Display and Save Execution Plans
This section explains how to display execution plans and how to save execution plans to a file in XML format by using Microsoft SQL Server Management Studio.
Execution plans graphically display the data retrieval methods chosen by the SQL Server query optimizer. Execution plans represent the execution cost of specific statements and queries in SQL Server using icons rather than the tabular representation produced by the SET SHOWPLAN_ALL or SET SHOWPLAN_TEXT statements. This graphical approach is very useful for understanding the performance characteristics of a query.