Product Reviews

Catch-All IDE

dbPal Universal attempts total drag-and-drop development.

It's a wee bit hard to know how to describe dbPal universal, but let's try this: it's a drag-and-drop, multi-user, Internet-enabled, universal scripting, debugging, and development environment for database designers. Whew, what a mouthful.

The basic idea is that dbPal can extract a schema from any supported database: Access, SQL Server, FoxPro, Oracle, DB2, MySQL...and on and on. The schema then is stored in an abstract, univesal format by dbPal, and you can work with it, renaming objects, creating new objects, whatever. The product then knows how to apply these changes back to a database. It can also do a variety of other interesting things, like applying changes from one database to another, or extracting a schema from a SQL Server database and creating a corresponding Oracle database. There's a lot of "smarts" built into the program to handle things like the naming limiitations of the target products.

dbPal Universal is the high end of their product line. Features here include complete version control, a scripting language with timed execution, and multiuser support. It's easy to see how dbPal could become the backbone of an entire dba organization.

This power comes at the cost of a bit of a learning curve. The dbPal interface is relentlessly drag-and-drop, and has a whole bunch of help built into it, so it's not that hard to learn. But it is unlike anything else you've ever used. This is one of those programs that you'll need to work with on a fairly steady basis to keep your skills up.

If you'd like to have a look, you can download a trial version from the company's database. There you can also pick up the lower-end versions of the application, which are targeted to single users or single database types. These can provide a more cost-effective introduction to the dbPal way of working while you're deciding whether to go whole hog with the product.

About the Author

Mike Gunderloy, MCSE, MCSD, MCDBA, is a former MCP columnist and the author of numerous development books.

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