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-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.
- We've also highlighted the best database software
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The database studio
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.
Collaborative database development
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 $9 per month. The Premium plan extends this to 20 models and 100 tables for $29 per month. The team version is available from $79 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.
The popular db tool
Lucidchart is one of the most widely used database design and development tools. It's a cloud-based platform that makes it easy for collaborative working, with online communications and commenting available for team members. You can create a new database from scratch, or you can import an existing database and begin editing.
Drag and drop functions simplifies the design and development process, and it's easy to organize table, keys, fields, and relationships. There are a number of built-in features available, not least diagram tools for ER and UML, network software, and even workflows. Backups are automatically saved, making it easy to revert to an older version as required. Additionally, you can publish the database schema online or download it as an image or PDF file for sharing and sending it as required.
Lucidchart also offers a number of integrations, not least G Suite, Confluence, JIRA, and Jive. You can also import or export Microsoft Visio Online databases as required.
Pricing starts at $5.95 (£6.45) a month for the Basic plan with unlimited shapes and documents along with 100MB of storage. The Pro plan allows for Viso import/export as well as professional shapes and features, and is priced at $11.95 (£11) per month. These prices are discounted 18% if paid annually. The Team option is where team collaboration and management come into play, along with integrations, and costs from $27 (£23) per month paid annually, for up to 3 users, with the price per user dropping as number of users increases.
Developed for SQL
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 $15 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 $45 per month for 3 users.
The relational designer
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 plans only differ by length of subscription, with a 1-year licence costing $499, while a 2-year licence costs $673.65 and a 3-year licence costs $848.30. After the licence term there is an annual renewal fee that is 35% of the initial subscription price.