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Posted 6 Jan 2010


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SQL Server Easy Column Search

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11 Jan 2010CPOL2 min read
Column search functionality that works as easy as sp_help.


When developing queries in SQL Server, you might have come across the need to list all the tables that have a specific column name. Sure, you can write a query using syscolumns, sysobjects etc., but you will have to write it every time or save it somewhere - I am too lazy for that. In this article, we'll create a Stored Procedure that will work as easy as sp_help, only for columns!


To give a better idea, below is the query that we would normally use to search for a column name:

SELECT as "Table", as "Column"
from sysobjects  , syscolumns 
where =
and sysobjects.xtype = 'u'
and like '%order%'
order by,

This will return all tables where the column name contains the text 'order'. As the results are what we're looking for, we'll use this query as the basis for our solution.

Using the code

As I have mentioned earlier, we are looking for a solution similar to sp_help; therefore, we'll create a Stored Procedure on the Master database of the SQL Server instance.

The code and principle are simple, but works really cool. First, we need the database of the active query window:

SET @DataBase = (SELECT DB_NAME())

Now, we build some dynamic SQL with the database name of our active query window (same query as above) and execute it.

SET @SQL = 'SELECT AS [Table],'
SET @SQL = @SQL + ' as [Column]'
SET @SQL = @SQL + ' from ' + @DataBase + '..sysobjects a , ' 
SET @SQL = @SQL +  @DataBase + '..syscolumns b' 
SET @SQL = @SQL + ' where ='
SET @SQL = @SQL + ' and a.xtype = ''u'''
SET @SQL = @SQL + ' and like ''' + '%' + @ColumnName + '%''' + ''
SET @SQL = @SQL + ' order by,'


Voila, once we have created the Stored Procedure, we will be able to search for column names from the active query window in the following way:

sp_column order

which will give us the following results when using the Northwind database:

Image 1

But wait, there's more

We can configure a keyboard shortcut for this in SQL Server Management Studio:

From the Tools menu, select Options. From the left hand pane under Environment, select Keyboard. In one of the available Query shortcuts, enter sp_column:

Image 2

Now we can easily highlight the name of the column we're searching for, e.g., order and hit Ctrl + 3.

Points of interest

While I was doing this, I also came across syscomments, which enables us to search for phrases in Stored Procedures and functions. That's a short and sweet principle, and I will post that to the Tips and Tricks section of The Code Project. Enjoy!


This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Code Project Open License (CPOL)

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Comments and Discussions

GeneralGood Pin
db_developer8-Jan-10 5:46
db_developer8-Jan-10 5:46 
GeneralRe: Good Pin
Divan van der Watt11-Jan-10 1:17
Divan van der Watt11-Jan-10 1:17 
GeneralRe: Good Pin
db_developer14-Jan-10 1:26
db_developer14-Jan-10 1:26 
Maybe I am stupid or, somehow, but I do not see 'CREATE PROCEDURE sp_column ....'

..but there is some more interesting (at least for me) SSMS extensibility. Description is below:
it is often needed to bracket SQL code to some another language borders, like

Select * from tbl

+ "Select * from tbl"

and back again if you need to find bug or make some changes.

It is easy to do for one-line SQL-script (just copy-past from SSMS to VS and back again), but it is extremely boring (and what is most important - costly) when there is a lot of screens of SQL-script.

It would be greate to create add-in (or any) that does this dirty work.

Good idea for article Wink | ;)
Adam Dawes6-Jan-10 4:11
Adam Dawes6-Jan-10 4:11 
spoodygoon6-Jan-10 7:29
spoodygoon6-Jan-10 7:29 

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