Databases are widely used by businesses to store reference data and track transactions. Websites need databases and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems need them. The Database Management System (DBMS) is the software that formats data for storage in databases and gives access to it through data retrieval methods. It is difficult to get an overview of your data through command line SQL. A graphical user interface gives you a much better way of checking the status of your database and managing it properly.
In this review, we will look at different database front ends that will help you manage your data effectively. The list here contains a range of tools that are suitable for individuals up to large organizations with dedicated DBAs.
Best database management tools
If you are starting to look around for software to meet your business needs, you are going to encounter a lot of options that have a database system as their base. Sophisticated interfaces to new database tools make it easier for anyone in the business to create and run a database – you no longer need a specialist database technician or Database Administrator.
Here is our list of the ten best database management and tools:
- Microsoft SQL Server Management Studio
- MySQL Workbench
- Sequel Pro
- Navicat for MySQL
You can read more about these options in the following sections.
RazorSQL is an extensive suite of tools that will help you run a relational database that is accessed with SQL. The suite is able to communicate with a long list of RDBMSs, including Oracle, MySQL, SQL Server, PostgreSQL, Informix, and Ingres.
The interoperability of the tool is particularly useful if you have to deal with several database types on your site. The SQL command set is not exactly the same for all RDBMSs, so you can waste time entering the wrong command format when you switch from one system to another. RazorSQL presents a GUI interface, which it then interprets into commands that get executed in the database. However, if you want to write your own scripts, the utility includes an SQL Editor, which will highlight syntax errors.
The package includes just about all of the functions that you will need in order to administer a database., including backing up data in tables. One thing that is missing from this suite is a form builder that would enable you to create front ends to give your user community safe and easy access to the database.
This is a paid tool but is very reasonably priced. You can buy the standard package which includes a year of updates and support or opt for more expensive packages with longer support periods. Another dimension in the pricing structure of RazorSQL is the number of people who will use it. The software installs on Windows, Mac OS, and Linux and you can get it on a 30-day free trial.
2. Microsoft SQL Server Management Studio
If you use SQL Server for your DBMS, you would benefit from this free tool by Microsoft. This group of utilities includes a graphical tool that enables you to design a database and decide on the tables for it. The database diagrams produced by the tool are useful as components of your project library and system documentation when you are creating a new database or adapting an existing instance.
The Object Explorer is a straightforward graphical representation of a database, showing the tables that have already been created. Template Explorer is a bundle of object creation scripts with prompts so you can enter the object names as you run them.
Solution Explorer is deprecated – it is included in the package but no longer supported. This tool creates “containers”, which bundle together views and scripts that relate to a specific object or group of linked objects.
This lightweight package doesn’t include a unifying interface, but the tools will come in useful.
3. MySQL Workbench
MySQL Workbench is a free tool developed by Oracle. The utility supports database design, development, management, and migration/backup. The software for the package runs on Windows, Mac OS, and Linux.
All of the utilities of MySQL Workbench are accessed through a unifying visual interface. If you are creating a new database, you start off with the Entity-Relationship Diagram creation tool in the package. The detail screens on this diagram enable you to define all of the requirements for the objects in the database.
The SQL Editor supports the object creation tasks of your database creation project. The Editor presents color-coding for statements and clauses, helping you see immediately whether you have made an error in syntax.
The Visual Performance Dashboard of SQL Workbench helps you check on the delivery speeds of an existing database. You can see where objects and their links need to be optimized as the contents of the database grow. The Dashboard includes attractive graphical data representations, which make problem recognition a lot easier.
The Database Migration function in the Workbench is able to manage backups. It will organize transfers of databases into MySQL sourced from other RDBMSs, including Microsoft SQL Server, Microsoft Access, Sybase ASE, and PostreSQL. Support for this tool is supplied by a user community forum.
TeamDesk is a little different from the other tools on this list. It isn’t a system that helps you manage a DBMS, it is a DBMS. The ethos of TeamDesk is that you don’t need to worry too much about how your database is organized. You create an application, such as a contact utility or an invoice creation and query screen and the tool generates a database behind the scenes to support your new screens. The tool includes a library of templates, which helps you work out the layout of your new screens. This is a great assistant that provides you with fields that you might not have thought to put on your new form.
This is a cloud-based service, so you don’t need to install any software in order to use it. You can access the system through a web browser running on any operating system. The configuration of this service and the design of the interface is organized to eradicate the need for you to employ an expert database and network administrator. This makes the tool ideal for a small enterprise, such as an individual or small partnership of owner-workers.
This online package is available in three service levels, which makes it suitable for small to mid-sized businesses. You can create new databases with a free account through the company’s website and this includes access to the template library. It is also possible to create a database by uploading a spreadsheet. This will create the structure of the database including necessary tables and populate them, as well, from the data contained in your spreadsheet. The free account is active for 14 days. Then you will need to pay for the service.
TablePlus is a graphical interface to a range of RDBMS brands. It is capable of connecting to and displaying databases written in MySQL, PostgreSQL, SQL Server, Oracle, and SQLite, among others. The software for the tool installs on Windows and Mac OS.
