When the time comes to dig into SQL Server, the first tool we need is an IDE. For years, the one and only solution were the SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS) but those days are gone and it seems they will never come back. There is a couple of great software on the Internet and we have some new challenger in this competition. In this post, I going to introduce them and give a small comparison from a developer perspective.

The great old one: SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS)

Management Studio is THE industry standard. I have been working as a database developer for about six years and I can say, this is the great old solution provided by Microsoft that has the most features. When you are a full-time SQL Server Developer, there is no question: that is the tool that you need.

Hello World from Management Studio

The only drawback is I don’t really see if Microsoft put visible effort into its development. It has a new version every two years but I don’t remember any significant improvement.

Visual Studio

Okay, as a database developer, Visual Studio is the last one that I would use for database development. Unfortunately, Microsoft put some features of SSMS into this and Visual Studio is the IDE that most of the back end developers are familiar with. I meet with this for time to time and gently push colleagues to use the other solution. It has a limited feature set and soon or later you will find yourself at SSMS or some other alternatives.

Don’t use it for SQL Server development!


DataGrip is a commercial database developer IDE from JetBrains. JetBrains is the company responsible for the well-known IntelliJ and ReSharper. DataGrip has an impressive feature set and has two indisputable benefits against SSMS: it runs on multiple platforms and it supports multiple database servers.

There are database engines that I have never heard about at all 😀

If you are a developer who works not only with SQL Server, the list of supported database management systems is pretty impressive.

Azure Data Studio

Azure Data Studio is the result of the strategy change when Microsoft decided to get into the open source community. According to the yearly developer survey of StackOverflow, by 2019, Visual Studio Code (VSCode) became a popular solution for developers around the world. Azure Data Studio is based on VSCode according to its name, the main target is a developer who works with Azure – but it can be used for any Microsoft SQL Server database.

Love that dashboard

We can consider Azure Data Studio as a lightweight Management Studio but without the restriction of the operating system.


The market of SQL Server developer is not so boring as used to be. There are some new challengers and alternative solutions.

If you ask me to recommend, I would answer you it depend on…

  • For a full-time SQL Server developer, SQL Server Management Studio.
  • A developer who works with multiple database engines, DataGrip is a reasonable choice.
  • People who love fancy new things, I would recommend Azure Data Studio

And of course, I wouldn’t recommend for any developer to use Microsoft Visual Studio at all. It is THE IDE if you are a C# developer, it is not a question. But for SQL Server, please go and choose between one of the other solutions

Categories: SQL Server


A remote senior software engineer.


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