Adding ‘Recent Places’ to SSMS

1-17-2012 12-09-09 PM

Generic Open File dialog in SSMS

I was recently frustrated by the plain Open File dialog box presented in SQL Server Management Studio. The Look in: options are limited to Desktop, My Projects, and My Computer. I make frequent use of ‘Recent Places’ in Windows Explorer, so I wanted to add it to the SSMS dialog box as well.

I tested these instructions on a 64-bit Windows 7 Enterprise version, using SQL Server 2008 R2. They have not been tested on other versions of Windows or SQL Server.

WARNING: The following instructions modify the registry. Always back up the registry before making changes. Changing the registry improperly can do significant harm to your computer. If you are uncomfortable modifying the registry, do not proceed.

Open the Registry and navigate to the following location:

\HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Microsoft SQL Server\100\Tools\Shell\Open Find\Places\UserDefinedPlaces

NOTE: Depending on your version of SQL Server, you may see 90, 100, or something else.

Add a subkey for each additional ‘Look in:’ shortcut you wish to add. Name them Place0, Place1, Place2, Place(n).

Add two REG_SZ values for each subkey added:

Value Name: The display name of the shortcut; Value Data: The path of the shortcut.

To add Recent Places, make the Value data field equal to C:\Users\<username>\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Recent.

Replace <username> with your profile name.

1-17-2012 12-25-51 PM

This is the end result:

1-17-2012 12-23-08 PM

SSMS Open File dialog with Recent Places added

I hope that helps you as much as it did me!

What’s in a brand?

What comes to mind when thinking about branding? Maybe a worldwide-recognized commercial product like Coca-Cola? or a successful commercial operation like McDonald’s? Did you think of yourself?

Steve Jones presented ‘Branding Yourself for Your Dream Job: The Modern Résumé’ at SQL PASS on Thursday, October 13. As SQL professionals, we are selling a product – our skills. The demand for that product will determine the desire of employers to hire us. Consider the “long tail,” popularized by Chris Anderson in Wired; very well-known people in the industry like Paul Randal and Brent Ozar are on the head of the long tail because they are recognized widely for their talent, experience, breadth of knowledge, and popularity. The rest of us are somewhere on the same curve, depending on skill level and how well that skill level is marketed.

The more you market yourself, the further along and up the “desire” curve you move, and the more likely someone will want to interview and hire you. This is new and different from the traditional job market. It’s important to be able to stand out from the 100+ resumes received for the job you applied for.

Steve quoted a survey done by that one third of hiring managers reject job candidates based on information found on online. Whether it’s your employer-critical tweets, political Facebook public wall posts, or party pictures on Instagram, it’s out there and available to be found by someone looking for decision-forming details about a potential new employee. It’s important to stay aware of how your online persona reflects on you personally.

An employer may prefer someone with an established internet presence that demonstrates their professional skills and willingness to be part of a knowledge community over someone who does not do more than tweet once or twice a month. A readiness to learn and share on your own time may be enough to set you apart from other applicants and increase an employer’s desire to interview or hire you.  What you put out there becomes part of your brand.

Steve: “Image is not everything, but it does matter, and it’s very important. Your brand is your image, it’s your reputation. It’s very important that you pay attention to what it is. You can have any brand you want, but just be aware of what it is. For better or for worse.”

So how to stand out from the crowd? There are numerous avenues, both within and outside of your organization. For example:

  • Volunteer at user group functions or conferences
  • Speak at a user group event or conference
  • Publish a blog
  • Contribute articles to print or online magazines
  • Write a book
  • Keep your online profiles (e.g. LinkedIn) up to date with current projects and as a historical repository

When applying for a job, always include a cover letter, and customize for each organization. It can contribute to a positive first impression, especially when applying via a referral. Include links to your online branding in your résumé but keep the content professional and appropriate.

