With the techniques described in this chapter, you can export data in Access tables to Excel worksheets in a variety of formats, for compatibility with older Office versions or handheld devices. You can use the Excel button on the Ribbon to do a quick-and-dirty export to the new .xlsx format, or create a worksheet in an older format that can be synchronized with a PDA, using the TransferSpreadsheet method. And finally, when you need to output your data to an Excel worksheet in a specific format, you can use a preformatted worksheet template, or format a plain worksheet using VBA Automation code to get the exact results you want.

Outlook has a great interface for working with calendars, contacts, and tasks, as well as for sending email messages. But Outlook is a relative newcomer to Office (it was first introduced in Office 97), which means that if you have been using Access for longer than that, you probably have calendar, contact, or task data stored in Access tables in databases that were created many Office versions ago. (I have some that were originally created in Access 1.0!)

In the case of contact information, there is another reason that many users prefer storing data in Access: Access is a relational database, allowing you to set up one-to-many links between companies and contacts, contacts and phones, contacts and addresses, and so forth. Outlook, in contrast, isn't a relational database; it stores all of its data in a flat-file MAPI database. That's why you will see slots for three addresses on an Outlook contact, and a large (but finite) selection of Phone and ID slots. If you need to enter four addresses for a contact, you are out of luck. If you need to enter a type of phone number or ID that is not one of the available items, you can't do it.

But if you store your contact data in Access, you can create linked tables of addresses, phone numbers, and IDs, letting you enter as many phones and IDs as you need per contact, and you can give them whatever identifiers you wish. And with a one-to-many link between companies and contacts, you can change a company's address or main phone number once, and the changed information will be picked up through the link for all of that company's contacts. In Outlook, by contrast, if you have 10 contacts for a company, and the company's address or main phone number changes, you have to make the change separately on all 10 contacts.


Linking to Outlook folders

Learning about the Outlook object model

Working with Outlook appointments

Working with Outlook tasks

Working with Outlook mail messages

Working with Outlook contacts

As an example, the Microsoft record in my personal Access Contacts database has 30 phone numbers, many with non-standard descriptions — I couldn't do that in Outlook!

However, despite the advantages of a relational database, Outlook is undeniably attractive and convenient, so much so that you may want (or need) to export your Access contact data to Outlook contact items, so you can quickly look up a phone number or email address (or at least those that correspond to standard Outlook slots). And if you have tasks or calendar items stored in an Access table (perhaps created before Office 97), you may wish to permanently move them to Outlook, which offers a superior interface for working with these types of items.

See Chapter 11 for a detailed treatment of synchronizing a set of linked Access tables with matching Outlook contacts.

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