dbForge Studio vs. PL/SQL developer: Which Oracle IDE to choose?
PR Manager at Devart since 2010 | Obsessed with the promotion of database development optimization
Both dbForge Studio
and PL/SQL Developer
are integrated development environments (IDEs) designed to help with Oracle database development
tasks and PL/SQL coding productivity. However, just as any two tools,
the ones we’re discussing are not exactly the same. Sometimes, it’s very important to know which solution to choose given your specific needs and preferences. In this article, we’ll look at the differences of dbForge Studio and PL/SQL Developer and analyze their strengths and weaknesses in detail.
Let’s start with Oracle database connectivity features.
In both IDEs, you’ll find:
- Support for Oracle versions from 10 through 19c;
- Support for Oracle Instant Client;
- The ability to use several Oracle Homes in a single application;
- The ability to work with Oracle on Amazon RDS;
- The ability to establish a connection without Oracle client software with the help of direct access mode;
- Support for Unicode;
- The ability to mark connections with specific colors.
Additionally, there are some product-specific features. dbForge Studio for Oracle includes OS authentication and support for cloud connections.
PL/SQL Developer, on the other hand, has an option which
automatically closes any unused connections.
Editing and executing SQL
When it comes to editing and executing SQL, dbForge Studio and PL/SQL
Developer share the following functionality:
- Code snippets;
- Customizable SQL formatting;
- Parameter information for stored routines;
- SQL editor with syntax coloring, bookmarks, and text searching;
- Quick access to favorite templates from the SQL editor;
- Execution of scripts, selected SQL fragments, and statements;
- One-step access to a schema object editor from code (go to definition);
- Executed SQL history of the current document.
PL/SQL Developer’s unique features are the read-only mode, saving with history, and comparing to the current or other file.
dbForge Studio, for its part, provides automatic SQL syntax checking, outlining code with support for user-defined collapsing regions, wildcard expansion, quick information about schema objects, and the Document Outline window which allows navigating through large scripts.
Out of the two IDEs we’re comparing, only dbForge Studio for Oracle has code completion functionality. It provides name suggestions for major and advanced objects, smart filtering in the suggestion list, context-sensitive keyword suggestions, database context detection, individual word recognition in CamelCase identifiers, automatic generation of table aliases, and more.
Administration and maintenance
When it comes to administration and maintenance functionality, you will be able to monitor all active Oracle server connections and user sessions with the help of the session manager and track all database alerts and pipe messages through the Event Monitor – no matter what solution of the two you choose.
dbForge Studio extends this set of functionality by allowing you to administer user accounts and privileges by using the built-in Security Manager. However, you won’t be able to manage .dll plugins like in PL/SQL Developer.
While analyzing data with any of these IDEs, you can see table data representing Parent-Child dependencies, create data reports, search data in a live database, and use a specialized Wizard that will help you build charts.
On top of this functionality, dbForge Studio includes a pivot table designer, and a Wizard for data report generation. It can also run automated report generation tasks through the command line interface in the quiet mode, as opposed to PL/SQL Developer which doesn’t provide such a feature.
The capabilities for working with data that a tool provides can be a crucial point when you’re deciding which solution to choose. Both of the tools we’re analyzing include the most important data editing features such as:
- Custom data filters;
- Date/time editor with a visual interface;
- Full-text search in the data grid;
- Large objects editor (LOB);
- Record numbering;
- Indication of read-only state;
- Copying data with column headers to quickly paste it into a spreadsheet.
Features unique to PL/SQL Developer include scroll lock for rows and columns, web search, and the ability to display column totals (SUM, AVG, COUNT).
In its turn, dbForge Studio for Oracle comes with a foreign key lookup editor, the ability to copy any block of data to the clipboard, grouping by arbitrary columns, incremental search through the data grid (Ctrl+I), paginal data browsing for large result sets, quick filter for each data cell, the ability to build reports, charts, and pivots directly in the data editor (PL/SQL Developer only allows to build charts), and server-side sorting and filtering which help dealing with large data sets.
Both IDEs allow you to establish multiple database connections, browsing
and navigating through database objects, customizable DDL generation
via a specialized wizard, and multi-selection for batch operations on objects.
dbForge Studio for Oracle extends this basic functionality by providing the ability to connect to a server asynchronously, view detailed object properties, browse the dependency tree of any object, quick template script generation for any object, convenient access to object privileges (GRANT) from the context menu, and the ‘Send To’ command which will send selected tables to other tools such as Query Builder, Data Report, etc.
You can work with projects in the Project Explorer window and save
the state and settings of your workspace in a similar way in both solutions, but dbForge Studio for Oracle includes additional features, enabling you to browse a project’s logical structure with the help of the Schema View window, export projects to scripts, deploy a project to the server in a single click, use multiple build configurations, and work with the New Project Wizard which can import existing databases.
