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Open Source/Free Graphical Management Utilities for the MySQL Database Server
Last updated: 5/18/2003

MySQL is the most popular open source (free) database server in the world.  It is widely used with the php general-purpose scripting language (also free), which can embedded in HTML code to produce dynamic, database-driven web pages.

Management of MySQL databases and testing SQL queries can be done at command line prompts much like other database programs.  However, except for, perhaps, those who are very knowledgeable of its syntax and proficient in it's use, the MySQL command prompt can be a very time-consuming and laborious method for occasional management or MySQL databases and SQL query development.  Fortunately, for the rest of us, there are several third-party utilities that provide a graphical user interface (GUI) for performing these functions in a more civilized manner.  I spent a good part of an afternoon giving several of them a quick look and choose one of them for my own use.

phpMyAdmin - This php-based utility is installed on a web server and accessed with a web browser.  I have been using for it for sometime to manage MySQL databases used with php-based web pages to power parts of the Dux Computer Digest.  Its chief advantage is that it can be used from any computer with a web browser and Internet connectivity to the program without having to install and configure software on the PC.

The phpMyAdmin user interface is fairly good, but has a framed-webish, flat-feel to it as compared to some of the windows-based programs and, in my opinion, it could stand some improvement in its logical organization.

Recently, I built a Linux-based computer with MySQL, an Apache web server, and php for use locally to do web development. phpMyAdmin version 2.5.0 was installed to manage local copies of the databases.  Configuration of this version was more complicated than the version I was previously using (2.2.4) and it would not open a couple of small  tables in a database.  It just sat there trying to open the table...  When it was installed on the remote computer, where the operational web site is hosted, to upgrade the version that had been running, there was another problem.  It would crash when trying dump (backup) a database.  The older version worked fine.  phpMyAdmin is a decent utility and the problems could be fixed, but after tinkering with it, reading FAQs, and searching for solutions with google.com for most of a Saturday afternoon, it became time to go hunting for a possible replacement.

MYSQL Front.  This popular, open source, Windows-based utility had the best looking GUI of all the programs.  It was logical and easy to use.  It was very easy to install, performs the basic database management functions, and did not have the problems encountered with phpMyAdmin.  Unfortunately, the documentation was non-existent and development on MySQL-Front has been discontinued.  It's probably a dead end.

freeMascon.  Unlike all of the other GUI's in this article, the full version of Mascon is not open source.  It sells for $49.  I downloaded freeMascon, which is, as its name implies, a free download.  It lacked features, the yellow icons were hard-to-see, and it lasted about three minutes on my computer.  A trial or shareware version might be a better selling tool.  In my opinion, the free version can't compete with open source.

MySQL Control Center. MySQL Control Center (also known as MySQLCC) is a platform-independent GUI administration client for the MySQL database server.  It can run on Microsoft Windows and Unix environments and plans are to adapt it to Mac OS X.  MySQLCC is new and is still in development.  I downloaded the beta (0.9.2-beta).  This is a nice little utility with well-designed, good-looking screens and fairly logical structure.  It was very easy to install and configure. It is more what it its name suggests: it handles some of the nitty-gritty database management in greater detail, and has a good SQL window, but still lacks some features. Help and documentation is just about nil.  Besides being open source, it has one big advantage: it is an MySQL product.  I plan to keep my eye on MySQLCC as it develops.

SQLyog. This program was easy to install and configure.  It was up and connected to my databases in minutes.  It had no significant problems.  However, the look and feel of this windows-based app is not quite as good as MYSQL Front or MySQLCC, but better, in my opinion, than phpMyAdmin.  Table content displays are not very good and are  awkward to work with on a 17 inch, 1024X768 monitor.  In particular, it does not directly display the data in tinytext fields.  One has to double-click them to pop a window with the data.  The icons along the top of the screen are rather busy and somewhat fuzzy... The logical arrangement of things to execute commands is bit awkward to a newbie.  In other words, the utility has a learning curve and the ergonomics could stand some improvement.

But for real power, this feature-rich program has all of the others beat (see the list of features at the end of this article).  The database synchronization feature is quite noteworthy and just the thing for a person like myself with development and operating copies of the same databases.  Simply click Tools, Database Synchronization Tool and up pops a Window with two panes side-by-side, open the local version of data base in one pane and the operating version in the other and the tables of each appear in the respective panes. One then sees what tables in each database are out of synch and can select the whole database, specific tables, etc. to synch in either direction.  It sure saves a lot time and inconvenience as compared to dumping, moving, and restoring an operating 40 MByte database located in another state.  And that plus all of the other features is what sold me on SQLyog.  Larry

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