Saturday, December 31, 2016

Access Desktop Sputters Back to Life

In 2016, Donald and Nigel surprised all with election results that were obvious if you wanted to look somewhere other than CNN or The Telegraph. The same also applied to the old fashioned world of Microsoft Access desktop solutions because contrary to the prophesies of the IT gurus, MS Access started to crank back into life. "What say you Garry ? " Here were the late surprises as best described in the FMS December newsletter.  Another take on this can be found here in Linked In

  •  MS Access was added to the small business editions of Office 365
  • Support for dBase tables were added back to Access 2016
  • Support was added for links to SalesForce, Dynamics CRM and more
Look these are not huge changes but given that Access is not cloud and its not phone, these are signs that Access is still loved in Microsoft.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Excel at Sub-Totals in the Cloud - Another LinkedIn story

Excel online is different canvas to Excel on the desktop. Your audience is likely to be less familiar with Excel, they are very likely to have a small screen and they probably couldn't "be bothered" to scroll off the first page of your report. In this article I will show you how SubTotals in Excel can make big data concise and then ExcelOnline can expand that information so you can see detailed data.

PS.  Soon I will publish the vba that goes with this article on this page at

The Big One - NZ Earthquake

Recently New Zealand had a monster earthquake centred in the southern island north of near a xmall town called Waiau.  Here is a page with many great pictures and another page showing how far the earth was moved. Finally a huge canyon filmed by drone

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Products That Are Related To Microsoft Access

Following are a list of products that are related to Microsoft Access and Office that I haven't posted about before but its possible I will post about in the future. The quick summary on the products comes from Microsoft itself.

Power Apps  and the Common Data Service

A development environment on the desktop to build mobile and tablet and web forms that connect to your systems and create new data. Typically your data will reside in the cloud in something like a Azure SQL table or a sharepoint list.
Build apps without writing code (not sure that's a feature)
Publish and use on web and mobile

Power BI
Power BI transforms your company's data into rich visuals for you to collect and organize so you can focus on what matters to you.

Power Query for Excel
Microsoft Power Query is an Excel add-in that simplifies data discovery, access, and collaboration. It's provided as part of Microsoft Power BI self-service solution.

Microsoft Graph  
Don't be fooled by the name, its purpose is a unified API endpoint, for accessing data, intelligence, and insights coming from the Microsoft cloud. And just for reference about why Microsoft may have used the term Graph, see Graph for Facebook I mainly bring this up so you don't get excited about this being part of the next big thing to create an Access graph.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Amateur Hour for the Access Solution you have just been shown ?

Armen Stein has a simple list that you can use to evaluate if a database was created by a person who has not had the time to properly learn Microsoft Access.

In the list of flaws, Armen singles out splitting, compile errors, weird field names, the lack of database relational design and popup dialogs and others. Apart from late binding of Excel which my guys leave until we do have a problem and splitting of databases which we don't do until the database goes into production, I  like Armen's Amateur Signs list , 

If you want to dive deeper into the topic of the "Less the perfect Access solution", have a read of Luke Chung's article on Taking Over Someone else's database.

That's the heavy reading over, have you ever dreamed of going to Hawaii. If so, Armen's wife Lori with a little help from Armen has written a travel guide for Kauai, the most spectacular of Hawaii's great islands IMHO.  If you have never been to Kauai, think of this book as the guide that introduces you to the great things about why you should visit the island rather than the guide that says such and such a hotel is 3 star and has good parking.

All the best and Happy Birthday MS Access

Garry Robinson
Programmer who didn't ever use Access 1.0 or 1.1

Microsoft Access is 24 years old - Its Time to leave home

On November 13th, Microsoft Access will be 24 years old. Here is a timeline commentary from Wikepedia

"1992: Microsoft released Access version 1.0 on 13 November 1992, and an Access 1.1 release in May 1993 to improve compatibility with other Microsoft products and to include the Access Basic programming language.

1994: Microsoft specified the minimum hardware requirements for Access v2.0 as: Microsoft Windows v3.1 with 4 MB of RAM required, 6 MB RAM recommended; 8 MB of available hard disk space required, 14 MB hard disk space recommended. The product shipped on seven 1.44 MB diskettes. And so the story goes and you can read it in Wikepedia.

