SQL Server Data Tools in Visual Studio 2012–Snapshots

A new feature of SSDT, one not found in VS Database Projects, is the ability to do snapshots. A snapshot captures a copy of your database project as it exists at the time you take the snapshot. Once you have a snapshot there are several useful things you can do with  them.

Taking a snapshot is simplicity itself. Using the same project we’ve been using over the last few posts, right click on the project name, and pick “Snapshot Project” on the menu.





Once you do, you’ll see a new file appear in the solution. You’ll be given the chance to rename it, but for this demo I’ll just take the default name.


So now that you have a snapshot, how do you use it? Well let’s start with a database comparison. First, let’s make a change of some type to the database. I’m going to use the safe refactor (see my blog post on this). I’m going to open the Employee table in the HumanResources schema and safe refactor the JobTitle column to become JobName.

With the file saved, let’s now decide we want to compare our current database project to what we’ve done in the past, namely our snapshot. The same tools we used for schema compare can also be used with a snapshot.

Right click on the snapshot and pick Schema Compare (for more info see my previous post). When the schema compare window appears the snapshot will be in the source side. Over on the right, use the pick target to pick the current project, then click compare. You will now see the differences between your snapshot and your current project.



So looking at differences is nice, but what if you want to dig in and see the entire snapshot? If you’ll notice, the snapshot is created as a dacpac file. If you happened to notice in the earlier post on creating an SSDT project, in addition to importing from an existing database, we also have the option to import from a dacpac file.

Right click on the solution, and pick Add, New Project.


Now pick a new SSDT project and give it a name. I’m going to name mine after the snapshot. Now right click on the project, and pick Import. then pick “Data-tier Application (*.dacpac).


Now navigate to the snapshot dacpac file you created and import it. (Hint, to find out where it’s at, before you start the import right click on the snapshot file, and pick properties. One of the properties is “FullPath”, it will hold the full path / file name of the snapshot.)




Once you click start, your new project will have an exact copy of your project at the time the snapshot was created.

Move down the AdvWorks_20120821_07-19-43 project tree and open up the Human Resources schema, then the Employee table in both projects. Assuming you were following along you will now see the snapshot as the Job field as JobTitle, the name prior to the change.

Within our AdvWorks project, also navigate down to the Employees table, and you’ll see it has the new name of JobName for the job column.












While snapshots will capture versions of your database over time, be aware they are not a substitute for good source code control. Snapshots are manually created, and are part of the project. Source control will capture each version upon check in, but more importantly serves as a good back up.

Snapshots can also be useful when asking for help. Simply take a snapshot and e-mail it to your friend. They can simply import it and create a copy of your project. Much easier than trying to zip up the entire project and mail it around.


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