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Toad 10: Good for database developers, good for administrators

A major strength of Toad 10 is its ability to serve both Oracle database application developers and administrators equally well.

Toad 10 from Quest software helps both Oracle DBAs and developers better manage databases and applications with the four different suites of Toad for Oracle 10 products.

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Toad 10 from Quest Software is the latest version of Quest’s popular database tool for development and administration. The Toad v10 family of products is much more than a set of application development tools. Toad V10 offers an extensive set of database management tools as well as team project management capabilities and database analysis tools. All of that functionality and more is bundled into the various Toad for Oracle product suites.

Currently, Quest Software provides four suites of products that all share the Toad for Oracle moniker: TOAD for Oracle Xpert Edition (for application developers), Toad for Oracle (for database analysts), Toad for Oracle Development Suite (for PL/SQL developers) and Toad for Oracle DBA Suite (for database administrators).

TOAD is designed with both the database developer and the DBA (database administrator) in mind -- individuals who perform very different functions yet complement each other for creating and running complex Oracle applications. Simply put, developers create solutions, and DBAs keep everything running properly. While the job functions are different, there is an overlap in skills that should not be taken for granted -- namely, great developers are also DBAs, and great DBAs are also developers. This mix of skills will determine which particular Toad for Oracle Suite you should work with.

Toad’s ability to support both programmers and administrators is one of the things that make Toad a great development product. This allows users to modify and manage databases while creating new applications, which helps create tighter integration and addresses changes on the fly.

That dual personality also helps to bring additional value to the product. Once a new major application is developed and deployed, Toad does not need to be put back on the shelf. The development environment can be used to manage databases, perform health checks, create ad hoc queries and assist in the day-to-day management of complex Oracle databases.

Those new to Toad but familiar with Oracle application development and PL/SQL will find scripting to have an acceptable learning curve. Those new to Oracle may find Toad overwhelming, however, simply because of its robust capabilities.

To fully appreciate what code can do in a developer’s world, one must look at how Toad approaches the problems posed by application development. The product includes the tools to understand and monitor your database environment, introduce project management into the development cycle, generate visual queries, and write, test, execute and deploy code in applications.

Toad’s project-centric approach leverages best practices with the goal of generating applications quickly, with the fewest bugs, and across a development team. The traditional process used includes the following steps:

  • Prepare -- define the test and other criteria by which code will fully meet functional requirements.
  •  Write and compile -- build the code units according to predefined coding standards.
  •  Test code -- use unit testing to identify gaps between code and the functional requirements.
  •  Debug -- use an advanced source code debugger to quickly identify and fix problematic code.
  •  Optimize -- scan code for SQL statements that may create bottlenecks and replace with viable alternatives.

Developers will find two elements of Toad very valuable: the Automation Designer and the ER Diagram tool. The Automation Designer offers a RAD approach to creating the equivalent of batch files for Oracle databases. The tool is used to script out actions to be performed on the database and offers an extensive library of functions. These functions can be strung together using Boolean logic. In the past, developers would have to hand-code wrappers in Perl (or other languages) to accomplish the same tasks.

The ER Diagram tool creates a visual representation of the database schema, allowing you to explore the schema visually and to pan and zoom across the schema. There is an interesting 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. 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.

Developers will also appreciate the Toad Script Manager, which lets you easily organize your SQL scripts into one area. In Script Manager, you can group your scripts together by common purpose and catalog them with a description. You can then run any script with a simple right-click. You can also run a whole batch of scripts in succession by just clicking a button.

The product is chock-full of tools that make development and administration easier, but it would take a large book to define all of those functions. Luckily, several such books exist, covering Toad and much more. Quest offers extensive documentation as well and context-sensitive help is abundant in the product.

Quest software claims that Toad is the No. 1 ranked tool for Oracle, with more than 1 million users. That claim rings true as evidenced by a very active Toad community. That community proves to be a major benefit to those developing applications with Toad. New users and seasoned programmers alike can very quickly find help available from a variety of forums where there are hundreds of experts who have an open source-like zeal about supporting Toad.

For hardcore developers looking to get the most application functionality out of Oracle, it’s pretty hard to beat Toad. But using Toad effectively takes a significant leap in knowledge and a commitment to learning all of the ins and outs of the product. While seasoned Oracle developers may take to Toad like a duck to water, the product’s complexity and extremely large tool set may intimidate less vigorous developers.

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