June 30, 2014 by Kenneth Fisher
One of the most powerful tools we have as users of SQL Server is Books Online (BOL). Whether you work mainly as an admin, a developer or in BI, Microsoft has provided a HUGE amount of information for you to use. But BOL is by no means your only resource especially when problem solving. When tackling problems, studying for your next certification exam, or reading for amusement (yes I’m weird) the community at large is a huge resource. This resource comes in the form of blogs, articles, forums and twitter. As helpful as the community is, even the best of us will resort to searching BOL for answers – at least occasionally.
So why do I say make BOL your friend? Well the obvious answer is because it’s a helpful tool. The less obvious answer is that it can frequently be a royal pain in the neck to find the information you are looking for. This isn’t because it’s poorly organized or poorly indexed. It’s because BOL is enormous. Frequently, for any given subject, there will be multiple entries. Something complex, such as the SELECT statement has BOL entries for each of the major clauses and a page of examples. There are entries letting you know what’s new, what the breaking changes are and what behaviors have changed in any given version. There are whole groups of articles on CLR, XML, XQuery and more. Between the contents tree and searching, not to mention the index on the local copy of BOL the only way to make full use of this amazing tool is to practice.
Now to be fair, BOL and I are pretty good work acquaintances. We go out for lunch every now and again but have never been to each other’s houses. I’ve known people however that could find some of the most amazing information. These people not only have dinner at BOL’s house on a regular basis but are godparents to their kids. I’m not saying you need know BOL that well but the more you practice, the easier it will be to find the information you need.