Toad (acronym for Tool for Oracle Application Developers) is arguably one of the most popular and best known tools used by most people dabbling in Oracle databases ( or for that matter, most relational databases anyway). Toad’s reputation is so good, I’ve known few people swear by it and don’t even bother looking at other software, no matter how good.
Toad’s got more features than your average SQL/ PL/SQL developer would use,and hence got a bit of a steep learning curve. Not to mention an even steeper price tag ( the base edition starts at $957, and goes all the way upto $4709 if you include the Code Tester and DB Admin module). Given these prices, Toad is pretty heavily pirated.
However, most people are unaware that Toad also comes in a freeware edition, and until recently was severely crippled. Few days ago, there was an update to Toad freeware - and the updates are pretty good. The freeware edition is now based on 10.5 codebase, rather than previous 8.5 codebase. Now before you start jumping up and down, the restrictions on the freeware edition are still in place, but noticeably lesser than the previous update. Some of the restrictions include you being limited to only one concurrent database connection (which btw - would severely hamper me, I generally maintain 2-3 connections). Another major irritation is that the freeware edition will expire every 90 days, and you will need to uninstall, re-download and reinstall it. Ugh.
If you’re OK with the restrictions imposed by freeware edition or a Toad fan, then you can go ahead with getting it. If you ask me, Oracle’s SQL Developer is a perfectly acceptable alternative tool.
(In case you’re wondering my preferred tool, its Allround Automations' PL/SQL Developer. Yes, yes, I know, the UI is butt ugly - I didn’t want to touch it at all just because of the UI - but believe me, once you get over the UI, you’ll love it - its fantastically fast, consumes very little memory and got boat load of features for the price its available at. I’ll probably do a review of the tool soon.)
Do let me know if you have a preferred /alternative tool that I could look at.