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November 2009

A Perfect 10 for Toad® 10

A Quick Tour Through the New and Improved Toad

By John Weathington After taking a test drive of Toad® for

I’ve been involved in business

Oracle version 10, I’m looking forward

intelligence and data warehousing for

to a nice boost in productivity. What I

around 15 years now, a consultant for

really like about Quest is that it truly

close to 20, and a techie for as long as

understands the role I play as a data

I can remember. When I moved into

expert and efficiency consultant. Since

management consulting, I picked up a

that understanding is coupled with a

few more skills, but my main focus was

commitment to make the best tools for

learning how to more effectively apply

Figure 1. Toad v10’s new database browser

data professionals, Quest’s products keep

the skills I already had. After reviewing

getting better and better. I’d like to give

Toad 10, I feel Quest has done the same

you a brief review of what to expect in

thing. Toad for Oracle is already fully

this latest release of Toad for Oracle,

functional, so instead of adding a slew

and what I feel are the best productivity

of new features, Quest stepped back

boosters for you and your team of data

in version 10 to create a product that

professionals.

helps us get the most out of all this great functionality.

Copyright 2009 John Weathington. All Rights Reserved.

John Weathington is President and CEO of Excellent Management Systems, Inc., a management consultancy that helps companies dramatically improve efficiency. He has more than 15 years of experience in business intelligence and data warehousing, and has consulted to Fortune 500 companies such as Cisco, Silicon Graphics, eBay and Sun Microsystems. He is an accomplished project management professional (PMP) and Six Sigma Black Belt. Recently, he helped a large technology firm fortify a $100 million government contract. For more information, please visit www.johnweathington.com.


A Perfect 10 for Toad® 10

Page 2

This is both refreshing and exciting for

especially in the emerging markets of

me. I recently wrote an article titled,

Russia, India and China. Fortunately with

The Answer is Closer than You Think: New Integrated Search

“The Value of Good Software: An

Toad 10, this is no longer an issue.

Speaking of Toad World, the new version

Toad 10 has full Unicode support for

of Toad for Oracle has a very impressive

Expert Evaluation of SQL Developer and Toad Development Suite,” in which I compared Toad to Oracle’s SQL Developer. To research this article, I interviewed experts in the field to see what they thought. Although Toad was the unapproachable gold medalist in functionality, a consistent reverb that I picked up on in favor of SQL Developer is that it was just cleaner and easier to use. That’s mainly a byproduct of being less functional! Nonetheless, the makers of Toad had a real usability challenge in front of them. I think they recognized this, and responded pretty well with version 10.

both the data and the database object names. On the database side, a character set that commonly supports Unicode functionality is UTF8. Interestingly, I believe Oracle has supported the UTF8 character set since version 7; however, it was supported in only a limited fashion. With the release of Oracle 9i came full (and reliable) support for UTF8, so this is where Toad drew the line: you can use Unicode functionality only in Toad with Oracle version 9i or higher. Personally, I wouldn’t want to use Unicode characters in a version of Oracle earlier than 9i, so

search feature that enables you to search this vast information repository right from the comforts of your own Toad application. A new search bar has been added to the Toad interface, which reminds me of the search bar on popular browsers that allows you to search different sites based on a drop-down menu. In addition to Toad World, you can search Knowledge Xpert (a Quest Software product option that contains a vast amount of information on the Oracle database), AskToad (a wiki-based Toad for Oracle knowledge portal), and of

you should be okay.

course the standard Toad help, all from

If you’re interested in learning more, I

Figure 3. The new search bar provides a fast connection to several helpful resources

Top Enhancements in Toad 10

one convenient search bar.

Around the World with Toad 10: Unicode Support The first thing that caught my attention in version 10 was Unicode support. Unicode is a universal encoded character set that allows you to store and manage data in any language. I don’t know about

recommend going to Toad World For instance, from the Toad interface I could easily look up “tablespaces” in the Knowledge Xpert tool to learn anything and everything about Oracle tablespaces. Then, if I wanted to know how to

Figure 2. Unicode support for object names and data

you, but this is a huge feature for me. One of my current clients is a Fortune 500 e-commerce company. I’m helping them grow their international business, so I’m intimate with the challenges of localization and how important

manage tablespaces in Toad, I would do (www.toadworld.com), a community for Toad-minded people and an online knowledge base for all things Toad. Among many other things, Toad World has some great reference material on using Toad with Unicode features.

