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Writing Stored Procedures for Microsoft SQL Server by Matthew Shepker

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Viewing and Interpreting Execution Plans

When you are developing stored procedures and other SQL Server queries, it's a good idea for you to be able to see what the execution plan will look like. This enables you to create well-written stored procedures without the need to perform a great deal of redevelopment after the procedure goes into production. The execution plan also shows where you can speed up query execution. For example, it will show tables that don't have statistics created on them. There are two ways to view the execution plan. You can view the estimated execution plan or the actual execution plan.

All execution plans are viewed in SQL Query Analyzer, using a feature called the graphical showplan. To view an estimated query plan, ...

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