Best database design software of 2024

The best database design software makes it simple and easy to build any type of database that you need.

Best database design software: quick menu

When developing a database you need a clear idea of how your values will interrelate. Diagramming tools allow for visual editing, not just for designing new databases but also for reverse engineering imported databases.

Additionally, you need to be able to test queries and code execution, to ensure that your data values work as expected, and that there are no problems calling up and using that data. Reporting can provide general insights into how well your database works with other tools, and allows you to look for ways to improve efficiency. 

While it used to be the case that you would need to set up your own server for building and testing, the advent of cloud services and cloud-hosted software means a lot of database tools now provide a ready-made environment for you to work in, making the process simpler and easier.

Many people might be familiar already with simple relational databases such as Microsoft Access. However, helpful tools are available to help wit the jump to SQL and NoSQL database formats.

Here then are the best database design software tools, not just for SQL databases but also relational databases such as NoSQL. 

We've also listed the best SQL online courses.

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The best database design software in full:

Best general database design software

(Image credit: dbForge Studio)

1. dbForge Studio

Best general database design software

Reasons to buy

Easy to use
Hot keys and shortcuts
Free version

dbForge Studio is a GUI tool for the development, design, and administration of MySQL and MariaDB databases. The integrated development environment (IDE) allows you to work with queries, routines, and object management, in order to help debug and automate processes. There are also synchronization and comparison tools, allowing with a number of reporting and backup options.

For the development of a database, dbForge Studio makes the process easy to use with code snippets which can be accessed using smart tags or hot keys. There are also checks for parameter information, as well as syntax, and you can simply right click to see the definitions for objects. 

Options exist to automate SQL formatting, as well as a wizard to format code in multiple files at the same time. Database diagrams make visual editing easy, and you can create schemas of any complexity. There are also tools for designing reports and charts, as well as for making and restoring backups, with automated functions available.

dbForge Studio is available in three different license plans, according to which tools you require. There are discounts available if you pay for a two or three year package, and all paid-for plans come with support and upgrades.

Best commercial SQL design platform

(Image credit: SqlDBM)

2. SqlDBM

Best commercial SQL design platform

Reasons to buy

Cross platform compatibility
Collaboration as standard
Free plan

SqlDBM is a cloud-based SQL database modeler, which allows the design and management of databases of all sizes, and comes in both a dark or light theme to help with user working preferences. It's easy to create objects such as tables, relationships, and indexes, as well as apply rules to them using a diagram. You can also customize your project by viewing only table names, keys, descriptions, and other modes. 

As with other cloud-based services, new saves are automatically made at frequent periods as new file versions. This means it's easy to view or roll back to previous versions as required, and you can add your own custom labels to the saves as required.

SqlDBM allows for forward and reverse engineering of MySQL or SQL Server databases, and although there are different price plans, all versions allow for team collaboration. 

There are three main pricing tiers to SqlDBM, with a Free tier that allows all features, but is restricted to one active project with no more than two tables at a time for script generation, as well as only three revisions available.

Best open source SQL database design software

(Image credit: MySQL)

3. MySQL Workbench

Best open source SQL database design software

Reasons to buy

Comprehensive toolkit
Easy design and modelling
Free to use

MySQL Workbench provides a comprehensive range of database administration tools, not least for creating, editing, or testing MySQL databases.

A visual editor allows for the easy design and data modelling of databases, allowing for forward and reverse engineering as required. Key features allow for the easy management and documentation of otherwise difficult tasks.

There are also visual tools which can be used to create, execute, and optimize database queries, as well as a syntax editor that provide color coding and and auto complete for SQL queries.

MySQL environments can be created to test server performance as well as user access, on top of data recovery and data audits to ensure the database should function not just securely but also remain stable under expected conditions.

A performance dashboard allows for reports to be generated into IO hotpsots as well as high resource queries, allowing for better database optimization. A database migration tool also allows for non-SQL databases and applications to be imported, allowing them to be converted to MySQL.

Overall, MySQL Workbench is an integral and essential tool for anyone looking to work with MySQL databases - and it's also free.

Best for collaborative database development

(Image credit: Vertabelo)

4. Vertabelo

Best for collaborative database development

Reasons to buy

7-day free trial
Cross-platform support

Vertabelo is an online database design and development tool that also allows collaboration among a team of users. Team members can be assigned different access levels, such as owner, editor or viewer, with these changed accordingly as required. 

The user interface is clean and presentable, and it's simple to switch between designs or use visual search. There are also pre-configured zoom settings you can apple as required. Model navigation is simplified with a fast navigation component, and you can easily find elements in a diagram with a click. Workflows are made smooth by constant saves, to allow live validation and SQL previews at any time. Older saves can be reverted easily, and existing models can be easily cloned or else exported to an XML file.

Creating SQL files is also very easy, and at any time you can create a SQL script that either completely or selectively creates or removes all elements from your database. There's also a command tool to import an existing database to reverse-engineer it.

There are three paid plans available, depending on the number of databases and tables required. A seven-day free trial is available with each plan.

Best relational database designer

(Image credit: AquaFold)

5. Aqua Data Studio

Best relational database designer

Reasons to buy

NoSQL and Relational dbs
Support for 28 db platforms

Reasons to avoid


Aqua Data Studio provides an integrated development environment (IDE) to develop, access, and manage relational databases, not least NoSQL and cloud platforms. This allows tabbed documents for query windows to be grouped or floated, and these can be then managed with viewing selections for modes or orientation styles, as well as provide the ability to resize or hide panels.

The Visual Analytics tool makes it easy to use filters and data labels to make charts for insights. There's a drag and drop function to create virtualizations from worksheets. These can then be saved in workbooks so that other users and customers can navigate the data. 

As part of its support for a wide-range of major database platforms, the Aqua Data Studio also allows you to generate SQL statements, and display an execution plan for a query in order to enhance server performance. In addition, there are a large number of database administration tools included, not least session managers, as well as tools for storage and security.

Pricing is according to the number of licenses requires.

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Which database design software is best for you?

When deciding which database design software to download and use, first consider what your actual needs are, as sometimes free and budget software may only provide basic options, so if you need to use advanced tools you may find a paid platform is much more worthwhile. Additionally, higher-end software can usually cater for every need, so do ensure you have a good idea of which features you think you may require from your database software.

How we test

How we tested the best database design software

To test for the best database design software we first set up an account with the relevant software platform, then we tested the service to see how the software could be used for different purposes and in different situations. The aim was to push each database design platform, to see how useful its basic tools were and also how easy it was to get to grips with any more advanced tools.

Read more on how we test, rate, and review products on TechRadar.

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Brian Turner

Brian has over 30 years publishing experience as a writer and editor across a range of computing, technology, and marketing titles. He has been interviewed multiple times for the BBC and been a speaker at international conferences. His specialty on techradar is Software as a Service (SaaS) applications, covering everything from office suites to IT service tools. He is also a science fiction and fantasy author, published as Brian G Turner.