Unicode support is for any tool that data professionals are trying to use abroad, Copyright 2009 John Weathington. All Rights Reserved.

the same search but select “Toad Help” instead of “Knowledge Xpert” in the drop-down menu. Finally, if I wanted to get some answers to a tough tablespace question from the Toad community of experts, I’d do the same search with “Toad World” as my search option.


A Perfect 10 for Toad® 10

Page 3 data grids, but the new ones add some really nice features that will make your life a little easier. The one big thing that stands out for me is that now you can select any rectangular area within your data grid (instead of being forced to select the whole data grid, or only certain rows). This allows you to copy just a portion of your data results to the clipboard and then paste it into a spreadsheet or any other tool. You can also show and hide columns much more easily now using a quickselect drop-down menu at the top left of the data grid. When you click it, all of the columns in your data set are

Figure 4. Toad World search results

Even the built-in Toad help has been enhanced in version 10. It’s much more connected and integrated with the Toad World community on the Internet. Now, when you perform a search on certain topics, you will occasionally be presented with a hyperlink to short videos on Toad World called “Coffee Break Bytes.”

displayed in a menu, with a check box A Remodeled Home for Your Data: Improved Data Grids

next to each column. Simply check or

Another very nice update was one

or hide that column in your result set.

made to Toad for Oracle’s data grids.

un-check a column in this menu to show This is a much quicker and easier method

This update applies to any data that’s

than in earlier versions of Toad.

presented in a grid, from the results of a

Finally, I like the grouping feature, which

SQL query to the connection box. There wasn’t much wrong with the previous

makes it easy to organize your data set by simply dragging a column header up to a grouping area, similar to the way you can organize your mail in popular e-mail readers today. Any number of columns can be further sub-grouped. There’s also a nice feature that tells you the number of rows that belong to each group. In Consideration of the Nomads: Roaming Profiles and Citrix Installations For those of you who like to (or need to) roam, Toad now allows you to specify the location of Toad settings and application data. This is very useful

Figure 5. The new data grid showing customizable column headers, column grouping and subgrouping as well as sub-totaling of records Copyright 2009 John Weathington. All Rights Reserved.

for data professionals that work in an


A Perfect 10 for Toad® 10 environment with roaming profiles and Citrix installations. And even if you aren’t working in a virtual setup, it seems like that’s the way the industry is going. As companies struggle with optimizing hardware resources in a challenging economy, Citrix server farms seem to be an increasingly popular option against everyone having their own personal desktop. Best practices in a Citrix environment involve specifying roaming profiles for users, which makes their settings available to all the servers in the farm. This is great for the organization, but to make it work with tools and applications running in the farm, there must be an

Page 4 warehouse project, we had only a short window to get the initial data load done. Things were so slow that we weren’t going to make it. Using Toad’s session browser, I was able to quickly locate a renegade session that had kicked off without anybody (including my client’s DBAs) knowing about it. I notified the DBAs and they killed the process immediately. As a result, our loads completed well within the allotted window. Upgraded Health Check Although I don’t normally get deep in the trenches with DBA-related jobs, I can certainly appreciate the features that Toad provides for DBAs. One such feature is the Health Check, which has been upgraded in the new version of Toad. By clicking a few buttons, you

option to specify the location where

few more categories and grouped them more logically in version 10 to make them easier to find. Database Monitoring Enhancements Health check isn’t the only thing that’s been updated for the DBAs; Toad also has a very nice collection of enhancements that work together for much better database monitoring. Until now, the best way to monitor what is happening in your database was to use Quest’s Spotlight® tool. As a result, DBAs tend to launch Spotlight and run it continuously to keep an eye on things. Unfortunately, Spotlight was not built to work this way. Spotlight is a diagnostic tool, not a monitoring tool; it’s great for trying to troubleshoot problems in the database once you’re aware of them, but

each user’s settings will be located. Toad for Oracle version 10 allows you to do this in the General tab of the Options panel. Is There a DBA in the House? A nice thing about Toad is that it has a robust set of features for both the database developer and the DBA. As you probably know, these are very different functions: developers create solutions and DBAs keep everything running properly. That said, there’s definitely an overlap in skills that cannot be ignored. Great developers are also DBAs, and great DBAs are also developers. Although I’ve spent most of my career on the development side of things, I cannot tell you how important Toad’s DBArelated features have been to me in the development and deployment of a new solution. Once when I was in the final deployment phases of a high profile data

