Oracle Open Source : TOra (Toolkit for Oracle)

Inspired by this article by Lucas Jellema I ventured to see what the “Open Source community� has to offer to an average Oracle-developer like myself.

The first stop was for a brief introduction to some of the open source projects related to Oracle.

The first thing that caught my eye was TOra, a Toolkit for Oracle hence the name. If you’ve used Toad in the past, this tool will be very familiar to you.

TOra s born out of jealousy. Windows users have an abundance of tools to choose from, Linux user however, don’t… or at least didn’t. TOra filled this gap.

It was created in C++ and uses the Qt library. In the included documentation, there is a section explaining ways to create plug-ins for TOra. It even includes a tutorial. The only plug-in I could find incorporates Log4PLSQL into TOra.

While using Google to search for plug-ins available for TOra I came across a post mentioning a plug-in for SQL*Loader, I couldn’t find the actual plug-in though.

TOra is free of charge, unless you’re a Windows user, then you’ll need to purchase a commercial license. The Windows version of TOrais governed by the Software License Agreement from Quest Software. Other platform releases are licensed under GPL.

Features included in TOra:

  • PL/SQL Debugger, at least according to the specs. I couldn’t get it going. The
    menu showed the icon, but was disabled.
  • SQL Worksheet with syntax highlighting. Tab Pages provide additional
    information such as Explain Plan and a Log of previously executed
    A nice feature here is the “describe under cursor� which shows the table
    structure you a currently querying.
  • Schema Browser to show tables, view, indexes , sequences, synonyms, pl/sql and triggers for a particular schema.

Here is a screenshot showcasing some of these features.
TOra Screenshot

TOra supports Database versions up to Oracle 9i (which release is not specified). Being connected to an Oracle 10g database didn’t seem to cause any problems.

I installed a trial version on a Windows platform and played around with that for a while.
The first thing that strikes me is the resemblance to Toad. There are a lot of similarities between these two products. The overall look and feel, where the different tools are located etc. make clear that TOra was inspired by Toad.

My experience with TOra… it has a lot of features I never use. The ones I do use, don’t provide me with the feedback I need.

An example to illustrate this: If I create a procedure with an error in it. It will compile, or at least it appears that way. The error messages are shown on the status bar and disappear after a while. You can
recall the messages using a button on the status bar, or navigate the cursor to the status bar to display the error message in a tooltip.
What I’d like to see is more immediate feedback to notice errors early on during development. Toad will display a pop-up window clearly stating the error.

Creating and manipulating Objects formed somewhat of a problem in the SQL Worksheet. A valid Object Type Body definition (tested in SQL*Plus) resulted in an “ORA-00900: Invalid SQL Statement” error, making it impossible to create the Object Type Body here.

Doing a similar action(creating a Object Type Body in a SQL window) in Toad or SQL*Plus was no problem. A valid Object Type Body was the result.

A really nice feature in TOra is the DB Extract/Compare/Search tool. Simply using check-marks to specify which database objects you want to use and this tool will either Extract (creating installation scripts), Compare (handy if you need to compare two schema’s) or Search the database.

I think it’s possible to overcome the limitations I mentioned before, once you get more comfortable using this tool. Getting used to a tool like Toad or TOra requires some time. There are so many tools at your disposal, learning each one of them simply takes time and effort. It’s like a new pair of shoes, once you break them in, they’re comfortable to wear, but the first two weeks…

There are a number of tools on the market to choose from, especially if you’re using Windows. TOra beats Toad price-wise, but for how long? Quest is involved in TOra, draw your own conclusion. How will it compete with others on the Windows platform? Is it still going to evolve and incorporate new features and enhancements?

If you’re not on a Windows platform, TOramight be worth looking into. The price is right, it offers a lot (maybe most) of the features Toad has.
Jealousy can be a thing of the past.


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