Quest Software has hit the
ball out of the park with its Toad Data Modeler 3 (TDM) application. Ease of
use, a huge amount of functionality, and an outstanding support base all
combine to make TDM a superb product. Every once in a while you get lucky
enough to run across a product that makes you say, Wow, and thats what I
said about two minutes into running TDM.
To prepare for this product
review, I read the literature about TDM on Quests Web site, participated in a
conference call with the product manager and product architect, and brushed up
on some of the finer points of data modeling. I was prepared to see one thing,
and was more than pleasantly surprised to see what Quest has turned out. Ive
used and experimented with quite a few other tools, and I can only conclude
that Toad Data Modeler, when it comes to data modeling, is without question the
killer app in this category. Is it bug (or featureless) free? No, but Quest
actively welcomes your feedback in identifying areas for improvement.
What Does Toad Data Modeler Do?
In short, TDM makes data
modeling easy, or as Quest puts
it, it provides Powerful and Cost-effective data Modeling and Design. How
often, and to what degree, do you perform data modeling? I would venture to say
that less than 2% of the time for upwards of 99% of DBAs is spent on modeling.
Unless you happen to be working where a new design is going to be put in place,
chances are your most recent modeling experience consisted of adding columns to
tables here and there during a minor change to an existing set of applications
or schemas. So, when it is time to start a full scale design effort, what are
you going to use?
With TDM, designing tables
and establishing relationships between them is a breeze. Editing attributes can
be done via several mechanisms, and the entity-relationship diagram it provides
can be displayed in multiple formats. What is the difference between IDF1X and
IE? Those notational model names should look familiar to you if you took a
course on database design. But if not, go into the Help section, search for
Notation, and browse the richly illustrated examples.
You can expect to find many
of the features found in other products, chief among the features being the
ability of the tool to perform reverse engineering. The complement of reverse
engineering is forward engineering, that is, will the tool generate DDL for
As described by Quest, TDM
simplifies the process of:
Building complex entity
relationship models both logical and physical
Generating complex SQL/DDL create
and alter scripts
Well take a look at the
last two bulleted items in a minute.
One of Quest Softwares
features is its support or sponsorship of user communities. The Toad Data Modeler Community
contains an extensive number of Flash movies, which illustrate TDMs features
and functionality, in addition to presenting database design concepts. Within
the TDM3 Movies section, there are (as of this writing) 21 movies providing
how to demonstrations on many of TDMs capabilities. In essence, you get an
extensive amount of training material for free. Watch some of the earlier
movies and then jump into the tool. Youll be up and running in no time at all.
Shown below is a screen shot from the first presentation (Interface Layout),
and as you can see, the viewer receives a thorough introduction.
As an initial introduction
to the tool, lets look at some essential basics: installation and reverse
engineering (RE). The RE review will take an out of the box model, generate the
DDL (and some DML as well), and then turn around and perform RE on the same
Installation is very
straightforward with the steps being few. Rolling over the menu bars and
clicking on them produces a pop-like sound, of which I could probably do
without. The navigation is very clear until the Contact (final) window, which has
the Next button enabled, where upon clicking it, nothing happens. TDM beats
Oracle Universal Installer in the sense that when you click Exit, you get to
exit right away and not be asked if you are sure.
The system requirements are
fairly minimal, as shown below.
Assuming you are an Oracle
user, keep in mind that although the supported operating system shows Windows
XP and Vista, you still need the correct version of either to run Oracle in a
certified configuration. That would be XP Professional, and for Vista, I dont
care because Im never going to use it, but I do know that only a few of the
four hundred or however many versions of Vista are certified.
You also get a choice of
RDBMSs to enable. You can choose the systems you expect to use and de-select
those you do not. For example, I chose Oracle 10g and SQL Server 2005 and
skipped MySQL, IBM and the rest.
Right out of the box, TDM presents
you with a video rental application/design. If you want to use it inside a
database, generating the DDL script can be done in two steps (F9 and click
Generate, accepting the default location/file name and settings), and right
away, you have something else to experiment with other than Oracles sample
schemas. The same would hold true for your application once designed and ready
to be scripted. The video rental design defaults to the SCOTT schema.
If you deselect Generate
User/Schema to Objects, then the script is generic (no owner/schema name
qualifier is used), but the comments still have SCOTT in them.
Even though the model
validates (another feature of TDM), the generated script is likely to have the
High bit characters
The comments at the top
produced the following -
unknown command "ï»¿/*" - rest of line ignored.
- so deleting the comments
altogether gets past the SQL noise.
Mismatch in object names
Change the typ in the body to
type, or change type in the create type statements to use typ
Change price_per_one_day to
The date format is
dot-notation, as in 6.25.2008, not as in a typical NLS_DATE_FORMAT picture
(25-JUN-2008). Issue an alter session for the dates, or edit the script.
And dont forget a commit at
the end. As a caution, the script generation will overwrite an existing file
without warning. This could be important to someone in an environment where
source control is not in use, so take care to source or protect an existing
After successfully running
the generated script, I turned around and reverse engineered the schema. This
is the model TDM generated (including some manual layout on my part).
It precisely matches the out
of the box workspace (layout). The reverse engineering wizard is much easier to
use than what you see in Visio. The connection source picks up on existing
Oracle Net Services information on your computer, so say goodbye to the hard to
use ODBC data source setup found elsewhere.
Who is going to benefit from
using Toad Data Modeler? In other words, who is the target user audience? That
audience would be database users who (per a datasheet from Quest):
Need an easy-to-learn product
that doesnt require training
Need an affordable product or
want to extend their existing modeling capabilities
Want to manage and document
changes to an existing data model over time
Want to synchronize the data
model with the database on an ongoing basis
Want to migrate data structures
from one database version or platform to another
Okay, now the bad part.
Youre thinking, Great, another whiz bang tool Im never going to use because
it costs an arm and a leg. You would be wrong in that thought. Toad Data
Modeler is listed (shop online) for $479. Even without a volume discount, that
is still a very reasonable price when compared to similar products.
Download TDM and try it out.
Youre going to like it. In a follow up article for this review, Ill go over
some of the more advanced features.
See All Articles by Columnist Steve Callan