SSMS Templates

Jana Sattainathan shows some of the value of SQL Server Management Studio templates, along with an important warning:

If you do start creating your own templates, you are responsible for backing them up. To locate the folder where they are stored

  1. Open DOS command prompt
  2. Run “echo %APPDATA%”
  3. Note the base path
  4. Navigate to %AppData%\Microsoft\Microsoft SQL Server\{SQL Server Version}\Tools\Shell\Templates\Sql\

(where %AppData% is the base path from

and {SQL Server Version} = 90 for SQL 2005, 100 for SQL 2008, 110 for SQL 2012, 120 for SQL 2014 and 130 for SQL 2016)

Templates are extremely useful for day-to-day development as well as giving a handy way of generating snippets of code, like estimating row count without having to remember to join to sys.indexes, sys.objects, and sys.dm_db_partition_stats.

What Does Activity Monitor Do?

Tibor Karaszi explains each window in the Management Studio Activity Monitor:

The idea here is to show where SQL Server is waiting, “wait stats”.

It uses the same procedure as the “Waiting Tasks” diagram uses, #am_generate_waitstats, to get the information. See the above section for “Waiting Tasks” to understand the time dimension for this. For simplicity, we can say that it shows only wait stats for the past 30-60 seconds. This is important. Imagine that you had loads of a certain wait stats, but none just for the last minute. This pane can now fool you that you didn’t have any waits of that kind, just because you didn’t for the past minute. Note, though, that the “Cumulative Wait Time” column is the sum of wait in the group since SQL Server was re-started or since we last cleared the wait state (DBCC SQLPERF(“sys.dm_os_wait_stats”,CLEAR)).

In an attempt to be friendly, it will group and summarize wait stats into various groups. That would be fine if there were some documentation about which individual wait type is in each group. Also, some wait types are ignored. One of the ignored wait types is CXPACKET, another is THREADPOOL.

Activity Monitor isn’t very good, but sometimes you can’t get the good tools installed on a server and need to check something quickly.  In those cases, it’s a handy thing to know.

Plan Comparison

Max Vernon looks at plan comparison in SQL Server Management Studio:

The table has 10,000,000 rows. I’ve create a non-clustered columnstore index on the table, which I’ll talk about in a future post. I’ve included it here because it provides a succinct difference in the two plans.

To compare the plans visually, side-by-side, you need to save the first plan by right-clicking on the plan window, clicking “Save Execution Plan As…”, and specifying a filename. Next, right-click on the plan window, and choose “Compare Showplan”:

I’ve only used this once or twice, but it is an interesting feature.

Managing Azure SQL Database Firewall Rules

Cedric Charlier shows how to manage Azure SQL Database firewall rules from within Management Studio:

When you create a new Azure database, you usually need to open the firewall to remotely administrate or query this database with SSMS. An option is to create rules from the Azure Portal. It’s surely a convenient way to do it when you create a database but I prefer to keep a minimum of tools and when the Azure portal is not open, I prefer to not have to open it just to define a few firewall rules.

Opening the firewall with SSMS is a kind of chicken and eggs problem: to connect to your database/server, you need to open the firewall. Hopefully, SSMS has a great suite of screens to call the underlying API of Azure Portal and open the firewall for the computer running SSMS.

Cedric shows off sp_delete_firewall_rule but there’s also a corresponding sp_set_firewall_rule.

Always Encrypted Data And SSMS

Justin Goodwin shows how to view Always Encrypted data from within Management Studio:

I am now able to view the encrypted data. Why is this?

Because I am connecting to the database from the database server, I have access to the Encryption Certificate that was generated. I can verify this by opening certmgr.msc and browsing to Personal -> Certificates:

Justin then goes on to show what happens when you don’t have access to the certificate and how to provide access to another machine.

Modifying SSMS Shortcuts

Slava Murygin shows how to update shortcuts in Management Studio:

A lot of people in the Internet complain about their version of SSMS “forgot” some hot-key combinations. The oldest complain I remember was about the most useful combination “Ctrl-R”.

The reason why SSMS “forgets” is within code sharing and reusability with other Microsoft development products.
If you have that problem, most probably I have (or had in the past) installed something else from Microsoft, such as Development Studio, Data Tools etc.

It can get annoying when another tool clobbers your expected shortcuts.

Closing SSMS Tabs

Andy Mallon shows how to close a tab in SSMS and change the shortcut value:


Huzzah! This will close your query tab! Easy as pie. Also, note that CTRL+F4 is a pretty universal shortcut that works to close tabs/windows in other applications, too–including your favorite web browser. If you can switch your muscle memory away from CTRL+W to CTRL+F4, you can use that shortcut pretty much everywhere.

Click through for more information on changing shortcuts.

Show Hidden Cubes

Chris Webb explains how to show hidden Analysis Services cubes in Management Studio:

Unfortunately this doesn’t make any objects in the cube that are not visible, like measures or dimensions, visible again – it just makes the cube itself visible. However, if you’re working on the Calculations tab of the Cube Editor in SSDT it is possible to make all hidden objects visible as I show here.

Read on for the command and watch out for that caveat.

Operator Elapsed Time

Kendra Little shows off a really cool feature in SQL Server 2016 & 2014 SP2:

SQL Server now shows Actual Elapsed CPU Time and Actual Elapsed Time (duration) for each operator in an Actual Execution Plan

For SQL Server 2016 and 2014 SP2 and higher, actual execution plans contain a bunch of new information on each operator, including how much CPU they burn, how long it takes, and how much IO is done by that operator. This was a little hard to use for a while because the information was only visible in the XML of the execution plan.

Check out Kendra’s post for more details, including a couple caveats.

Parameterizing Always Encrypted Statements

Jakub Szymaszek shows off Parameterizing for Always Encrypted in SSMS 17.0:

First thing to note is that SSMS has rewritten the query as a parameterized statement. The literal, used to initialize the @SSN variable in the original query, is being passed inside a parameter, with an auto-generated name (@pdf9f37d6e63c46879555e4ba44741aa6). This allows the .NET Framework Data Provider for SQL Server to automatically detect that the parameter needs to be encrypted. The driver achieves that by calling sp_describe_parameter_encryption that prompts SQL Server to analyze the query statement and determine which parameters should be encrypted and how. Then, the driver, transparently encrypts the parameter value, before submitting the query to SQL Server for execution via sp_executesql. SQL Server can now successfully execute the query.

Read the whole thing.  Setting this up does obviate part of a benefit to using Always Encrypted:  the ability completely to lock out a database administrator from certain pieces of data.


March 2017
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