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dbSaint by Saint Technologies Corporation


  • Summary
  • History
  • Supported OS Versions
  • Installation
  • What it does
  • Problems Solved
  • Who should use it
  • Competitive products
  • Detailed review
  • Shortcomings
  • Cost and where to buy
  • 30 July 2005
    Mark Richard



    dbSaint is a relatively new product within the Oracle Development Tool software category with a difference. Rather than trying to provide every bell and whistle, it focuses on providing core functionality at an exceptionally competitive price. This makes it a very attractive product for companies looking to rollout an Oracle Development tool across a large user base.

    The product is rapidly maturing - even during the review process many bug fixes and small enhancements were incorporated. Also impressive is the upcoming functionality, including a full PL/SQL debugger and support for non-Oracle databases - a feature that's particularly attractive if considering rollout to system testers, data analysts or multi-platform developers.

    Usefulness to DBA
    Usefulness to developers
    Functionality, how much does it do
    User interface, intuitive/friendly
    Software quality, integrity, robustness
    Documentation quality and scope
    Technical support availability
    Value for money
    Ease of integration with other tools and systems
    Overall rating

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  • History

    dbSaint is the flagship product of Saint Technologies Corporation, a company who works under the mantra of "Usable tools and services at reasonable price". dbSaint fits this mantra well - it has the majority of functionality of considerably more expensive products, and by focusing on the core functionality they have been able to keep the price of the product exceptionally competitive.

    The development for dbSaint was started in Jan 2003. Frustrated by repeated budget cuts since .com bubble burst era, one of the founders of dbSaint tried to explore the available tools market to find a product which was affordable and easy to use and which can pass the IT managers budget and ROI test. Having found none, the idea to create dbSaint was born.

    The current version of dbSaint is Version 2.2 although development for future releases is well under way, and the company has a definite vision of where to take the product, including the significant change from being Oracle specific to also supporting Microsoft's SQL Server, IBM's DB2 and MySQL. A beta release including support for SQL Server and MySQL is currently scheduled for September 2005.

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  • Supported Operating Systems and Versions

    dbSaint runs on most 32-bit Windows platforms including Windows NT, 2000 & XP. Oracle Database server versions 8i, 9i and 10g are supported currently. Work is underway to support MySQL, DB2 and SQL Server in a future release, which would make the tool particularly appealing - there are obvious cost savings and other efficiencies by being able to access and support multiple database technologies via a single application.

    Diskspace and physical RAM requirements for the application are insignificant - fully installed the application takes 9MB of disk and when initially started has a memory footprint of around 20MB.

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  • Installation

    Downloading and installing dbSaint is quick and easy. Registration before download is entirely optional. A single 8MB zip-file is downloaded and after extracting the file a set-up program starts a wizard-based installation. There is no need to restart the computer after installation.

    When initially downloaded the product has a 90-day trial key already configured. For personal, educational and charitable use a free permanent key is also available simply by requesting it. Switching keys (trial, non-commercial, commercial) is a simple matter of placing the appropriate key-file in the programs installed directory.

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  • What it does

    dbSaint provides a combined query-tool, application-development and database-administration environment for Oracle users. The application focuses on the core activities people are likely to want and omits some of the rarely used functionality - the benefit of doing so is two-fold: The price is kept down, and the application is less cluttered and therefore easy to use.

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  • Problems Solved

    dbSaint provides an integrated development and administration environment for Oracle databases. It focuses on providing the core functionality from similar competing products, such as TOAD, in a much more competitively priced package.

    The product is ideally suited for environments where a large number of users require direct access to Oracle, such as developers, testers and analysts. The reduced complexity makes it easier to use and the reduced price makes it much more viable for large-scale deployment. Having said this, the majority of DBAs and advanced database programmers would find that dbSaint meets the majority of their requirements on a day-to-day basis.

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  • Who should use it?

