The Practical SQL Handbook

The Practical SQL Handbook
by Judith S. Bowman, Sandra L. Emerson, Marcy Darnovsky
Copyright 2001
Addison Wesley

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If you are like most visitors to this website, you have a strong interest in SQL Server, and most likely, Transact-SQL. As you probably know, Transact-SQL is a superset of the ANSI SQL standard. Code written in ANSI SQL will run under SQL Server, and on any relational database that also supports ANSI SQL. On the other hand, Transact-SQL code probably won’t run on any relational database other than SQL Server, unless of course you have avoided using any of the special features of Transact-SQL.

If you are a SQL Server developer who writes code for the internal use of your company, then using Transact-SQL, not ANSI SQL, makes a lot of sense, as it offers many features to make your job as a developer easier. But if you are a developer who must write SQL code to run on multiple databases–perhaps you work for a software vendor whose products must support multiple databases–then you have little choice but to use ANSI SQL, unless you want to write separate code for each database your product supports.

Now this gets us to the Fourth Edition of a classic book on ANSI SQL, called The Practical SQL Handbook. This book in an introductory tutorial on how to develop applications using the 1992 ANSI SQL standard, the most recent version of ANSI SQL.

What sets the book apart from other books on ANSI SQL is its clarity. Learning SQL for the first time can be difficult, and the authors have made learning SQL as easy as it can be made to be. In addition, the book is very business-oriented. By this, I mean that its approach and examples are based on the real-world, not some academic non-reality.

Here’s what the book covers.

  • SQL and Relational Database Management

  • Designing Databases

  • Creating and Filling a Database

  • Selecting Data from the Database

  • Sorting Data and Other Selection Techniques

  • Grouping Data and Reporting from It

  • Joining Tables for Comprehensive Data Analysis

  • Structuring Queries with Subqueries

  • Creating and Using Views

  • Security, Transactions, Performance, and Integrity

  • Solving Business Problems

SQL performance is mentioned in the book, although it is not covered as well as I would like it to be. But this is the norm for introductory books like this one. My favorite chapter of the book is called “Solving Business Problems.” It provides practical advice on how to deal with a multitude of real-world SQL problems.

As I mentioned earlier, the book covers SQL in a generic way, so if you develop SQL for multiple back-end databases, then you will find this book very useful. Most of the many code examples in the book work on any of the major database engines. And for those few cases where it doesn’t, the author explain the differences between the various dialects of code.

I recommend this book for anyone who programs in ANSI SQL on a daily basis, or who wants to, especially those who are still trying to master the language.


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