I've always liked the graphic showplan in SQL Server query analyzer. The biggest hassle with it came when you wanted to send the plan to a friend. Or maybe MS support, but support is your friend too… right? You could send screenshots (which had the annoying habit of never displaying those hover-over stats) or go back to textual showplan.

SQL Server 2005 has XML showplan and I'd once gone as far as to attempt to write a transform to display things nicely. No need. You can do the following from SQL Server Management Studio.

1. Turn on the XML showplan
   — show estimated plan
   SET SHOWPLAN_XML ON
   GO

   — or execute statement and show real plan
   SET STATISTICS XML ON
   GO

2. This puts out your showplan as an XML data type column. Click the hyperlink to display the file.

3. Save the XML showplan file with the magic suffix .SQLPlan

4. Now when you double-click on the .SQLPlan file, it opens in SSMS as the interactive showplan with the hover-over stats.

Cool, eh? You can do a variation of this with SQL Profiler too. In fact its easier with SQL Profiler. Now you can mail the .SQLPlan to a friend. With full fidelity.