Edit: Shortly after positing this entry, Inventic contacted me with some responses. These are in italics.
I’ve been using Doctrine in conjunction with the Zend Framework for years. Although it is an excellent ORM, writing yaml by hand is a tedious and error-prone process. Furthermore, it can be difficult to visualize a large database from a series of text files, so I find myself maintaining a MySQL Workbench diagram in addition to the textual database representation.
ORM Designer promises to change all that. It brings a visual database editor for Doctrine 1 and 2 that reduces effort, mistakes and increases productivity. Migration from my existing workflow was a snap due to the import functionality: I had the option to import both my yaml database definitions as well as my MySQL workbench files. The ability to break up the data-model into individual modules keeps the code clean and organized, and the export functionality, in conjunction to the external tools integrate yaml generation and Doctrine CLI operations directly into ORM Designer’s interface.
ORM Designer Features for Doctrine Users:
- Behaviour Support
- Inheritance Support
- Many-to-one, Many-to-many relations
- Index support
- yaml Generation
- Creation of new ORM Properties & data-types
- Creation of new behaviours
Support and Releases
The folks at Inventic crank out a new version of ORM Designer every few months. There were around 16 releases in 2010, but development seems to have slowed slightly with only three releases to date in 2011. On the whole, with both bug fixes and feature updates, you can still expect good value for the 1 year upgrade maintenance that is included in the purchase price.
ORM Designer is currently very stable and as such doesn’t require many bug fixes. The team is currently putting most of their energy into ORM Designer 2 which is slated for a public beta around the end of 2011. However, there are 1.x beta releases available at http://www.orm-designer.com/beta which contain new features and bug fixes as they become available.
The forums are a little thin, which may be simply because the software is relatively new and is still being discovered. However, it appears that user posts commonly receive a same-day reply from the developers. Users can really take advantage of the small community and direct access to developers to suggest features and shape future directions of the software.
My Wish List
Although ORM Designer supports modules I would like to see this area further developed. For example:
Say you have a common user module stored in a common SVN location (Eg: SVN External) that you would like to use with every project, the ability to link the common module, add relations / properties (without affecting the original module) and export the module relative to the current project’s path would be excellent additions to ORM Designer’s feature set.
Inventic suggests pulling in modules directly into the application (at the appropriate path) using SVN Externals rather than having a more libary-like directory structure
ORM Designer provides excellent value for anyone who uses either Doctrine or Propel. The ability to visually edit data models for these ORMs brings them on par with the nHibernate framework in terms of usability.
ORM Designer also supports the Doctrine2 and Propel ORM’s as well as the CakePHP and Symfony frameworks.
ORM Designer is designed for windows, however it can run under WINE for Linux/OSX support. However, ORM Designer 2 is currently under development and makes use of QT rather than MFC which will bring native support to the other operating systems.