Friday, October 25, 2013

SQL Server Compact Toolbox 3.6–Visual Guide of new features

After more than 210.000 downloads, version 3.6 (skipping version 3.5 to avoid confusion) of my SQL Server Compact Toolbox extension for Visual Studio 2013, 2012 and 2010 is now available for download. This blog post is a visual guide to the new features included in this release, many suggested by users of the tool via the CodePlex issue tracker

Table Builder

In order to improve the experience for Toolbox users, I have now started adding features to the Toolbox found in the Server Explorer tooling, starting with a Table Builder. This is due to the fact, that Server Explorer support in VS 2012 and VS 2013 is limited (in 2012 SQL Compact 4.0 only, and in VS 2013 none, where as Server Explorer in VS 2010 supports both 3.5 and 4.0).

To use the Table Builder, right click a database, and select Build Table:


Then specify the columns to be built, and click Script!


A CREATE TABLE script will then be displayed in the SQL editor. In the current version, it is not possible to modify an existing table, maybe next time?

If you have both VS 2012 and VS 2013, feel free to contact me for a way to re-enable Server Explorer support for SQL Server Compact 4.0 in VS 2013.

Report Viewer

You can now view the data in any table via the Microsoft Report Viewer, which also enables you to export data in Excel, Word and PDF format.


Right click any table, and select View Data as Report


You can right click the report (or use the Toolbar) to Print/Export the table data.

This featured is based on this Stackoverflow reply:

Generate Entity Framework 6 Entity Data Model (EDMX) in Visual Studio 2013

This feature is very similar to the existing feature for Visual Studio 2010, allowing you to do Database First development with SQL Server Compact and Entity Framework 6. The new implementation for Visual Studio 2013 takes advantage of assets from the version 6 Entity Framework designer, this includes using the included .tt files to code generate a DbContext and related POCO classes rather than a legacy ObjectContext. To use this feature, first install the EntityFramework.SqlServerCompact NuGet package in your project, and the simply right click the database you would like to generate the model for:



Then you will be presented with a very basic “Entity Data Model” dialog, which allows you to select which tables to include in the model, and to specify other relevant options:

Clicking OK will generate an EDMX file and releated .tt files etc, in the project based on the Entity Framework 6 designer way of doing this. image

Other improvements and bug fixes

Scripting: Improved parsing of SELECT statements
Scripting; Proper scripting of float and real values
Scripting: Fixed some schema diff scripts bugs
UI: Improved display of database size and space available
Integration: Improved VS 2013 RTM support

Monday, October 7, 2013

SQL Server Compact 4 desktop app with simple Private Deployment and LINQ to SQL

In this post I will describe a simplified approach to SQL Server Compact Private Deployment, for an overview blog post on Private Deployment with SQL Server Compact, see my blog post here.

By forcing your app to run using x86 always (Prefer 32-bit), which is the new default Platform target option  for apps targeting .NET Framework 4.5, deployment of SQL Server Compact with you app becomes simpler, but must follow different guidelines from what I have previously blogged about. (The same approach will also work with apps targeting .NET 4.0, just set the Platform target to x86 in the location shown below. And the same approach will also work with the SQL Server Compact 3.5 DLL files.)


To read more about the new default Platform target option introduced in .NET 4.5, see the MSDN documentation here, and the blog post here.

In addition, I will demonstrate how to use LINQ to SQL with SQL Server Compact 4.0, a low overhead, fast performing ORM.

For the sake of simplicity, and in order to focus attention on the private deployment aspects, I will demonstrate with a console application, but the same approach will also work for WinForms and WPF applications.

Before you get started, make sure you have the following installed:

1: Visual Studio 2010/2012/2013 Pro or higher 

2: SQL Server Compact Toolbox add-in (Install via Tools/Extensions in VS)

3: An existing SQL Server Compact database file, I will use Chinook, which you can download from here

4: The SQL Server Compact 4.0 SP1 runtime

(You could also use the free Visual Studio 2010/2012/2013 for Windows Desktop with the standalone SQL Server Compact Toolbox for 4.0, which also supports LINQ to SQL code generation)

With that in place, let us open Visual Studio and get started:

Create new console application

Go to File, New Project, and create a new Windows Console application. Make sure to set the target platform to 4.0 or newer.