When it comes to social media profiles, try to keep your personal interests separate from your professional persona. Anything posted online reflect on you, whether you posted it or not. Use what Steve calls “the test”: if it (whether memo, email, picture) appears on the front page of the newspaper tomorrow, can you defend it to your boss? If in doubt, run it by your mom or other second opinion.

You should also monitor what is being posted about you via a tool like Google Alerts. Avoid being blindsided in an interview by something posted by a friend as a joke or a malicious former co-worker.

Keep your résumé up-to-date. Set a reminder every three months to update it. If you don’t have anything to add to it, reflect on whether or not you need to change-up something to move forward in your career.

Networking online can lead to networking offline. Quite often, people have communicated online for years before meeting in person at a business conference. The wider your network, the greater reach you have when looking for a new job or even seeking help with an issue. Stick with handing out contact information when networking online, not identity information. Use an email address that you monitor; you never know when someone you chatted with over coffee at last year’s conference decides to look you up and invite you for a job interview.

When volunteering, do what you like and want to do, not simply something that would look good on your résumé. It has to be sincere. It’s a good idea to get permission from or advise your employer of your volunteer activities to avoid any conflicts. When volunteering at work, make sure it’s highlighted in the corporate newsletter or intranet, and keep a record of it for yourself. It can be used at annual reviews to demonstrate your willingness to learn and contribute to organizational success, or as a response to an interview question.

Steve polled the audience to see who wrote and read technical blogs. In his experience, only 10% of professionals have technical blogs, and 80% read blogs. Having a professional blog is an excellent way to showcase your skills. Don’t compare yourself to others when looking for topic inspiration. It’s your voice, and you don’t have to be a Microsoft Certified Master. Write about what you learn, know, solve, do, and think. It’s a long-term record of your career, and should be kept separate from personal topics and hobbies. It’s a good idea to advise your employer of your blog, and use proper discretion when discussing work-related information. DO NOT PLAGIARIZE other peoples’ work!

Keep a history of your professional development. You never know when you’ll need to pull out an example for an interview or annual review. Use appropriate development to customize your résumé for each job.

Watch the video for yourself.

This was an enjoyable session, and a good reminder of how a little bit of effort can pay off huge in the future. It gave me lots of ideas of things that I should be doing to improve my opportunities and skills. My biggest problem is being a strong introvert! All that networking stuff is very stressful. But I am proud of the connections that I’ve made at this and previous PASS conferences. And, I’ve got a start on a blog!

SQL PASS Summit 2011, Day 1

I was very fortunate to get last-minute approval to attend the Summit. This is my third year attending, but the first time that I’ve represented my employer.PASS 2011 button

I arrived late on Tuesday evening, so I couldn’t go to the Welcome Reception. I heard it was a lot of fun, with everyone receiving a coloured sticker with a number on it. The goal was to find the other person with the same number.  In a room with a thousand people, that can be quite daunting! But apparently someone added an index to the crowd,which helped things along.

This year the keynotes of the Summit are being broadcast live so everyone who isn’t able to attend can join in on the fun. See the Summit home page.

First up in the morning was the keynote. There was a fair bit of derision on Twitter about the content of the keynote, as Microsoft seemed to be intent on wowing a customer with cute charts, instead of providing the technical meat wanted by their audience. Some of the demos were badly done, with fonts that were too small to read, but no zooming done by the demonstrator.

The highlight of the keynote was the official announcement of SQL Server 2012, formerly known as Denali. They also demoed Data Explorer and the link to Apache Hadoop. Microsoft will be contributing to the Hadoop project.

The wowser announcement of the morning was Redgate’s DBA in Space contest. They’re going to send a DBA into suborbit!

I attended the following sessions:

Karen Lopez (Twitter| website) – Five Physical Database Blunders and How to Avoid Them

Database design will always come down to cost, benefit and risk. Can you justify why you’re doing what you’re doing? There can be many ways to accomplish something, but each method has pros and cons that have to be taken into account when making design decisions.