Figure 6. Enhanced database health check

can get a full diagnostic view of how well your database is configured based on industry best practices—everything from performance to configuration to vulnerability and more. Toad for Oracle version 10 adds 31 new checks, bringing the grand total to 122. That’s a lot of checks, so fortunately they’ve added a

Copyright 2009 John Weathington. All Rights Reserved.

using it as a constant monitor will place an unnecessary strain on your servers. The “correct” monitoring tool is Toad’s DB Monitor. In version 10, the DB Monitor acts as more of a background process, and integrates with Spotlight by way of an alerting function. With Toad 10, you can now set DB Monitor to run


A Perfect 10 for Toad® 10

Page 5

for as long as the session is active, even when the tool is not open. Now that you have a background process watching things, you can leverage the alerting functionality of DB Monitor. You can specify in your DB Monitor options that when certain thresholds are reached in your database, you receive a notification in your system tray. For example, you can have DB Monitor watch the I/O activity (both logical and physical) on your database while you and your team are trying to develop a solution. Since you’re in development mode, you know that there shouldn’t be very much activity in the database. With alerting in place, Toad can signal you when it notices that your database is doing an unusual amount of consistent reads. The monitoring is all done in the background, so you can set it and forget it. You can be busy developing and a notification will pop up from your tray icon telling you that consistent reads in your database are higher than expected. From that tray icon, you can launch Spotlight to dig deeper into what’s going on. Now you’re using Spotlight in the way it was intended to be used, which will relieve a lot of stress on your server. Feels Great to Automate: Enhancements to Scripts and Automation Enhancements to Toad for Oracle version 10 in the area of scripts and automation greatly benefit both DBAs and developers. First of all, you’ll notice that the Toad App Designer has been appropriately renamed Automation Designer. The Automation Designer in Toad is a great way to build the equivalent of batch files for Toad. This is really quite robust functionality—there are branching and looping controls, and

Figure 7. The enhanced Automation Designer showing multi-connection execution

a whole assortment of file management and server functions available. Of course you can also call database actions and procedures, as well as Toad features. As a career hacker, my initial reaction to the old App Designer was, “So what?” I can easily write a wrapper script in Perl or any other language that would essentially do the same thing. After playing with this feature, though, I find the job is much easier with Toad, and Automation Designer is just about as functional for simple jobs. Plus, having direct access to Toad-specific features like the Health Check is very convenient when piecing together your batch process. For heavy duty database processing, the Toad Script Manager is the tool to use. This tool allows you to easily organize all your SQL scripts into one place. I know that’s why you have file directories, but Toad makes things a little more functional for you. In Script Manager, you can group your scripts together by common purpose, and catalog them with a description. Then when you need to run any script, it’s as easy as a right-click. When you need to run a whole batch of scripts in succession, it’s as easy as clicking a button.

Copyright 2009 John Weathington. All Rights Reserved.

Improvements in both Automation Designer and Script Manager enable you to run applications and scripts against multiple connections with one stroke. In Automation Designer, you can now right-click an application and choose “Run with connections…” to bring up a connection box where you can specify which connections you want the app to run against. Similarly, Script Manager also has multiple connection functionality built into the interface. Simply add connections to the connections panel, and when you execute a script, it will be executed against all the connections you specified. These powerful features will provide huge time savings for data professionals who need to run the same executions in multiple databases at the same time. Fake Data is Real Business: the New Data Generator Quest has spent a good deal of effort on Toad 10 to make our lives easier using the features the tool already had; however Quest wasn’t about to put out a major release like this without throwing in at least a few new toys to play with. One of the tools that is fun to play with is the new and improved Data Generator. If you’ve been a developer for any length of time, you know that imitation data is a


A Perfect 10 for Toad® 10

Page 6 has taken schema exploration to a new level with its ER Diagram tool. Toad already had an ER Diagram tool but I rarely used it—until now. The problem with the old ER Diagram tool is what it was competing with. As a data architect, if I need a graphical way to explore an Oracle database, I just reverse-engineer the schema into a data modeling tool like Toad Data Modeler. With Toad’s completely overhauled ER Diagram tool, there’s no reason to leave Toad.

