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Keywords: SQL client, database, Java desktop applications, open source software

Title: SQuirreL SQL Client 1.1


Licence: Open source - LGPL

Platform: Java (requires Java Runtime or JDK)

Verdict: Recommended.

The SQuirreL SQL Client is an open-source Java application for connecting to JDBC-compliant databases. It is a multi-platform Java application that makes use of Swing to present a graphical view of a database, allowing the database structure and data tables to be viewed and easily navigated and includes the ability to issue SQL commands and view the results.

Installation is straightforward, just download the Jar file and run from the command-line. This will extract the files to the right place and create the appropriate batch file/shell command script. On Windows it will also create a desktop short cut and add an item to the Programs menu. Note that a Java run-time environment is an obvious requirement, and it is recommended that this is Java 1.4 or better.

As well as being platform independent, SQuirreL is also database independent. So long as there is a JDBC driver for the database then SQuirreL can connect to it. This is a two-stage process. Firstly the appropriate JDBC driver must be installed for the DBMS. Once this is in place then it is a simple matter to create an 'alias' for a specific database and this is then used to make the connection. The software includes a long list of predefined drivers, including MySQL, DB2, PostgreSQL, Oracle and others. Any drivers which are on the default classpath, such as the Sun JDBC ODBC Bridge driver, are automatically flagged as active.

Adding a new driver, for Firebird for example, is a simple case of selecting New Driver from the menu, entering the path of the driver Jar file, entering a sample URL and it's done. To connect to an actual database is just as simple. Select 'Add New' from the Alias menu, select the driver, enter the database URL (including the user name) and that's it.

Once an alias is in place double-clicking on it opens a session to the database. A tabbed display opens up showing Objects on one tab and SQL on the other. The Objects tab provides a tree display of the database structure, enabling the navigation of system tables, data tables, views, procedures and UDTs. Clicking on a table, for example, opens a display of meta-data and content.

The SQL tab can be used to interact with the database, enabling the user to enter SQL commands and see any results. Select queries, updates, deletes and so on can all be performed in real-time. Multiple sessions, (to the same or different databases), can be active at the same time. Note that while there is a grid display of data, this is read-only. Updates and insertions have to be performed using SQL rather than via the grid.

Testing with Firebird and Microsoft Access showed SQuirreL to be very easy to use. Performance was snappy and the software extremely stable. If there is one annoyance it's that SQuirreL does not store passwords so each time a new session is opened it has to be entered again.

Of course there's more to software than software, there's documentation and support. In this case documentation is very good, with both clear instructions and an excellent tutorial available. The project, hosted on Sourceforge, also includes a range of plug-ins and extras. A beta of the next release is also available, though we have been using the last released version (1.1final1), which is very stable and highly functional.

To conclude, this is a useful and easy to use SQL client. The platform and database independence make it especially useful for people working across different operating systems and DBMS products. Recommended.

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Contents © TechBookReport 2005. Published May 17 2005