2021–01 BigQuery SQL Workspace and UI changes

I typically do not get excited when I open up the BigQuery UI, but today we got a late Christmas present. Google Cloud has rolled out some new features for the BigQuery UI. There are layout changes, enhancements to existing features, and all together new features that should help change the way we use BigQuery.

First to get to the new UI make your way over to the BigQuery console and select ‘SHOW PREVIEW FEATURES’ in the top navigation bar. Once in the new UI you will see a hide version to take you back so do not worry about being stuck in the new UI forever.

First thing you will notice is the layout has changed

Current UI
Preview UI

The BigQuery contextual menu is now split out into its own collapsable menu. Because it is able to collapse it allows for the data set explorer to be cleaner and easier to navigate. The Job History, Query History, and Saved Queries now have also moved to the bottom of the window in their own collapsable menu. I am not as sold on this move but as I play around with it more I can see how that positioning is useful in the context of the whole UI change.

With the change to the layout there is no longer a section for viewing dataset and table information. Previously this would be at the bottom of the window when you have clicked on one of those objects. Instead now they open up as their own editor window (more on editor windows shortly). This should allow us to see information about those objects easier instead of being confined to the smaller window that it previously had.

MULTIPLE EDITOR WINDOWS

Next is the biggest change to quality of life in the tool. MULTIPLE EDITOR WINDOWS! If you have used BigQuery in the past you have likely added a Chrome plugin or had multiple windows open to give you a semblance of this feature. Not anymore, now you can have multiple editor windows open without having to consume additional resources on your local machine to support more tabs or plugins. Jumping around those tabs is so far much easier. To enable all you have to do is hit the ‘COMPOSE NEW QUERY’ button and it will add more editors as additional tabs.

Now with the multiple editor windows comes another great feature. The ability to have split editor windows.

This allows me to compare SQL queries, results, and execution details of two queries at the same time. So if you’re trying to see how a change in a query impacts results or performance we can easily do that comparison.

As I mentioned before when you inspect a table or dataset it now opens up a new window, and since I can split them out I can have an editor and schema definition side by side. This allows me to have a more complete view of the schema of a table. One drawback to this that I have noticed is that column names no longer insert into your query when you click on it in the schema definition.

Another change to the UI is being able to highlight and execute portions of queries within an editor. This is a subtle change from previous behavior where you had to click the submenu for run, then select run selected. Now I can highlight and run via the ‘RUN’ button or shortcut command.

Lastly there have been some major improvements to the auto-complete functionality. Previously you would have to start typing and then hit tab to trigger suggestions for completion. Now as you type keywords and table names suggestions begin to populate immediately.

All of these changes are very exciting because they go hand in hand with changes we’ve seen in the past year to the BigQuery product. More and more it will be that single pane of glass where you can access all your Google Cloud data from, Cloud SQL, GCS, Log, BigTable, and other cloud services via BigQuery Omni. Looking forward to additional features that get released and maybe some more that I have overlooked.

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