The three times that the word “search” is repeated in the title of this article might seem an overkill, but what can we do? The feature itself is absolutely crucial to everyone who happens to work with databases in SQL Server Management Studio. You don’t want to be left without a way to quickly browse your databases for a required piece of data or a certain object. And since the search feature is basically absent from SSMS, you will need to enhance it with an add-in.
This is why we picked three top add-ins that help handle search in SSMS, and now we’ll have a brief overview of each.
A few words about dbForge Search
The first contender is dbForge Search for SQL Server, a free SSMS add-in that helps you easily locate SQL objects and data across your SQL Server databases. With its help, you no longer need to wade through the entire Object Explorer to locate a required column name or text in a stored procedure. Just enter your search string, whether with wildcards or not, wait a split second, and you’re there. The results can be sorted, filtered, copied—or you can instantly get to the required object in Object Explorer.
A few words about Redgate SQL Search
Our second contender is Redgate SQL Search, an SSMS/Visual Studio add-in that is generally all about the same things. You can find the required fragments of SQL in your tables, views, stored procedures, functions, jobs, and other objects. You can conduct your search across multiple databases and object types, use wildcards and boolean values in your search, as well as quickly navigate to and find all references to the objects you have found. And it is also available free of charge. In case you would like to test the solution yourself, download Redgate SQL Search.
A few words about ApexSQL Search
This is where we approach the third contender, ApexSQL Search, which is a paid tool that nevertheless comes with a free trial first. It offers text search across database objects and the data they contain, allows editing extended properties of said objects, helps out with the safe renaming of SQL objects, and conveniently visualizes object interdependencies. To check out this solution, feel free to download ApexSQL Search.
Now let’s proceed to a more detailed comparison. Here we tried to single out and compare both basic search features and some of the more advanced ones—all of them would most certainly prove to be worth your attention.
|Features||dbForge Search||Redgate SQL Search||ApexSQL Search|
|Search for an exact word match||+||+||+|
|Search with wildcards||+||+||+|
|Search across multiple databases||+||+||+|
|Search all database objects||+||+||+|
|Search all data||+||–||+|
|Search SQL jobs||–||+||–|
|Navigate to Object Explorer||+||+||+|
|Show matching data for each found object||+||–||–|
|Group search results by object type||+||–||+|
|Copy cells from the grid to clipboard||+||+||+|
|Save search results to XML, CSV, or HTML||–||–||+|
|Show the DDL of each found object||+||–||–|
|Integration with SSMS 2012, 2014, 2016||+||+||–|
|Integration with SSMS 17, 18, 2016||+||+||+|
Note: For this comparison, the following product versions were used: dbForge Search v2.6.3, Redgate SQL Search v18.104.22.16803, and ApexSQL Search v2022.01.0182.
Each of the three contenders is definitely strong; however, the two free add-ins have the advantage of offering their features for free, and there is no escaping it. Feature-wise, all of them are close, as you could see, but dbForge Search perhaps takes the cake for sheer quantity. Thus your choice is likely to depend on how convenient you will find each of these tools personally.
Speaking of dbForge Search—although you can download it for free and use it as a standalone add-in, it is typically shipped as part of dbForge SQL Tools, a bundle of 15 essential tools and SSMS add-ins that deliver the following features:
- IntelliSense-like SQL code completion
- Easy formatting with custom profiles
- Smart code refactoring with automatic correction of references to renamed objects
- Debugging of stored procedures, triggers, and functions
- Comparison and synchronization of table data and entire database schemas
- Visual query building
- Generation of meaningful test data
- Data analysis and reporting
- Generation of database documentation
- Database administration
- Server performance and event monitoring
- Integration with DevOps
These are only the main features of dbForge SQL Tools—the full list would be far longer and far more rewarding. Yet we wouldn’t want to waste much of your time, especially since SQL Tools are open for free firsthand exploration. That said, if you are interested in pushing the boundaries and expanding your capabilities in SSMS this far, you might as well check it all out yourself and download SQL Tools for a free 30-day trial.