Ok, so I’m starting the domain design section of a project. I usually get the generic attributes and relationships down, and start a real simple domain model using Access. Then import that into Visio. Once in Visio I get a cleaner more detailed version of the domain. Then I write the creates, drops, etc.
This process is a convoluted and I feel takes longer than necessary. If only I had a tool that would give me the ability to not only visually create a detailed domain model, but then export it either into a sql file or a live database (and it has to be inexpensive or free, free is preferred). Well, as it turns out, DBDesigner4 is that tool.
I found it after searching the MySQL developer section. Luckily, they had an ERD tool section. In the blurb, DBDesigner 4 is mentioned as comparable to Oracle’s Designer, IBM’s Rational Rose, CA’s ERwin and theKompany’s DataArchitect. I’ve never used any of those, but I did find this to be very useful. It’s been released under the GPL.
I found two things that were missing or needed some work. Some shortcuts (that do exist and work when you enter them) are missing next to their respective menu items. For example, Ctrl + S is not next to Save, but works just the same. Another issue was the focus: they allow your edit properties of the selected table to change when you double click another table. This allowed me to move from table to table without ever closing the dialog each time I was done. This is fine, but when there was an error of some sort, it seemed that the error dialog was given the main app as the parent. I say this because the error dialog would come up; accompanied by an alert sound, but you could not see it. I moved the edit properties dialog down a bit and saw the error dialog waiting.
Overall, my experience with the tool was actually pretty good. If you’re using MySQL, I’d stronly recommend it.