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Best database design software of 2020: for building SQL and NoSQL databases

Best database design software
(Image credit: Image Credit: Pixabay)

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 insights into how your database works, 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.

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

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Best database design software - at a glance

  1. dbForge Studio
  2. Vertabelo
  3. SqlDBM
  4. Aqua Data Studio
  5. MySQL Workbench

(Image credit: dbForge Studio)

1. dbForge Studio

The database studio

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 four different licence plans, with the basic Express version being free with limitations. The Standard plan begins at $149.95 to purchase, with a $79.95 annual renewal fee, while the Professional plan costs $299.95 with an annual renewal cost of $149.95. There are discounts available if you pay for a two or three year package, and all paid-for plans come with support and upgrades.

(Image credit: Vertabelo)

2. Vertabelo

Collaborative database development

7-day free trial
Cross-platform support
Collaboration

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's a free seven day trial available, after which plans are available in three tiers, with the Basic plan offering up to 5 database models with up to 25 tables each, for $7 per month. The Premium plan extends this to 20 models and 100 tables for $24 per month. The team version is available from $62 per month for up to 5 users, with unlimited models and tables, though the price rises according to the number of users. There's also a 20% discount available for pre-paid yearly plans.

(Image credit: SqlDBM)

3. SqlDBM

Developed for SQL

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.

The paid tiers come in two pricing plans, with the Single Unlimited plan charged at $17.50 per month. The Team Unlimited plan is effectively the same except that it bundles the number of licences required for a team and comes with additional team management tools, with pricing starting at $70 per month for 4 licences.

(Image credit: Aqua Data Studio)

4. Aqua Data Studio

The relational designer

NoSQL and Relational dbs
Support for 28 db platforms
Expensive

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, with these costing $499 per licence.

MySQL Workbench

(Image credit: MySQL Workbench)

5. MySQL Workbench

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.