When managing a database, documentation is not always the first thing on everyone’s mind. Additionally, writing detailed documentation about your databases is no small feat. However, documentation makes it easier to access important information further down the line. Having a reference point will help anyone who needs to interact with the database. Everyone from database architects, developers, business analysts, and administrators will have a detailed resource to help make sense of your data.
Ultimately having a resource to fall-back on means higher productivity across your organization as users have access to the data they need. Using a database documentation tool is a very effective way to make documentation.
Only have time for a quick glance? Here is the list of the 9 best database documentation tools:
- ApexSQL Doc A database documentation tool for SQL, MySQL, SSIS, SSAS, SSRS, and Tableau. Available in Developer and DBA versions.
- RedGate SQL Doc Automatically documents databases. Part of the RedGate SQL Toolbelt.
- dbForge Documenter Automated documentation for MySQL and MariaDB. Compatible with cloud database services.
- Dataedo Covering a long list of database management systems, this tool includes ERD creation and change tracking.
- DBScribe DDL-based databased documenting tool for MySQL.
- SentryOne DOC xPress A documentation assistant for SQL Server. Buy the software outright or choose an annual subscription.
- Innovasys Document X Database documentation tool for Oracle, SQL Server, OLE DB, and Access databases.
- Database Note Taker Aims at supporting the database design, creation, and maintenance processes.
- GenesisOne T-SQL Source Code Unscrambler A code generator to enable automatic script creation to replicate or restore a database.
The best database documentation tools
Many of the tools listed below use automation to make the document creation process more efficient so that you spend less time completing manual tasks and more time actually managing your database.
ApexSQL is a database documentation tool for SQL, MySQL, SSIS, SSAS, SSRS, and Tableau. The user can create custom descriptions for SQL objects through the GUI. Document layouts can be customized giving users complete control over the structure of their documentation.
Automation and scheduling enable the user to regularly create documents without any manual input. ApexSQL generates documents in CHM, HTML, PDF, DOC, and DOCX so that documentation can be delivered in a format of your choice.
There are two main packages available to purchase: Developer and DBA. The Developer version comes with 20 tools including ApexSQL Analyze, ApexSQL Build, ApexSQL Doc, ApexSQL Script and costs $1,299 (£1,003).
The DBA version comes with 10 tools such as ApexSQL Audit, ApexSQL Backup, ApexSQL Manage and costs $2,499 (£1,930) per instance. You can register and download the free trial version.
RedGate SQL Doc is a documentation solution for SQL that documents databases automatically. The user can obtain an overview of a database schema, inter-object dependencies, inter-database dependencies, with annotations to help users find what they need. You can document databases within SSMS by right-clicking on object explorer.
The tool is compatible with HTML, PDF, Microsoft Word, and Markdown files. To add a personal touch, companies can generate custom documentation with their own branding.
RedGate SQL Doc is available as part of the RedGate SQL Toolbelt. The price depends on the number of users you need to support. Between one to four users the price is $385 (£297.41) per user.
For organizations with five to nine users, the price drops to $327 (£252.61) and $308 (£237.93) for those organizations with 10 plus users. You can download a 14-day free trial.
dbForge Documenter is a document creation tool for MySQL and MariaDB that automatically creates MySQL database documentation. Details dbForge Documenter pulls from databases include object types, properties, inter-object dependencies, and DDL codes. Once data has been taken from the database it can be presented as HTML, PDF and MARKDOWN files.
The tool is easy to use and highly customizable. For example, the user can choose between a range of themes and customize the layout of individual documents. All documentation is searchable so the user can navigate easily. For example, when typing an object in the search field the user interface will highlight any matching text.
dbForge Documenter is a solution with high usability and a competitive price point. The Standard edition costs $99.95 (£77.21) per license. The software is also compatible with Amazon RDS, Google Cloud, Amazon Aurora, Oracle, MySQL Cloud, and Alibaba Cloud. You can download the free trial.
Dataedo is an advanced database documentation tool that can create HTML, PDF, and Excel files. Dataedo supports databases like SQL Server, MySQL, Oracle, PostgreSQL, MariaDB, IBM Db2, Azure SQL, Amazon RDS, Amazon Aurora, Google Cloud SQL, Percona MySQL, Azure SQL Data Warehouse, Amazon Redshift, and more.
To create documentation, you can add a description of database objects, tables, and columns to the data dictionary. Data model visualization makes it easier to understand how your database works with ER diagrams.
You can create ER diagrams by dragging and dropping tables from your database into the ERD section. There is also the ability to create cross-database and cross-platform databases to unify data management.
