Anizing and nicating with Outlook

Outlook is the Office component that is used for communicating via email, maintaining a calendar, and storing contact and task information. For email and appointments (a set of appointments in a folder is called a calendar), the Outlook interface is so superior that I recommend not trying to replicate its functionality in Access, but instead to export Access data to Outlook, creating email messages, appointments, or other Outlook items as needed.

Way back in Access 2.0, I created a database to manage tasks, allowing me to assign them priorities, start and due dates, and notes, and order them by any of those priorities or dates. Of course, when Outlook was introduced in Office 97, my Tasks database was no longer needed, because Outlook includes its own Task List (or To Do List, as it is labeled in Office 2007). All the features I wanted were built in to the Outlook Task List, so I moved all my tasks to Outlook and managed them with Outlook's tools. Because Outlook does such a good job with tasks, there is no need to store task data in Access, though in some special circumstances you might need to do this, and then perhaps export the data to Outlook.

Outlook's rarely used Journal component, which records the creation of selected Outlook items, as well as user-entered items, also has little need for connecting to Access. If you find this component useful (I have used it as part of my Time & Expense Billing application, to store time slip data), you can set up the Journal to record various types of Outlook items, and add manual entries to the Journal as needed. However (as with tasks), there may occasionally be circumstances in which you would need to export Access data to Outlook journal items, and I describe one of them later in this chapter.


Creating Outlook appointments and tasks from Access data

Writing Access data to the Outlook Journal

Creating emails to contacts in an Access table

If you store email addresses in a table of contacts, customers, or clients, you can use VBA code to create emails to them from an Access form, either to a single recipient or a group of recipients, without having to switch to Outlook.

Contacts are another matter — although Outlook has a Contacts component, with many useful features (especially the link to email), nevertheless, Outlook contacts are deficient in one very important feature when compared to Access: All Outlook data is stored in a flat-file MAPI table, so you can't set up one-to-many relationships between (for example) companies and contacts, or contacts and phone numbers. If a company moves to another location or changes its name, you have to make the change manually in each contact for that company; if a contact has more than three addresses, or a phone number that doesn't fit into one of the available categories, you are out of luck.

For contacts, you really need both the attractive interface and built-in email connectivity of Outlook contacts, and the relational database capabilities of Access. This means you need a way to synchronize data between Outlook and Access contacts; my Synchronizing Contacts.accdb database does just this.

See Chapter 11 for a discussion of the Synchronizing Contacts database. Chapter 8 deals with exporting and importing contacts without synchronization.

This chapter concentrates on exporting tasks, appointments, and journal items from Access to Outlook and creating emails to contacts stored in an Access table.

' i"n 7" r I5?'The sample database for this chapter is Access to Outlook.accdb.

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