SQL Server Books Online - What's New and How to Get the Most Out of It
This article is for new users of SQL Server and the users who are not aware of free-documentation.
I have been using SQL Server since 1997. In that time, I have seen the many changes that have occurred since the initial release of SQL Server version 4.2. Each new release is a thrill for every enthusiastic individual who works with Microsoft tools day-to-day. The release of SQL Server 2005 and Visual Studio 2005 is no exception. It includes a wide variety of useful tools for database administrators and developers.
As you may know, the Community Technology Preview (CTP) program lets users experience the product before the Release to Manufacturing (RTM) version goes out. Whenever a new tool has been added to SQL Server there must be a manual available for it in the CTP. Since the release of SQL Server 6.5, Microsoft has been utilizing and fine-tuning most of the documentation.
I'm a big fan of SQL Server Books Online (BOL). It has helped me a lot and I have saved a fair amount of time that I would have spent searching through books or on the Web for answers.
Most SQL Server users will agree that it is surprising to see how useful Books Online has become. Many of the features of SQL Server have been documented since day one and updated regularly in BOL during the releases of service packs. For the first time user, going through BOL can be daunting. The index, however, can give you a very interesting overview of a topic and show you what is available in the current release of SQL Server.
The April 2006 update to BOL contains new material and fixes documentation problems that were reported by customers after SQL Server 2005 was released. (Refer to "New and Updated Books Online Topics" in BOL for a list.) Topics with significant updates have a change history table at the end of the topic that summarizes the changes. The April 2006 update also reflects product upgrades included in SQL Server 2005 Service Pack 1 and includes tutorials for SQL Server 2005. An "additional information" section provides information on SQL Server 2005 Express edition.
BOL includes the following types of information:
- Setup and upgrade instructions.
- Information about new features and backward compatibility.
- Conceptual descriptions of the technologies and features in SQL Server 2005.
- Procedural topics describing how to use the various features in SQL Server 2005.
- Tutorials that guide you through common tasks.
- Reference documentation for the graphical tools, command prompt utilities, programming languages, and application programming interfaces (APIs) that are supported by SQL Server 2005.
- Descriptions of the sample databases and applications included with SQL Server 2005.
The operating system requirements for BOL are Windows 2000 Service Pack 4, Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1, Windows Small Business Server 2003, or Windows XP Service Pack 2. Other requirements include Microsoft .NET Framework version 2.0, Internet Explorer version 6.0 with service pack 1, and Windows Installer version 3.0.
Do not install this version of BOL on a computer running the following:
- Any pre-release versions of Visual Studio 2005 or the .NET Framework 2.0.
- Any SQL Server 2005 Beta release.
- The SQL Server 2005 Community Technology Preview (CTP) June 2005 release.
- The SQL Server 2005 CTP September 2005 release.
Remove the above from your system before installing SQL Server 2005 Books Online (as of now Feb2008).
SQL Server 2005 Books Online update - September 2007 on MSDN & Technet
From the Windows Start menu after installation, choose Microsoft SQL Server 2005 > Documentation and Tutorials > SQL Server Books Online. After the online help loads, select SQL Server 2005 Books Online in the left-hand pane to access the documentation.
A good way to get started is by viewing the tutorials; select SQL Server 2005 Tutorials in the left-hand pane, then select SQL Server Tools from the Categories on the right.
I have selected SQL Server Tools from the Tutorials, which will introduce you to the Database Engine, the SQL Server Management Studio tools, and more.
A few additional features are available that I want to highlight.
You can view the SQL Server help by using either the MSDN2 link to the Web version or the .htm link to the local files on your computer.
The F1 option on right hand side gives you 2 options, use the .htm file or Web link for BOL, and go directly to the search pane.
The first time you use the search feature you will be given three options:
Use online Help as primary source will always go to the MSDN2 Web site, depending upon your Internet Connection settings.
Use local Help as primary source will look for locally installed help files before going to the MSDN2 Web site (if needed).
Do not use online Help is self-explanatory.
Tip: For optimal performance, select "Use local Help as primary source."
Additional search options allow you to search MSDN community forums and other Microsoft related forums.
The How Do I menu lets you jump directly to various topics in BOL.
Topics and Searches can be saved using the left-hand Help Favorites pane or by choosing Add to Help Favorites from the right-click context menu.
On the initial screen you can see various options and shortcuts such as How Do I, Search, Index, and Ask a Question. You can add and remove those options by clicking a small down arrow button on the toolbar as shown in the screen below.
The BOL interface can be customized with a selection of standard features or menu-bar features. You can even save custom named toolbars in the program.
Keyboard shortcuts can also be defined.
Tip: You can sign up to receive notifications about the latest drivers, trial software, service packs, and other downloads for SQL Server (and more) from the Microsoft Download Center.
BOL can be used as a reference for SQL Server 2005 Express edition, too. All you have to do after installing BOL is use the SQL Server Express filter in the Contents pane to hide the content that does not apply. For more information about SQL Server Express documentation, see the topic "Using SQL Server Express Books Online" in BOL.
I suggest that all new users of SQL Server 2005 use BOL to their advantage. It provides in-depth information on the features available in SQL Server 2005.
The more you explore BOL, the more you know the SQL Server product.