There are three versions of Dataedo available to purchase: Pro, Pro+, and Enterprise. The Pro version costs $39 (£30.11) per user per month with standard email support and five custom fields. The Pro+ version costs $79 (£60.99) per user per month with 10 custom fields and priority support.
The Enterprise version costs $159 (£122.74) per user per month for 100 custom fields with extra features like Schema Change Tracking and Business Glossary. You can download the free trial.
DBScribe is a database documentation tool for SQL server that supports formats such as HTML, Microsoft HTML Help format, and Microsoft Word. The program uses DDL/XMLA code to document your database. You can interact with the tool through a wizard and a command-line interface, which helps to speed up the documentation creation process.
There are also customizable templates you can use to build professional documents to share with other members of your team. You can even save custom profiles to use for future documents. These features give you a high degree of control over how your documentation is presented.
When it comes to managing tables, DBSribe has a description editor. The description editor allows you to manage elements such as tables, columns, indexes, triggers, keys, and more from one location.
If you’re looking for a tool that’s easy to use and competitively priced then DBScribe ticks all the boxes. DBScribe 1.4 for SQL Server costs $99 (£76.44) per license. There are other versions of DBScribe available for Oracle, MySQL, PostgreSQL, and DB2. There is also a 30-day free trial.
SentryOne DOC xPress is a documentation tool for databases. With SentryOne DOC xPress you can automatically document databases for SQL Server in a variety of formats including SSAS, SSIS, SSRS, Excel, and more.
The tool also automatically scans database metadata to update documents without any manual interaction from the user. To aid with database management and regulatory compliance there is a data lineage analysis feature. This feature allows you to view how changes to a single object will affect the rest of the database. You can also visualize data dependencies to make sense of what’s going on. You can create dictionaries with annotations to help monitor data changes.
There are two pricing options available for SentryOne DOC xPress: Annual Subscription License and Enterprise Licensing. The Annual Subscription License costs $749 (£578.50) per month for up to 10 sources. The Enterprise Licensing package is customized to the needs of your company. You can download the two-week free trial.
Innovasys Document! X is a database documentation tool for Oracle, SQL Server, OLE DB, and Access databases. You can use the tool to document database tables, columns, views, relationships, indexes, dependencies, triggers, roles, users, and more.
There is a customizable HTML-based template that you can use to choose how your documentation is organized. For added convenience, you can add hyperlinks to external websites to help with element descriptions.
Interacting with database content in Innovasys Document! X is extremely simple. In fact, if you have used SQL, T-SQL or PL-SQL, source code comments then these will be automatically used in your documentation. To make things easier to read and navigate the source code is colorized.
Alternatively, you can use the Content File Editor to create and manage documents if you prefer. Enter descriptions with SQL Server Management Tools or Access Table Designer to add descriptions for elements like tables and indexes.
Innovasys Document! X is available as a single product or as a package with HelpStudio 2019.1 called the Document! X and Help Studio Bundle 2019.1 Innovasys costs $482 (£379) for a subscription license or $380 (£299) for a license. The bundle version costs $698 (£549) for a subscription license or $571 (£449) for a license. You can download the free trial.
Database Note Taker is a database documentation tool that simplifies database management for a range of databases including Microsoft SQL Server. You can create a new project in the program and select the type of database you want to import schema data from. You can then manage your database objects through the Object Explorer.
The Object Explorer highlights database objects that aren’t supported with documentation. For example, there is a red warning icon next to table components that need additional documentation. You can then click on the object to edit the information. Once you’re finished editing you can publish it in XML or HTML format.
To help enterprises collaborate on database changes, Database Note Taker has history tracking. History tracking lets you know who has interacted with documentation and when. The tracking feature enables you to keep on top of edits and changes.
One of the biggest advantages of Database Note Taker is that it’s available free for both personal and commercial use. You can download the program for free for evaluation.
GenesisOne T-SQL Source Code Unscrambler is a database documentation tool that automatically generates code documentation for your database. You can interact with your database through the table description editor and then generate documentation in PDF, PNG, and SVG formats.
There are also a number of features that aid navigation in GenesisOne. Built-in hyperlinks allow you to move between database elements and there is the option to automatically print out documentation after changes. If you require a more visual experience then the graphical perspective of object relations helps improve clarity.
For those companies looking for a database documentation tool that technical and non-technical users can handle should look no further than Genesis One T-SQl Source Code Unscrambler.
There are two versions of GenesisOne T-SQL Source Code Unscrambler available to purchase: One Month Subscription and Premium. The One Month Subscription version costs $29.95 (£23.14) per month. The Premium version costs $195 (£150.65) and $49.95 (£38.59) for each additional server. There is also a free trial version.