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The Raptor Has Landed: Using Oracle's New Free PL/SQL IDE

Although not as full-featured as some commercial tools, version 1.0 of SQL Developer, Oracle's free PL/SQL development IDE, is complete enough to use as the development platform for a complex PL/SQL project.

racle recently released version 1.0 of SQL Developer, its free PL/SQL development IDE. Formerly known as Project Raptor, Oracle SQL Developer is based on the same IDE platform as JDeveloper (known internally at Oracle as the "Fusion Client Platform"), and it feels like a cross between the SQL Worksheet tool and a stripped-down version of JDeveloper. In fact, Oracle will stop supporting its standalone SQL Worksheet client in favor of SQL Developer, and post-10.1.3 JDeveloper releases will include SQL Developer functionality.

Although it is a new tool, SQL Developer's use of a mature IDE platform gives it a stability, usability, and attention to detail that I've rarely found in version 1.0 releases. While test driving the tool for this review, I encountered fewer problems with SQL Developer hangs and crashes than I've had with many expensive commercial products in this category—despite an array of capabilities including:

  • All panes are dockable pretty much anywhere you would want them.
  • Editing panes can be split.
  • Tabs can be grouped however you like.
  • The help is well integrated into the application.

True, SQL Developer is not as full-featured as some commercial tools like PL/SQL Developer and Toad. However, with a SQL worksheet, code editor, object creation and editing GUIs, and debugger, it's complete enough to use as the development platform for a complex PL/SQL project. Besides, it's only the 1.0 release and it's free.

What SQL Developer may lack in features, it makes up for with one advantage over many of its competitors: it is multi-platform. Since it's written in Java, the same tool runs on Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X. Mac OS X particularly is underserved in this market, and SQL Developer could well displace Aqua Data Studio as the best Oracle development tool for that operating system—for those with sufficiently powerful machines to run it.

Installation in an Instant

Installing SQL Developer couldn't be easier. Make sure that your PC meets the minimum requirements for your platform (see the "Oracle SQL Developer Installation Guide"), and then follow these simple steps:
  1. Download the software from the Oracle SQL Developer homepage. Non-Windows users who don't already have the appropriate JDK on their machines will need to download and install the JDK first.
  2. Extract the .zip to the desired location.
  3. Open the "sqldeveloper" folder and run "sqldeveloper."

An existing oracle_home is NOT required. You don't need to have any other Oracle products—including Oracle client software—installed on your machine. You don't need to set any environment variables or anything in the registry either. Simply download, unzip, click, and run.

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