Oracle on Monday released the first major upgrade to SQL Developer, its free visual database development tool, with one key theme being the ability to browse non-Oracle databases.SQL Developer 1.1 incorporates user feedback Oracle received after the vendor debuted the tool in its version 1.0 release in March 2006, according to Sue Harper, senior principal product manager for SQL Developer at Oracle.SQL Developer simplifies the creation and debugging of code written in both SQL and Oracle\u2019s PL\/SQL (procedural language for SQL).While a main focus of SQL Developer 1.0 was its support for multiple platforms\u2014the Windows, Linux and Mac OS X operating systems\u2014the new release of the tool has expanded its links outside of Oracle\u2019s own databases to rival offerings, initially Microsoft\u2019s SQL Server and Access databases and MySQL\u2019s open-source database.Oracle\u2019s Migration Technology Group is working on a further extension to SQL Developer that later this year will make it possible for developers to move some or all of the objects and data contained in third-party databases over to Oracle.Domain name registrar Network Solutions of Herndon, Va., has been using SQL Developer since March and has already adopted release 1.1. The vendor\u2019s entire 40-strong database development team has access to the Oracle tool, with 15 to 20 members actively using it. The team manages the databases supporting Network Solutions\u2019 online Web presence and previously used Toad from Quest Software.Cost and the developers\u2019 specific needs drove the move from Toad to SQL Developer, according to Dominic Delmolino, senior director of database engineering at Network Solutions."Toad\u2019s per-seat licensing was expensive," he said. "We were looking for an open-source or a cheaper alternative." Toad also took a more "kitchen-sink approach" to database development, Delmolino added, with the tool providing much more functionality than his team required.SQL Developer 1.1\u2019s support for non-Oracle software is particularly important to Network Solutions since the vendor runs both Oracle and MySQL databases. "That was a real plus," Delmolino said, enabling developers to use a single tool to access both databases.In general, the 1.1 release of SQL Developer looks like a more polished product, he added, with the browsing of code and objects becoming a lot more straightforward.Prior to the release of SQL Developer 1.0, which was formerly known as Project Raptor, Oracle didn\u2019t have its own visual database development tool\u2014only the character-based SQL Plus. There\u2019s a sense both within Oracle and externally that the vendor has finally become more serious about its tools business. Delmolino agreed. "They\u2019re more in the game," he said.The tool now merits its own Oracle website\u2014the SQL Developer Exchange\u2014where developers can request new features, rate feature requests and share code extensions they\u2019ve created. The site also features blogs by Oracle\u2019s developers, and news and updates about SQL Developer.Oracle definitely plans another release of SQL Developer, either to be called version 1.2 or 2.0, later this year, Harper said. The emphasis will likely be on tuning features and taking advantage of the functionality coming in the next major release of Oracle\u2019s enterprise database Oracle 11g. Oracle has yet to commit to a shipping date for 11g.-China Martens, IDG News Service (Boston Bureau)Check out our CIO News Alerts and Tech Informer pages for more updated news coverage.