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Horton is the simple database migration utility.
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What is Horton?

Horton is the simple database migration utility. It's a little program that does one thing: enables versioning of database schema through SQL based migration scripts.

Forward-only database migrations help achieve consistent database upgrades and schema versioning. Instead of comparing two database schemas and generating a diff script, we explicitly design the change scripts first. This ensures that changes are applied in a predictable and correct way.

It also supports migrating data which is often a critical requirement, and helps achieve multi-step database schema refactorings such as renaming or combining/splitting columns.

Where can I get it?

Horton is released through GitHub. Download the latest release from the releases tab.

Getting Started

Execute horton.exe --help to see the command syntax

Horton is designed to work with SQL migration scripts. In your version control system, you should create a directory per database for your migration scripts.

Check out the \samples\ directory in this repository for examples of how I would set it up.

Command Syntax

Usage: horton.exe -d DATABASE [OPTIONS]

  -d, --database=VALUE       database name.
  -m, --migrations=VALUE     path to migration scripts.
                               (leave blank for current directory)
  -s, --server=VALUE         server hostname.
                               (leave blank for "(local)")
  -u, --username=VALUE       username of the database connection.
                               (leave blank for integrated security)
  -p, --password=VALUE       password of the database connection.
                               (required if username is provided)
  -c, --connectionString=VALUE
                             ADO.NET connection string.
                               (optional, overrides other parameters)
  -U, --unattend             Surpress user acknowledgement during execution.
  -n, --dryrun               Only show scripts that would run without
                               actually running.
      --rerun                Warn when a migration has been modified and re-
                               run script.
      --baseline             Record scripts as a baseline without running.
  -v, --version              Print version number and exit.
  -h, --help, -?             show help message and exit.

 horton.exe -d Northwind -m "\path\to\migrations"
 horton.exe -d Northwind -m "\path\to\migrations" -s SERVER -u sa -p pa55w0rd -U

File Names

The file name of a script is important. The name MUST begin with some text that can be parsed as integer. The number MUST be followed by an underscore and some text. For example:



  • The integer may be left-padded with zeros. This is useful if you know that you're likely to have hundreds or thousands of scripts and you want them to appear consistent in your file browser.
  • The integer value is used to order the scripts for execution. You MAY have gaps in the numbering. You MAY have multiple scripts with the same number (they will execute in a non-deterministic order). You MAY add a script with a number lower than what was previously executed. This makes it easier to work with branches, or where multiple developers are committing migration scripts.

Once you name a file, you should not rename it. Horton will hash the file name and use that as a key to determine whether or not the migration was executed against a particular database instance.

Scripting Migrations

Each migration script is executed in a separate database transaction. That means each script will either succeed or fail completely. Horton will stop executing scripts on the first error.

You may separate commands in the migration script using the GO keyword on it's own line. This is very similar to how SQL Server Management Studio will execute a script. Essentially Horton will split the file on those lines and execute each part as a separate command within that transaction. Try to do this only when it's necessary.

Some DDL statements, such as CREATE VIEW are required to be the only statement executed in a command.

Because you don't always know when a particular script will execute it's important that scripts be safe and/or idempotent. For example, before add/dropping a column you should check to see whether or not it exists. Err on the side of caution and test for preconditions before executing a change.

DO NOT MODIFY SCRIPTS! Especially after you've committed, and especially if the script was ever executed. Horton will detect and *block execution& when a script has been modified.

If a script was added and executed by mistake, you should delete the bad script and create a new script which safely corrects the mistake.


Horton will automatically create and maintain a table named schema_info in the target database. This table contains a history of each migration executed. Horton uses this history to determine which scripts have been executed, and which have not. Additionally it contains a hash of the file's contents, and so it will warn when the file contents have since been modified.

Supported Databases

At the moment, Horton only supports Microsoft SQL Server. However it's built to use ADO.NET providers. So any database that has an ADO.NET provider could, in theory, be supported. If you want to extend Horton to some other ADO.NET provider, then let's talk!

Horton is Copyright © 2017 Joseph Daigle and other contributors under the MIT license.

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