Microsoft Access is one of those applications you either love or loathe. Some of the features are quite useful for smaller databases, like address books and CD/DVD collections, but the 2GB database file size limitation is constricting. The Office 2010 release of Access offers some improvements that make the application more usable, including reliability enhancements.
This post will look at some of these new and/or improved items to bring you an overall picture of just what Access 2010 brings to the party this time around.
Web-ready database format
The Web is the new desktop in some environments. The Access team took this into consideration and provided a Web-ready format for databases. While previous versions of Access allowed publishing to the Web via scripting technologies to access the data, Access 2010 makes Web publication even easier by making use of the Web Database type.
Another change to Access 2010 is the inclusion of a better macro environment. Macros function more like SQL triggers. They can be launched conditionally based on actions taken within the database, which not only improves performance, but also can improve the user experience by allowing tasks to be automated.
The Access 2010 Data Macro Environment
Office themes are supported in Access 2010, making customizations to the appearance of databases much easier and more uniform than in the past. When using a form in Access, you can apply a theme to it, similar to the way themes can be applied in Word and PowerPoint. This will help keep the appearance of your forms unified across the application. Themes can also be applied to reports created in Access.
Groups of fields
Access 2010 changes the way that fields are added to the database by using a better list of fields to insert. The Data Type gallery replaces the Add Field task pane and contains all of the common field types for use in a database. One handy new feature here allows you to add certain groups of fields, called Quick Start selections, as a collection rather than adding one field at a time (Figure B). For example, when you select the Address Quick Start, multiple fields are inserted:
Quick Starts allow you to add fields as a collection.
In addition to the data types already available in the Add Field fly-out, you can add your own to the list. You can save selected fields as new, user-defined data types. When saving fields for later use, you can categorize them under any section within the Add Fields fly-out, with the default being User Defined. Figure C shows the Add Field option.
Add Fields from Data Type gallery.
Access 2010 allows conditional formatting within reports, showing the information that meets a certain condition or set of conditions. To use or change the conditional formatting rules in a report, open the report and choose the Format tab on the Ribbon. Then, select the Conditional Formatting option.
The Conditional Formatting Rules Manager (Figure D) lists the rules will be displayed. Just choose the field for which you want to add/remove/modify formatting rules. The rules for the selected field are displayed in a box below.
Expression and Query Builder use Intellisense
Microsoft has included Intellisense in the Expression and Query Builder portions of Access. Intellisense helps complete the field names and other items you might use in these areas. This reduces the margin of error when working with queries and expressions, as well as the time spent looking up the spelling of field names in large databases.
These are a few of the key features I have discovered when using Access 2010. The biggest items by far for me are the macro changes and allowing them to function similarly to SQL Triggers. Access 2010 also seems a bit friendlier than previous versions. Now if only we could get Microsoft to increase the 2GB limit on file sizes.