Working with SQL through the command line can be tedious and difficult. But interacting with your data doesn't have to be that way. Instead, you can use a SQL client.
A SQL client is a front-end application that uses the services provided by a database. SQL clients connect to your database infrastructure and let you interact with the database behind a web server. The majority of clients strive to achieve speed and simplicity while eliminating the clutter that comes with administrative tools that were considered standard in the past. However, not all of them succeed. In this article, we'll look at some factors you should consider when choosing a SQL client.
Why use a SQL client?
If we run a couple of SQL queries inside of a CLI, then compare them with those run inside a SQL client, we would notice the difference instantly. Here's an example:
See the difference? While the results displayed by the CLI are rather hard to understand, our SQL client displayed the values in a nice table, gave us an exact number of seconds our query took to execute, has given us the option to save it, display it in a form of a chart, and even allowed us to share it with our colleagues. It doesn’t get much better than that, does it?
Choosing the right client
The best SQL clients solve the most painful problems in a fast and effective way while also allowing everyone who uses them to quickly and easily navigate their features
The good news is that great SQL clients are relatively easy to spot – in many cases, we don’t even need to download the software being sold to tell whether it fits our needs or not. Simply look at the website and glance over its documentation. Is it available on multiple operating systems or only on Windows? Does it allow us to write queries quickly? Does it come with data visualization capabilities?
When deciding which SQL client is best for you, consider some of the following factors:
- The design and user experience side of the tool–for a SQL client to be able to solve problems, it must be architected and designed well. No one wants to run their SQL queries without understanding the rest of the functionality that’s available within the software solution of choice.
- The tool's features–if there are specific goals or features you need for your project (shareability, dashboards, visualization, etc.), then the client you choose should match. There might be some specific corner cases where we might need to use SQL to directly query files, work with specific storage engines to achieve our goals, query databases using Python or perhaps query logs using SQL.
- Ease of use - how long will it take us to become comfortable with the tool? Will it take us a long time to train other members of our team?
- Considering who developed the tool in the first place–is the tool built by a reputable company or is it coming from some man in a garage?
SQL clients help you visualize data
While a CLI might be a helpful way for advanced DBAs to fiddle with data, table structures can change, and as we deal with larger sets of data, even the best experts can become confused. Multiply the table structure given below by 100 times, and you can imagine what data science companies mean when they say “it’s a nightmare” when dealing with big data:
With SQL client, however, the given output (data types and related information) is both simple and easy to understand.
SQL clients help you work with collaborators
Another task most database administrators will encounter? Managing users. Users are a central part of dealing with any database, as they hold all of the privileges necessary for accessing, modifying, deleting, or otherwise fiddling with the data contained within databases themselves. Once again, we have a two options when it comes to creating users and assigning privileges to them: we can either use the CLI, or assign privileges using the SQL client.
If we want to create a user and assign privileges to that user while using the CLI, we need to make a new user, then assign privileges to that user:
Nothing complex here, but we need to keep in mind that developers need to know the exact syntax of how such queries are constructed and what privileges are there to be granted. Making a mistake in a query can cause all kinds of problems.
In fact, the above query contains an error – did you notice that we’ve forgotten to add a
FLUSH TABLES statement after granting privileges?
If you're using a SQL client, things will be much easier. It will complete all of the hard work for us – all we need to do is review our changes and deploy everything to production:
SQL Clients for Developers
Last but not least, when choosing a SQL client, don’t forget that each SQL client comes with its specific features. While some developers may not notice those features, differences will be apparent for their more senior counterparts.
If we edit data by using
LIMIT queries via our CLI and compare that with deleting data with one click of a button in a client, we will instantly notice a difference in the effort we put in and the time spent. The same goes for other actions: once we are used to the SQL client auto-completing our queries or allowing us to alter our schemas with ease, there is no going back.
SQL clients are a necessary tool for every database administrator–no matter novice or senior. Choosing a SQL client that fits your needs might be a challenge if you have never done so before, but don’t fret–with the advice given in this blog post and in the others on the Arctype blog, you will be able to choose a proper one, and get your database will be singing within no time. And, if you do choose to use Arctype, consider connecting with other users by joining the community behind the world’s best SQL client. We'll see you there.