Book Review: Access 2010 Programmer's Reference
August 31, 2010
Back in June we evaluated four great Access 2010 books that had just been released. There's now another volume available written especially for programmers. Danny Lesandrini peeks inside to see if this book lives up to its name.
It's probably not realistic to say I've read 100 books on Microsoft Access but sometimes it feels like it. I haven't read that many books on SQL Server or Visual Basic, and I'm sure I won't put that much effort into MVC or Silverlight. So why is it I never tire of reading books about Access? I don't honestly know the reason but it might have something to do with the possibility I'm going to uncover some obscure jewel that will ultimately save me time or allow me to do something wiz-bang. Oddly enough, I'm only ever disappointed with the most basic of books and the Microsoft Access 2010 Programmer's Reference is anything but basic.
In a previous article about books to get you up to speed with Access 2010 I spoke about getting started with Access 2010 and described my first project, a bookkeeping application. The simplicity of that program lent itself to features described in the basic Access 2010 books like Teach Yourself Visually and the Dummies series. I think Microsoft has worked hard to simplify complex tasks in Access 2010 so that little programming is necessary to accomplish a lot. Still, books like Mike Groh's Access 2010 Bible and the Access 2010 Programmer's Reference are necessary to deliver complex solutions. In short, the $44.99 you spend on this book will be well spent if you need to develop applications with Access 2010.
Does it Deliver on Depth?
I perform this little ritual in the bookstore when I'm considering a purchase: open the book to the halfway point and read. If I could have written the page, then the book probably doesn't have enough to offer me and is not worth my limited training dollars. If, however, I learn something new, then I'm usually impressed enough to make the purchase. The Wrox Access 2010 Programmer's Reference passed the test. I opened the book halfway and found a chapter titled Creating a Ribbon from Scratch. Not only could I not have written this chapter, it is one of the things I was looking for in an Access 2010 book.
The next thing I often look at is the table of contents and particularly the appendixes. Even though I'm familiar with Access 2010 I was anxious to read the chapters on New Features and Upgrading to Access 2010. Then there are the requisite chapters about VBA, DAO, ADO and SQL, which gets us through chapter 15, about half way through the book. From this point on, the book lives up to its name as a reference for even seasoned Access developers and there's even an appendix for 64-Bit Access, one for Source Control and a Tips and Tricks appendix. Yes, it delivers on depth.
Obscure Jewels Uncovered?
Working with 64-bit machines posed a problem with my API calls. I could have Googled the answer but there was no pressing need to get this resolved before I stumbled across the solution in the Reference. One API call I used a lot was the GetUserName function. It failed on my 64-bit computer but it appears the solution is simply to add PtrSafe after the Declare keyword but before the Function keyword.
Private Declare PtrSafe Function apiGetUserName Lib "advapi32.dll" Alias _
In fact, there's an entire chapter on extending VBA with API calls that is very valuable, if this topic is new to you. Another on working with the Windows registry is also important, if it's not in your toolbox already.
If you're interested in the new Web Database features of Access 2010 then the chapter on SharePont Integration will be of great interest to you. Fifty pages are devoted to explaining how to create web tables, web forms, other objects and the "glue" that affixes them to SharePoint. Personally, I couldn't get into this topic because it's just not an avenue I see in my future, but from what I read, it's very comprehensive.
The chapter on .Net was of greater interest to me since I'm doing more work in Visual Studio 2010 with MVC these days. It's a nice starting point for Access developers who want to learn how to write C# code for accessing MDB data.
Other complex subjects considered include:
Less complex but well worth considering are the many suggestions in the Tips and Tricks appendix. The authors give great suggestions about making your UI more professional. Suggestions and code are provided to help you create an Audit Trail. My favorite snippet was one named fn_TransactSQLScripts that outputs the table structure into scripts that can be run for creating tables and indexes:
CurrentProject.Connection.Execute "CREATE TABLE ... "
Yes, I've read a lot of Access books but I keep only a few on my shelf. I have to admit that I'm impressed with this one. The Microsoft Access Programmer's Referenceby Wrox is one that I'll be keeping.