SQL Server Data Tools (SSDT)
SQL Server Data Tools (SSDT) is a new SQL Server development tool released by Microsoft as an Add on to SQL 2012. SSDT is an integrated development tool available through Visual Studio, and provides the developer with the familiar Visual Studio tools development environment integrated with standard database features like Intellisense, T-SQL Editor, DB designer etc.
To access SSDT, one has to open Visual Studio -> New Project -> SQL Server Database Project. Previously, there were different templates existing for each version of SQL Server, which has now been integrated into one single template supporting different versions, depending on the target platform selected.
Once in, you can see the solution explorer from where you can import different databases, dacpac files etc. This mode of SSDT is called offline mode, which means people can import the DB schema and objects, and start working on it offline without connecting to DB. For developers/administrators missing the SSMS kind of environment, SSDT also support online mode of development, by connecting through server explorer.
The offline mode of development of SSDT provides the same navigation tools as there for Visual Studio development projects, including error panes and Go To Definition kind of functionality.
This mode also supports integration with source control to manage all the scripts.
The online mode provides the same SSMS kind of interface with visual editor and basic visual studio tools
In addition to above features, SSDT also provides out of box schema comparison and sync feature. Schema can be compared between the offline DB and online DB or any other combination of the two.
This is pretty useful in cases when changes done in offline mode have to be reviewed before applying on the live DB. Sync features helps in applying those changes, or reverting back the changes done in offline mode DB by synching it back from live database.
Overall, SSDT seems to be quite a useful product for database developers who are used to working in Visual Studio kind of interface, and also for database administrators as it gives them more control on aplying DB changes in a team environment, and also gives them the ability to verify them before applying to ensure data integrity and consistency.