The interface can be adapted to different themes. The connection between the front end and your database is encrypted and you can also apply multi-level authentication to access the application. Although ease of use of the graphical user interface makes database exploration a task that non-technical staff could use, this isn’t intended as an end-user tool. It is a support facility for developers and DBAs. The SQL assistant built into the tool is an assistant to trained programmers rather than an automated script generator for untrained staff.
The data browser reads in records from a selected table, enabling you to view, edit, or delete them. An SQL editor helps you to develop scripts through color-coded statement and clause recognition. This editor includes statement formatting and an autocomplete feature.
A data management function enables you to export a database including its data and import that data back again. This is a useful assistant for backup and recovery procedures.
You can get a free trial version of the system, which has operational limits. The pricing structure is based on the number of terminals that you install the software on. The license lets you use the software forever, but the support package that is included lasts for only one year. You get a 7-day money-back guarantee.
6. Sequel Pro
Sequel Pro is only available for Macs. It installs on Mac OS 10.6 and higher. This is a free tool, but you are able to make a donation to the developers if you wish.
This tool is able to interface with MySQL databases. You can connect to any database as long as the computer it is on is accessible via the network. This is an open source project, so you can copy the source code and adapt it. If you have programming skills you could also contribute to the project and submit any improvements you make to be adapted into the core program for others to download. The software is updated every night.
The layout of the Sequel Pro window is a little like a file explorer. A left-hand pane shows all of the tables in your database and the main panel shows all of the records in the currently-selected table. You can also enter SQL queries into the interface and get the results shown in the data viewer. It is possible to use Sequel Pro to export data from your database. The tool will also import stored data back into your database, or will create the same tables in another database instance and populate it with the data that you backed up.
The phpMyAdmin utility is a free open source tool for interfacing to your MySQL or MariaDB database. This software will run on Windows and Linux. You can specify that the app enforces two-factor authentication for access control. The tool is a little complicated to set up, so it would be better as an aid to those who have technical training. The actions that the tool allows you to perform on your data also suggest that this is not a desktop application for end users in a big corporation.
You can create, alter, and remove tables and other database objects with this tool. It is also possible to manage user accounts on the database through phpMyAdmin. An SQL editor enables you to develop and execute your own scripts in the database. Other functions include the ability to export the entire database to file through the tool – it will also guide you through importing the instance back in from those files.
8. Navicat for MySQL
Navicat for MySQL is a paid tool that runs on Windows, Linux, and Mac OS. It can connect to the ideal solution for MySQL and MariaDB databases. Another tool by Navicat can connect to PostgreSQL and Navicat Premium will manage a wide range of RDBMSs, including MySQL, MariaDB, PostgreSQL, Oracle, and SQL Server, and administration and development.
The Navicat for MySQL tool can also connect to cloud-based databases, such as Google Cloud, Oracle Cloud, Amazon RDS, and Microsoft Azure. This tool supports the creation of database objects as well as the management of data in those tables.
A navigation panel to the left of the GUI window lists the different object types that you can access with the tool. Whichever you select, a list of all of those objects appears in the main screen. Click on an entry to drill down and get details of that object and (in the case of tables) the data it contains. The utility also includes a database design screen to help you create or replan a database.
The interface allows you to connect to two instances simultaneously and contains functions to enable objects to be synchronized between the two. This is a great help for replicating databases and restoring them.
You can get a 14-day free trial of Navicat for MySQL.
SQLyog is an administration tool for MySQL databases and it runs on Windows. The tool is a useful aid to administration because it can export and import databases. You can schedule backups of your database to occur overnight. It is also possible to use SQLyog in order to synchronize between two versions of the same database. Thus, you can mirror your databases for instant recovery, or in order to maintain a test database.
This utility’s strengths lie in its abilities to analyze existing databases and improve their configurations. It won’t give you advice on normalization, but it will examine the indexes in your database and identify those that conflict. It will also examine your SQL statements and recommend how they could be improved to enhance the speed that results are returned.
The features of this tool are very sophisticated, and it is aimed at database administrators. However, its ease of use makes it a good option for individuals running a database without extensive training. It is a useful facility to close your skills gap. This tool is charged for per user. It is available on a 14-day free trial.
Knack isn’t just a database analysis tool, but an entire DBMS. This is a cloud-based service that stores your database for you. So, you have two options; you could either use this service to back up your onsite database and optimize it, and copy down the improved database back to your home database server, or you could do away with your on-premises database entirely.
A backup service is built into a Knack subscription. The company creates mirrors of your database onto multiple sites to ensure that a catastrophe at its main data center wouldn’t lose your data. Whether or not the continuity of this service is enough to provide you with recoverability is a risk that you would have to assess yourself.
This is a very good solution for small businesses. It includes templates for your database front ends, which include maps, credit card processing, input and query forms, and reports. You can also interface it to well-known apps, such as MailChimp and Dropbox.
The service is charged for on a monthly subscription with three plan levels, which makes it suitable for businesses of all sizes. Knack is available on a 14-day free trial.