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MS Access

Posted Aug 3, 2009

What's new in Access 2010

By Danny Lesandrini

In mid-July I received an invitation to preview the Microsoft Office 2010 Technical Beta, including Microsoft Access. While some of the exciting new server-specific features and capabilities are still under the nondisclosure agreement, I’m free to describe what’s new in version 14 of client application. In fact, you can see the new Office 2010 Technical Preview for yourself through Microsoft sponsored videos available at the following link:

http://www.microsoft.com/video/en/us/details/8794ea1b-ef03-4a09-a86a-0caabf590fcd

There are a number of whitepapers out there that describe Office 2010 applications, architecture and security in painful detail. While these are important, I’m more interested in how the new Access looks and feels, what can and can’t be done with it and how steep the new learning curve is going to be. That’s what this article will focus on at a high level.

Setup

In my case, I installed Microsoft Office 2010 Professional on my Dell Latitude D810 laptop running Windows 7 Ultimate Release Candidate. The laptop has a 2.13GHz processor with 2 GB of RAM, well above the minimum requirements described below.

Component

Requirement

Computer and processor

500 MHz processor or higher

Memory

256 megabytes (MB) of RAM or higher

Hard disk

2 gigabytes (GB). A part of this disk space is free after installation if the original download package is removed from the hard disk.

Drive

CD-ROM drive or DVD drive

Display

1024 x 768 or higher-resolution monitor

Operating system

Windows® XP with Service Pack 3 (SP3) (32-bit), Windows Vista® with SP1 (32-bit or 64-bit), Windows® Server 2003 R2 with SP2 (32-bit or 64-bit), Windows® Server 2008 with SP1 (32-bit or 64-bit), Windows® 7 (32-bit or 64-bit). Terminal Server and Windows on Windows (WOW) (which allows installing 32-bit versions of Office 2010 on 64-bit operating systems) are supported.

Additional

Requirements and product functionality can vary based on the system configuration and operating system.

The installation was fast and easy, taking less than five minutes! Other newsgroup posters agreed that it was “smooth” and one person even installed it on his NetBook. My first impression based on a few days clicking through things was extremely positive, despite a few application issues related to a Bluetooth add-in. While some had issues with activation, I had no such problem and I suspect this sort of thing will be fixed by release time.

What’s New

From The Release Notes:

According to the official product feature change document from Microsoft, there are two notable changes to Access and a few new global features common to all Office applications.

1)  The Add Field task pane is removed in Microsoft Access 2010, and is replaced with the Data Type gallery.

As with Access 2007, you may add fields that have been defined in other tables, like Email or DOB, and retain their previously described properties. But this new feature allows you to add a compliment of fields all at once. An [Address], for example, includes a Street, City, State, Zip and Country. Simply click the [Address] field to add all of the above mentioned list of fields. This is a great new feature!

2)  AutoFormat is removed from the Fluent user interface in form and report layout views in Microsoft Access 2010, and is replaced by Office Themes.

Previous versions of Access relied upon “formats” to paint various forms and reports with the same colors and styles, but these formats were unique to Access. In Access 2010, they have been replaced with desktop themes, which carry over into other Office applications, like Word and PowerPoint.

3)  Various global changes to all Office 2010 applications.

One of the well received features of Office 2010 is the enhancement to the MRU file list. It may seem like a little thing, but you may now right click entries in the list and elect to remove them, or pin it to the list so it is never “popped” off.

My Own Observations:

I find it difficult to identify things specifically new to Access 2010 since I never immersed myself with Access 2007 and some things that I found interesting have been there since the last version. However, the following are genuinely Access 2010 new features.

1)  Changes to menus and the ribbon.

The “Office Button” in the upper left corner has been improved. In Access 2007 it simply dropped down a menu but now it loads a new screen that exposes more functionality in a cleaner and more intuitive way. Some may prefer the old UI and I suppose it’s a matter of choice, but for some reason I can’t explain, this feels more comfortable to me.

