11 June 2011

SQuirreL - a competent but low user experience SQL GUI

I have on and off used SQuirreL. It is cross-plattform cross-database SQL GUI. Well, the cross-database is limited to JDBC drivers, but it covers most databases (including H2 and Mysql). The software is written in java so it will probably execute on any plattform, although I have only used it on Windows.

The most common operation I want with a tool like this is the ability to look and edit table data. SQuirreL can do this, and this for free.

But the problem with this software is that it is hard to use. I will give three examples why it is hard to use, but there are more things so be prepared to invest a little bit of time to use it.
  1. Installer privileges
    The installer program is made with IzPack. It is easy to run the jar file just by double click on it. However a Windows user quickly realises that the installer does not run with elevated privileges so the program cannot be installed in c:\Program Files\. I have seen other IzPack installers that detects this and tried to elevate the privileges via Windows UAC feature. Why doesn't this installer doesn't do this? I had to manually start cmd with elevated privileges and run java -jar squirrel-sql-3.2.1-install.
  2. Manual installing of drivers
    JDBC driver are standardized so it is easy to implement a software to use them. But I had to manually installs my database drivers and put them in C:\Program Files (x86)\squirrel-sql-3.2.1\lib folder. Why why why? If distribution of drivers is a license issue, please add an automatic download feature in the installer that does this.
  3. How to add a new row in a table?
    I spent some time to find out how to add a row to a table. I tried to right click on a gray (blank) area in the table listing. But no luck. The solution: right click in the contents (table contents) are and a pop up menu is shown a it is possible to select "Insert Row". When you do this a hard to use row editor visualizes.


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