Information and Other Goodies

Tuesday Jun 28th 2005 by DatabaseJournal.com Staff

Part 3 of this series covers a mixed bag of features that make .NET developers more productive when programming to a DB2 UDB database.

by Paul C. Zikopoulos

In Part 1 of this series, I covered the IBM Explorer and its unique features that help .NET application developers write applications for the IBM DB2 Universal Database (DB2 UDB) product family. In Part 2, I introduced you to a set of schema creation wizards that let you point-and-click your way to database objects with extra features that make this process easier than ever.

The DB2 UDB add-in for Microsoft Visual Studio .NET also comes with a set of information, troubleshooting, and accessibility features that allow developers to quickly diagnose and solve database-specific issues, and get the information they need at their fingertips. In this article, I will cover a mixed bag of features that make .NET developers more productive when programming to a DB2 UDB database.

Access to Help

The DB2 UDB add-in for Visual Studio.NET comes with searchable, native, and context-sensitive help. To be blunt, we are not going to ask developers that use Visual Studio.NET to launch a DB2 UDB server tool to get quick access to the information that they need. In fact, if you cannot find the information you are looking for right in the IDE, we know the next place you are going to look (the Internet) and we have taken care of that as well. (More on that in a bit.)

The following figure shows the native help integration that is added to Visual Studio.NET when you install the DB2 UDB add-in:

Microsoft developers have a passion for the productivity they get out of the Visual Studio .NET IDE - and with good reason - it is a great tool. As I said before, IBM understands that Microsoft developers want to remain in their IDE to accomplish their work.

When developers leave their IDE, if they are not going for a cup of coffee, chances are they are going to some sort of instant messaging software such as MSN Messenger, or to a Web browser like Internet Explorer. To accommodate these habits, IBM hooked up all the DB2 UDB help such that when you perform a Google search on DB2 UDB information - chances are more than likely that the online documentation will come up first in your search list, as in the following example:

What's more, since this help is hosted online, you can use your browser's language settings to transparently switch between languages:

DB2 UDB for .NET Knowledge Domains

There are a number of knowledge domains available that are chock full of articles, tutorials, scripts, and more.

For example, IBM has its own developerWorks Web site with topic-specific domains for all kinds of programming paradigms, technologies, and more. The Visual Studio .NET zone (shown below) is available at: www-128.ibm.com/developerworks/db2/zones/vstudio/.

And while you might expect IBM to host such a site, it is interesting to note that other development resource domains have been springing up with zones devoted to DB2 UDB and .NET - a testament to the growing number of developers using this technology with DB2 UDB. For example, the popular DevX Web site (shown below) has a showcase for DB2 UDB and .NET available at: www.devx.com/IBMDB2/Door/21980?trk=Stinger%5FFeatPart.

DB2 UDB Instance Control

DB2 UDB for Windows comes with a system tray tool (shown below) that allows you to stop and start your DB2 UDB instances from a desktop GUI tool. (It is somewhat similar to the SQL Server Service Manager.) You can invoke this tool using the db2systray.exe command; it will default to start each time you start the Windows operating system.

This instance control tool can also be used to pre-launch the DB2 Control Center for faster startup of the management interface for DB2 UDB - but this is more likely to be used by a database administrator (DBA) than a developer. This tool is shown below (it is the green icon in the taskbar, and yes, I know I am running out of battery power):

by Paul C. Zikopoulos

DB2 Updates

When it comes to development environments, drivers, and APIs - being up-to-date is critical to optimal performance. To ensure that you have access to a rich continuum of tools, I recommend that .NET developers have their clients and databases at the DB2 UDB Version 8.2.2 level, which lets you use concurrent data readers to access more than one result set in the same database connection and query both of those result sets concurrently. You need to host a DB2 UDB environment at the V8.2 level or later to take advantage of many of the features I have outlined in this series.

So what is an easy way to keep your development systems up-to-date? The DB2 UDB add-in for Visual Studio .NET includes an option from the Help menu that lets you check the Web for DB2 UDB updates, as shown below:

This option launches an updater service that not only informs you of updates available for download, but also acts as a news feeder for DB2 UDB-related information.

Debugging Your Routines

The DB2 UDB add-in for Visual Studio includes integrated debugging of stored procedures. While IBM has its own distributed debugger, the Visual Studio .NET debugger has been extended to support the backend DB2 SQL debugger. This allows you to use the Visual Studio.NET debugger to step through your code, set line or variable breakpoints, view variable values (including SQLSTATE and SQLCODE), change variable values, view call stack information for nested procedures, and switch between different procedures on the call stack. This affords developers a powerful debugging environment that they are accustomed to for their DB2 UDB business logic.

An example of this integrated debugger is shown below:

The DB2 UDB SQL Editor

The DB2 UDB add-in comes with a DB2 SQL editor that understands the DB2 UDB SQL API. If you have read any other of the articles in this series, you have seen this feature utilized in other features like the DB2 Create View wizard and the DB2 Create SQL Procedure wizard. The DB2 SQL editor is composed of extensions to the native Visual Studio .NET editor with customizations for DB2 UDB.

The DB2 SQL editor provides support for syntax highlighting, which is basically colorized SQL. It also supports DB2 SQL statement completion via .NET Intellisense; the object names lookup uses schemas followed by a dot, the column names lookup uses tables or views followed by a dot, and the parameter list lookup uses procedures or functions followed by an open bracket.

The DB2 SQL editor is shown below:

In addition to this, you can create code fragments that are collapsible and expandable, as shown in the following figure:

There are a number of other scripting options, some of which are shown in the preceding figure.

The DB2 UDB Output Message Pane

To help developers quickly diagnose build failures that are due to database-specific issues, IBM has also included an output message pane solely designed for DB2 UDB database message reporting:

Wrapping it all up

In this part of the series, I took you through a number of features that help speed up application development. You have seen easier ways to start instances, get DB2 UDB help, identify database errors, troubleshoot your routines, debug, and more.

Are you ready to try it out for yourself? Get a free trial copy of a DB2 UDB for Windows server at: www.ibm.com/software/data/db2/udb/support/downloadv8.html. You can also get a free copy of DB2 UDB Personal Edition for development purposes at: www.software.ibm.com/webapp/download/search.jsp?go=y&rs=db2udbpde.

About the Author

Paul C. Zikopoulos, BA, MBA, is an award-winning writer and speaker with the IBM Database Competitive Technologies team. He has more than nine years of experience with DB2 products and has written numerous magazine articles and books about it. Paul has co-authored the books: DB2 Version 8: The Official Guide, DB2: The Complete Reference, DB2 Fundamentals Certification for Dummies, DB2 for Dummies, and A DBA's Guide to Databases on Linux. Paul is a DB2 Certified Advanced Technical Expert (DRDA and Cluster/EEE) and a DB2 Certified Solutions Expert (Business Intelligence and Database Administration). Currently he is writing a book on the Apache Derby/IBM Derby database. You can reach him at: paulz_ibm@msn.com.


IBM, DB2, DB2 Universal Database, and developerWorks are trademarks or registered trademarks of International Business Machines Corporation in the United States, other countries, or both.

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Copyright International Business Machines Corporation, 2005. All rights reserved.


The opinions, solutions, and advice in this article are from the author's experiences and are not intended to represent official communication from IBM or an endorsement of any products listed within. Neither the author nor IBM is liable for any of the contents in this article. The accuracy of the information in this article is based on the author's knowledge at the time of writing.

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