    The product is well suited to Developers, DBAs and Data Analysts. It has full SQL editing functionality, PL/SQL development functionality, Schema Browsing and Session Management, as well as several other less-used components. Only the most demanding of Oracle environments would find dbSaint to be limiting in terms of functionality - and even in these environments only a handful of individuals would be working at that level.

    As mentioned earlier, the product is ideal for situations where a large number of users require direct access to Oracle. Indeed, the company I primarily work for chose to deploy dbSaint amongst all application developers and system testers - only one other person and myself have needs more advanced than what this tool provides. A deployment of this size is financially prohibitive for most competing products and dbSaint appears to be the only product with the correct mix of functionality and affordability for our needs. Furthermore, when dbSaint introduces support for other database technologies then staff can use the same tool regardless of the application/database being worked on - increasing productivity and further reducing software costs.

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  • Competitive products

    dbSaint competes in an ever-growing market space. This market space is difficult to accurately define however, because some tools focus on development activities, some focus on data manipulation and others focus on administrative tasks. dbSaint is one of several tools that operate across all of these categories without a specific focus. Keeping that in mind, the following products compete with dbSaint in at least one (and sometimes all) of these categories:

    TOAD - Quest Software ( Orafaq review )
    RapidSQL - Embarcadero ( Orafaq review )
    SQLNavigator - Quest ( Orafaq review )
    SQL Programmer 2001 for Oracle - BMC (recently purchased from Sylvain Faust) ( Orafaq review )
    ManageIT SQL-Station - CA (Computer Associates)
    Expediter/SQL - Compuware
    PL/SQL Developer - Allround Automation ( Orafaq review )
    Golden, PL Edit, GoldView, GoldLoad - Benthic Software (shareware)
    EZSQL - John Dorlon( Orafaq review )
    Keeptool (Hora, ER-Diagrammer, PL/SQL-Debugger)

    When the support for SQL Server and MySQL is introduced the number of competing products will drop dramatically, depending of course on your specific needs.

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  • Detailed review

    dbSaint covers the functionality most often required by developers and analysts, and branches into areas typically reserved for DBAs as well. The core areas of functionality include Schema Browsing, Query Editing and Execution, Stored Procedure Editing, Session Management, Basic DBA features (Privileges, Control Files, Parameters, Object Creation, etc) and some miscellaneous utilities (FTP, File Comparison, etc).

    SQL Editor
    The SQL Editor splits the window into two sections. The top half is used for query entry and the bottom section can display either: Data, Explain Plan, Autotrace, Script Output or DMBS Output information. The behaviour of this window is similar to many other products in the marketplace, which makes it very easy to be productive with a minimum of re-learning. All standard editing functions are provided, including opening and saving files, cut/copy/paste, converting case and search & replace.

    Query result sets can be exported to a variety of target formats including the ever-popular MS Excel, Text, XML and others. In fact, the export feature is particularly well implemented and very flexible.

    dbSaint SQL Editor

    dbSaint's SQL Editor

    Schema Explorer
    The schema explorer within dbSaint allows users to navigate within the chosen database viewing all the common object types such as Tables, Users, Materialized Views, Clusters, etc (20 different types in fact). A split pane window presents the list of chosen object types on the left, whilst the right-hand side dynamically adjusts to a series of sub-tabs appropriate for the chosen object. This provides a quick way of accessing a wealth of information.

    In addition to this various buttons appear to provide access to appropriate functionality. For example when viewing Users buttons allow you to: Generate DDL for the selected user, Create a new user, Alter the properties of the user, Drop the user, Lock or Unlock the user and filter the list of displayed users. The various sub-tabs on the right-hand side then provide additional functionality via their own sets of buttons.

    dbSaint Schema Browser

    dbSaint's Schema Browser

    Session Explorer
    The session explorer component of dbSaint presents a hierarchical view of sessions within the database instance. The top level of the hierarchy can be changed between program, user, status, server, type and OS user - the net result is a logical grouping to suit your specific requirements. Additionally filtering can be applied to the tree to hide unnecessary session. A split pane window allows the lower half of the screen to provide detailed information for any specifically selected session, such as the current statement being executed, locks, RBS usage, waits, etc. The session explorer also provides overall lock and RBS usage information. Options to enable/disable tracing, disconnect and kill sessions completes the functionality. In summary, the Session Explorer contains every piece of functionality that you could expect to find in such a tool.

