Enterprise databases get most of the publicity, but you can do surprisingly powerful stuff with desktop databases, and they keep getting better all the time.
Take, for instance, Microsoft’s brand new-release of Access. In addition to many smaller improvements, Access 2003 adds powerful new support for XML and for collaboration via Microsoft’s SharePoint services and portals.
That’s built on top of a robust database platform that can be used either to build apps for Access’ traditional Jet engine or as a front end to SQL Server 2000, for serious scalability. Want web apps? No sweat.
If you want to really learn Access 2003 in depth, check out Roger Jennings’s Special Edition Using Microsoft Office Access 2003. The latest in a series that’s taught Access to nearly a million users and developers, this book is polished, sophisticated, and (at roughly 1,500 pages) extremely thorough.
After a quick overview of what’s new, Jennings follows the path a real developer might take. You’ll start by building an extremely simple desktop and web application using the Database Wizard before exploring that application, the Access interface, and Access’ approach to application design.
Then, it’s on to a far deeper look at database building. Jennings guides you step-by-step through designing tables, adding and importing data, designing and executing queries, designing data entry forms and printed reports, and much more.
Of course, this edition contains extensive new coverage of XML. There’s a full chapter on exporting and importing XML data: using XML as a data interchange format; moving to XML-based Web front-ends; using ReportML; exporting queries to XML; analyzing exported XML schema; returning XML documents from HTTP queries; applying style sheets and XSL transforms; and more.
An equally detailed chapter focuses on consuming and providing XML-based web services. Jennings starts with an overview of the concepts and vocabulary (great for power users and traditional database developers); then introduces handy new tools such as .NET WebService Studio and SQLXML.
Also new and especially worth noting: Jennings’s coverage of Access integration with InfoPath, Microsoft’s new tool for creating rich, dynamic XML–based forms; and, more briefly, with SharePoint.
Every chapter ends with an “In the Real World” section, in which Jennings gets to offer even deeper insights. That’s where you’ll get Jennings’s assessment of exactly where the traditional Access Jet engine is likely to run out of steam -- and when you should start from scratch, targeting MSDE or SQL Server. It’s also where you’ll get expert tips on the art and science of query design. As Jennings wryly observes, Microsoft’s practice Northwind database is unrealistically small, hence generating unrealistically good performance. “The nine-person Northwind Traders sales force produced only 830 orders over a span of almost two years, indicating a serious lack of sales productivity.” To really get some practice, set aside 15MB for the big database Jennings provides on CD-ROM.
There’s not much missing from Special Edition Using Microsoft Office Access 2003. It’ll keep you busy building databases for years. Bill Camarda
Bill Camarda is a consultant, writer, and web/multimedia content developer. His 15 books include Special Edition Using Word 2000 and Upgrading & Fixing Networks for Dummies, Second Edition.