The best tools for working with Azure

Are you looking into increasive your productivity with Azure? The right tools will make your job much easier. Take a look at these free tools that are available for Windows, Linux and macOS.

Visual Studio Code

Visual Studio Code is a free Microsoft code editor that comes with many useful plugins. There are many Azure plugins that can simplify your work. Just search for azure among the extensions.

Visual Studio Code - Azure Resource Manager (ARM) Tools

For instance there is a Visual Studio Code plugin for editing ARM templates. As you probably know, ARM templates is the way you really should manage your Azure Resources.

  • You get Infrastrucure-As-Code
  • It works fine with Source Control
  • Everything is Declarative, so you can easily rerun any templates

The plugin enables you to type snippets:

Also it supports IntelliSense with auto-completion:

Visual Studio Code - Bicep Tools

There is even a Visual Studio Code plugin for Bicep, the next generation Azure Resource Manager syntax. Bicep is an easier and cleaner language that transpiles (is converted to) standard ARM templates. Here is a good starting point for learning Bicep.

Azure CLI

If you have been around since the good old times, you know the power of command-line tools. They are for real system administrators and developers.

With the right skills, you can do many things much faster with your command-line tools than anyone can do in the point-and-click graphical user interfaces.

Azure CLI is exactly what it sounds like. It is a command-line tool for managing Azure. It is available for Windows, Linux and Mac. It is free. It is helpful and easy to use.

After installing it, just open a command prompt and type az to run.

Azure PowerShell

Another command-line tool is Azure Powershell. It is a set of cmdlets ("commands") that you install as a plugin in PowerShell. It works with PowerShell on Windows, Linux and MacOS.

Azure PowerShell has been released in different versions. Important: Make sure you install the Az module. Avoid installing the old AzureRM module.

Azure PowerShell is a more advanced alternative to Azure CLI. It is a bit more difficult to use, but it gives you better automation possibilites and more functionality. It can do things that you cannot do from Azure CLI.

AzCopy

AzCopy is a command-line tool for copying blobs or files between Storage accounts and files systems. You can for example use it to download from your Azure Storage to your local harddrive.

Typically you use SAS tokes (Shared Access Signatures) for authenticating with your Azure Storage. Remember to append the SAS token to your blob URLs. Also note that Windows may require you to escape the % character in your SAS token, so you need to add an additional % character in front of it.

AzCopy can also efficiently copy between Storage Accounts. It does this efficiently because it uses server-to-server API:s so data is sent directly between the servers.

AzCopy also has a synchronize feature, so you can synchronize the content between Storage Accounts and local file system. If you use if for synchronizing two Storage Accounts, it will do this efficiently by using server-to-server API:s.

If you prefer Graphical User Interfaces, there are also good options available.

Azure Storage Explorer

Azure Storage Explorer is a free GUI tool for manage your Azure Storage / Data Lake, as well as Cosmos DB resources.

In fact, Azure Storage Explorer uses AzCopy to perform all of its data transfer operations.

Azure Storage Explorer can even be used to upload or download managed disks. This is useful when you migrate a Virtual Machine between Azure Regions or from on-premise to Azure.

Azure Storage Explorer is available for Windows, Linux and MacOS.

Azure Data Studio

Azure Data Studio is a cross-platform database tool for working with on-premises and cloud databases. It is available for Windows, MacOS and Linux.

Azure Data Studio comes with a modern SQL editor with IntelliSense and smart SQL code snippets (code blocks to create tables, stored procedures, etc). It also supports Jupyter Notebooks.

One advantage of Azure Data Studio is that it comes with plugins (or extensions as they are called). For example there is an extension that allows you to profile Azure SQL Databases using extended events.

CloudShell

There is one more tool that is always available in Azure directly in your web browser. It is the Azure CloudShell. To open it, click on this icon in the Azure Portal.

The CloudShell is a command-line interface where you have access to PowerShell and Bash. Also Azure CLI is available within CloudShell.

CloudShell is an easy way to access Azure CLI or Azure PowerShell without needing to do any installation. Also you automatically get the latest version of everything. It's a kind of "Command-line-tool-as-a-service".

Good luck!

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