Monday, August 24, 2009

Five Things to Love about Access 2007

With Microsoft Access 2007 hovering at around $89 for a copy of the upgrade version, the price is now one of the smallest considerations when deciding to upgrade. Access 2010 is in the next calendar year, and so you may want to wait to upgrade if you haven't already. But working in Access 2007 quite a bit lately to create a new Microsoft Access Template for employee recruiting, I didn't want some of the less publicized, but incredibly useful features, to go unnoticed. In no particular order:
  1. Alternating section backgrounds in forms and reports. Getting that "greenbar" effect where every other row in a form or report had a different background was once the thing of clever coding or Conditional Formatting. Access 2007 has a native "Alternate Back Color" property in the Detail Section properties. You can set it to be dynamic to the user's system color scheme, or specify a color to use.
  2. Date picker. Similar to the greenbar effect, you once had to trouble with ActiveX controls to offer users a nice date pick control when they were in a date field. Updating to the current century, the Access team wisely made it an embedded control that automatically pops up when the user enters a date field.
  3. Layout view. This enhancement has gotten more press than the prior two, but it can't get enough. I'll admit I staunchly stuck with the "Design view" when Access 2007 came out, shunning the "Layout view" as a silly tool. How wrong I was. The Layout View in Access 2007 will make you so much more efficient creating reports and forms. Neither mode is perfect, but use the Layout view to touch up your reports and forms by seeing what records will actually look like to the user. You'll notice text boxes that need to be wider, mis-aligned controls, and whether you're using space and screen real-estate effectively for your users.
  4. Report design. Overall, Microsoft's improvements to the Report Design mode are fantastic and far more intuitive. It's fair to say that 50-70% of the people that use Access would consider themselves novices, and the old report design interface did few favors to help. The Group & Sort, Totals, and Layout view simplify some of the most confusing elements of report design in prior versions of Access.
  5. Ribbon. I'll caveat this by saying anyone who has worked with any MS Office product for years is going to hand you a few reams of complaints about the Office Ribbon, and the Access Ribbon in particular. The Ribbon in Access is problematic for designing an application for end users, as it takes away quite a bit of programmatic control developers were accustomed to. But for a beginner, the Ribbon is genius. If you are not a database designer or developer, you need to know what possible tasks and options exist for what you are looking at on screen. And the Ribbon does just that.


Donn Edwards said...

You're right about the Ribbon bar in Access 2007. It's the reason why I'm hoping that the problem will be fixed in 2010, and the sole reason why I refuse to write any applications in 2007.

Actually, I still prefer Access 97, and I can make it run just fine in Vista and Windows 7 with some tools I developed.

Does the UI Builder have a method for getting rid of the Ribbon Bar?

accesspro said...

Hi Donn,

I'm not sure about getting rid of the Ribbon altogether. To get rid of the majority of the Ribbon tabs in a database, select the Office icon, then Access Options. In the "Current Database" tab, then unselect the "Allow Full Menus" option. The next time your database starts, the full Ribbon won't be present.