Denise McInerney (Twitter) – “BEGIN… COMMIT” is not Enough: Understanding Transactions

This was a great demo-heavy session. I use transactions, but they always frustrate me. This explained some of the unexpected behaviours and how to use transactions correctly.

Andy Warren – (Twitter | blogBuilding a Professional Development Plan

Do you have a professional development plan? I should, but I don’t (yet). Goals need to be written down, along with milestones and tasks, just like a project plan. You should treat your employer like a client with a one-year contract – do you have the skills to renew that contract? You need a minimum of 100 hours just to learn one new skill well, so if you want to move into a new role, you need a serious investment in time to get up to speed in new skills.  Make a budget every year for how you will spend money to develop – conferences? books? courses? speaking engagements?

I must remind myself – networking is an investment, networking is an investment….

Brent Ozar (Twitter | website) – BLITZ! The SQL – More One Hour SQL Server Takeovers

Brent’s presentations are always a hoot to attend, with half the fun being on Twitter as friends tweet comments throughout. Brent has such an infectious enthusiasm for his topics that you can’t help but get excited along with him. I was aware of the script that he posted about how to investigate servers that have been tossed your way with no documentation, but he’s gone much further by bundling his code into a single stored procedure that generates a very readable report that’s easy to archive or point the boss to.

Every year at Summit my goal is to get a bit better at networking. I was pleasantly surprised that a few people do remember me from previous years, so it was good to chat and catch up. I also talked to a few new people, some of them first-timers, offering to answer questions for them, or recommended some sessions to attend.

An early night tonight, despite invitations to SQL Karaoke. Save that for Thursday night.

A long time coming

Hurrah! I’m very happy today. After studying, on and off, for years, today I finally wrote and passed the Implementation and Maintenance exam for SQL Server 2008 (70-432).

While on spring vacation, I made a plan to set a date in June, but by the time I checked availability in May, June was already booked up. I’m glad now that it was, because I certainly didn’t feel ready by the end of June. I was a lot more comfortable going into the exam today.

I prepared for the exam by:

  • reading and rereading the Microsoft Press self-study book,
  • took the 5-day classroom training on Maintaining a SQL Server Database,
  • bought the practice exam from MeasureUp, and
  • read Books Online.

There were things on the exam that I now have to look up, because I didn’t run across them in my studies (default trace files and tracking deprecated code usage).

I’m celebrating my new title Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist with a beer and some high-carb snacks. Then, onward! to the next certification, while I’m in the habit of studying regularly.

SSMS Configuration Tips

Recently my install of Management Studio decided to reset itself back to the defaults. After a bit of hunting around for the blog posts that listed some great configurations, I decided to make note of my preferred settings here, for future reference.

Open a new query page at Startup

Tools | Options |  Environment | At startup: – Select Open Object Explorer and new query

Create DMV shortcuts

Tools | Options |  Environment | Keyboard | Query shortcuts:

I add “select * from sys.dm_exec_sessions” and “select * from sys.dm_exec_requests” to Ctrl keys.

Display line numbers

Tools | Options |  Text Editor | All Languages | Display | Line Numbers

Know where you are through colour coding

Save yourself some grief by making group connections an obvious colour (bright red!) so that you don’t execute some script on a bunch of servers accidentally.

Tools | Options |  Text Editor | Editor Tab and Status Bar | Status Bar Layout and Colours | Group Connections

I usually move the status bar location to Top to make the colour even more obvious.

I also find Mladen Prajdić’s SSMS Tools Pack to be invaluable for colour-coding windows of specific servers.

More readable tabs

I find the tabbing in SSMS to be frustrating because it’s so hard to see what’s on a specific tab.

Tools | Options |  Text Editor | Editor Tab and Status Bar | Tab Text – Set all to false except Include file name.

Reduce wait times

Tools | Options | SQL Server Object Explorer | Table and View Options | Value for Select/Edit Top <n> Rows

I rarely need to see 1000 rows when I do a select on a table. It’s usually just a shortcut to the query text so I can start modifying it for other purposes.

