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Getting Started With Project Houston: Part 1

Getting Started With Project Houston: Part 1

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Microsoft Project Code-Named “Houston” (Houston) is a light weight database management tool for SQL Azure. Houston can be used for basic database management tasks like authoring and executing queries, designing and editing a database schema, and editing table data. Currently, Houston is its first community technology preview (CTP), the instructions and screen shots shown in this blog post are from the CTP version of Houston. In this blog post I am going to show how to get started using Houston.

Houston is a web based, Silverlight application, when means that you can access and use it from any web browser that supports Silverlight (for a list see this web page), anywhere you have an Internet connection. Houston isn’t software that you install, however Silverlight is. You first need to have Silverlight installed to use Houston. If you don’t have it installed, you will be prompted to install it when you access Houston for the first time.

You can start using Houston by going to: https://manage.sqlazurelabs.com/. SQL Azure labs is the location for projects that are either in CTP or incubation form. The URL will probably change on release.

Logging In

Currently for the CTP you need to enter your SQL Azure server, database, administrative login and password to when logging in.

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Remember, Houston is a Silverlight application, it is running locally client side on your computer. It is not a web application, but it does communicate with web services hosted within Windows Azure.

The Start Page

Once you are logged in you are presented front and center with the start page. The start page consists of a rotating cube that displays information about the database you choose to access. One thing to note is that Houston only allows you to manage one database in the browser windows. If you want to manage more than one database, use the tabs on your browser to open more than one instance of Houston.

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Click on the arrows to rotate through the spinning box, make sure to say “oh” and “ah” as it rotates.

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On the help page, note the links to the Houston videos that will give you further help.

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Navigation

At the top of the application is a toolbar that changes depending what is being displayed in the main tab pane.

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The database toolbar appears like this:

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The table toolbar changes to look like this:

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You can jump back to the database toolbar at any time by clicking on the Database link at the top left of the application, regardless of whether you are done working within the current tab.

One thing to note is that Houston maintains the state of your current changes as you navigate between different tabs. If you modify a table, then open another one without saving your change, you change is not lost. The application indicates that the table/tab needs to be saved by writing a pencil icon inside the tab.

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If you try to exit the application you are warned that there are changes that need to be saved, so that you don’t lose your work

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The change tracking that Houston performs is a nice touch that allows you to work on several tables and their corresponding stored procedures at the same time. Because it feels like you are using a HTML application, it might not feel like change tracking would be in place, however the functionality is very similar to SQL Server Management Studio.

Just a reminder, Houston is in CTP. Because of this, there will be various bugs in the product still, like the spelling error in the dialog above. I reported it already via Microsoft Connect and we would appreciate your bug reports and feedback on this product.

Feedback or Bugs?

This release of Project “Houston” is not supported by standard Microsoft support services. For community-based support, post a question to the SQL Azure Labs MSDN forums. The product team will do its best to answer any questions posted there.

To log a bug about Project “Houston” in this release, use the following steps:

  1. Navigate to Https://connect.microsoft.com/SQLServer/Feedback.
  2. You will be prompted to search our existing feedback to verify your issue has not already been submitted.
  3. Once you verify that your issue has not been submitted, scroll down the page and click on the orange Submit Feedback button in the left-hand navigation bar.
  4. On the Select Feedback form, click SQL Server Bug Form.
  5. On the bug form, select Version = Houston build CTP 1 - 10.50.9610.34.
  6. On the bug form, select Category = Tools (Houston).
  7. Complete your request.
  8. Click Submit to send the form to Microsoft.

To provide feedback about Project “Houston” in this release, use the following steps:

  1. Navigate to Https://connect.microsoft.com/SQLServer/Feedback.
  2. You will be prompted to search our existing feedback to verify your issue has not already been submitted.
  3. Once you verify that your issue has not been submitted, scroll down the page and click on the orange Submit Feedback button in the left-hand navigation bar.
  4. On the Select Feedback form, click SQL Server Suggestion Form.
  5. On the bug form, select Category = Tools (Houston).
  6. Complete your request.
  7. Click Submit to send the form to Microsoft.

If you have any questions about the feedback submission process or about accessing the portal, send us an e-mail message: sqlconne@microsoft.com.

Summary

This is just the beginning of our Microsoft Project Code-Named “Houston” (Houston) blog posts, make sure to subscribe to the RSS feed to be alerted as we post more information.

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