Customising SQL Management Studio 2012

I’m setting up my new work laptop, and decided to have a look around the net for what the cool kids were doing these days as far as customising SQL Management Studio 2012.  Surprisingly not a lot seems to have changed (i.e. changing font, adding keyboard shortcuts, and using a trendy dark theme are still the most common tweaks).


So I found a dark theme that I actually might give a chance (I’ve tried a few, but always seem to revert to the default after a few hours).  I’m still not sold on the dark development environment – but there are certainly enough colour combinations available from sites like

SQL Server Management Studio 2012


I also added my usual battery of keyboard shortcuts; sp_helptext, sp_whoisactive, and a wrapper script that I unimaginatively call sp_helpindex2 (which auto-detects the version of SQL running, and then calls the corresponding version of Kimberly Tripps improved sp_helpindex proc).

Some other minor tweaks include scripting options (Tools -> Options -> SQL Server Object Explorer -> Scripting), for example adding descriptive headers, checking for object existence, etc.

There are loads of other tweaks you can make – do yourself a favour and take the time to read through every page of options… I’m sure you’ll find more ways of improving your environment.


I then needed to get my templates setup (which, as I detailed in my previous post, I use to store frequently used scripts and code snippets).  This takes a little jiggery-pokery since SSMS doesn’t natively let you specify a new location for these files.

What you need to know before starting is how Management Studio handles these template directories; in the following default path, C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft SQL Server\110\Tools\Binn\ManagementStudio\SqlWorkbenchProjectItems, there will be a directory called “SQL” which contains all the default templates.

SSMS Template Directories

When you open the templates pane in SSMS it compares the contents of this directory to your user template directory (e.g. C:\Users\username\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\SQL Server Management Studio\11.0\Templates, or explorer window #2 in the screenshot above), and “syncs” up any differences.  I’m sure this is over-simplifying it, but it’s a good-enough explanation for the purposes of this post. Window #3 shown above is the directory containing my custom scripts library in my Sky Drive folder.

So what you want to do is automagically “replace” the contents of #1 with #3 – SQL will take care of keeping #2 in sync (I hope…).

To do this you need to create a symbolic link from #3 to #1.  To learn about symbolic links, read this.  They are essentially shortcuts… but on steroids.  Here’s the command I use to setup my environment:

cd "C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft SQL Server\110\Tools\Binn\ManagementStudio\SqlWorkbenchProjectItems"
ren Sql Sql_Old
mklink /D Sql "C:\My Stuff\SkyDrive\Scripts\SQL\SSMS_Templates\Sql"

Obviously your paths (and username) will differ, so make the appropriate changes before trying this yourself.  Please be sure about what you’re doing (never just run something from the Internet without 100% understanding what it does). I take no responsibility if you somehow manage to brick your system – YMMV, etc, etc.

All going to plan, you’ll now have SSMS using your own source of templates. 🙂


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