Include the SQL Server Compact binaries in your project

Now include the SQL Server Compact 4.0 binaries and ADO.NET Provider as content in your app. Copy C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft SQL Server Compact Edition\v4.0\Private\System.Data.SqlServerCe.dll to your project folder, and then copy all files and folders in C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft SQL Server Compact Edition\v4.0\Private\x86 also to your project folder.

In the Solution Explorer, select Show All Files, and include the new folder and the seven files just copied in the Project:


Now mark all the copied files (also the files in the Microsoft.VC9.CRT folder) and mark them as Content, Copy Always:


Finally, add a Reference to the System.Data.SqlServerCe.dll file in your project folder:


(Make sure to check the file location and the Version, should be

Add your database file to the project

Make sure it is also Content, Copy Always – we use the”Database First” workflow here.

Generate the LINQ to SQL DataContext

Next,we will generate a LINQ to SQL DataContext class and related Table classes based on the database, so connect to the database in SQL Server Compact Toolbox, using the Add SQL Server Compact 4.0 Connection menu item:


Then right click the database and select “Add LINQ to SQL DataContext to current project”:


(I am just using ChinookContext as Context name)

Click OK, and a DataContext class file will be added to your project, and the required reference to System.Data.Linq will be added to the project.

Now let us add some test code to the Main method in order to verify that everything works so far, so the Program.cs code looks like this:

using System;
using System.Data.SqlServerCe;

namespace LinqToSqlCePrivateDeploy
class Program
private const string
dbFileName = "Chinook_SqlServerCompact_AutoIncrementPKs.sdf";

private static string dbConnectionString =
string.Format("Data Source=|DataDirectory|{0};Max Database Size=4091", dbFileName);
static void Main(string[] args)
using (var connection =
new SqlCeConnection(dbConnectionString))
using (var context = new ChinookContext(connection))
//To log SQL statements, use:
//context.Log = Console.Out;
foreach (var album in context.Album)

We can now access the database via the generated object model, and do not have to type SQL, but can use LINQ to query the database. In addition, we can update the database (INSERT, UPDATE, DELETE) via methods on the DataContext.

Notice that the DataContext must be constructed with a SqlCeConnection object, in order for LINQ to SQL to work with SQL Server Compact 4.0.

Deploy the database file

The final step will be done to ensure that the database file will be located in a writeable location on the users machine when deployed/installed. We will simply do this in code in order to not depend on any install actions and issues. In addition, we can do this without storing any connection strings in app.config, making the app more self-contained. We will use the same approach that I have already used in my blog post here, which takes advantage of the DataDirectory connection string macro.

private static void CreateIfNotExists(string fileName)
string path = Environment.GetFolderPath(Environment.SpecialFolder.ApplicationData);
// Set the data directory to the users %AppData% folder
// So the database file will be placed in: C:\\Users\\<Username>\\AppData\\Roaming\\
AppDomain.CurrentDomain.SetData("DataDirectory", path);

// Enure that the database file is present
if (!System.IO.File.Exists(System.IO.Path.Combine(path, fileName)))
//Get path to our .exe, which also has a copy of the database file
var exePath = System.IO.Path.GetDirectoryName(
new Uri(System.Reflection.Assembly.GetExecutingAssembly().CodeBase).LocalPath);
//Copy the file from the .exe location to the %AppData% folder
System.IO.Path.Combine(exePath, fileName),
System.IO.Path.Combine(path, fileName));

Remember to add a call to CreateIfNotExists as the first line in the Main method:

static void Main(string[] args)

You can now use ClickOnce, XCopy or an Installer to deploy your app, with no other requirements than the target .NET Framework version.

What we have achieved:

- Simple, self contained deployment of a single user desktop app of any type to any .NET 4.0 or higher platform (not ARM, though)

- No need for special incantations in app.config

- RAD (Rapid App Development) “Database First” access to a well-performing, well-documented and simple ORM.

You can download the complete solution from here;