Hello. I am currently studying database design at my local university. They use Microsoft products there (Microsoft SQL Server 2008/2012), but we can't use them at home because of the licensing. I have two questions:

1 - Is there anything in the world of Open Source that I can use to process those Microsoft Files? I mean: can't I use Microsoft Management Studio to save the database using another format and then open that database at home with another program that does the same as Management Studio (you know, that cool visual editing of tables and relationships).

2 - The final project involves designing and implemening a database for a fictional company of one's choice. Turns out I could probably make the database to solve a particular problem at work, so it would be more or less real. If so, what database management system do you suggest? Here are the characteristics: We have no Microsoft SQL Server (actually no database server at all) and want to go for a FREE DBMS. The business is translation: it's a database for storing clients, translators (with their availability), proofreaders, processed and unprocessed texts, etc. I have been advised against MySQL because it was bought by some company which could probably bury it; I was also told it has too many security holes. I saw Maria DB but know nothing about it. I have also seen postgres, firebird, sqlite.

Thanks in advance.

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but we can't use them at home because of the licensing

Why not? Microsoft has a Free version called Express Edition which allows you to install without having to purchase a license. Its a great choice for personal development.

http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/sqlserver/editions/2012-editions/express.aspx

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Ok... features

full featured editions are meant for the enterprise but if you do need the full version you can download those also with a 6 month trial.

http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/sqlserver/get-sql-server/try-it.aspx

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Tha's good to hear, but they told me the express version lacks some features we will need. Don't know if it's true, though.

You can also download the free SQL management console which greatly eases management tasks like creating databases, setting permissions, etc. Once a database has been created in the GUI you can generate the SQL commands necessary to recreate the database if necessary.

I See, Jim, what is the name of that free SQL management console?

Ah Alright. So far it seems to be compatible with all I have done. Now for the second subquestion: if I want to use a full database, not the express version of Microsoft's, what would be a suitable candidate given the nature of my project? I basically want the possibility of using a nice GUI like Microsoft's. Should I really go with MySQL? What about Postgres? Are they too big for my project?

Microsoft SQL Management Studio Express can be downloaded from here

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