellent refresh of reversed-engineered models. Allows update of database from model, not just reverse engineering (in more expensive edition). Output quality is not great.
    • SQL Developer. Diagrams are not very configurable. You could change colors (which other tools you can't) and layout, but that is about it. Forced to display data type in diagram. Cannot highlight foreing keys. Relationships only show with arrows (no crow's feet) and are always straight lines, so no routing capability. The schema is not listed as part of an Entities’ name in Navigator, so dbo.foo and my.foo both show up simply as "foo".
    Last edited by carlosn; 10-11-12 at 16:52. Reason: Added an additional tool that I reviewed.

  2. #2
    Join Date
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    I find DbSchema quite interesting: ER Diagram & SQL Database Tool: DbSchema
    I will not read nor answer questions where the SQL code is messy and not formatted properly using [code] tags: http://www.dbforums.com/misc.php?do=bbcode#code

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  3. #3
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    While the output is a web page or a help file instead of a diagram so it doesn't technically meet your requirement, I find SQL-Spec significantly more useful.

    -PatP
    In theory, theory and practice are identical. In practice, theory and practice are unrelated.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
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    Quote Originally Posted by shammat View Post
    I find DbSchema quite interesting: ER Diagram & SQL Database Tool: DbSchema
    Thanks! I'll have to look at this and give it a try. Screenshots certainly seem slick.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pat Phelan View Post
    While the output is a web page or a help file instead of a diagram so it doesn't technically meet your requirement, I find SQL-Spec significantly more useful.
    Appreciate the input - it does look like a good tool, but right now I definetly need a diagraming utility.

  6. #6
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    Aug 2010
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    Finally got around to reviewing DbSchema. It has very easy reverse and forward enginering functions to SQL server. It's diagraming probably looks the nicest of all the tools. Easy to read icons showing primary keys, foreign keys, non-nullable columns, indeces, etc. It also is very slick at dealing with foreign keys: highlights referenced columns on hovering over relationship, allows one to easily follow relationship to the other table. The only thing missing which would make it the perfect diagraming tool would be some layout tools (align, distribute, etc) and some format tools (change color, font size, etc).

  7. #7
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    Aug 2010
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    For those who stumble upon this thread, here are my final conclusions.... I did not find a tool that I absolutely fell in love with.
    • Most flexible formatting: Visio
    • Most pleasing graphics: DbSchema
    • Best for exploring database (not necessarily for creating static diagrams): Atlantis Schema Surf and DbSchema
    • Best balance in reverse engineering and diagraming: DeZign for Databases. But hampered by very poor output quality


    For now I'll stick with Atlantis since it is free, and Visio since my company already owns it. Seriously thinking of purchasing DbSchema, though, it is very slick.

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