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Let me begin by thanking all of those readers who have helped to make the first edition of this book so very successful. Also, my sincere thanks go to the many readers who have written some very flattering reviews of the first edition on amazon.com and on O'Reilly's own web site. Keep them coming.

With the recent release of Office 2000, and in view of the many suggestions I have received concerning the first edition of the book, it seemed like an appropriate time to do a second edition. I hope that readers will find the second edition of the book to be even more useful than the first edition.

Actually, Access has undergone only relatively minor changes in its latest release, at least with respect to the subject matter of this book. Changes for the Second Edition are:

  • A discussion (Chapter 8, and Chapter 9 of Access' new VBA Integrated Development Environment. At last Access shares the same IDE as Word, Excel, and PowerPoint!

  • In response to reader requests, I have significantly expanded the discussion of the VBA language itself, which now occupies Chapter 10, Chapter 11, Chapter 12, and Chapter 13.

  • Chapter 17, which is new for this edition, provides a fairly complete discussion of ActiveX Data Objects (ADO). This is also accompanied by an appendix on Open Database Connectivity (ODBC), which is still intimately connected with ADO.

    As you may know, ADO is a successor to DAO (Data Access Objects) and is intended to eventually replace DAO, although I suspect that this will take some considerable time. While the DAO model is the programming interface for the Jet database engine, ADO has a much more ambitious goal—it is a programming model for a universal data access interface called OLE DB. Simply put, OLE DB is a technology that is intended to be used to connect to any type of data—traditional database data, spreadsheet data, Web-based data, text data, email, and so on.

    Frankly, while the ADO object model is smaller than that of DAO, the documentation is much less complete and, as a result, ADO seems far more confusing than DAO, especially when it comes to issues such as how to create the infamous connection strings. Accordingly, I have spent considerable time discussing this and other difficult issues, illustrating how to use ADO to connect to Jet databases, Excel spreadsheets, and text files.

I should also mention that while the Access object model has undergone significant changes, as you can see by looking at Figure 14.7, the DAO object model has changed only in one respect. In particular, DAO has been upgraded from version 3.5 to version 3.6. Here is what Microsoft itself says about this new release:

DAO 3.6 has been updated to use the Microsoft® Jet 4.0 database engine. This includes enabling all interfaces for Unicode. Data is now provided in unicode (internationally enabled) format rather than ANSI. No other new features were implemented.

Thus, DAO 3.6 does not include any new objects, properties, or methods.

This book appears to be about two separate topics—database design and database programming. It is. It would be misleading to claim that database design and database programming are intimately related. So why are they in the same book?

The answer is that while these two subjects are not related, in the sense that knowledge of one leads directly to knowledge of the other, they are definitely linked, by the simple fact that a power database user needs to know something about both of these subjects in order to effectively create, use, and maintain a database.

In fact, it might be said that creating and maintaining a database application in Microsoft Access is done in three broad steps—designing the database, creating the basic graphical interface (i.e., setting up the tables, queries, forms, and reports) and then getting the application to perform in the desired way.

The second of these three steps is fairly straightforward, for it is mostly a matter of becoming familiar with the relatively easy-to-use Access graphical interface. Help is available for this through Access's own online help system, as well as through the literally dozens of overblown 1000-page-plus tomes devoted to Microsoft Access. Unfortunately, none of the books that I have seen does any real justice to the other two steps. Hence this book.

To be a bit more specific, the book has two goals:

  • To discuss the basic concepts of relational database theory and design.

  • To discuss how to extract the full power of Microsoft Access, through programming in the Access Structured Query Language (SQL) and the Data Access Object (DAO) component of the Microsoft Jet database engine.

To accomplish the first goal, we describe the how and why of creating an efficient database system, explaining such concepts as:

  • Entities and entity classes

  • Keys, superkeys, and primary keys

  • One-to-one, one-to-many, and many-to-many relationships

  • Referential integrity

  • Joins of various types (inner joins, outer joins, equi-joins, semi-joins, θ-joins, and so on)

  • Operations of the relational algebra (selection, projection, join, union, intersection, and so on)

  • Normal forms and their importance

Of course, once you have a basic understanding of how to create an effective relational database, you will want to take full advantage of that database, which can only be done through programming. In addition, many of the programming techniques we discuss in this book can be used to create and maintain a database from within other applications, such as Microsoft Visual Basic, Microsoft Excel, and Microsoft Word.

We should hasten to add that this book is not a traditional cookbook for learning Microsoft Access. For instance, we do not discuss forms and reports, nor do we discuss such issues as database security, database replication, and multiuser issues. This is why we have been able to keep the book to a (hopefully) readable few hundred pages.

This book is for Access users at all levels. Most of it applies equally well to Access 2.0, Access 7.0, Access 8.0, and Access 9.0 (which is a component of Microsoft Office 2000). We will assume that you have a passing acquaintance with the Access development environment, however. For instance, we assume that you already know how to create a table or a query.

Throughout the book, we will use a specific modest-sized example to illustrate the concepts that we discuss. The example consists of a database called LIBRARY that is designed to hold data about the books in a certain library. Of course, the amount of data we will use will be kept artificially small—just enough to illustrate the concepts.

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