The default page, shown above, is called Backstage View and replaces the File menu. It includes links to view the Application Log, check for web compatibility, publish, compact, analyze or encrypt your database. You may also open the table relationships window from here, an option that was difficult to find as it’s been removed from the ribbon where it had resided in Access 2007.

I was tempted to enumerate the menu options on each ribbon, but in addition to being boring, it will become inaccurate as feedback from the beta testing is incorporated into the final build. There is already talk of returning some of the removed options to their places.

2)  Table Macros (akin to Triggers)

The most exciting enhancement for developers has got to be the addition of macros (read triggers here) to local Access tables. I’ve only had a few minutes to play with this feature, but it is undoubtedly going to be my favorite new feature in Access 2010. Below is a screen shot of the user interface and an example of one of a table event macro.

Pardon the nature of my example, which breaks the normalization rule about storing calculated data, but it illustrates the idea of an update trigger. There is an [Age] field (which should be calculated from date of birth) and another field I arbitrarily named [Result], which accepts the result of the macro execution. When [Age] is updated and the value exceeds 18, the [Result] field is updated to the word “Adult”; otherwise it’s updated to the word “Child”.

What’s really cool about this development environment is that you may right-click the page and copy part or all of the macro and paste it into another section. Alternatively, you may paste the text of the macro into Notepad (as shown in the image) to share it with others, such as in a newsgroup post where you’re asking for assistance with the code.

There’s a lot of functionality to explore in this new feature, but a quick peek suggests you may do the following in these “triggers”:

  • Create, delete or edit a record
  • Set a field or variable value
  • Raise an error
  • Log an event
  • Send an Email

3)  Macros in General

Everything I described above for Table Macros applies to macros in general in Access 2010. As with macros in previous versions, there are many, many actions that can be assigned and while I’ve never before been a fan of macros, I’m quite enamored of the new approach. Somehow, the fact that macros may be represented with XML gives them more credibility with programmers.

From the Newsgroups:

One of the benefits of being involved with the Technical Preview Beta is the access one gains to the newsgroups where features are discussed. Below I’ve noted some of the points mentioned by others who are reviewing the beta.

1)  The VBA editing environment seems visually cleaner and crisper.

Personally, I didn’t notice a difference. I’ve included a screen shot of the VBA IDE for Access 2010, just to satisfy the reader’s curiosity.

2)  Sharepoint integration and new Web Database file type.

The client feature is still not available in the Technical Preview and is covered under the NDA but the Microsoft published video referenced above does give us a peek at it.

Before you get too excited, it is my understanding that the “publish to web” function will apply to Sharepoint sites, not the web in general. People often want to know how they can put their Access databases “on the web” but this will only be a solution for those who have access to a Sharepoint site. Even so, the ability to share your Access databases within an organization is huge. While this was available to some extent with Access 2007, the integration will no doubt be tighter and publishing looks to be more convenient.

3)  Application Parts

The Application Parts menu option exposes a list of templates that may be inserted into a database application. In Beta 1 the feature consistently failed but it is reported to be fixed in the next release.

More to come ...

As of this writing, the Technical Preview Beta has only been available for about a week and I haven’t had the luxury to dedicate myself to it full time. The help file isn’t complete yet and hasn’t been of much help to me. The other documentation available to beta testers is interesting enough, but there’s not very much of it at this point. As more information becomes available and as I get more experience with the new features mentioned above, I’ll be documenting it here in these articles.

As is expected of a beta product, it’s a little buggy and I’ve been shut down a few times, but not ungracefully. I expect there will be a learning curve with the Sharepoint and web integration pieces and I know the new security model will take some getting used to. All the same, for me as an Access developer the upcoming production release of Access 2010 is the most exciting thing that I can remember in some time.

» See All Articles by Columnist Danny J. Lesandrini



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