This old stuff is is all fine but what has Access become in the world of clouds and phones ? Is it like a cat and ready to be replaced by a cute little kitten or is it a teenager that is now 24 years old and really needs to leave the house, get a job in an Office and learn some respect.

Clearly the post about Microsoft Desktop joining the Small Business plans on Office 365 tells you that Microsoft has not given up on MS Access. I was in Seattle this week with other MVP's and now that I have seen what Microsoft has published lately I personally feel that Access has both a place in the world and certainly is ready to do useful work in the Office for years to come.  So now you know my views, Happy birthday MS Access, its time to head off to the real world.

Some of Access 1.0 MVPs at the 2016 MVP Summit
In order top to bottom

Scott, Tom, Peter
Karl, Dirk, Doug, Jack, Andres, Ben
Brent, Andy, Luke, Miriam, George, Adrian, Armen
Jack, Juan, Garry, Jeff

If you want to find out about an MVP, click here

How to give Access a birthday present, next time someone asks you what you are working on, don't just call it an Access database, call it an Access Solution. But if you have a better phrase, Post your alternative words for Access Solution here I will be glad to put it here in the blog.

Sunday, November 06, 2016

Knock me down with a feather - Mary Jo talks about MS Access

Every now and again I will look at ZdNet to get a decent fix of tech news. Anytime that Microsoft is mentioned, Mary Jo Foley is usually the author. So when I saw an article on MS Access, I wasn't expecting big things. But the news was nice, MS Access 2016 is going to be auto downloaded to 365 small business subscribers that use local versions of Office. Read the full story here and a slightly different take on the story.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

The Web: Stories not for the nervous

Copyright A Hitchcock
The other day I was reading about the denial of service attacks that knocked the stuffing out of Netflix and Twitter and others on a Friday night. As the story went, the bad people had taken over everyone's fridges and internet ready coloured lights and caused them to smash the internet.  I found a more informed version of that story here   Before your read my next article, go and check if you still have your wireless router usernames and passwords set to Admin Admin.

The second story is your classic Government doesn't really know how to deliver a service so it employs an expensive contractor. The only thing that is guaranteed in these encounters is that the contractor makes a lot of money, everything else is a matter of chance. In an Australian classic, the government decides that the Census can easily be delivered by asking 20 million people to log in after work into a brand new website. By eight pm, 19 million people were unhappily experiencing crashing forms and spinning hour glasses. Read this classic rotten tomato piece here

The final scary story comes from the land where Lord of the Rings was filmed, good old New Zealand. Many moons ago a research group discovered that they could hoover up data and give it to the people who look after us. Television New Zealand and The Intercept unearthed this rather sad story.


Next week I travel across the world to Seattle to the Microsoft MVP conference. There I will be entertained with the latest and greatest things that the still strong Microsoft Access team have been upto and more-so the successes of Microsoft as a whole. Whilst I will not be able to divulge anything that is NDA, I can guarantee you that there will be a room full of Access MVP's that will pass on a users perspective of the world to the Access team. I have always enjoyed this long trip, I doubt this one will be any different.  Enjoy your weekend.  

Garry Robinson
Access MVP since 2006.

Here is a group of links for Excel Online that will get you started

Lately I have written a couple of articles about Excel Online for LinkedIn. Those articles were geared for the programmer who is just getting started in this new area.

In this piece I am going to give you a list of good references about Excel Online and to a lessor extent, Word, Outlook and Powerpoint Online. For example, this Microsoft page will direct you to a number of videos to help you open Excel files online, something you will work out but will your users ? Very good concise videos  

and if you are still in the unsure camp, this article at PCMag shows you pictures of the completely free Ipad version of Excel and gives you mini descriptions underneath.

And if that has whetted your appetite for Online Excel/Office, check out all the rest of the Excel Online hyperlinks on this LinkedIn article I wrote.

Friday, October 21, 2016

The vba answer to my Excel Automation "Homework" from a few weeks ago

A few weeks ago I outlined how you create smarter Excel spreadsheets if they just so happened to be populated with data. Now I have finally created a sample code page that shows how that can be done here

The result will be a spreadsheet where the data filters shown in the picture below are open when your reader opens the file for the first time.

