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Review of Access 2007 VBA Programmer's Reference

Review of Microsoft Money 2004 Small Business Edition

Review of Database Creations EZ-Access Suite

Review of Microsoft Visio 2002 Professional

Review of Windows XP Professional (1)

Review of Windows XP Professional (March 2003)

Review of Office XP Professional

Review of Microsoft Train Simulator

Review of Access 2007 VBA Programmer's Reference
By, Teresa Hennig, Rob Cooper, Geoff Griffith, Armen Stein

This book has extensive coverage of an area vital to Access developers and power users, by a very knowledgeable team, ably led by Teresa Hennig. It includes something more than an overview explaining new features of Access 2007. That is important because: many features are new and changed in Access 2007, much of what we do with VBA is automating and enhancing features we use manually via the user interface, and the new Office 2007 user interface can be overwhelming without a helping "hand up". Then the book covers VBA from the basics to in-depth advanced levels. It is a worthy successor to the Access 2003 VBA Programmer's Reference and, in my opinion, "raises the bar" for VBA books. I'll be using it as a reference in presentations to my Access user groups, as well as a handy reference for my own work. I recommend it to Access power users, as well as aspiring and working Access developers.

Larry Linson
Microsoft Office Access MVP (see
Co-Leader, Access Special Interest Group, North Texas PC User Group

Review of Microsoft Money 2004 Small Business Edition

Because there was no documentation given with the CD, I went online to to find out about Money Small Business files. I did not know whether the Small Business data could coexist with the family bank account, and if it could, would there be anything that should be done to assure that everything would be maintained separately and properly. The web site contains no useful information about how the Small Business version of Money works, just that it would be something I should buy with enthusiasm. So, if I was going to find out about this new product, it seemed like I had no choice but to just install it and try it.

I installed it as an upgrade over the 2003 version of Money and started using it with my old file which contains years of personal and business information all intermingled in the same accounts.

After installation, I looked for information about the new Small Business features I would now have. There were no immediate indications of anything new except a Business menu item. Under that, I found a number of selections dealing with invoices, customers, vendors, and the like. I looked further through the menu and found some other new items. Under tools, I found Money Invoice Designer and Money Contact manager. I still had no idea where to start using Money to help me with my business. So, I then turned to Help.

In Money Help Contents I found a Business section with lots of details about how to set up customers, set up accounts, creating invoices, and etc., but no overview of what would be the changes or improvements over what I was doing with plain old Money 2003. Apparently, I could do invoicing right within Money and would no longer have to use Word to do this chore separately. Looking around the Help menu a little more, I found something ominous called the Money User’s Guide. When I clicked on it, I was ushered online to the money site again under /Support/Manual/.

Well, after wading around the Microsoft Money 2004 User’s Guide for a while, I found a list of Small Business features in Chapter 1, a little information on how to manage accounts in Chapter 5 (similar to the details provided in the Help Contents), and, finally, in Chapter 14 there is some general information about Microsoft Money Small Business. Whew.

However, this Chapter 14 was just more dumbed-down detailed information about how to do things step-by-step. One of the activities you can do apparently is import contacts from Outlook. It doesn’t say how to separate contacts who are vendors and customers from those who are Aunt Matilda and Cousin Jane, though. Ha!

 Chapter 14 shows you how to do some other things:

bullet Customize your business home page (big deal).
bullet Use the Microsoft Business Resource Center (more services by Microsoft, that’s important).
bullet Create customer and vendor lists.
bullet Track and mange inventory.
bullet Track time, payables and receivables.
bullet Generate e-mail and paper invoices.
bullet Control your Schedule C tax deductions.
bullet Hire PayCycle to do your payroll for you.

 It looks like I will need to add my customers and vendors by importing all my contacts from Outlook and then deleting the non-business ones. Then I can add the particular products and services that I provide (maybe I can devise and use project names and fool money into keeping track of my projects and contracts). Then I can set up an invoice template and I’m ready to find out for myself how this program really works. Obviously, as my business is primarily a service business, I am very interested in time-tracking. I found that you enter billable time by finding the particular customer record, adding your billable hours, and selecting the type of service. Apparently you do this each time you work on a customer’s project rather than just entering your hours all at once in a timesheet as you go along each day.

 I guess if I were just starting a business right now, this program would give me some structure to my business dealings and get me going. It would also give me a head start in grabbing contacts already in outlook. The impetus to set this program up is not as strong, however, when you already have a going business and have established some methods of getting things done. If I just keep doing my small business activities the same old way I have been doing them for years, I do not need to continue to go through this agonizing Money Small Business learning exercise (which may very well involve even more prying to find out how this program really works). After reading everything I can find, I still have no idea now business data is separated from personal data. I’m sure I’ll get to this later when I have the time . . . there is always the possibility of a better version 2.0.

