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Access: Simplified Guides
Access: More Involved Issues
Access / VBA

For Novices

For Beginners provides some advice on starting your Access adventure. Components will take you to a table describing what the primary purpose of each object (table, query...) is. The interplay between these components is what makes Access special. 

Finding in Help provides you some keywords that you can type into the Help Assistant or Help Index. Access Help contents have cascaded and enlarged since Access 1.0 was released and some of us have a real hard time digesting the overload of information.

Thinking Access gives you some insights.

  1. Learn about Normalisation, 1NF, 2NF, 3NF - This is Relational Database 101 in Computer Science.  Learn how to break wide shallow tables into several tall, narrow tables, related by key columns. Read sample papers like Understanding Relational Design. A very unimaginative (i.e. it does nothing for me) Microsoft Webcast on Relational Databases is here.
  2. Learn about queries and if necessary, SQL (Que's Special Edition Using SQL ISBN 0789719746 is a good book).
  3. Start making some forms and reports. Initially the forms you make will be kinder stuff but as you want more buttons, drop lists and so on, you will need to learn either macros and/or VBA, the Access Event Model and the Access Controls and Properties.
  4. Take apart the Northwind example. In nearly all my Access classes, I use NorthWind to demonstrate various features. Microsoft has written a special overview - have a look at it.

 

For aspiring Developers...

Development Tips will take you to a tips and other websites to visit when you are creating an Access application. Reading List lists some books and references that you will find useful. Access on the Web discusses the issues of putting your Access database on the web. One typical way of learning about Access is to take apart Microsoft examples. You can find lots of examples at the MS Download Site.

 

For IT Pros who need convincing...

There comes time in all our lives, when we've had to switch development environments or done too much time in one. For a few years now, gurus as well as those who know nothing about Access or rdbms but love to be the naysayers have prophesied doom for Access.

In some ways, Microsoft is helping things along:

  • Jet, the engine that is the foundation of Access has developed but not at the breadth that SQL Server has developed. Jet is single threaded and single processor based.

  • Access is starting to grow width at being a client but depth is not improving much. Features like Data Access Pages, Access Data Projects make it a more interesting client (although these are version 1 features) but do not make Access a better integrated program.

  • DAO (Data Access Objects) has been forsaken for the new model, ADO (ActiveX Data Objects). In a migration frenzy, MS has also worked out ADO+, the next thing after ADO. Yet, Only DAO knows Jet intimately while the other models are concerned with globalisation across technologies other than database.

  • Access keeps getting reinvented. Landmark Access 2.0 gave way to a buggy Access 7.0/'95. Landmark Access 8.0/'97 has given away to a slow and poor fitting Access 2000

  • There is a pre-occupation amongst the heavyweight Access developers and corporate IT people to embrace a one-size-fits-all policy. They have been so mind frazzled over n-tier database development while Access is happily single tiered.

In reply, it is worth noting that:

  • Access is great BECAUSE it is single tiered and uses data bound forms and reports. Single tiering allows you to use VBA expressions mixed into Jet SQL. Data bound forms make Rapid Application Development work because you are lifted away from organising record buffer loading, editing and saving operations as well as user interface - record cursor handling.

  • Access is the only game in town in short term, highly immediate results development on MS Windows platform.  FileMaker Pro is too light, Lotus Approach - a non starter, Paradox/Windows - nice OOP and therefore better source consistency but a heck to ask any body to commit to, considering it's very limited market share, Dataflex - mainly for third party development.

  • Access essentially comes at very low cost (close to nil) to corporate IT even though many corporates decided NOT to install it because helpdesk has no skill set to support development and they don't want end users to develop anything (as end users have a habit of not documenting anything or are job mobile).

Users helping Users...

When all else fails, talk to the community. The Microsoft.Public.Access.* newsgroups are very popular. A non Microsoft hosted one is comp.databases.ms-access. There is an Netiquette that you should abide by in newsgroups. Namely:

  • Don't post in HTML format - use plain text.
  • Don't go emotional and mind your language.
  • Give enough info to help someone or for someone to help you.
  • Don't crosspost if you can avoid it.

Visit the Access newsgroups:

Finally, when is a relational db not a good idea?