SQL*Plus is the command-line interface to the Oracle database server (though there are variants that let you, for instance, run Oracle commands via a browser interface instead of in a text-based window). This book is part tutorial, part reference volume for the various implementations of SQL*Plus, describing how to use not just the command line itself but also Oracle's version of the SQL language.
The first three chapters cover the SQL*Plus tool and the iSQL*Plus browser-based interface – how to run it, saving and retrieving buffers, running scripts and so on. From chapter four the narrative switches to a tutorial of the SQL query language, with the next three chapters concentrating on how you extract data for reporting purposes. Chapter eight covers scripting (writing generic commands that you can re-use), then chapter nine moves on to look at one of the most common uses of command-line scripting – loading and extracting large hunks of data.
In chapter 10, which begins about halfway through the book, you start to get into the anatomy of a database. It's perhaps a little odd to start talking about the basics of database construction nearly halfway through the book, but in fact the context is one of enabling someone who understands databases to examine one in an Oracle-specific context, rather than explaning how a database is built. From here you're into advanced scripting concepts such as Bind Variables, loops and error handling, and then chapter 12 looks at another common use for the command-line tools: tracing and timing queries and procedures. A few pages on user profiles is followed by the final chapter, which tells you how to customise the operation of the SQL*Plus program itself (langages, prompts, environment variables and the like). The two appendices at the back are a chunky reference section for the commands you can use and a rather more slender section on column formatting.
Even if you use a GUI-based tool such as OraEdit or Toad as your main interface to Oracle, you often find yourself using the more basic SQL*Plus package as well. This might be because you're not in your usual place and the only access you have is a text-based Telnet or SSH connection, or it may be that you simply don't do enough scripting and development work to warrant buying a commercial GUI-based tool. Whatever the case, SQL*Plus, although it initially seems ugly and unfriendly, is as powerful as any third-party tool, and so it's well worth knowing how to use it. This is the book that you should use both to learn SQL*Plus and as a reference tool, and given that a typical Oracle-based organisation will have spent real money on their database, you should absolutely spend the additional 20 quid on the book.
Title SQL*Plus: The Definitive Guide (Second Edition)
Author Jonathan Gennick
Price Cover price: £28.50; Amazon price: £19.95
Published November 2004