Book review: The Guru's Guide to Transact-SQL
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Title: The Guru's Guide to Transact-SQL
Authors: Ken Henderson
Publisher: Addison-Wesley
ISBN: 0201615762
Pages: 592

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Undoubtedly, this is one of the best T-SQL books available in the market, for SQL Server developers. It received rave reviews from everyone, unanimously. The author, Ken Henderson is an experienced author/magazine contributor, and a nationally recognized consultant and DBMS practitioner and consults on high-end client/server projects for customers like US Air Force, US Navy, J. P. Morgan, etc. and is currently working for Microsoft. Foreword is written by Joe Celko and it is clear that he is impressed too.

This book is for SQL Server developers, Database Administrators (DBAs), let them be beginners or advanced. I would strongly recommend this book for anyone who has a bit of T-SQL knowledge, and are looking forward to being a Guru in T-SQL. Of course, it is difficult to become a guru, just by reading a book. But if you've got your basics right, then this book helps you with great explanations, hundreds of code samples, innovative ideas and tricks with an eye on performance.

In the Preface, the author writes "This is a coder's book. It's intended to help developers build applications that make use of Transact-SQL. It's not about database administration or design. It's not about end-user or GUI application development. It's not even about server or database performance tuning. It's about developing the best Transact-SQL code possible, regardless of the application.". This should give you a better idea on what this book has to offer!

Author wastes no space with those useless screen shots, and the book is written in a very informal language. Would you believe? Apart from information, explanations, examples and advice on mastering T-SQL, this book also offers 600 code samples, that you can incorporate into your own real-world DBMS applications! Go for it, if you'd like to get your hands, on dozens of undocumented commands, stored procedures and functions.

Now let me quickly walk you through the chapters:

Chapter 1: Introductory Transact-SQL
Covers all the basic aspects of T-SQL, right from choosing an SQL Editor to creating databases and tables, querying and manipulating data.

Chapter 2: Transact-SQL Data Type Nuances
Covers in detail, the date functions, date arithmetic, working with time gaps, calendars etc. Discusses various documented and undocumented string manipulation functions. A section is dedicated to BLOBs. This answers most of the commonly asked questions about storing, retrieving binary large objects in tables, using READTEXT, UPDATETEXT, WRITETEXT commands. Covers other datatypes like bits, UNIQUEIDENTIFIER, cursor variables, timestamps etc.

Chapter 3: Missing Values
This chapter has everything you need to know about NULL values. Explains how to handle NULLs in different situations.

Chapter 4: DDL Insights
DDL stands for Data Definition Language, and this chapter covers creating tables, creating indexes, views, temporary objects etc.

Chapter 5: DML Insights
DML stands for Data Manipulation Language, and this chapter covers INSERT, BULK INSERT, UPDATE, DELETE and TRUNCATE TABLE commands in detail.

Chapter 6: The Mighty SELECT Statement
This chapter covers all options of SELECT statement, with great explanations and interesting tips. Some of the topics covered include derived fields, joins, EXISTS, sub queries, aggregate functions, GROUP BY, UNION, ORDER BY etc.

Chapter 7: Views
A very interesting chapter covering restrictions on views, ANSI SQL Schema views, updatable views, WITH CHECK option, derived tables, dynamic views, partitioning data using views etc.

Chapter 8: Statistical Functions
Covers the usage of CASE, variance, standard deviation, medians, clipping, returning top n rows, rankings, modes, histograms, cumulative and sliding aggregates, extremes.

Chapter 9: Runs and Sequences
Covers sequences, regions, runs, intervals. In the sequences section, time series fluctuation, sampling every nth value are interesting.

Chapter 10: Arrays
As you know, there's no built-in support for arrays in T-SQL. This chapter covers the alternatives like arrays as big strings, arrays as tables and discusses sorting, transposing dimensions, ensuring array integrity, reshaping the array, comparing arrays.

Chapter 11: Sets
Covers unions, differences, intersections, subsets.

Chapter 12: Hierarchies
Covers simple and multi level hierarchies, indenting a hierarchy, listing leaf nodes etc.

Chapter 13: Cursors
Discusses different types of cursors, and when to use cursors. A section is dedicated to optimizing cursor performance.

Chapter 14: Transactions
Explains what transaction are, what ACID properties are, how transactions work in SQL Server. Also covers different types of transactions, transaction management, transaction isolation levels, debugging transactions and optimizing transactions.

Chapter 15: Stored Procedures and Triggers
Starts with a discussion on advantages of stored procedures and goes on to explain how to create and work with stored procedures. Also covers nesting, recursion, autostart stored procedures, encryption, triggers and debugging stored procedures.

Chapter 16: Transact-SQL Performance Tuning
A very useful chapter on performance tuning. Sections covered include: general performance guidelines, database design performance tips, index performance tips, SELECT performance tips, INSERT, DELETE, UPDATE performance tips, bulk copy performance tips, cursor performance tips, stored procedure performance tips, SARGs, denormalization, query optimizer, index tuning wizard, profiler, performance monitor etc.

Chapter 17: Administrative Transact-SQL
Discusses Transact-SQL administrative commands and functions. Provides various useful administrative stored procedures. This is a VERY useful chapter for DBAs.

Chapter 18: Full-Text Search
Explains the syntax and usage of Full-Text search commands.

Chapter 19: OLE Automation
Provides very useful working code that shows how to use OLE Automation capabilities of T-SQL. Examples include, using SQL DMO object model from within T-SQL.

Chapter 20: Undocumented T-SQL
This chapter covers dozens of undocumented DBCC commands, stored procedures and functions including the ENCRYPT, PWDCOMPARE and PWDENCRYPT functions.

Chapter 21: Potpourri
Covers status functions, property functions, identifier functions, index functions, data functions, unusual string functions, data scrubbing, iteration tables etc.

The Appendix provides links to other useful books and Internet sites.

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