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Cesar Aguirre
Cesar Aguirre

Posted on • Updated on • Originally published at canro91.github.io

Two free tools to format SQL queries

Do you need to format your SQL queries? Are you doing it by hand? Stop! There is a better way!

Instead of formatting SQL queries to follow code conventions by hand, you can use online tools or plugins inside Visual Studio, SQL Server Management Studio or any other editors. These are two free tools you can use to format your SQL queries and store procedures. Inside Notepad++, you can use Poor Man's T-SQL Formatter. And, ApexSQL Refactor for Visual Studio and SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS).

Before

Before using Poor Man's T-SQL Formatter and ApexSQL Refactor, I spent too much time formatting queries by hand. It means making keywords uppercase, aligning columns and arranging spaces.

I tried to use "Find and Replace" inside an editor. But, it only worked for making keywords uppercase. Sometimes I ended up messing with variables, parameters or any other thing inside my queries.

Macro typewriter ribbon

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Things were worse with long store procedures. I changed two lines and I ended up formatting thousand of lines. "Once you touch it, you're the owner".

A sample query from StackOverflow

Let's format the query to find StackOverflow posts with many "thank you" answers.

select
   ParentId as [Post Link],
   count(id)
from posts
where posttypeid = 2 and len(body) <= 200
  and (body like '%hank%')
group by parentid
having count(id) > 1
order by count(id) desc;
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After formatting the query to follow Simon Holywell SQL Style Guide, it should like this

SELECT ParentId AS [Post Link]
     , COUNT(id)
  FROM posts
 WHERE posttypeid = 2
   AND LEN(body) <= 200
   AND (body LIKE '%hank%')
 GROUP BY parentid
HAVING COUNT(id) > 1
 ORDER BY COUNT(id) DESC;
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

Let's see how these two tools format our sample query.

Poor Man's T-SQL Formatter

Poor Man's T-SQL Formatter is a free and open source .NET and JavaScript library to format your SQL queries. It's available for Notepad++, Visual Studio, SQL Server Management Studio and others. You can try its formatting options online too.

This is how Poor Man's T-SQL format our sample query.

Sample query formatted by Poor Man's T-SQL inside Notepad++
Sample query formatted by Poor Man's T-SQL inside Notepad++

It doesn't make function names uppercase. It indents AND's clauses. But, it's a good starting point. Sometimes, it need a bit of help if the query has single-line comments in it.

ApexSQL Refactor

ApexSQL Refactor is a free query formatter for Visual Studio and SQL Server Management Studio. It has over 160 formatting options. You can create your own formattig profiles and preview them. It comes with four built-in profiles. Also, you can try it online.

This is how ApexSQL Refactor format our sample query.

Sample query formatted by ApexSQL Refactor inside Visual Studio
Sample query formatted by ApexSQL Refactor inside Visual Studio

It isn't perfect either. It indents AND clauses too. I couldn't find an option to change it. But, there is an option to indent ON in SELECT statements with JOIN, but it affects ON for index creation too.

Voilà! Please, save you some time formatting your SQL queries with any of these two free tools. For other alternatives, check this SQLShack collection of formatter tools.

You can find more extensions for Visual Studio in my posts Programs that saved me 100 hours and How I got rid of two recurring code review comments.

Happy SQL time!

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