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April 26, 2005

"Access Hacks": Wrangle Data Like Never Before

Sebastopol, CA--Microsoft Access has its share of fans. Author Ken Bluttman is one of them. "Access really is an amazing product," he says, enumerating some of its strengths: "Its power is vast, and yet its maintenance is low. It's flexible enough to be used by one person or to run an entire company. It's a rapid application development (RAD) tool that outshines other such tools, such as Visual Basic, in time to development and ease of use." As one who has been hacking Access for many years, Bluttman knows how to make Access jump through hoops. In his new book, Access Hacks, (O'Reilly, US $24.95), he shares his secrets with Access users of all levels, from those sitting down to Access for the first time to gurus like himself.

"I've been working with Access for more than a decade," says Bluttman. "In that time, I've developed some interesting approaches to technical problems, and have seen how peers have mastered certain techniques. It's great being able to assemble many of these mini-solutions and make them available for the Access user and developer communities."

Access Hacks takes users beyond the familiar tables, forms, and reports, providing them with new insights into making their database applications more valuable and exciting. There are hacks to tickle every fancy, whether it's running Union queries, playing video files in Access, viewing web sites within Access, or even controlling Access from another product.

Each chapter in the book explores a different facet of Access, beginning with the basics in the first chapter, and then delving into tables, users' needs, and presentation. Later chapters deal with more advanced topics such as running queries, multi-user issues, external programs and data, programming, and third-party applications. The book is not meant to be a sequential read, says Bluttman, "Although I won't complain if you read it straight through, from cover to cover! The book contains one hundred hacks, and each stands on its own merit." Some have a common theme with other hacks, in which case the flow is noted. "Other than that, just dig in and see what interests you," advises Bluttman. "One group of hacks might be what you need for today's project, and another group might be what you need tomorrow."

Access Hacks shows users how to:

  • Personalize their Access applications with customized functionality
  • Help users find what they need, navigate through long forms, enter text, and drill down to specific records
  • Create slideshows, play videos, and view embedded reports in Access forms
  • Use Excel's rich function library within Access, use Word to find discrepancies in data, and automatically send Access data through Outlook
  • Use Access as a front end to MySQL
  • Write code faster and more efficiently, save common functions in a code library, and shrink code with subroutines and optional arguments
  • Import and export XML data, provide XML content to any version of Access, or use Access as an XML database
  • Put a web browser in a database, use smart tags to open web pages, download files from the Internet, export data as HTML
  • "Microsoft Office is available on nearly every computer," Bluttman reminds his readers. "Knowing how to make good use of Access, including being able to integrate Access with other Office products, makes for some powerful technical solutions." Everyone who uses Access, from casual office users to high-powered Access developers, will discover tips and tools to boost their productivity and more in Access Hacks.

    Additional Resources:

    Access Hacks
    Ken Bluttman
    ISBN: 0-596-00924-0, 333 pages, $24.95 US, $34.95 CA
    order@oreilly.com
    1-800-998-9938; 1-707-827-7000

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