Yes, finally SQL Server 2005 Express Beta 1 has been released !
SQL Express is the new name for Microsoft's MSDE database, the (free) light-weight database version of SQL Server.  SQL Express uses the same high-performance database engine as the other versions of SQL Server 2005. In fact, it is differentiated from the rest of the SQL Server 2005 editions only by the following:
   -
Lack of enterprise features support
   -
Limited to one CPU
   -
One GB memory limit for the buffer pool
   -
Databases have a 4GB maximum size

Download SQL Express Beta 1 here: http://lab.msdn.microsoft.com/express/sql/

 

Ok, so I installed SQL Express Beta 1 on my machine and started playing with it. One of the first things you'll notice is... there's no UI (yet).

The UI options for SQL Express include Express Manager (XM) and Computer Manager. SQL Express Manager (XM) will be available with Beta 3 of SQL Server later this year.  However, we'll try to get a preview release out sometime this fall. Computer Manager is available with the current Beta 1 build however.

 

So onto the Command Prompt ! (wooohooo)

SQLCMD.exe will be your friend to explore the Beta 1 build of SQL Express. Here's how:

- Open a Command Prompt

- SQLCMD -E -S servername\instancename  (e.g.  SQLCMD -E -S guntherb01\sqlexpress)

- select name from sys.databases

- go

 

You'll find a list of the default databases in your SQL Express installation (master, tempdb, model, msdb). However, no sample databases - nothing !

 

So here's an (unofficial) tip to get some sample data in SQL Express (finally, this post is way to long) :-)
   - Download and install Pubs & NWind T-SQL scripts:
http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=06616212-0356-46a0-8da2-eebc53a68034&DisplayLang=en

   - SQLCMD -S servername\instance -E (or -U sa -P password)

   - :r "C:\Program Files\Microsoft SQL Server 2000 Sample Database Scripts\instpubs.sql"

   - :r "C:\Program Files\Microsoft SQL Server 2000 Sample Database Scripts\instnwnd.sql"

To verify you have successfully loaded the db's :
- select name from sys.databases
- go
- Use pubs
- select * from authors
- go

Note that these T-SQL scripts were designed for SQL2000 (hence unsupported), but hey, they seemed to run perfectly on my SQL Express machine.

Now start enjoying SQL Express 2005 beta 1 !!!