IdeaBlade DevForce

I notice that the latest Australian MSDN Flash from Frank Arrigo mentions IdeaBlade DevForce, a (quite mature) object-relational mapping tool:

Cut down the time you spend developing data-intensive client/server applications. Get IdeaBlade's DevForce Express, a developer productivity solution for .NET that is fully integrated with Microsoft Visual Studio. DevForce: helps professional developers build, maintain, and operate smart client Internet applications by bridging the infrastructure gap between the Application layer and .NET. The solution is a "must have" for .NET development that will improve your productivity and increase application quality, reduce overall costs, and accelerate time-to-market.

I have been using the free DevForce Express in my Visual Basic 2005 developments and found it incredibly useful. I have even e-mailed some support-type questions and had them answered very promptly (and with actual help, not boiler-plate answers). And there's a user forum at IdeaBlade-Runner that looks to have a few active participants too (and another question of mine got answered - thanks!)

I have tried one or two ORM tools and appreciated the time they sliced from simple table edit screens. For my current project, I'm still hand-crafting logic in stored procedures for the web-based front end, but for the admin side of things (a Windows Forms app), IdeaBlade is perfect. Two tools that I'd tried earlier (that shall remain nameless) and I was even mostly happy with, stopped active development, but IdeaBlade appeals because it's still improving - the .NET 2.0 version was out very quickly after launch. It also allows you to make changes to your objects and just regenerates the underlying data access stuff, and ties in with databinding too.

It does take some time to get a handle on, but has demos in VB and C# and is worth spending the time upfront for the rewards later.

And no, I'm in no way affiliated with IdeaBlade: I just thought if you were reading this and you hadn't tried an ORM tool, it would be worth a look.

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New SQL Compare Beta

There was a question posted on the AUS-DOTNET mailing list a while back asking how people keep their SQL Server database schemas in sync between development and production servers. I reckon the tasks of:

a) keeping your test server up-to-date with production changes

and/or

b) rolling changes from test to production in a controlled manner

...would have to be one of the greatest needs for developers (and this problem just screams for a tool/utility to take care of it).

I've observed that some people have the solution of never using Enterprise Manager to do any design or make any changes and instead script everything; I use this solution myself for stored procedures and views so that I can also have file versioning (and because I use stored procs for a lot of business rules and logic so I'm able to continually tweak them and "roll back" changes if necessary by saving earlier versions). But unfortunately I'm addicted to Enterprise Manager for table design - it's too easy to use, I can enter the description meta-data right there and copy-and-paste columns between tables in design mode (Ent. Man. is also handy for permissions, relationships, database users, etc.)

To go along with my bad habit, I've been using SQL Compare for a couple of years now and it's indispensable. It's one of the 3 or so tools we've spent money on. I'm still on version 2 which goes back a couple of years but it gets the job done - point it at two databases, and it will script *all* the differences. There's also the SQL Data Compare product to synchronise rows.

I can't imagine having to do this stuff manually; trying to remember what I'd changed, where. Yeeech.

So I'm pumped that there's a version 5 coming up, and following advice on James' (one of the developers) blog post, I requested to be on the beta. We'll see how it goes.

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