Learning new technologies can be daunting. If you’ve never used a Mac before, you’ll probably be a bit baffled at first. But, you’re probably at least coming from a desktop computing background (Windows), so you common frame of reference.

But what if you’re just now learning to use a relational database? Yes, you’ve played with Access a bit, but now your employer or college instructor has charged you with becoming proficient with Oracle database.

Here’s 10 reasons why I think Oracle SQL Developer is the perfect vehicle to help get you started.

1. It’s free

No need to break into one of these…

No start-up costs, no need to wrangle budget dollars from your company. Students don’t have any money after books and lab fees anyway. And most employees don’t like having to ask for ‘special’ software anyway. So avoid all of that and make sure the free stuff doesn’t suit your needs first. Upgrades are available on a regular base, also at no cost, and support is freely available via our public forums.

2. It will run pretty much anywhere

Windows – check. OSX (Apple) – check. Unix – check. Linux – check. No need to start up a windows VM to run your Windows-only software in your lab machine.

3. Anyone can install it

There’s no installer, no registry to be updated, no admin privs to be obtained. If you can download and extract files to your machine or USB storage device, you can run it. You can be up and running with SQL Developer in under 5 minutes. Here’s a video tutorial to see how to get started.

4. It’s ubiquitous

I admit it, I learned a new word yesterday and I wanted an excuse to use it. SQL Developer’s everywhere. It’s had over 2,500,000 downloads in the past year, and is the one of the most downloaded items from OTN. This means if you need help, there’s someone sitting nearby you that can assist, and since they’re in the same tool as you, they’ll be speaking the same language.

5. Simple User Interface

Up-up-down-down-Left-right-left-right-A-B-A-B-START will get you 30 lives, but you already knew that, right?

You connect, you see your objects, you click on your objects. Or, you can use the worksheet to write your queries and programs in. There’s only one toolbar, and just a few buttons. If you’re like me, video games became less fun when each button had 6 action items mapped to it. I just want the good ole ‘A’, ‘B’, ‘SELECT’, and ‘START’ controls. If you’re new to Oracle, you shouldn’t have the double-workload of learning a new complicated tool as well.

6. It’s not a ‘black box’

Click through your objects, but also get the SQL that drives the GUI

As you use the wizards to accomplish tasks for you, you can view the SQL statement being generated on your behalf. Just because you have a GUI, doesn’t mean you’re ceding your responsibility to learn the underlying code that makes the database work.

7. It’s four tools in one

It’s not just a query tool. Maybe you need to design a data model first? Or maybe you need to migrate your Sybase ASE database to Oracle for a new project? Or maybe you need to create some reports? SQL Developer does all of that. So once you get comfortable with one part of the tool, the others will be much easier to pick up as your needs change.

8. Great learning resources available

Videos, blogs, hands-on learning labs – you name it, we got it. Why wait for someone to train you, when you can train yourself at your own pace?

9. You can use it to teach yourself SQL

Instead of being faced with the white-screen-of-panic, you can visually build your queries by dragging and dropping tables and views into the Query Builder. Yes, ‘just like Access’ – only better. And as you build your query, toggle to the Worksheet panel and see the SQL statement. Again, SQL Developer is not a black box.

If you prefer to learn by trial and error, the worksheet will attempt to suggest the next bit of your SQL statement with it’s completion insight feature. And if you have syntax errors, those will be highlighted – just like your misspelled words in your favorite word processor.

10. It scales to match your experience level

You won’t be a n00b forever. In 6-8 months, when you’re ready to tackle something a bit more complicated, like XML DB or Oracle Spatial, the tool is already there waiting on you. No need to go out and find the ‘advanced’ tool.

11. Wait, you said this was a ‘Top 10’ list?

Yes. Yes, I did. I’m using this ‘trick’ to get you to continue reading because I’m going to say something you might not want to hear. Are you ready? Tools won’t replace experience, failure, hard work, and training. Just because you have the keys to the car, doesn’t mean you’re ready to head out on the race track. While SQL Developer reduces the barriers to entry, it does not completely remove them.

Many experienced folks simply do not like tools. Rather, they don’t like the people that pick up tools without the know-how to properly use them. If you don’t understand what ‘TRUNCATE’ means, don’t try it out. Try picking up a book first. Of course, it’s very nice to have your own sandbox to play in, so you don’t upset the other children. That’s why I really like our Dev Days Database Virtual Box image. It’s your own database to learn and experiment with.


I'm a Distinguished Product Manager at Oracle. My mission is to help you and your company be more efficient with our database tools.


  1. Robin Miller Reply

    I’m currently working as a Business Analyst, and I’ve dabbled in MS SQL Server as part of my job. It’s got me thinking that I’d rather be working more with technology and less with business, so I’m looking for jobs at Oracle. I figured I should familiarize myself with Oracle database before I apply, and I was feeling a little intimidated! Will be downloading SQL Developer right away! Thanks!

  2. Roger Scout Reply

    This is a good little read. I am currently learning Oracle 11g at Kaplan University in an attempt to get certified. The article gave me some much needed motivation!

    • Awesome! Thanks so much for sharing that. It inspires me to write more when I hear this kind of feedback. Are you familiar with all the free training materials we have on the Oracle Learning Library? Might help you get a leg up on your classmates 🙂

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