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Posted Feb 18, 2004

Microsoft SQL Server Survival Guide

By Gregory A. Larsen

I don't know if you are like me but I like to have document and coding examples to help me manage applications and Microsoft SQL Server. I am not sure what I would do without good documentation and a few code examples to help me maintain my SQL Server environment. Microsoft has done a great job of providing both documentation and coding examples for SQL Server.

The SQL Server documentation is referred to by Microsoft as SQL Server Books Online. SQL Server Books Online is a collection of HTML documents that Microsoft has provided with SQL Server and is an excellent place to find out anything you want to know about SQL Server. It has overviews and detailed information on a large number of topics related to SQL Server.

Anytime I have a problem understanding the syntax for a T-SQL statement, I open up Books Online (BOL), and normally am able to solve my problem. BOL provides all the information you should need to help get you started solving your T-SQL syntax and/or SQL Server problems. BOL has a wealth of information; it goes well beyond just the syntax of T-SQL commands. BOL covers just about every topic one would need to know to build applications that interface with SQL Server, and maintain a SQL Server database from a DBA perspective.

However, as we all know document and examples are not always delivered correctly the first time around, or even the second time. On January 20, 2004, Microsoft released an updated version of BOL, as well as SQL Server 2000 Samples, and Microsoft Analysis Services Samples. The update versions of documentation and code samples can be downloaded from Microsoft. Here is the URL http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?familyid=a6f79cb1-a420-445f-8a4b-bd77a7da194b&displaylang=en#filelist where you can find more information about the updated BOL documentation and code sample downloads can be found at http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?familyid=7824BA50-3E29-45CF-8C02-5597C014A707&displaylang=en

Installing the code samples and BOL is a very simple process. Just read the "Instruction" provided on the Microsoft website. Once you have updated your BOL documentation on your machine, I would recommend you verify that you have the latest version installed. The information for how to verify that your BOL installation went ok can be found at the site listed above.

So what has changed in the documentation? If you click on the "Contents tab, and then open the "What's New" book, by clicking on the "+" sign, you will see the first item says, "What's New In SQL Server Books Online". If you review this item, it will outline what has changed. This BOL topic will explain what items have been updated, and addresses what new topics have been added to BOL documentation. If you really want to find out exactly what items where updated with the January 20th release of BOL then search for "January 2004" from the search tab in BOL. When I ran this search, I found that 202 topics have been updated.

From time to time, some of you might find errors in Books Online. If you find an error, do you know how to report the errors you find to Microsoft? There is an extremely easy way to provide documentation feedback to Microsoft regarding BOL. You can provide feedback by clicking on the little letter icon on the top left corner of each BOL page. Below I have outlined in red where you can find the letter icon to provide feedback.

When you click on the letter icon, "Documentation Feedback" information is placed at the bottom of your current BOL page. See below what this documentation feedback section looks like.

As you can see you are allowed to rate the topic if you choose. To submit your feedback with comments click on the "Submit feedback" hyperlink. This will launch a mail session where you will be able to enter comments and send them to Microsoft.

Errors reported in Microsoft's documentation by customer increased the value of the BOL documentation. Microsoft does a good job of taking your feedback and improves the BOL documentation when errors or unclear information is found. Please if you find an error, or even think you have found an error report it to Microsoft. Through this feedback method, that Microsoft has provided, everyone that finds a problem with BOL can make BOL a better documentation for everyone in future releases of the documentation. However, you can only make this difference if you report the problems you find.

I hope that you have already found the "Pot of Gold" that Microsoft SQL Server Books Online provides. If not then you should check it out, since I'm sure your will find it to be your survival guide to understanding SQL Server and resolving SQL Server related problems. Now if you have been using Books Online and/or the code samples, but do not have the latest release I would recommend you get the updated versions and install them on your machines. Nothing like trying to get something to work when the documentation or examples are incorrect and just plan don't work.

» See All Articles by Columnist Gregory A. Larsen

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