Enjoy   Garry

If you are into LinkedIn, I am publishing more in that environment. Check the same article here

Monday, October 10, 2016

Software stagnation - Doing nothing can cost you money

I have been writing Microsoft Access software now for nearly 25 years. In that time I have occasionally had software projects that have not had any development or support for 5 years or more. If the project was small, starting again is no trouble. If the project was big, getting back on top of the project is either costly to me or the customer.

After 5 years has gone by, the customer will be familiar with what some of the software does but may not be aware of the workings/specifications for the software, especially if they are new to the company. If so then everyone who is going to be involved in the new development will be "somewhat in the dark".

Things can get start to get a lot darker when the programmer of the software leaves town. Given that there has been no action (read money) for five years, there is every likelihood that they will have left town. This particularly applies to contract programmers who are working on the next project the minute the current contract is completed. My company doesn’t do contract jobs for that very reason.

 What is the solution to this stagnation dilemma ?

  Read the full editorial on Linked-In here

A potted plant in the lovely Fiesole near Florence, Italy

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Handling Multi-Line Text and a couple of notes on phones

I recently had to write a function that split multiple lines of text in a Long Text memo field into separate lines that I then wanted to post into a table.

The best article that I found on the topic was by The Smiley Coder and you can read that article here.

Mr Smiley's article features the VBA Split function. That function works by splitting the input string at every occurrence of a delimiter (like | or , or ; ) and returns the substrings in an array. For example, Split("a:b:c", ":") returns the array {"a", "b", "c"}. You can read the technical workings of the Split VBA function at Microsoft.  Keeping on my recent Excel twist, you can read an article on using Split VBA in Excel here.

If you think this post was only about lines of text, Split allows you to roll your text file handling rather than relying on MS Access to load up your text files.  Good luck with that

What ever you do, aim high...

Phone Titbits. 

I have a Lumia 950 XL Windows phone. It works well and takes good videos and photos. The home screen is excellent as it tells me stuff before I open an app. Its not for everyone due to lack of app support. So I was interested to read that there are other windows phones hitting the streets soon inc Hp Elite X3 (which sold out quickly) and the Alcatel Idol and maybe even a Surface Phone. Read about these here

If Microsoft wants to be really clever, apart from aiming for business phone users, they should make their phones ultra secure, hack proof and privacy friendly. An article on how to remove tracking info from an Android Phone is here.

Apologies for the double post of the previous article, something beyond my control.

Garry from Sydney

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Online Data Doesn't have to be Dumb

An Article on Automatic Excel Filters by Garry Robinson

Imagine if your Excel spreadsheet opened up with Filters are turned on, this would make your spreadsheet become more useful instantly. If we export our data to a basic spreadsheet, we should think about providing our users with filters and sorting from the get go rather than hoping they will find the Filter button in the menu of the Excel User Interface.

This article shows how you can use Excel Automation to add filters and demonstrates what that looks like in Excel Online. It then gives you clues as to how you can start to apply filters of your own to your OutputTo XLSX spreadsheets.

This article follows on from last months piece on Excel Online - File types and other basics

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Rollover  Beethoven - Access Web Database Users Beware

Ok I know that there are less people in the world that use Access Web databases than there are people that know that Beethoven's ninth was the feature music in the cult R rated film, Clockwork Orange.

That ridiculous analogy aside, if you have an Access web database, then beware when Microsoft asks you politely if you mind changing servers. If you agree, you may find your  odbc 11 linked tables sending out weird readonly messages.  What has happened is you will still be connected to your old server and that server will be readonly. Meanwhile in the cloud, your new server is working ok and Office 365 cloud data is being stored there. This new data is not visible in your old links. That's the symptoms.

All I can suggest that you do is open up your Access Web Project file in design mode and find those Connection buried under the File menu.  Now reenter your new connections into your odbc 32 links and you will be on the way. I hope.

Meanwhile I feel like I have been done over by , the star of Clockwork trying to work this out. I thought adding a project to my Web database system tonight was only going to take a minute, little did I know. :(

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Combo Boxes in Access are really good but how do you do them in Excel ?

Sorry for a long absence, one of the companies that I work for was taken over and that used up all my gas in the last month or so.  So now I am back, here is a good article on Excel by Susan Harkins that sheds some light on the mysterious world of "Structured Excel programming".