Avoid some costly mistakes

Set up a Query Template (via SSMS Tools Pack) such as “BEGIN TRAN/ROLLBACK”.

Want more than you see here? Check out Kimberly Tripp’s Favorite SSMS Options – and some gotchas and Brent Ozar’s Fixing SQL Server Management Studio’s Tab Text. Have a favourite? Let me know in the comments.

These are simply my preferences, I’m not recommending them.

Count down

Well, I didn’t expect a full year to go by before making a new SQL blog post. My bad.

I’m looking forward to heading to Seattle in a few days for another mind-blowing SQL PASS conference. This year I will pass on the Monday workshop and instead go on the Photowalk. I didn’t get to see much of Seattle last year, but I hope to change that. The photos will likely end up on the SQLPASS-tagged Flickr photostream.

I am far better prepared to make best use of the conference this year. I have some outstanding work issues that I am pursuing solutions for and I hope I can meet someone at the conference who can advise me on some aspect of them.

I also am working on interview questions for a new position within my department. Can anyone help me with that? I’ve never been on the employer side of the interview table before.

Looking forward, with renewed enthusiasm

With SQL PASS Summit 2009 now over, it’s time to return to the real world. Fortunately I booked a few extra days off; it’s time needed to recover from the cold I picked up in Seattle and gather my thoughts about all of the things I learned and people I met in the past week.

The five days were a flurry of scurrying from room to room, chatting with SQL Bingo players and squares, talking to vendors and meeting as many people as I could.

Some quick learns:

  • Use Alt-Shift in SSMS to select text vertically.
  • Send SQL failsafe alerts to the receptionist, who is most likely always to be at the desk.
  • Hover over a column title in SSMS Activity Monitor to see which DMV is being used.
  • Don’t use ORDER BY unless absolutely necessary.
  • Use sp_executesql instead of EXEC for dynamic SQL.
  • Use an OUTPUT parameter instead of result set wherever possible for minimal columns.
  • Using a function in the WHERE clause will force SQL to do a scan insteadof a seek.
  • Don’t run DBCC FREEPROCCACHE in production!
  • The first use of a temporary object in a stored procedure forces a recompile of all temporary objects.
  • Add indexes to all foreign keys.

There are so many new things that I want to try out when I get back to work this week that I’m torn about what to do first! I do know that I have to start setting aside time for reading blogs. Blogs are usually a source for troubleshooting issues for me, but I need to be more proactive and learn before the problems surface.

Probably the single item of greatest value that I received last week was the revival of my passion for working with SQL Server, a passion that I hadn’t even realized that I’d lost. I can see now how I’ve let my work priorities slip, and will start to address that with the planning for next fiscal year that’s about to kick off.

I was a bit disappointed by how few people approached me wrt SQL Bingo. By Thursday, I was actively seeking people out; if I saw someone with a bingo card in hand, I asked if they had my square filled in yet. I helped two people finish off their blackouts by directing them on where to find other squares. It sounds like Bingo will be tried again next year and I hope to be a part of it, but it really needs more visibility and advertising.

A big shout-out to all those people I met at Summit (by no means a complete list): Wendy Pastrick, Blythe Morrow, Jeremiah Peschka, Jack Corbett, Kendal Van Dyke, Tim Mitchell, Ron Wildt, Tom LaRock, Wes Brown, Jason Strate, Mike Wells, Rushabh Mehta, Merrill Aldrich, Arlene Gray, Jen and Sean McCown, Stuart Ainsworth, Michelle Ufford, Todd McDermid, Tim Ford and Pinal Dave.

It was also a thrill to meet many authors, mostly of SQL Server MVP Deep Dives: Paul Nielsen, Kalen Delaney, Greg Low, Adam Machanic, Paul Randal, Kimberly Tripp, Itzik Ben-Gan, Aaron Bertrand, Louis Davidson, Bill Graziano, Kathi Kellenberger, Kevin Kline, Andy Leonard, Brad McGehee, Gail Shaw, Erland Sommarskog, Scott Stauffer, Joe Webb, Allen White, Grant Fritchey and Joe Celko.

