SQL Server Books Online: A Primer for New Users

What’s New and How to Get the Most Out of It

This article is for new users of SQL Server. I have been using SQL Server since 1997. In that time, I have seen the many changes that have occurred since the initial release of SQL Server version 4.2. Each new release is a thrill for every enthusiastic individual who works with Microsoft tools day-to-day. The release of SQL Server 2005 and Visual Studio 2005 is no exception. It includes a wide variety of useful tools for database administrators and developers.

Source: Microsoft

As you may know, the Community Technology Preview (CTP) program lets users experience the product before the Release to Manufacturing (RTM) version goes out. Whenever a new tool has been added to SQL Server there must be a manual available for it in the CTP. Since the release of SQL Server 6.5, Microsoft has been utilizing and fine-tuning most of the documentation.

I’m a big fan of SQL Server Books Online (BOL). It has helped me a lot and I have saved a fair amount of time that I would have spent searching through books or on the Web for answers.

Most SQL Server users will agree that it is surprising to see how useful Books Online has become. Many of the features of SQL Server have been documented since day one and updated regularly in BOL during the releases of service packs. For the first time user, going through BOL can be daunting. The index, however, can give you a very interesting overview of a topic and show you what is available in the current release of SQL Server.

The April 2006 update to BOL contains new material and fixes documentation problems that were reported by customers after SQL Server 2005 was released. (Refer to “New and Updated Books Online Topics” in BOL for a list.) Topics with significant updates have a change history table at the end of the topic that summarizes the changes. The April 2006 update also reflects product upgrades included in SQL Server 2005 Service Pack 1 and includes tutorials for SQL Server 2005. An “additional information” section provides information on SQL Server 2005 Express edition.

BOL includes the following types of information:

  • Setup and upgrade instructions.
  • Information about new features and backward compatibility.
  • Conceptual descriptions of the technologies and features in SQL Server 2005.
  • Procedural topics describing how to use the various features in SQL Server 2005.
  • Tutorials that guide you through common tasks.
  • Reference documentation for the graphical tools, command prompt utilities, programming languages, and application programming interfaces (APIs) that are supported by SQL Server 2005.
  • Descriptions of the sample databases and applications included with SQL Server 2005.

The operating system requirements for BOL are Windows 2000 Service Pack 4, Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1, Windows Small Business Server 2003, or Windows XP Service Pack 2. Other requirements include Microsoft .NET Framework version 2.0, Internet Explorer version 6.0 with service pack 1, and Windows Installer version 3.0.

Do not install this version of BOL on a computer running the following:

  • Any pre-release versions of Visual Studio 2005 or the .NET Framework 2.0.
  • Any SQL Server 2005 Beta release.
  • The SQL Server 2005 Community Technology Preview (CTP) June 2005 release.
  • The SQL Server 2005 CTP September 2005 release.

Remove the above from your system before installing SQL Server 2005 Books Online (April 2006).

Download the April 2006 version of BOL.

From the Windows Start menu after installation, choose Microsoft SQL Server 2005 > Documentation and Tutorials > SQL Server Books Online. After the online help loads, select SQL Server 2005 Books Online in the left-hand pane to access the documentation.

A good way to get started is by viewing the tutorials; select SQL Server 2005 Tutorials in the left-hand pane, then select SQL Server Tools from the Categories on the right.


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