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Jamie Thomson

This is the blog of Jamie Thomson, a data mangler in London working for Dunnhumby

Linqpad – bring the power of LINQ to SQL Server development

One of my biggest laments about being a SQL Server developer is that the tools provided by Microsoft to do our thang compare woefully to the feature rich, (largely) bug-free, “it-just-works” impression that one gets from seeing the tools available to “other” developers in the Microsoft ecosystem (I’m thinking of our appdev brethren here, the ones that use C#, Javascript, and all that jazz). I could write a long blog post complaining about this (and perhaps one day I will) but in this blog post I want to shine a light on a tool called Linqpad.

Linqpad enables you to issues queries written in LINQ against a database and in that respect is an alternative to SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS). What is LINQ? It stands for Language Integrated Query and is a technology that Microsoft brought out a few years ago for writing queries inside .Net code. The great thing about Linqpad is that it enables one to write LINQ queries without having to know anything about .Net.

In the screenshots below I show a simple query against a database but written two ways, one using T-SQL that anyone reading this blog post will likely know, and one using LINQ:


Some things to notice here. The two queries look very similar in that they contain the same keywords {SELECT, FROM}. Second thing to notice is that the FROM clause comes before the SELECT clause and if you know anything about the logical order of execution of a SELECT query you’ll realise that this intuitively makes sense. Lastly the table is called [dbo].[BulletinLine] but in the LINQ query its called [BulletinLines], its been pluralised (a convention that is common to .Net developers) and there’s no [dbo] prefix. Other than those things its intuitively clear that these two queries are doing exactly the same thing and its worth pointing out that under the covers the LINQ query is converted into a T-SQL query.

So OK, if you accept that LINQ can do pretty much anything that a T-SQL SELECT query can do the next obvious question is “Why should I bother when T-SQL already does what I need?” The answer, in a word, is productivity. Or, to put it another way, intellisense works properly. Let’s say for example I want to select a subset of all the columns, intellisense comes to our aid:


One might well retort “well that works in SSMS as well” but in my experience intellisense in SSMS is, at best, flaky. In some circumstances it simply doesn’t work and the worst part of this is that its often inexplicable as to why. (In case you can’t tell, intellisense in SSMS drives me up the wall and I’m sure I’m not the only one.)

Some other nice things about LINQ. Here’s the equivalent of a WHERE clause to filter on [BulletinId]=6:


If you don’t know LINQ then (in my opinion) its not intuitively obvious what’s going on here. What the above query is doing can effectively be described as:

Take the collection of BulletinLines, filter in WHERE BulletinId equals 6

Where this gets really powerful is the ability to stack these things up like so:


Take the collection of BulletinLines, filter in WHERE BulletinId equals 6. From the resultant collection filter in WHERE Colour=”White”

If we only want the top 3:


Take the collection of BulletinLines, filter in WHERE BulletinId equals 6. From the resultant collection filter in WHERE Colour=”White”. From the resultant collection take the first 3

I love how expressive this is and when you get fully conversant with LINQ its wonderfully intuitive too. If I haven’t convinced then, well, that’s OK. If you’re not convinced but do want to be convinced then check out Why LINQ beats SQL. The overriding argument there is “LINQ is in most cases a significantly more productive querying language than SQL”. Make sure you check out the section entitled “Associations” too which demonstrates how you can filter based on what is known about an entity in other tables, when you grok what’s going on there you’ll realise the power that LINQ brings.

If you want to give this a go then go and download Linqpad now from Its free however some of the more advanced features (such as intellisense) only light up when you pay for the pro or premium edition which are priced at $39 & $58 respectively for a perpetual license, a bit more than the app generation are used to paying but hardly bank-breaking either.

Are any other SQL developers out there using Linqpad? Please share your experiences in the comments below, I’d really like to read them.


Published Wednesday, November 20, 2013 10:23 AM by jamiet

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Aaron Lowe said:

Actually started using it within the last month - mostly due to needing to learn LINQ/Lambda for BIML.

November 20, 2013 8:56 AM

jbooker said:

Nice Blog.  I like Linq for some of the same reasons.  Biggest downfall, IMHO, compared to T-SQL is what some may consider a benefit - required type-safe language operators.  This makes it so you cannot dynamically sort and filter using strings in OrderBy and Where methods.

A possible solution appears to have been dropped and/or left incomplete by MSFT... Ling Dynamic Query Library...


November 20, 2013 8:56 AM

Nick Wilczynski said:

I use this all the time. One of the really nice features is that you can use Lambda expressions. In your example you wrote "from x in BulletinLines select x". If you did this with a lambda, you can just write "BulletinLines" and hit F5. If you wanted the top 3, then its just BulletinLines.Take(3). No need to write everything else. Makes query writing even easier.

November 21, 2013 11:31 AM

jamiet said:

Hi Nick,

Thanks for the comment. Yeah, I did think about mentioning that however I wanted to keep the FROM & SELECT keywords so that it looks familiar to SQL devs. Baby steps, y'know.


November 21, 2013 11:36 AM

Aaron G said:

My company already provides me with a premium edition of Visual Studio from MSDN, is there a quick way take advantage of LINQ within there similar to Linqpad?

March 19, 2014 2:50 PM

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