The Quickest Way To Get SQL Command Help


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.

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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.

How to Put SQL Column Names Onto Multiple Lines in SSMS

A few keystrokes and BAM! A mostly formatted query

SQL in 60 Seconds is a series where I share SQL tips and tricks that you can learn and start using in less than a minute.

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Have you ever copied and pasted a query into SQL Server Management Studio and been annoyed that the list of column names in the SELECT statement were all on one line?

There are 30 columns here. Ugh.

SELECT Col1, Col2, Col3,  Col4, Col5,Col6,Col7, Col8, Col9, Col10,Col11,Col12,Col13,Col14,Col15,Col16,Col17,Col18,Col19,Col20,Col21,Col22,Col23,Col24,Col25,Col26,Col27,Col28,Col29,Col30 FROM dbo.MyTable

You can make the query easier to read by putting each column name onto its own line.

Simply open the Find and Replace window (CTRL + H) and type in ,(:Wh)* for the Find value and ,nt for the Replace value (in some versions of SSMS you may have better luck using ,(:Wh|t| )* in the Find field). Make sure "Use Regular Expressions" is checked and press Replace All:

Make sure the regular expression icon/box is checked

A few keystrokes and BAM! A mostly formatted query

The magic you just used is a Regular Expression, and Microsoft has its own flavor used in SSMS and Visual Studio. Basically, we found text that

  • began with a comma (,)
  • followed by any whitespace (:Wh) (line break, tab, space, etc…)
  • (in newer versions of SSMS we add |t| to indicate or tab or space)
  • and replaced it with a comma (,) and a new line (n) and tab (t).

Sure, this trick isn't going to give you the same output as if you used a proper SQL formatter, but this technique is free and built straight into SSMS.