Review of Database Creations EZ-Access Suite

This appears to be a powerful tool for setting up new access applications but it is definitely not for the novice user.  It seems to have been developed as a result of a project to clean up a client’s program.  The stated purpose of the application builder program is to put an application together by choosing which standard components you want to use, i.e., splash screens, tip of the day, license agreements, security, menu forms, menu bars etc.  The application developer wizard then imports all your selected components even accounting for pieces of coding that would be redundant if the components were used separately.  My impression at this time is that I wouldn’t likely use application builder but would use individual components.  It was even frustrating at times for an access developer with a solid background but probably worth the time, money and effort if you wanted some nice components. 

 The program is available in Access97, 2000 and 2002.  I tried the 97 version.

 I ran the demo program which is a check writing application.  It gave a nice overview of what the program could do but it would have been helpful if the code behind the forms was available to see how the demo worked.  Otherwise, you had to apply these views by memory to the application builder as you went along.  The demo also had a built in expiration date, which while rather lengthy, it would need to somehow be refreshed with a new date if you wanted to use it again in the future.  At times, the demo would give error messages if you tried something that it didn’t like.  Unfortunately,  the error messages weren’t too helpful,  probably because it is using the standard Microsoft message text.  I had no idea what I had done wrong in running the demo or even if I did something wrong at all.  An example of a message would be “Function isn’t available in expressions in query expression ‘((SampleCustomer.[LastOrderDate] …..)’.

 Initially I tried out various components of the system by themselves instead of trying the application builder wizard.  Since I have an interest in security for my application, I played with the “View Users” function.  I was able to convert this over to my application without too much difficulty.  This process required importing the form to my application and one of the modules.  I then had to tweak the coding to make it work since I wasn’t using all of the other security components.  The intent of the form to view other users of the current database.  The form opens with a default to the current front-end application but does allow browsing to the backend which is more appropriate for the user since hopefully, all users have their own instance of the front end running.  The form was not very obvious that the browsing was needed to accomplish this task.  I just edited the caption for the default field to suggest looking for the backend database.  One does need to browse to the backend to find multiple users who have their own front ends.  It would have been even better if it could show the user names along with the machine name.  After that, it worked fine.

 There is a nice collection of administrative utilities which might be helpful.  A popup screen gives buttons for backup, repair, compact, upgrade and compile.  The upgrade function looks like it might be out of the publisher’s surgical strike program.  This is something I think I would cut and paste into my application along with the view users. 

Another cute component was the ability to compare two databases for differences.  Whereas it didn’t show the differences with a table say, it did show which tables were different and which were not present in the compared databases.  This would be useful for a developer but not necessarily an end user. 

After playing with some of the pieces, I tried the Application Builder.  I decided to create an entirely new application to see what happened.  My first real hang-up came when I tried to use the Tree view for the menu.  The program wouldn’t compile.  A bit of detective work showed that I was missing a reference to the “comctl32.ocx” file.  I figured this out by looking at the access VB help.  The program would be better suited if it automatically  could add the appropriate reference to the database if choosing the Tree View for a menu.  I then ran into other problems trying to get the tree view to open forms.  This  seems to be a common trait in this application whereby you just have to work through the problems with your own access background.

 In summary, would I use the Application Builder to create something new - - -not likely.  Would I take pieces from the program and use them in my current applications - - -you bet.  Is it helpful to have the entire package, components and application builder - - probably yes.  Is this something for a beginner - - definitely no.

Review of Microsoft Visio 2002 Professional

As a developer, I found four things about Visio 2002 Professional that are very helpful to me. It is a good all around program for making charts and graphs. It is good for diagramming database structures. It is good for diagramming software components. And it is good for documenting Web sites.

Visio is obviously a Microsoft Office program. It has the familiar menus and toolbars of Office. It has the Task Bar of Office XP. It has considerable ease of use built-in, especially with the ability, to not only drag and drop shapes, but to easily connect them. The shapes provided are myriad. These include electrical symbols, sports shapes, office furniture and hundreds of others. The diagrams can be pasted in Word for document printing and can be pasted in PowerPoint for presentation.

I found it very easy to reverse engineer a Microsoft Access database and end up with an Entity Relationship diagram displayed in Visio. This will also work with most other major relational database management systems. The diagram can contain tables and views. The tables will include primary keys, indexes, foreign keys, and check clauses. There will be properties listed on the Database Properties Tab for each element of each table – columns, indexes, triggers, and etc. Properties include data type, field size, and whether required and similar information. You can use the Visio shapes to design a database from scratch or from an existing database.

I also found it easy to reverse engineer a Web site. Visio creates a shape for each link on your Web site. (Be careful not to ask for all links at all levels as all this data may take a long time to download and clutter your diagram). This is the perfect way to document your existing site or to diagram a proposed site for discussion purposes. You can select ASP, HTM, image and other types of files as you see fit to diagram. This reverse engineering capability can be used to find broken links. You can drag site sections to another page and watch arrow connectors form on each page.

