Sunday, June 24, 2007

Access 2007 Bible

I don't normally do book reviews, but the Access 2007 Bible is the first book that I've purchased from the Wiley "Bible" series and I have a few comments to share. Usually I select from the QUE "Special Edition Using", SAMS "Teach Yourself", Peachpit "Visual Quickstart", or O'Reilly "Definitive Guide" series, but this was the first one I found at the bookstore that discusses customizing the Ribbon. I often use custom toolbars in my apps, but the ribbon forces those into the Add-Ins tab which diminishes their usefulness.

Considering all the changes to the UI, I decided to start reading the 1400+ pager from the beginning. Already in Chapter 2, they talk about a "five step method" of design that does not make sense to me, and contradicts the normal design flow.

They begin with an overall system design, but step 2 speaks of report design. That does not compute. In my experience, reports are the last thing to develop, and in fact designing reports can be an ongoing task, quite literally for years, as users need to extract more and more information from the database. Step 3 by the way begins the actual table design.

When designing a database, there is a real need to know what type of reports the users will ultimately need, but those report requirements will grow and expand significantly as they study the original reports and continue to ask more questions of the data. Many of those new reports will involve combining, compiling, and manipulating data in various ways; none of which can be anticipated when designing the original database.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

The Future of Access

Microsoft's complete redesign of Access 2007 has reconfirmed their commitment to their flagship desktop database. No other product on the market has the same capabilities and user-accessibility. The rich object model, queries, forms, reports; all contribute to its popularity. In addition, VBA allows the Access professional to continue to develop complete solutions within a single program, without needing conversion to the .NET platform.

I remember working at a customer years ago on an Access 97 project, and the Corporate IT Director told me "you know, this is going to be the last version of Access from Microsoft." However, to paraphrase Mark Twain, "reports of my death are greatly exaggerated."

Access 2007 can be used with existing designs in the 2000 or 2002 formats, and still supports workgroup security which was eliminated from the 2007 version. Apparently the new 2007 format .accdb would have been too difficult to implement in the new XML data layout.

Even with the release of the free versions of SQL Server 2005 Express, Access will continue to be the best choice for single-user and small-group applications.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Lost product keys - found

Here's my problem - I have two CD's of Office 2003 Pro, one is installed on my desktop & the other on my laptop, but I lost track of which CD was installed on which PC.

There is a great program, Belarc Advisor that is free for home use, that can list out every ProductID and 25-letter code for all of your installed software, and not just the MS products. It also does a quick assessment of your various installed updates, security status of user accounts, and so forth.

In a matter of minutes, I found out which CD matches which PC, so now if I decide to re-run the install to add / remove Office components there won't be any issues.