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Monday, October 16, 2000
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Perfect blend of presentation and programming

Microsoft Office (MS Office) is a perfect blend of application, presentation and programming software. Microsoft Access, an integral part of MS Office, is primarily programming software, which has application modules as well. Since this software is both for users and developers, thus from a simple program to a very complex program, everything can be worked out in this software. In order to understand this software better, it has been divided in two parts:

1) Main features

2) Uses and applications

Main features: Basically, MS Access is software for database. Database is actually a collection of information related to a particular subject or purpose, such as tracking inventory in various departments or maintaining a video collection. It is all possible using MS Access.

If you have not stored database on computer, or have only stored parts of it, then it will require to track information from a variety of sources that has to be coordinated and organised. The data in MS Access is stored in such a way that whenever a particular information changes, it gets updated everywhere in the database. In order to maintain data, one may prefer to have only one single database file, which is being used to create a MS Access database. MS Access database file has two major parts: i.e. tables and forms.

 


Table normally refers to a collection of data on a specific field like area, branch offices, godowns, suppliers, debtors and creditors. Thus, tables actually help in storing data for each specific field of database. In tables, one needs to store data only once and information is recorded in columns (also called fields) and rows (also called records). These fields and records are actually specific address of the database and can be edited and saved.

You can also add more fields and records or even delete them in a table as the need may be. The tables are basically the lifelines of MS Access, as besides maintaining one table for specific field, you can also coordinate many tables together and link by defining a relationship.

In order to find and retrieve data from the database, which matches your criteria, including data from multiple tables, one needs queries. A query is a set of criteria, which searches the database for results matching the requirements. It can also perform built-in or custom calculations on the data. MS Access database uses one more feature, known as forms, that are used to view, enter and change data directly in a table. Whenever you open a form, MS Access retrieves the data from one or more tables and displays it on the screen using the layout you chose in the Form Wizard or using a layout that you created from a scratch.

Now comes the final step of reports generating from the database. This is essential, because for the purpose of analysing or presenting the final form of data, you need to generate a report. This presents the final outcome of database in a nutshell. Definition wise a report means "A MS Access database object that presents the information formatted and organised as per specifications".

Uses and applications: The MS Access has a number of uses, both for high-end users or developers and for normal persons, as it is versatile software. As this software is all about database, so you can create your own compact database or maintain budget. This software is especially useful for small offices, as with literally no programming, they can create a utility, where all accounts and departments can be computerised and linked with each other. Once the database is set, it would not take much to organise the data in a way that a report could be generated easily. For example, you can track your cash and bank balance, which would help in giving the status of position in a matter of minutes.

Another prominent use of Access could be maintaining phone lists of an organisation. You can create a database of all phone numbers and put it in appropriate tables. For advanced user, this software could prove extremely useful as it has full HTML support. Thus, you can convert all data in the HTML format and post it on the Web.

You can even link the data with the Web server and can thus make a Web site online. Since, whatever changes you make to your desktop will be reflected in the Web server also, thus your Web site will also get updated automatically. Thus you can create applications like online reservations and contests.

The Access database can also be linked with other applications like MS Excel and Dbase. Therefore, if you define a relationship between them, then the data in MS Access would get updated automatically. Normally, for maintaining large databases, automation is the key.

Thus adding further value to MS Access is the use of macros, which are visual basic modules and perform the repetitive task automatically. You can write a macro to do any task in MS Access and can thus reduce the chances of errors in operations. You can write a macro to perform a task regularly at a particular time.

With salaries sky-rocketing, corporates prefer to sublet their manual and not so critical jobs to outside parties rather than employing persons at their end. One such job is of mass mailing. Normally, companies maintain a database of their clients, with whom they regularly keep in touch. These clients are regularly informed of any development in the company including the launching of new product, schemes and benefits offered by the company, or any change whatsoever, which is relevant for them.

You can easily impress the company offering mass mailing opportunities, with your creative ideas about mailing information to their clients. All you will require to do is maintain the Access database and generate reports using the query. For example if an agrochemical company wants to send some information to all farmers in Punjab only, then you can easily do it by running a query and producing results in a minute. You can also print labels using this database and can thus save yourself from a lot of botherations.

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