The whole conference was such a blast that, when the URL for 2010 Summit discount pricing was tweeted on Friday, I immediately forwarded it to my boss, asking him to put it on the training list for next fiscal year. Regardless of whether or not my employer pays next time, I still plan to attend. You should too!!

PASS Summit 2009

PASS Summit 2009

A Summit newbie’s plans

Only a few more days until my first PASS Summit! Time to print out the session materials and stress over what to pack, and realize that I never got around to replacing my suitcase after the vacation two years ago when the zipper broke.


As a SQLPASS newbie, I’m rightfully paranoid that I’m going to miss out on something important, either because I don’t know about it or am paralyzed with too many choices at the same time in my schedule. I’ve never been to an event this big before. I’m arriving in Seattle on Sunday afternoon, and staying at the Sheraton, so if anyone has plans for Sunday evening, I’d love to hear about them!

I’ve put together my session list with at least two options per time frame so that I have an alternate picked out if my first choice is too full. I am giving myself permission to not go to sessions if a more valuable networking opportunity presents itself. Can anyone tell me if *all* sessions are being recorded? The DVD says technical….

Then there’s all of the extracurricular activities. I plan to attend pre- and post-conference sessions, but I’ve not yet signed up for any (dratted Canadian dollar dropped in value in the past week). I think I’ll keep my options open for now, just in case I hear of something else that piques my interest, like a photowalk? I won’t have much opportunity to see Seattle with such full days.


Arriving at 1550, cab sharing anyone? If not, I’ll see how easy it is to make it by public transit. This is when packing light is ideal. Anyone getting together Sunday evening for a bite?


Pre-conference session (optional).
Getting together with EDMPASS veterans to get the lay of the land for the Summit.
Networking to Build Business Contacts.
Welcome Reception and Quiz Bowl.
Also SQLServerCentral party.


Birds of a Feature Lunch oh which to pick…

6-8pm Exhibitor reception.


Quest breakfast.
Women in Technology Lunch.

7-10pm Microsoft Gameworks at 7th and Pike.


Chapter lunch.


Post-conference session (optional)
Any suggestions for what to do on a Friday night? I have to fit the Sci Fi Museum in somewhere.


Whew! Departing 0950.

General to do, before and during

  • Put together a list of questions to ask people who know more than I do.
  • Print out session material.
  • Get a SQLServerCentral sticker from Steve Jones.
  • Pick up my FREE copy of Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Standard Edition at the Microsoft Product Pavilion (while supplies last).
  • Collect DevBucks by asking SQL Server developers technical questions (closes Wednesday at 4:30).
  • Get PASS to Prizes card stamped by participating Expo vendors.
  • Pick up Deep Dives book and get signed by as many MVPs as possible.
  • Meet people!


The last thing I want is to end up like this guy and leave the Summit despairing at lost opportunities for networking. I am ridiculously shy and find it very difficult to insert myself into conversations, and that’s a big part of the reason why I signed up to be a square in SQLBingo! What could be a better way to meet people than to have them come looking for you? And though I can’t enter the contest, I still plan on searching out the SQL experts on my cards and handing out my new business cards to everyone I meet.

My greatest concern is the lack of a portable communication device. I do have a cell phone, but it’s not one of these fancy data plan things that everyone seems to have these days, and my roaming/texting charges outside of Canada are an arm and a leg, neither of which I have to spare. My laptop weighs about 10 pounds and only has about 30 minutes of battery life, so it’s not very practical to lug outside of a hotel room. I hope to figure out a means of staying tuned in by Sunday!



