My Toolbox

I actually have about 3 toolboxes at home.  One is for the basic stuff like hammers, screwdrivers, wrenches, pliers and the like. Another one is for electrical work and contains my multimeter, spudger, lineman’s pliers and assorted bits like tape, switches, wire, caps… The third one is for woodworking, and contains my router bits, block plane, jigsaw bits, sandpaper and a few other wood-specific tools.  I have my go-to tools that I reach for all the time, and my special purpose implements that don’t see much daily use, but when I need them, boy are they important. Take for example, the basin wrench. I believe I’ve used that tool about 3 times since I bought it several years ago, but each time it was the perfect tool for the job. I used it recently to tighten up a loose faucet mount. Any other tool would have been far too awkward.

That got me to thinking about my professional toolbox and some of thing things that populate it.  Much like my home toolboxes, I have my daily, go-to tools, and those that get infrequent, but important use. I thought I’d share a few with you, and maybe you could get some use out of them, as well.

First, there’s my daily use tools.  These are:

  • SQL Server Management Studio
  • Microsoft Outlook
  • Microsoft OneNote
  • Google Chrome

No surprises there – basically Management Studio, email, note taking and the internet.  However, some of my special purpose tools are way more interesting:

  • SQL Sentry Plan Explorer – Provided by SQL Sentry, this is my go-to tool for examining execution plans and making recommendations to developers for improving their T-SQL. Between the color-coding and the easily sortable lists of operations, It’s very easy to quickly zero in on the most expensive operations, and make big improvements.
  • Qure Workload Analyzer – Metrics are meaningless if you don’t have a baseline to compare them to. Even though profiler traces have been deprecated, I still use them quite a bit and Qure makes it dead simple to compare one trace against another, and note where things have gotten better or worse.
  • ClearTrace – When I’m not comparing traces, I’m looking for patterns in them, and ClearTrace is the tool of choice for this. While I could just dump the trace file into a table and run my own queries on it, ClearTrace has about 95% of what I need, and handles the import to table for me. If I really need custom queries for trace analysis, I can write them, but it’s rare now that I’m using this.
  • Sp_WhoIsActive – sp_who2 is soooo 2005… The new, and better proc is Adam Machanic’s sp_WhoIsActive. I have a job set up on every server I manage that runs this every 5 minutes and captures the output to a table. (30 days of retention.)  When I get that random call that goes, “Hey, do you know why the server was so slow last Wednesday around 4:00 PM?” – now I can have an answer ready.

These free tools, that’s right – free, have become a big part of my weekly, if not daily usage.

What are yours?

Thanks for reading.



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