Thursday, February 7, 2008

Eclipse Data Tools Platform

A friend of mine, having some troubles with the Data Tools Platform, asked me if I knew much about it. I didn't -- even though I've often had Quantum installed, I usually fall back on standalone tools, either gui tools like like Oracle SQL Developer, command-line clients (mysql, sqlplus), or even generic tools like DbVisualizer.

On a whim, I decided to take a quick look at the Data Tools platform and see what I thought. After all, it might be great.

Turns out, it's ... very Eclipse. It's as if they took someone who'd barely used a database in their life, and certainly not other database tools, and yet was quite familiar with Eclipse. Setting up database connections for the first time is a little bizarre, as there are all sorts of database definitions without the required driver JARs, for which the JAR name is defined, but not supplied.

Once you've got that done, there's a data source explorer which isn't bad - lets you explore the structure of the database and metadata about the database. There's also a SQL Results view, again somewhat in keeping with other tools.

Where it gets really bizarre is when you want to do a Query. For many database tools, this is the central metaphor. There's a query box, you type in it, execute it and get results. For some tools, the idea of running scripts is secondary. That's because doing database development is often very exploratory and iterative, and it's not uncommon to build a query in pieces, executing it as you go, until you arrive at the final query that you intended from the beginning.

However, Eclipse has buried this idea deeply. You can either create an SQL file which you may edit, then right-click to execute, or you can create a launch configuration of 'adhoc query', which you can run in the Run menu. This isn't really ad-hoc, of course, because the query is defined in the launch configuration and not easily changed without going through a multi-step process. Both of these could be useful if the supplemented a simple query view which seems to be bizarrely missing.

Does this strike anyone else as a little queer?

I've gotta say, I'm tempted just to uninstall this, as it's clearly using up space my disk and possibly in memory for no reason at all. In its current form, I wouldn't bother with it.

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