Susan writes... Excel's basic validation is usually adequate, but sometimes you may need an on-the-fly solution. Here are the steps for using VBA to make it happen. Valid data is the cornerstone of any application. Thanks to Excel's Data Validation feature, input values can be tested and accepted or rejected based on criteria you specify. One of the easiest ways to validate data is to restrict users to a list. You can even update that list in one of two ways: You can manually add new items to the source list or you can allow users to enter new values using the data validation control itself. In this article, you'll learn how to update and alphabetize a data validation control's source list using VBA.  Read more on Excel Combo boxes here

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Windows 10 Anniversary Edition

If you wondered what that giant upgrade to Windows 10 was that locked up your computer for 10-15 minutes, it was the anniversary edition of Windows 10. If you are a windows 7 user, your window for upgrading for free is closing fast. This story is very well told over at ZdNet and you can read about it here

Friday, June 24, 2016

Something a little different - an electric chopper

After you have digested my introductory article on Excel file types and how they work in Dropbox,

here is a story about a new style of helicopter.  If you live on a farm in remote Australia, this could be just the thing as long as you remembered to charge it on your solar panels the day before.  Enjoy your weekend.   Garry

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Excel Online - An Introductory Piece

An article on Excel Online, Dropbox and filetypes published into LinkedIn.  Have a read and like it to improve its visibility in the LinkedIn network.

The purpose of this is set the framework for using Excel files that end up in the cloud

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

BREXIT The Movie

Very soon it is possible you will hear a lot about Britain voting to leave the European Union.  Its possible that the news will become bigger if the stock markets of the world crash.

To be better informed, I recommend the 1 hour show called Brexit the Movie  I watched the whole story and personally if the value of my superannuation investments fall for a few weeks because the British decide Euro bureaucracy is not necessary, I am fine with that.  I especially recommend watching till the end of the section on British fisherman which is about 10 minutes in.  Very sad.

I apologize for a political post but the reporting on this is one sided and this movie highlights the other side.    Garry Robinson

Microsoft purchases Linked In - Garry is set to DiveIn

You have probably heard the News, Microsoft has stumped up 20 billions or thereabouts for Linked In.  It will remain a separate company with the head of Linked In reporting directly to Microsoft boss Satya Nadella.  A news story about this is here  and the Letter to his employees from the CEO of LinkedIn

So what has this got to do with Garry, your editor.  For a long time I was thinking of putting content into Linked-In as I need the extra eyeballs to With Microsoft now well on the way to being the owner of Linked-In, I may as well publish stories into Linked-In.  My initial thoughts will be discussions on Excel and Access with particular emphasis on Excel cloud spreadsheets.

So please connect to me in Linked-In by searching for Garry Robinson.  Then await my stories.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Web databases - once you are on the wave, it may be hard to get off

Over the years I have had discussions with good Access programmers who have said that they can link to a web database from an Access database. It always sounded a little insecure to me and because my website host didn't offer the same "openness", I just forgot about the process.  This article which discusses a popular free unix database MongodB highlights the issue of open ports. The hack in this instance is simple. One guy produced a search engine that looks into open ports. Another guy uses that search engine to get email address in any database.  I guess the second guy looked for anything with an @ in the word.  So be-warned, don't store native email addresses or passwords in a web database and if your web database sounds too good to easy to get to, at least encrypt your important data.

Huge waves battered Sydney over the weekend, this picture was near Coogee.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Crystal and Adrian Share A Video on Free Tools for MS Access

Crystal Long and Adrian Bell recorded a video on free tools for Microsoft Access at the Microsoft Channel 9 studios.  You can view it here.   Covers topics such as free templates, tools that Adrian has released for free and more...

Monday, May 09, 2016

An Alternative to the BrowseTo Command

I use Navigation Controls in my software quite a bit. I find them cleaner than Tab Controls and they do have the advantage of automatically shutting down recordsets when you move focus from one navigation button to the next. But I have never actually controlled which button has the focus, I have always left that to the user and just organised the buttons in a sensible order. Of course the day came when I decided to get in Control. This article shows you how.

The BrowseTo Method that I just couldn't get to work

San Francisco ?
Refer to the newsletter for details on this post.