You can also design software components with Visio. It uses the Unified Modeling Language. Models can be made from source code created in Microsoft C++ 6.0 and Microsoft Visual Basic 6.0. Models will soon be able to be made from the Visual Studio .NET languages: VS.NET, C#.NET and C++.NET. The reverse engineering process automatically generates a model from your source code in the tree view of the UML Navigator. When you open the UML drawing solution, you’ll see the Model Explorer window, a Properties window, UML diagram stencils, and the drawing page. Just drag an element in the tree view and drop it on the drawing page to add a view.

This is a very versatile product that is very easy to use. Not only is it useful for everyday diagrams, it is of especial use to developers.

Review of Windows XP Professional (1)

Windows XP is a very stable operating system based on the core Windows NT code. There is no old DOS lurking inside of this OS. If you are a software developer, this is the best feature. You will not have to be shutting down and restarting your computer nearly as often. This improvement was also true of Windows 2000, but with XP you also get to avoid the problematic Windows 2000 Installer.

There are many very nice features added in XP. I like the way you can create two rows within the task bar. This enables the task bar to easily accommodate the system tray, time, day, date, address bar, desktop bar with all your program icons, task buttons for open programs, and, of course, the start button. With the new larger and higher resolution monitors, this slightly larger task bar seems to fit perfectly.

The start menu can be arranged in a number of ways for your convenience. One of the start menu items has been greatly expanded – help and support. Either you or the support tech will be able to find your problem easily with all the analysis tools found here. Even the documents item is more useful. Many start menu items can be easily expanded with a hover, rather than having to be clicked. The system tray, now called the notification area, is much less obtrusive.

There are also many other major and minor features spread throughout. There is automatic detection and setup of your network during installation. Internet Explorer 6 seems faster, especially at going forward and backward through pages. The IE explorer bar is very convenient and helpful – stick your favorites in there. XP works very smoothly with the new Office XP. You can set this operating system for automatic updates with different notification features. There are many, many new troubleshooting features including expanded Help and remote assistance, formerly called terminal services. Network administrators will appreciate the convenient configuration and policy settings.

What all these new features add up to is a seemingly very tight and very smooth operating system. I think that now you really can have a Windows “workstation.” You get to set up your desktop exactly as you want and then go about your business and forget about the operating system completely. XP actually makes use of all that additional memory you can now afford.

Microsoft Plus! For Windows XP is available to add a voice command for media player, a CD label maker, an MP3 audio converter, speaker enhancement, Personal DJ, additional themes, visualizations and skins, and additional games. The four themes and screen savers are exceptional and worth the additional cost by themselves.

Don’t get one computer in the office with XP on it. Very quickly, every other one will have to have it, too!

Review of Windows XP Professional (March 2003)

Windows XP Professional is a breeze to install. Not only is most of the installation done without your constant attention, but WinXP detects any network connection automatically. This is a big help. It will install on any new PC, of course. And it will work nicely on a computer that is several years old. However, you may want to add more memory to the older computer to enhance the performance. I am told that XP is not as compatible with older software programs as Windows 98 was, but I have not found any programs that I use to have any problems at all. The incompatibilities must be concerning old DOS programs.

 After you have WinXP Pro installed, what you see immediately is the stability and the flexibility. The feel is of an operating system that has been tested for years. It is smooth and accurate. As for the flexibility, there are many interface choices for your convenience. You can opt for a classic start menu or go with the new XP version. Once you have made that choice, you can select what you want to appear on the menu style of your choice. Favorites and Documents are particular likes of mine.

 Built into XP is the new feature to easily make CDs or CD-RWs on your burner without buying additional software. It is also very easy to connect to your scanner or camera to get at your new pictures. The included back-up program is also very easy to use. You just will not believe the extensive Help and Support section. Microsoft has gone out of their way to get you up and running and to stay there. The Plus! Pack (purchased separately) adds some wonderful screen savers. And the Plus! Digital Media Edition (available online at Microsoft) expands on that further. You will not be able to get anything done once you have installed the dancers and watched Jerome for a while.

 Unlike the Home Edition of XP, the Pro version includes IIS (Internet Information Server). This will enable you to make your computer into a professional Web server. This helps you if you have a Website to create and need a development server, if you want to put your Web server on an Internet, or even if you want to put your site directly on the Internet (you would need to ask your DSL provider to give you a static IP address in order to do this). 

With the Pro version you can also get away from the Simple Networking that is mandatory on the Home version. The more advanced networking options enable you to set exactly how you want to share what files on your peer-to-peer or client/server network. XP also lets you give and receive remote assistance through terminal services.

