The Power User

Out-of-the-box features and some of the new field types in the Access data engine (ACE) offer further opportunities for power users. The new complex data type acts like multi-value select boxes and actually creates tables to manage the underlying many-to-many relationship. Users can add preformatted fields to tables as easily as dragging them from a table or field template. Tracking reference material is easier because the attachment field type automatically compresses the file and stores it in the database. Need to track expertise and experience so that you can pick the team for your next project? Your data can store project summaries, notes, schedules, and even photos. Suddenly, creating an impressive proposal package just got a whole lot easier and faster.

A common characteristic of power users is the need to compile and share information from multiple sources. Access 2007 provides many enhancements to support those needs. Access is now smarter about field type recognition when it creates fields for data that is pasted into a table. And, you can finally specify field types and save the import and export specifications for Excel files. Because import and export processes are often done on a regular basis, wouldn't it be convenient to have a reminder? Consider it done—just click the button to schedule the import or export as an Outlook task. Using HTML or InfoPath forms, Outlook can collect and store data directly into Access tables. And you can easily share contact information between Access and Outlook.

For bigger projects and greater reach, there's SQL Server and Windows SharePoint Services (WSS). Because power users are adept at creating their own queries, they may appreciate that by using linked tables to connect to SQL Server they can have the best of both worlds—all the new features provided in the ACCDB file format harnessing the power of SQL Server. Access project files (ADPs) are still an option, but they do not implement many of Access's new features. Data Access Pages (DAPs) are one of the few deprecated features. They can be viewed only through Internet Explorer. (A brief explanation of these and other deprecated features is provided at the end of this chapter.) And now, SharePoint offers even more options for expanding data and file management. Many power users are finding that SharePoint is an extension of their workspace. It facilitates working offline, synchronizing files, collaboration, file backups, and even working with mobile devices. (Chapter 17 discusses Windows SharePoint Services.)

A greater reach and better integration with external data sources means more data to crunch, organize, and report. Access 2007 offers a host of wizards and dialog boxes to help with grouping, sorting, and adding calculations to just about anything that can be displayed in datasheet view. It's easy to insert a calculation row, and you can study and modify the queries and properties created by the wizards. In addition to creating an object, wizards are great tools for learning how to create complex queries, such as queries that include calculations and criteria and that can accept multiple parameters at runtime. The wizards can even create and then expose advanced techniques such as outer joins and correlated sub-queries.

Access also provides the capability to create embedded macros for routine tasks. People who like to work with several forms at one time might appreciate tabbed document viewing, which makes it easy to keep track of and switch to any open object. Of course, the flip side is that tabbed documents aren't conducive to side-by-side comparison. Report Browse enables easily customizable reports, and alternating row colors and grid lines add style and make reports easier to read. Along with Report Browse, there is also the capability to drill into data and to create PivotTable views and charts. It is easier to share reports with non-Access users because exporting to PDF is fully supported by a free, easy-to-install download from Microsoft's website. You can also choose to put your report right into a PowerPoint presentation.

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