    dbSaint Session Browser

    dbSaints's Session Browser

    Procedure Editor
    There is a procedure editor provided within dbSaint, however it is not as well featured as other products. In particular, the debugging functionality, such as breakpoints, watches and step control is still being implemented. A navigator tree on the left side of the screen provides quick access to procedures and functions within packages, although does not appear to work with nested functions/procedures. Therefore, whilst the procedure editor certainly has potential it isn't currently practical for users needing to debug stored procedures, although for the occasional inspection / simple modification it would be ok.

    Other Oracle Functionality
    In addition to all of the above there is still more functionality with dbSaint. Firstly, a large number of object creation wizards are provided covering 18 different object types (Tables, Users, Rollback Segments, etc). All of these wizards provide the ability to display the SQL that would be executed based on the user input - allowing for review and retention.

    Secondly, screens are provided to display all Oracle Parameters, NLS Parameters and information about the Control Files. These windows are read-only but provide all required information, including the description associated with each parameter.

    Next, a Master/Detail Browser allows you to traverse the database by starting at one table any progressively linking to associated tables - determined by the referential integrity defined within the database. The data in each table can be updated, deleted or even inserted. The first table can have filtering and/or sorting applied to any column and subsequent detail tables can have sorting applied to them.

    Miscellaneous Utilities
    A built in FTP application is included - an invariably useful feature when working with Oracle on Unix/Linux platforms. The FTP application has all typical functions including transferring of files in ASCII and Binary, directory creation/deletion, etc.

    A file comparison utility is also included - handy for comparing sql scripts and/or data extracted from queries (amongst any other text based file you might like to compare). The comparison utility is well featured and performed well when fed a large DDL script - many comparison utilities get confused with large almost identical DDL files because of their repetitiveness and this utility only made one minor mistake.

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  • Shortcomings

    dbSaint, like any product on the market, has a few identifiable shortcomings. For example, a few icons are still missing tool-tips, although this doesn't have a significant impact on the application usability and they are being corrected when identified. Also, the Procedure Editor in its current state is limited compared to the market leading equivalents. No doubt this situation will continue to improve with each release as features become more refined and better integrated.

    Indeed, during the early stages of the review I submitted a list of minor bugs to Saint Technologies and they were all promptly dealt with. The size of the company, and the simplicity of the product, makes them particularly agile and able to react. At the same time it is important to realize that, when comparing features to purchase price, this product is particularly competitive and probably targeted at a slightly different audience - an audience which no other product appears to be directed towards.

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  • Cost and where to buy

    The purchase price of dbSaint is without a doubt one of its strongest selling points - it is in a price range that is extremely competitive and even makes large-scale deployment feasible. dbSaint is sold as a totally integrated product - there are no add-ons that must be purchased separately.

    For 1-5 users dbSaint costs $US99 per seat, 6-25 users is $US85 per seat and 26+ users is $US79 per seat. Also a site license is available for $US15,000 and a corporate (multi-site single organization) license is $US25,000. The licenses all include support and free upgrades for a 12-month period.

    Furthermore, dbSaint is totally free for personal, educational and charitable purposes - simply contact their sales team for a licence key. For corporate situations the product comes with a 90-day trial, which allows a good assessment of the product and then there is also a 90-day money back guarantee even after the product is purchased - effectively allowing a half-year trial.

    Visit the dbSaint website ( to download the trial or to purchase the product. Alternatively you can contact directly to discuss your requirements.

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  • About the Author

    Mark Richard has been working with Oracle databases for over 6 years. During this time he has worked primarily as a database developer specializing in performance tuning on both Datawarehouse and OLTP applications. He can be contacted at Mark has no connections with Saint Technologies; however the company he primarily works for has purchased dbSaint.

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