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Introduction

Introduction

Many excellent books about Access are available, so why write another one? In talking to the many students I meet in my travels around the country, I have heard one common complaint. Instead of the several great books available for the user community or the host of wonderful books available to expert Access developers, my students yearn for a book targeted toward the intermediate-to-advanced developer. They yearn for a book that starts at the beginning, ensures that they have no gaps in their knowledge, and takes them through some of the most advanced aspects of Access development. Along the way, they want to acquire volumes of practical code that they can easily port into their own applications. I wrote Alison Balter's Mastering Microsoft Office Access 2003 with those requests in mind.

This book begins by providing you with an introduction to Access development. It alerts you to the types of applications that you can develop in Access and introduces you to the components of an Access application. After you understand what an Access application is and when it is appropriate to develop one, you will explore the steps involved in building an actual Access application. The book covers several strategies before you build the first application component. This ensures that you, as the developer of the application, are aware of the design issues that might affect you in your particular environment.

After you have discovered the overall picture, you will be ready to venture into the specific details of each object within an Access database. Chapters 2 through 6 cover the basics of tables, relationships, queries, forms, and reports. The intent of these chapters is to provide you with an approach to developing these database objects from a developer's perspective. Although this text starts at the beginning, it provides many tips, tricks, and caveats not readily apparent from the documentation or from books targeted toward end users.

When you have a strong foundation of knowing how to build tables, queries, forms, and reports, you will be ready to plunge full-force into coding. Chapters 7 and 8 provide you with an extremely strong grasp of the Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) language. Once again, starting with the basics, the book takes you gently through some of the most complex intricacies of the VBA language and Access object model. The text provides you with many practical examples to ensure that you thoroughly digest each topic.

Chapters 9 through 11 provide you with an advanced discussion of forms, reports, and queries. By the time you reach this point in the book, you should be familiar with all the basics of creating database objects. These chapters combine the basics of table, query, form, and report design with the VBA and object techniques covered in Chapters 7 and 8. The power techniques covered in Chapters 9 through 11 provide you with the expertise that you need to design the most complex types of forms, reports, and queries required by your applications.

After you cover the basics, you will be ready to delve into more advanced techniques. Chapter 12 covers advanced VBA techniques. It is followed by an in-depth discussion of class modules in Chapter 13. The chapter includes many practical examples of how and why to utilize class modules.

Before you ride through the frontier of the many intricacies of the Access development environment, one basic topic remains. Chapter 14 introduces you to ActiveX Data Objects and Data Access Objects, and explains their differences. You will see how you can move away from bound objects, manipulating the data within your database using code.

Unfortunately, things don't always go as planned. No matter what your level of expertise, you will often find yourself stumped over a piece of code and looking for answers. Chapter 15 shows you how to effectively employ the debugger to solve any coding problem you might run into. Even after your application has been thoroughly debugged, you still must provide a responsible means of handling errors within your applications. Chapter 16 shows you everything you must know to implement error handling. Included in the text and on the sample code CD-ROM is a generic error handler that you can easily build into any of your own applications.

Even the fanciest of applications will not please its users if it is sluggish. Chapter 17 covers optimization—that is, all the techniques you should incorporate into your programming code to ensure that your application runs as efficiently as possible.

With the foundation provided by the first 17 chapters, you will be ready to move into the richer and more complex aspects of the VBA language and the Access development environment. Chapters 18 through 20 cover the basics of developing applications for a multiuser or a client/server environment. You can explore locking strategies, how to interact with non-native Access file formats, and the alternatives for designing client/server applications.

As an Access developer, your world is not limited to just Access. To be effective and productive as an Access developer, you must know how to interact with other applications and how to use ActiveX controls, libraries, menu add-ins, wizards, and builders to assist you with the application development process. Chapters 21 through 26 cover ActiveX controls, automation, the Windows API, and library and add-in techniques, and provide an introduction to Access and the Internet. After reading these chapters, you will understand how to employ the use of external objects and functionality to add richness to your applications without too much effort on your part.

Having reached the final part of the book, you will be ready to put the final polish on your application. Chapters 27 through 32 cover security, documentation, maintenance, the use of third-party tools, and distribution. You will learn how to properly secure your application so that you do not in any way compromise the investment you have put into the application development process. You will also discover how easy it is to put into your application the final touches that give it a professional polish and make it stand out from the rest.

If, after reading this book, you are thirsty for more, Alison Balter's Mastering Microsoft Access 2003 Client/Server Development is for you. It focuses on Access' role as a client/server development tool. It covers the various methodologies you can use to design a client/server application with an Access front end. It also delves into the process of setting up and maintaining a SQL Server database, including the process of building tables, views, stored procedures, and database diagrams. In addition to the plethora of client/server topics included in the book, it covers transaction processing, replication, source code control, and Access as an Internet or intranet development tool. Internet- and intranet-related topics include data access pages, publishing data to the Web, and SQL Server and the Web.

The Access development environment is robust and exciting. With the keys to deliver all that it offers, you can produce applications that provide much satisfaction as well as many financial rewards. After poring over this hands-on guide and keeping it nearby for handy reference, you too can become masterful at Access 2003 development. This book is dedicated to demonstrating how you can fulfill the promise of making Access 2003 perform up to its lofty capabilities. As you will see, you have the ability to really make Access 2003 shine in the everyday world!

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