Red Gate SQL Compare

I have been using Red Gate’s
SQL Compare since it was in beta, circa 1999 and I last wrote a product review back in April of 2004 when version 3.0 was
released. I recently had occasion to download and use version 5 of the product
(when I started doing more with SQL Server 2005), and I feel compelled to
update my product review as well.  The price is still right, starting
at $295 for a single license.  I continue to assert that it is one of
the tools that no SQL Server developer should be without.

The basic function of this tool is, as the name implies, to compare two
SQL Server databases.  I won’t bore the reader with step-by-step
descriptions of what the wizard does, but suffice it to say that the user
interface is so intuitive, you can be running a compare within minutes of
installation and viewing the results, in some cases, within seconds … it’s
that fast.  The image below shows the screen that greets you when you
first launch the product.  Simply point it at two databases and click
Compare Now.  The Options tab allows you to fine-tune the compare
parameters to avoid getting false positives and to filter differences you may
not be concerned with, like developer comments in stored procs.  For my
sample run, the databases with 118 objects required less than two minutes to
compare.  The results screen is shown below.

Working The Results

The new interface is easy to read and convenient to use.  The image above
shows the Filter Objects panel visible, where you can refine your search for
the objects whose changes you wish to script.  Once you have made your
selection of objects, the Synchronization Wizard walks you through the process
of migrating changes to or from either database.  In my first attempt, I could
not get the synchronization to work.  Another developer had made drastic
changes to the tables, adding primary-foreign key constraints and additional
data that was absent in my copy of the application.  So, I guess there are
limitations, but they are the same limitations I would have faced trying to
script such changes from Query Analyzer.  At least SQL Compare found all
the differences and generated the change scripts, saving me hours of
work.  The time saved in this one project justified the purchase price of
the product. 

In addition to synchronization, you may export the compare results in any of
a number of formats, as shown in the image below.  The results generated
by the Interactive HTML option are incredible, but alas, too difficult to
display here.  While I am not at liberty to display the results of
the HPOD database used in the above compare example, I did generate a Simple
HTML report for one of the stock databases that come with SQL Server when
Reporting Services is installed. Give it a look and you will agree that
version 5 of Red Gate’s SQL Compare has really become a mature product:  Simple SQL Compare


Final Thoughts

As I finish this review, I realize that, other than describing every mouse
click required to generate a compare, there isn’t much to tell.  SQL
Compare is a great product that does one thing, and does it well.  There
are a few more options that may be set and as in previous versions, you can
create snapshots of your database and save the comparisons over time in a
sort of pseudo-source-safe fashion, but what you see above is what this product
is all about. 

I have reviewed a lot of products over the years and while I can usually
report that they perform as advertised, I cannot always say they provide
genuine value.  Red Gate SQL Compare is one of those rare products that
have the potential to ‘save the day’ and make you look like a hero.  SQL
Compare is an indispensable part of my developer’s toolbox.


See All Articles by Columnist
Danny J. Lesandrini

Danny Lesandrini
Danny Lesandrini
Danny J. Lesandrini currently works as the IT Director for Pharmatech Oncology Inc. at He holds Microsoft Certifications in Access, Visual Basic and SQL Server and has been programming with Microsoft development tools since 1995.

Get the Free Newsletter!

Subscribe to Cloud Insider for top news, trends & analysis

Latest Articles