There’s a feature in SQL Server Management Studio called the “Database Designer”, and it’s a strange beast indeed. It’s a mix between a graphical database design tool and an Entity Relationship Diagram (ERD). Unfortunately, I don’t think it does either one of those things very well. You can find complaints galore on many blog sites, and also on http://connect.microsoft.com. There don’t seem to be any plans to change it soon.

But I still use it. Why? Well, for one thing –it’s all I’ve got!  Sure, I could buy something else that creates a proper ERD, or helps me design a database better. Visio used to be able to work well for this, but the “Professional” version will let you create a diagram but then not implement it or print out any details! (What’s THAT about?). The Enterprise edition of Visio will let you create a database, but it’s older and not everyone can afford all that just to do a database. Ditto with commercial tools.

So, I still use the tool. There are a couple of tricks I do, however that make the tool, at least a little more useful. For one thing, I add a lot of annotations on the screen, so that I can explain what’s going on. I would rather have the full IDEF1X syntax, but you use what you have. I also right-click and set a “Custom” view, and one of the columns I include is “Description”. This column will actually set an extended property called MS_Description that I’ve written about in the past.

So it isn’t a complete waste – it’s a way to communicate graphically about the design to the business and the developers.