I’m a Square in a SQL World

bingoAre you going to the 2009 PASS Summit in Seattle in two weeks? If so, then you really should go to the SQLServerPedia Bingo page and print out three bingo cards to bring along! Just refresh the page to change the squares. Read the rules and come ask for my code word!

This is my first time going to PASS, and I am so looking forward to meeting all of the other squares. As you can see from the list below, I’ve only met one of the other squares in person, but I’m guaranteed to meet at least Wendy, as we’re sharing a room at the Sheraton.

As one of the squares, I’m not able to enter the contest, but just meeting some of these SQL Server experts will be a prize alone. Only 9 more days until PASS!

The list of squares:

Square SquareUserName
Andy Leonard AndyLeonard
Aaron Bertrand AaronBertrand
Aaron Nelson SQLvariant
Adam Machanic AdamMachanic
Allen Kinsel sqlinsaneo
Andy Warren sqlAndy
Arlene Gray whimsql
Bill Fellows billinkc
Bill Graziano billgraziano
Blythe Morrow blythemorrow
Brent Ozar brento
Brian Kelley kbriankelley
Colin Stasiuk BenchmarkIT (hey, I know you! you’re from Edmonton)
Denny Cherry mrdenny
Eric Humphrey lotsahelp
Geoff Hiten SQLCraftsman
Grant Fritchey GFritchey
Jeff Rush JeffRush
Jeremiah Peschka peschkaj
Joe Webb JoeWebb
Ken Simmons kensimmons
Kendal Van Dyke SQLDBA
Lee Anne Pedersen leeannepedersen (that’s me!!)
Lori Edwards loriedwards
Mike Walsh Mike_Walsh
Mike Wells SarasotaSQL
Pat Wright SQLAsylum
Peter Schott paschott
Peter Shire Peter_Shire
Ross Mistry RossMistry
Rushabh Mehta rushabhmehta
Steve Jones way0utwest
Stuart Ainsworth stuarta
Tim Benninghoff bugboi
Tim Ford sqlagentman
Tim Mitchell Tim_Mitchell
TJay Belt tjaybelt
Todd McDermid Todd_McDermid
Tom LaRock SQLRockstar
Trevor Barkhouse SQLServerSleuth
Wendy Pastrick wendy_dance (this one’s a freebie, she’s my roomie)
Wesley Brown WesBrownSQL
William McKnight williammcknight

Thanks for the community

It seems that taking care of the database servers is a responsibility that has always fallen to me wherever I’ve worked. Though I’ve never formally held such a position, I consider myself to be a database administrator, because of all of the different things I’ve been asked to do, the database work has been the most enjoyable and fascinating. Working with SQL Server since version 6.5, I still don’t consider myself to be anything more than an amateur DBA, because I’ve never been able to dedicate the amount of time it takes to develop a well-rounded understanding of SQL Server. And though I’ve worked along side some very experienced database people, I’ve never had a mentor to help me on the journey.

twitter_logo_headerIt was sheer coincidence that I decided to check out the SQL PASS website on a day when new chapters were being featured, and I discovered that the Edmonton Chapter of PASS had been recently formed. I signed up for notification of the first meeting, with great hopes of getting involved in the Edmonton SQL community right from the start. I met Colin Stasiuk at that first meeting, and credit him with opening up a whole new world for me. He’s a very busy guy on Twitter and as a result my follow list exploded to include Tim Ford, Jeremiah Peschka, Thomas LaRock, Brent Ozar and many others.

If I thought I had a lot to keep up with before, it’s nothing compared to all of the information that floods out of this group.

Through unfortunate circumstances, my chances of going to SQL PASS on behalf of my employer evaporated, but I’ve made the decision to go to PASS 2009 regardless, realizing that this opportunity is simply too good to pass up. Not only will I be able to attend world-class presentations, but I will be able to establish an in-person connection to some of the many people that I’ve learned from and communicated with online.

Someday I would like to be able to give back to the community as much as what I have gained from it. So, thanks everyone, and I look forward to meeting many of you in person in November!