Monday, April 18, 2016

There is gold in them thar phones

I saw this article about Apple recycling and wow, a million old phones means a lot of gold. That led me to think about silver, the best electrical conductor (releases the least heat).  Why aren't they using silver instead of gold. I found this article and from that article, copper and gold are used more often in electrical applications because copper is less expensive and gold has a much higher corrosion resistance. Because silver tarnishes, it is less desirable for high frequencies because the exterior surface is less conductive."

If you have 1000 phones in your drawer, here is an article on extracting it

That's my thought for the day and in case you are wondering, I was rewarded the Access MVP prize again for the 11th time, you are still stuck with me for another 12 months.   Garry Robinson, Sydney NSW.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Two More SQL Query Articles that I recovered from the Smart Access Archives

Like most developers, you probably join tables in your queries by dragging a field from one table to a field in another table. While tremendously easy to do, this is just the tip of the proverbial join iceberg. There are at least two other ways of joining tables, and both let you do some neat things. Read the first of Peter Vogels articles here

In the second of the articles Peter discusses how to optimise queries for speed. There is a discussion on something called JETSHOWPLAN in the article.  Head to this page for links on ACCDB related registry keys, (I am guessing that they will work).

Garry Robinson
Access MVP 2006 - March 2016

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Excel 365 Got Some New Functions

Susan Harkins writes for TechRepublic about 6 new functions that Office 365 now has available. These include

The TEXTJOIN() function combines text from multiple ranges with the added flexibility of a specified delimiter.

Use CONCAT() to combine multiple strings or ranges similar to TEXTJOIN(), but without the flexibility of a delimiter or empty argument.

The IFS() function checks one or more conditions and returns a value that corresponds to the first TRUE condition.

SWITCH() MAXIFS() MINIFS follow similar themes.

I bring these up as it is good to know what the successful office 365 products are upto.  Also be very aware that Excel 365 is a different beast to Excel Desktop. VBA programming is the standout biggest 365 omission.

I recommend trying the free versions of IOS or Android Excel just to get a feel for what is happening in that space. It is a guarantee that you will run into someone who converts to Office 365 and needs help.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Access databases, its time to collect your badge and keep things more under control

As I mentioned last month, I would pick my way through my book from 2003 and find content that is still valid to Microsoft Access users today. This week is the chapter on Good Programming Practices.

Sherriff Woody
In a couple of new extractions from my 2003 book, will find that AutoExec macros are a way of managing what happens in your database when it starts up and you will get a few insights into
Error handling, a skill that separates the sheriffs from the cowboys.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

An Access Multi-User Solution in the Cloud at the Click of a Button

Imagine if you could create 5 cloud pc's at the click of a button. On those cloud PC's you have personal C drives and a shared network drive and a installed copy of Office Professional Desktop with MS Access. Then imagine that you could give 5 people an shortcut from a PC anywhere in the world that opened their own pc in the cloud and they entered a username and password and hey presto, that cloud PC was running.

Now on the network drive on the Cloud PC group you transferred one of your great Access solutions  (via dropbox or one drive). Users then would only need to open your Access solution with a normal desktop shortcut on the cloud PC and you would be running in a very short period of time.

After explaining what works (and what doesn't), I then go on to plead to the development gods to consider a one button multi-user cloud environment for Access.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

SQL - A language crafted in another century and still working today

Peter Vogel wrote "The best thing about being familiar with SQL is that it’s supported on virtually every data storage system in the known universe, even if the underlying storage mechanism isn’t relational. If you create a table in Access but want to transfer it to another database system, you may be stuck. But, if you can create the equivalent SQL command for that table, you can just execute that SQL command on your target database system to re-create your table. "  With that in mind, I dug up three of Peters old SQL articles from the pdf files and put them into They are featured in this post.

In this article from way way back, Peter Vogel starts off one of his series of articles on SQL commands by comparing SQL verses DAO for creating and managing tables and adding indexes to those tables.

In the second article, Peter looks at the SQL Alter Command. The Alter command in Access lets you add and delete columns or constraints from your table

In the third article, Peter discusses a SQL keyword that isn’t universal: DistinctRow. This lead us to the universal, and very important keyword, Distinct. On the way,  the impact of indexes on these types of queries is discussed as are Totals queries. Its an interesting read and you will find it here.

