The Quickest Way To Get SQL Command Help

Formula One …. F1 …. Photo by Jp Valery on Unsplash

Every once in a while I discover a SQL Server Management Studio trick that’s apparently been around forever but is completely new to me.

Today I want to point out one of those features that had me thinking “how did I not know about this before”:

The F1 keyboard shortcut.

Prefer video?  Watch this week’s tip on my Youtube channel.

To use it, highlight a command or function that you want to know more information about and then press F1.  Simple as that.

Pressing F1 brings up the Microsoft online documentation for that keyword/function, making it the fastest way of getting to Microsoft’s online documentation.  You’ll solve your own questions faster than a coworker can tell you “to google it.”
Most recently I’ve been using the F1 shortcut in the following scenarios:
  • Can’t remember the date/time style formats when using CONVERT?  Highlight CONVERT and press F1: BOOM! All date and time style codes appear before you.
  • Need to use some option for CREATE INDEX and don’t remember the syntax?  Just highlight CREATE INDEX and press F1!  Everything you need is there.
  • Do you remember if BETWEEN is inclusive or exclusive?  F1 knows.  Just press it.

You get the idea.

Assuming you use the online Microsoft docs 10 times per day, 250 days a year, and each time it takes you 10 seconds to open a browser and search for the doc…

( 10/day * 250/year * 10 sec ) / 60 sec / 60 min = 6.94 hours saved.  Your welcome.

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10 Questions To Spark Conversation At Your Next SQL Event

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Here’s a word for word transcription of a conversation I’ve had a hundred times over:

“Hi I’m Bert.  What do you do?”

“I’m ____ and I’m a SQL developer.”

“That’s cool, me too.”

*crickets*

*I look down at phone because I don’t know what to talk about*

Sound familiar?

In the next few weeks, you might find yourself at a conference like PASS Summit or SQLintersection.  If not a conference, then maybe a local user group, meetup, or SQL Saturday.

Inevitably you will find yourself surrounded by strangers.  Strangers who you know share common interests with you (SQL, duh!).

But if you are like me, starting a meaningful conversation with those strangers can be uncomfortable.  Most people have interesting stories to share, the challenge is to get them to talk about them.

The good news is that I’ve developed an easy way to get a conversation started with the people you just met:

Come prepared with interesting open-ended questions.

Prefer watching on YouTube?  Go ahead!  Otherwise, keep reading below.

I keep a memorized list of open-ended questions that I can ask whenever I don’t know how to keep the conversation going.  Try asking any of these questions the next time you don’t know what to say (and reciprocate by sharing your own fun story); I guarantee these will spark some interesting conversations.

1. “What’s your best SQL Server war story?”

We’ve all been in the trenches and have had to play the hero.

2. “What are your thoughts on EntityFramework/ORMs?”

If you ever want to get a table full of SQL DBAs going, this will do it.

3. “What’s the oldest version of SQL Server you are still stuck supporting?”

Although this one elicits a one-word response, the next easy follow-up is “why/how!?”

4. “What was your biggest “oops” moment?”

Backups were corrupt?  Yeahhhhh….

5. “What’s the most recent feature you started using in SQL Server 2014/2016/2017? How is it?”

I love hearing people’s answers to this because it’s a good way to figure out what new features really add value and which ones are over-hyped/limited in functionality.

6. “Are you using <feature you are interested in learning>?  How is it?”

Similar to #5, this is a great way to get real-world feedback about certain features.

7. “What’s your favorite session from today/this week?  What did you like most about it?”

I love finding out what sessions other people found useful – once again, real world reviews on what I should check out in the future.

8. “Have you been to <city> before? Do you have any recommendations for what I should do/see/eat?”

Great way to get to know the surrounding area without having to read reviews online.

9. “Do you use PowerShell or any other software to automate/do dev ops?”

PowerShell is the future.  Start learning how others are incorporating it into their environments, what struggles they’ve had implementing automated processes, etc…

10. “Are there any other events going on tonight?”

Especially great if talking to people who have attended the event before.  Find out what’s worth going to, if it’s better to show up early or late, is there a “best seat” in the house, etc…

I hope this list of questions encourages you to become better acquainted with your fellow conference goers.  And if I see you at PASS Summit…don’t be surprised if you hear me ask you one of these questions!

Thanks for reading. You might also enjoy following me on Twitter.

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How to Make SQL Server Act Like A Human By Using WAITFOR

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You probably tune your queries for maximum performance.  You take pride in knowing how to add indexes and refactor code in order to squeeze out every last drop your server’s performance potential.  Speed is usually king.

That’s why you probably don’t use SQL Server’s WAITFOR command regularly – it actually makes your overall query run slower.

However, slowness isn’t always a bad thing.  Today I want to show you two of my favorite ways for using the WAITFOR command.

You can also watch this week’s content on my YouTube channel.

1. Building A Human

Modern day computers are fast.  CPUs perform billions of actions per second, the amount of RAM manufactures can cram onto a stick increases regularly, and SSDs are quickly making disk I/O concerns a thing of the past.

While all of those things are great for processing large workloads, they move computers further and further away from “human speed”.

But “human speed” is sometimes what you want.  Maybe you want to simulate app usage on your database or the load created by analysts running ad hoc queries against your server.

This is where I love using WAITFOR DELAY – it can simulate humans executing queries extremely welll:

Throw in some psuedo-random number generation and some IF statements, and you have a fake server load you can start using:

2. Poor Man’s Service Broker

Service Broker is a great feature in SQL Server.  It handles messaging and queuing scenarios really well, but requires more setup time so I usually don’t like using it in scenarios where I need something quick and dirty.

Instead of having to set up Service Broker to know when some data is available or a process is ready to be kicked off, I can do the same with a WHILE loop and a WAITFOR:

Fancy? No.  Practical? Yes.

No longer do I need to keep checking a table for results before I run a query – I can have WAITFOR do that for me.

If you know there is a specific time you want to wait for until you start pinging some process, you can incorporate WAITFOR TIME to make your checking even more intelligent:

Thanks for reading. You might also enjoy following me on Twitter.

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