Figure 8. Toad v10 makes it easy to generate fake but realistic data for accurate testing

big deal. I’ve personally spent countless hours trying to generate dummy data to seed my database so that I can test the functionality of my new features. When Quest first added the Data Generator to Toad it was a real timesaver; however, the only thing it was able to generate was random numbers and characters. In version 10, this has changed significantly. Toad has taken imitation data to a new level. Toad now has built-in generators that let you quickly add test data to common fields like business names, addresses and personal information like first and last names.

This means that you now have more control than ever before with data generation. I used to spend days, even weeks creating elaborate scripts to populate my data with fake but realistic data for accurate testing. Now that can all be done with a few clicks. Once again, Toad for Oracle version 10 is a tool that will save me an immense amount of precious time. Innovation in Schema Exploration: Improved ER Diagram Tool Schema exploration is my favorite new feature of the version 10 release. Toad

You can also select from your own random data, through either a constant list or a custom Select statement. You can specify a foreign key column in a reference table to simulate data that’s linked to another table. Finally, Toad now gives you the option to select a custom procedure called TOAD_DATAGEN, in which you can create very specific instructions for generating your data.

Figure 9. The ER Diagram takes schema exploration to the next level

Copyright 2009 John Weathington. All Rights Reserved.

Quest went to great lengths to make ER Diagram a very functional graphical exploration tool. All of the features that you’ve become accustomed to in an ER diagramming tool, such as pan and zoom, are now available. Plus, there’s an interesting new feature called “loupe,” which works like a jeweler’s loupe. A tiny window shows a magnified image of anything that’s under your mouse in the main window. In this way, you can zoom out in the main window to get the big picture, and then simply roam around with your mouse as you inspect the details in your loupe window.


A Perfect 10 for Toad® 10 The reverse-engineering functionality in ER Diagram is very nice. You can select the tables that you want to bring into the model, and it automatically selects the tables that are related (up to five levels deep). The final imported layout is a nice ER diagram in either IE or IDEF1X format. That’s when the fun begins! The graphical display of entities and relationships is terrific, as good as any other ER diagramming tool that I’ve used. This makes exploring the schema very easy. You can also now create workspaces where you can focus and reorganize the display on any particular area of the schema that you might be interested in exploring. What really puts ER Diagram above the other diagramming tools; however, is its focus on being an exploration tool as opposed to an architecting tool. I really like this, as I already have good tools to do design and architecture. What I need are tools that explore the database better—Toad has definitely delivered that in version 10. For example, if you hover over any relationship line, Toad highlights the columns in the two tables that make up the relationship. Also, if you double-click on any entity or on any relationship, the details of that table or constraint will pop up in familiar Toad format. What Toad has done here is merge the schema browsing functionality with the ER diagramming functionality to take data schema exploration to a completely new level. I’m thoroughly impressed. This is going to be my new favorite feature of Toad!

Page 7 Conclusion: More Features on the Horizon What Quest Software has done with version 10 of Toad is cleverly set the stage for even greater things to come. There is undoubtedly architecture under the covers that we can’t even see, as evidenced by the subtle but noticeable enhancements in the data grids. Instead of focusing on more features with Toad, Quest Software has taken a critical look at the usability and flexibility of the tool, and addressed them head on. Subtle but important features like Unicode support, upgraded help and an integrated search with a direct connection to Toad World, new and enhanced data grids, and support for roaming profiles show that Quest is making a pronounced move to make the tool easier to use and learn. Plus, DBAs will certainly appreciate the new health checks and the ability to run Toad applications and scripts against multiple connections. It’s more than just usability, though: Toad 10 has taken data generation to a new level by enabling you to fully customize the style and format of your test data with both pre-built options and the flexibility to create your own rules. Finally, the new ER diagramming functionality is awesome, allowing you to explore your database schema like you never could before. I’m very excited and pleasantly surprised with the new release of Toad, and I’m sure you will be as well. I just can’t wait to see what Quest will come up with next!

Copyright 2009 John Weathington. All Rights Reserved.


A Perfect 10 for Toad 10