I found these articles back in the really old (1997) Smart Access magazines that you can purchase in full here. One day I will get all the good and relevant articles online but they each take over an hour to convert to the web, so don't hold your breathe.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

OK, I have never heard of these subquery commands - Exists, All, Not Exists

Peter Vogel writes A subquery is literally a query within a query. Using subqueries allows you to perform some action using another query as part of your Where clause.

I personally have used subqueries many many times but just about always I use the In clause. Stumbling on this 1997 article, I realise that I may have missed some opportunities along the way. Though when I tried to work out where I would use the Exists and Not Exists clauses in my solutions, I drew a blank :(  

A simple subquery in design mode

Monday, March 14, 2016

Hiding Objects in the Navigation Sidebar Using VBA

In the following article, I show some simple VBA to show and hide objects in the Navigation Sidebar (ye old database window) using code. I also offer up a bit of code to list all the hidden and system objects and even temporary tables if they are still hanging around in your database. Read the article here

If you want to download the office 64 bit vba zip file that accompanies this article, click here

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Hiding Objects in the Database Window

Here is an article on hiding objects in the Navigation Sidebar

Garry Robinson
Access MVP for 10 years

FMS On the Access 2010 KB 3085515 Issue

FMS are covering the issue and if you have their products, read the post.

The Access 2010 KB 3085515 Issue ~ 10 March 2016

Quite a lot of people installed an office update that is causing problems with Access

The story on the bug which mainly effects MDE and ACCDE files and libraries and may require an uncompile of a database is here in the Microsoft Blog

The story on how to uninstall it is here

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Monday, March 07, 2016

Database Options can help keep things a little more protected

In these excerpts that I have dug up from chapter three of my book , I discuss some database options that can protect your databases.

Specifically I am covering that little scoundrel, Compact on Close, the good to know edit and save record settings, Open Exclusive and hiding the Most Recently Used list if your paranoia runs to higher levels than mine.

Remember this reading material will only hang around for a week and then I will be dragging out more content from my book for this newsletter. True its not earth shattering but its probably good to contemplate the points made.

Garry Robinson
MVP - Sydney Australia

Monday, February 29, 2016

Woops - Should Have Called Tech Support

This detailed article on the FBI vs Apple legal case had a little side note according to this Bloomberg article.

"Unfortunately, the FBI, without consulting Apple or reviewing its public guidance regarding iOS, changed the iCloud password associated with one of the attacker’s accounts, foreclosing the possibility of the phone initiating an automatic iCloud back-up of its data to a known Wi-Fi network, which could have obviated the need to unlock the phone and thus for the extraordinary order the government now seeks. Had the FBI consulted Apple first, this litigation may not have been necessary."

Woopsie ! 

Just in-case you think Apple is the only good guy around, Microsoft have been battling with the DOJ to stop their request to hand over Irish server emails. An article on that here.

Are You Paying Attention ?

So you like to read my newsletter, now you will be able to read the book I wrote in 2003. Read on.

Back in 2002 I wrote a book on Access protection and security. It sold thousands of copies and I made about 1$ for every hour I put into it. With the release of Access 2007, 50% of the material became defunct. But that was the bad news, I picked up some important clients as a result of that book and the momentum from that publicity, my Smart Access acquisition and my Access MVP nomination has kept me and a few friends in work for a long time.

So when I worked out a way the other day to convert the book content into, I thought its time for one last little book hurrah.

So every week or two I am going to release a chapter from the book with one caveat. It has to still be relevant. This will restrict me to chapters 1-7 out of a total of 12 chapters.

So here is the link to Chapter 1 {link removed - sign up for newsletter to get the links }, it describes the book and gives a little advice on protecting your Access database. Links to future chapters will be published ONLY in the newsletter and in my twitter feed.

So what is the catch: None really except that you have to read the chapter quickly because when I release Chapter 2, I will take away Chapter 1. The chapters will stay online for a minimum of one week.

Enjoy the read.  Garry

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Reply in Outlook 2013 like the good old days

I just never could get used to the inline replies in Outlook 2013.  Sure they look good but if you click off message, its hard to know what you were working on.  This page explains how to change back to the old way.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Einsteins Gravitational Waves Explained

A 4 minute video courtesy of the New York Times describing how a huge experiment in Louisiana detected a gravitational wave a proton in size. Then it goes on to describe an even bigger experiment in space.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Navigating and exploring on your phone or ipad

To see how you would find an article on, I have put together some screen captures. The topic I am looking for is "Remote Queries".  Red border highlights what has to be clicked


Index Word Search

Standard Search

Search Results

The article you want 

So bookmark on your phone and have a read of our 500 articles every now and again.