 Windows XP Pro costs about $290 online and the upgrade price is about $175.  Anyone who now uses Windows and new PC purchasers would get considerable benefit from this operating system.

 What I liked best is the reliability and stability of this rock solid, sturdy, tight operating system.

Review of Office XP Professional

Microsoft Office XP Professional is very easy to install. In order to keep from having to add more components later, I like to choose the Custom install option and select Run All From My Computer. The installation is very fast, even when you choose to activate and register over the Web. The extensive clip art collection is on a second CD. You can use it from the CD or, better yet, you can install it all on your hard drive and never have to mess with the CD again. This takes quite a while to install and it gives you thousands of clipart (audio, animated gif, and images) that takes about one gigabyte of space. Then the clipart is available at your fingertips when you are writing a memo, creating an email, or even creating a slide show presentation.

 The Professional version includes Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Outlook, and Access. The Standard version does not include Access and costs about $330 online. The Professional version is $360. The Developer version cost $520 and includes the items in the Pro version plus FrontPage and a host of other developer tools. 

This product is very mature and operates smoothly. That is what I like mostly about this suite. The Toolbars are very clear and understandable. Each application opens very briskly. This version is completely compatible with prior application file versions except for significant Access development problems – if you have both Access 2002 and Access 2000 installed on the same computer. These gotchas can be avoided if you install the current Service Packs. Problems concern the compilation of code in the two versions. Trust me, you want to stay current with service packs and other updates!

New Office features or improvements for all applications include, among other things, task panes, better help, better control of clipboard pasting, speech recognition, Web publishing, language support, and error recovery. The task panes appear on the right of each program and are of great assistance in opening files, cutting and pasting, and selecting clip art. Multiple clippings are organized and very handy for you to select and paste. The speech recognition works wonderfully with a DSP microphone (costs about $50 and uses a USB connection). This would be a big benefit and time-saver to you -- especially if you are not the best typist. 

The biggest improvement in Word is that HTML is now a native file type. This saves you a lot of pain if you want to quickly put your Word documents up on the Web or intranet. The biggest improvements in Access are XML support, a much improved support for Access projects (SQL server ADP files), and power graphing tools. The biggest improvements in Excel are in the areas of importing data and smart tags. The biggest improvements in PowerPoint are better animation and better org charts. Outlook improvements are many and varied including the big time-saver of automatic completion of email addresses. Outlook sure has come a long way since the 97 version. 

Since Office is sold mainly to corporate customers, many of the improvements are for their benefit, such as a powerful document review process. But, even if you are not a user of these corporate features you will be very happy with the general stability and ease-of-use of the applications in this very popular office suite of programs.

Review of Microsoft Train Simulator

Microsoft Train Simulator is a kick! It’s either a serious toy or it’s a fun learning experience, I can’t decide which. I found myself learning about the southern-most island of Japan, figuring out how to operate a diesel locomotive, and all while enjoying great scenery and changing my views every few seconds. Ha!

You get a lot on two CDs. There are seven train lines from all over the world including the Alps, Montana, and the NE Corridor. You get to pick the season you want. You get to pick the time of day you want. You get to pick the locomotive you want. You get to pick the weather you want. You get to pick the starting and stopping points you want. What more could you want? And, what’s more, you get to install the whole thing on your hard drive so you won’t have to be swapping CDs. This is quite appropriate when hard drives are now often 40 MB or more.

There are introductory rides you can take on each line (someone else drives). There are tutorials for driving each type of engine – electric, steam and diesel. There is a help file. You can control the views with your number keys. These include a front cab view, a trackside view, a passenger view, and two external views. The views can be altered left, right, up and down with your arrow keys. Your function keys are used to bring up and close your controls and gauges. These include compass, track monitor, next station, car numbering, and operations notebook among other things.

So, what is the scenery like? It is surprisingly good. It is similar to Flight Simulator, but with your being close to the ground all the time so you always see everything up close. If you run the program after installation, it will run in a 640 X 480 mode. If you have a monitor with a higher resolution, you need to adjust the options right away so you get the most realistic scenery and smaller controls. You might have to adjust your desktop a little after using the program. My desktop image had to get back to “stretch,” which happened with a refresh.

I do not particularly like reading application manuals on the screen and I would have preferred that the program come with an extensive manual. The included manual in pdf format is not much more than what is on the included information card. The card has keyboard shortcuts and signals and signs. More is needed. There is a book offered at on Train Simulator, but reviews there indicated that it was not any better. I noticed another book there on how to operate a steam engine. That would be helpful. Let’s hope that there are more books on train operation in the near future. There is already one add-in program for Train Simulator and there probably will be more.

Sorry, I have to go now. I’m going to take a little trip in the winter through the Alps on the Orient Express. I’ll stay close to the fire door as the cab is an open one. Brrrrrr.

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