Monday, December 15, 2008

Garry’s Christmas Stocking Suggestions

If I was to fill a stocking with the software that I need to help run my Access / Office Programming company, here is what I would like to see on most computers.

No matter what you think about Ribbons and the side task bar in Access 2007, the interface is here to stay and Microsoft is devoting lots of good developers dollars to the product. I highly recommend you spend time with A2007 soon if you haven't already tried it. Just be careful installing the product to make sure that you don't delete your existing version of Access.

The main place you will see the Microsoft Access developer dollars is when you use Access with SharePoint. If you don't know what SharePoint is, we use a cheap and well featured WSS 3 service from If you are interested in SharePoint but reluctant to signup, our Xmas offer is we will give you a free subweb with full permissions for 3 months if you purchase a copy of our newly revamped Toolbox for $70. This will allow you to create Lists and Surveys and upload documents and use all the great wizards that make the SharePoint product what it is. You will also be able to link to SharePoint lists and many other useful wide area team functions that simply aren't available in Access. Send us an email after we deliver the Toolbox so we can set up the subweb.

Note: MSoft is making truckloads of $$$ from SharePoint and Access appears in all sorts of places in the SharePoint web interface. Its really quite exciting as the business skills needed for SharePoint are quite similar to those needed for Access.

If you like to capture screens for your help files, web pages or word files, throw away MS paint and try SnagIt Version 9. You will find the capture options are a real time saver especially with the quick save feature that I use for remembering stuff without taking notes.

All day I am switching versions of Access and moving to the folders where those databases are stored. My team and I use our Access Workbench for these tasks and it saves us quite a bit of time.

If you are looking to upgrade Access to a SQL Server backend with linked tables or even trickier to upsize your queries to stored procedures and views, I have found Andy Couch's MUST upsizer tool such an improvement that we started selling it.

If you want to write better quality visual basic, the premium tool on the market is Total Visual CodeTools from FMS. We are now an International Reseller of FMS products and will be discussing this more in the new year.

Changing the names of objects and controls is still an important part of the Access programming environment. For this we recommend Rick’s tool at

Zipping files is a major part of the development process. Whenever we send out a new version of a database, we will update the version using our workbench and then store the version in a zip file with a version number. is still a great tool compare to Windows folders compression. On a similar note, we like the Nitro PDF tool for creating PDF files but there are a lot of tools like this on the market.

One tool that I find really useful is Google desktop search. To fire this up I press the Control key twice and type in my computer search term. Its great for finding emails without opening Outlook. To match my use of this product, I save good web pages on my computer so that I can find them on my computer before switching to the web. Watch this tool on corporate networks, IT boffins are not so enthusiastic.

Finally if you work on a laptop, do your eyes and neck a favour and plug it into a decent screen and a decent keyboard. A few hundred bucks is a small price to pay compared to poor posture injuries.

All the best to all my readers for the holiday season

Garry Robinson
Office Access MVP

Friday, December 12, 2008

Flexible Normalization and Denormalization of Data into Reports and Forms

This article describes how I denormalize a fully normalized table into a grid form, do the data entry and post it back in the normalized table. This article also describes how Helen Feddema turns a normal flat table with lots of fields into a normalized table suitable for grouping by queries. Read this comprehensive article here