Stop Press: goes mobile

After Googles announcement last year that they were going to focus mobile search results towards mobile ready websites, I thought it was the end for  Ok not really, I thought who would ever search for Microsoft Access material on a phone.  Well thanks to the website builder I use and a lot of editing/cleaning up by my 12 year old son, we now have a mobile ready website.

So grab your smart phone (not your old Nokia) and type in and enjoy the 4th complete rebuild of this huge website.

Note: My son now has a cracking gaming pc for his troubles, everyone is happy.

Monday, January 04, 2016

Microsoft Power Apps

I have noticed a bit of chatter about this new tool from Microsoft. I don't know much about it but you may be interested as it works with corporate data and produces multi-platform apps.

Friday, January 01, 2016

The definition of insanity

In November 2004, Peter Vogel wrote this really good editorial on User Manuals.  Have a successful 2016 everyone.

So, I have a cat. At night, when I get in bed, the cat, desperate for love/attention/pets, throws his whole body against me. But that’s not enough—he then slides up along my body and mushes his face into my face while purring like a washing machine with a bad set of cogs.
It’s not nearly as attractive as you might think.

If I don’t respond because I’m too tired and want to go to sleep, the cat performs this act again. And again. And again. Eventually I punt the cat. A definition of insanity is “Doing the same thing over and over again while expecting to get a different result.” This is also, apparently, the definition of having a brain the size of an apricot.

So, I have a client. My client desperately wants to reduce help desk calls. I was in, supposedly, to “tweak” the user interface. But it was too late for the UI: Any significant change to the UI was going to require a major rewrite (definition of fine-tuning: “The belief that small, insignificant changes will result in something other than small, insignificant improvements”).

However, there’s an alternative way of helping bewildered users: user manuals (“Doctors bury their mistakes; architects cover them with ivy; user interface designers write user manuals”). “No,” my client said, “that’s not the problem—we have great user manuals.” He then pulled this whacking big book off a shelf and handed it to me (and I do mean whacking; you could whack anything into submission with this tome). Hefting this brick (roughly the size of both volumes of the Access Developer’s Guide), I asked if this manual covered all of their applications. But, no, it turned out that this was just the manual for the application that I was supposed to review. The problem, I was told, was that the inconsiderate users wouldn’t read the manual. Most of the questions that the help desk was getting could be answered by reading the appropriate section of the manual over the phone to the caller.

To this day, I don’t think he understands why no one wants to read this book or take it with them on the road. Many airlines would classify this book as a separate piece of luggage. In a moral world this book would have had wheels and a handle to pull it.

“My,” I said, “what a big book you have. That must take a long time to produce.”
“Yes,” he said, “it covers everything that the system does. But we’ve found ways to reduce the labor. The whole section on how to start your computer, work with files, insert floppy disks, and all of those basic tasks is set up so that we can automatically insert it into all of our manuals. Some of the other sections that are used in all of the manuals are set up so that we can tailor them to the individual application.”

Okay, let’s stop and think about this: My client knew that no one was using their manuals yet they still kept churning them out. Furthermore, they concentrated on finding more efficient ways to produce these manuals that no one used. This is insane: “Doing the same thing over and over again while expecting to get a different result.”

They also had a similar process in place for project documentation. Every project produced an enormous pile of paper describing every part of the system. I can’t imagine under what circumstances anyone would use any of this information. For one thing, how would you know if the information in that documentation was both complete and completely accurate (even if it was, how would you know that)? If a programmer implemented something based on the documentation and it didn’t work, would anyone accept as an explanation “Well, the documentation said that it would work”? You always have to look at the actual code, not just review the description.

Fortunately for us, with Access and the wonderful tools from FMS and other vendors, the documentation problem doesn’t exist. We can generate as much or as little system description as we need, and that material is guaranteed to accurately describe the current version of the system. This leaves us free to document what’s actually useful to developers: Why the system is written the way it is.

I couldn’t do anything about my client’s documentation process (they weren’t using Access), but I’ve seen the user manual problem far too often. And I’ve seen users abandoned to their own devices far too often.