From MySQL GUI Tools to MySQL Workbench

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I bet that some of you still work with phpMyAdmin and there are plenty of good reasons for that. Perhaps the main reason would be its mobility. Being run by a web server, phpMyAdmin is accessible from anywhere, without installing any extra software, even on the mobiles phones. And the second reason is of course security – most web hosting providers restrict external access to MySQL servers. But there’s absolutely no reason to get used to phpMyAdmin, as there’s software far better than that.

Most of you probably used the MySQL GUI Tools bundle, which is very similar to what phpMyAdmin is – database tweaking, user management, structure design, query builder, etc. Browsing up to the usual MySQL GUI Tools place a few days ago, I encountered the following message:

Users of the MySQL GUI Tools Bundle should plan to upgrade to MySQL Workbench. MySQL Workbench provides DBAs and developers an integrated tools environment for:

  • Database Design & Modeling
  • SQL Development (replacing MySQL Query Browser)
  • Database Administration (replacing MySQL Administrator)

So we’re now forced to upgrade to MySQL Workbench. Honestly, for a moment there I though that it’s just a naming issue, and that MySQL GUI Tools has gone so far, that the guys from Sun Microsystems decided to ship the bundle as a single product – MySQL Workbench, but I was wrong. Browsing the MySQL Workbench website I noticed the archive, which dates back to Novermber 8th, 2007! So it seems that they’ve just merged the two pieces.

MySQL Workbench is far more professional then the GUI Tools, but may be complicated at first sight. And the most funny thing about it is that the MySQL GUI Tools leads to a page to download the 5.1 community version of MySQL Workbench, which unfortunatelly does not have all the promised features (SQL development, data modelling, server administration), and there’s no home screen at all, which is shown on each and every screenshot related to the move!

I thought something was wrong, so I went back to the Workbench homepage, browsed the blogs, forums and downloads. It turned out that 5.2 is the one we were supposed to move to, but it’s still in beta, thus hidden in the downloads. After installing MySQL Workbench 5.2 I finally managed to get to the promising home screen, a little bit fancier than 5.1, and very similar to what we used to see in MySQL GUI Tools, plus the improvements.

Here are a few screenshots:

So I hope to see the 5.2 release very very soon, and, oh come on, drop the phpMyAdmin stuff, that’s for kids ;)

About the author

Konstantin Kovshenin

WordPress Core Contributor, ex-Automattician, public speaker and consultant, enjoying life in Moscow. I blog about tech, WordPress and DevOps.


  • I should migrate to MWB just because you say so? And then you mock those who do not as children? I'll need a more convincing argument than that. I agree, the fit and finish of 5.2 is more polished than its predecessor. But I don't particularly need eye-candy from a database admin tool. I need utility.

    So far, I haven't decided if I really like 5.2 yet. Why?
    – I can't locate a GUI query builder. Does it have one? If so, where is it?
    – When I reverse engineer a database into an EER diagram, it doesn't add the foreign key relationships. So I have to manually add them to the diagram and manually delete the existing fk column. That's simply a pain in the ass.

    That's an opinion from someone who left childhood behind a long time ago.

    • Michael, you didn't state what piece of software you're reffering to, as I said phpMyAdmin is for children. Yes MySQL GUI Tools is okay and that's what I suppose you should use if you're still uncomfortable with the Workbench, but hey, you'll have to move on some day.

      Regarding your decision about 5.2. How can you decide? It's still in beta. The foreign key issue seems more of a bug than a missed feature. You might want to take a look here: A bug report has been submitted and marked as "Not a bug" by the MySQL team, this means that there's probably a solution to that. Read through the notes, I'm pretty sure you'll find something ;)

      As for the GUI query builder.. I haven't seen those since Microsoft Access. Are you sure there's a need for one in MySQL? I mean most MySQL users I know are pretty comfortable with it's query language and don't require any tools to drag & drop to execute a statement.

      P.S. You said that you left childhood behind a long time ago. I suppose then, you're okay with the MySQL command line interface. If so, why bother with all this GUI meh? ;)

      ~ K.

    • Point taken about beta. However, without digressing too far, 21st-century "beta" != 20th-century "beta". Tools from leading tech companies are in perpetual "beta" anymore. So, to say something is in "beta" because it has unresolved bugs is disingenuous. All software has bugs. FWIW, thanks for noting the "bug? maybe not" link. I'll take a look at that.

      For absolute control, yes, use CLI. For the record, I was referring to any mysql tool – phpMyAdmin or MySQL GUI Tools.

      The "need" for a gui query builder becomes evident when building enterprise-level data models.
      1) It saves time and
      2) building complex queries with inner/outer joins, database links and correlated subqueries is tedious and fraught with user errors. I personally don't have ANSI SQL syntax memorized.

      I "bother" with GUI tools because my clients want results quickly. They don't care if I'm a CLI purist. If I supply the toolset, they don't care if it's MWB or phpMYAdmin. That's my concern. All they care about is how long will it take and how much will it cost.

      I guess what got "a bee in my bonnet", as we say here in the US, was the implication that MWB is superior to phpMyAdmin and we should follow your advice if we, as adults, were grown up enough to do so. But, then you never gave any evidence to support your assertion. Static screenshots do not pass as evidence.

      Convince me to switch. If I agree, then maybe I will. Derision will only alienate your readers.

    • Michael,

      Okay good point. GUI tools understood. Convince you to switch? That's Sun's job, not mine, but okay, let's try this.. What if MySQL GUI Tools is unable to connect to MySQL 6? Say, do you still run Windows XP? And Linux 2.4 core? No? What convinced you to switch? Maybe because software is getting outdated, and who could write a better tool for MySQL than Sun Microsystems?

      Hope that's convincing enough,

    • kovshenin you haven't seen a Query builder since Access, you can have a look at SQLyog, they have a query builder. It really saves time building enterprise level queries. It doesn't execute them directly but it just helps to visually build them.

    • Good point Steve, I heard SQLyog is a good piece of software, but unfortunately I haven't used any query builders since Access. I'm quite comfortable with SSH and SQL.

  • Hey buddy!
    It looks like a desktop app with which we can do work on the sql backend. Is it so? or I am getting something wrong here.

  • Hmm, maybe some people like a Web 2.0 application/service.
    The GUI looks amazing and it seems to do a lot of admin stuff as simple as a right-click! (there is a DEMO link on their site, just in case you wonder..)