Here, PL/SQL Developer and dbForge Studio for Oracle have very similar functionality, allowing to debug both PL/SQL and scripts with the help of step-by-step execution commands, breakpoints for procedures, functions, triggers, and scripts, Call Stack window, and the Watches window for variable evaluation.
Data export and import
You will be to export data from multiple tables at once in the following
- PL/SQL Developer – CSV, XML, XLSX, HTML, TSV, SQL
- dbForge Studio for Oracle – CSV, XML, Text, XLS, XLSX, PDF, DBF, HTML, RTF, MDB (Access), ODBC, TSV, SQL
You can use the formats below to import data when working with the IDEs
- PL/SQL Developer – PL/SQL export file, SQL/SQL.zip, ODBC.
- dbForge Studio for Oracle – CSV, XML, Text, XLS, XLSX, DBF, MDB (Access), ODBC.
Also, with dbForge Studio for Oracle you can save templates for frequent import and export tasks.
When visually designing tables in any of the IDEs we’re dicussing, you can use the flat table editor and foreign key editor, view schema changes before updating the database, check the data type of new columns with the help of heuristics, and work with partitioning.
dbForge Studio’s unique feature in this regard is full-text search in the column grid, while PL/SQL Developer allows to export a selected tab.
Another very important aspect of an IDE is how extensive its features are
when it comes to working directly with objects.
The two IDEs support a similar set of object types you can work with, but dbForge Studio stands out by supporting materialized view logs and XML schemas.
As for object editing and management, PL/SQL Developer is remarkable in that it allows you to apply a single-condition filter for all objects.
In its turn, dbForge Studio for Oracle provides the ability to search schema objects based on various parameters, browse schema objects in a single editor, and, most importantly, to undo actions in the object editor, which can help avoid changes made by mistake.
Oracle export and import utilities
Both solutions support the Exp and Imp utilities and allow you to quickly access them from the Database Explorer. dbForge Studio for Oracle also has specialized Wizards for configuring the import and export procedures.
Visual query builder
An ability to visually build and manage queries is provided in both IDEs
in question, including keyboard support, query outline, and visual editing of sub-queries. The differences between dbForge Studio and PL/SQL Developer are as follows:
PL/SQL Developer allows you to work with query statistics.
dbForge Studio provides an informative printable diagram, allows to visually add sub-queries to any part of the main query, create complex conditions with the help of the expression builder, copy and paste tables in the diagram, undo and redo actions, and zoom the diagram to any required level.
Visual query profiler
This feature helps you detect code performance bottlenecks by providing
detailed session statistics, query plans displayed in a tree, and a profiling history that can be printed or saved for further analysis.
dbForge Studio for Oracle adds a feature that allows you to compare profiling result and view the differences highlighted, while PL/SQL Developer can display profiling results in different formats.
Schema comparison and synchronization
Both PL/SQL Developer and dbForge Studio for Oracle provide basic comparison and synchronization capabilities for data, objects, and structure, with the ability to generate data synchronization scripts.
However, dbForge Studio goes further and adds the following functionality:
- Support for custom comparison keys;
- BLOB data comparison;
- Filtering comparison results;
- Viewing data differences for individual records;
- Excluding tables and records from synchronization;
- Saving and loading comparison settings;
- Command line interface for data comparison and synchronization;
- Generating comparison reports in HTML and Excel formats.
Schema export and import
On this point, the IDEs in question differ quite a lot.
PL/SQL Developer allows to export Oracle object definition schemas without data and save each schema object in a separate file while exporting.
dbForge Studio for Oracle provides comprehensive database schema export and import wizards, the ability to reverse-engineer object DDL (including roles and permissions to recreate objects in a different database or schema), work with schema export projects, compress export output files, log errors and status, and automate schema export with the help of the command line interface.
Both dbForge Studio for Oracle and PL/SQL Developer have a built-in visual
database designer that can visualize tables, views, and stored procedures, provide easy access to database objects to manage and edit them, give you the ability to add notes to the diagram, organize diagram shapes with containers, and export the diagram to different image formats.
dbForge Studio has many features in addition to the ones we listed above. For example, it supports IDEF1X and IE notation, provides the ability to customize the diagram appearance, and search the diagram for database objects. The Database Designer in dbForge Studio integrates with the Document Outline window so that you can navigate the diagram specifically through this window.
Both IDEs provide robust user settings, customizable window layout, tool
windows with ‘auto-hide’ and ‘float’ modes, tabbed groups for documents, and customization of toolbars.
In addition to this, dbForge Studio has a start page providing easy access to all main features of the product, various built-in UI skins, multiple customizable shortcut configurations, syntax highlight customization, and a specialized wizard for sharing common code standards and templates.
We analyzed in detail two different IDEs designed to improve your Oracle
database development and management process – dbForge Studio for
Oracle and PL/SQL Developer. Each one has its own strengths and provides unique features which aren’t present in the other IDE. However, the most noticeable difference is that dbForge Studio provides extensive code completion capabilities – a feature that PL/SQL Developer lacks.
You can take a look at these solutions at their official websites:
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