Saturday, 7 November 2009

The New Look of Microsoft Office Access 2007

The main reason for Access’s popularity and accessibility is its graphical user interface, along with its database tools and wizards that help users to create their database applications. These are easy to use for people new to database design, and speed up the development process for seasoned database professionals. Access 2007 saw a radical redesigning of this interface along with that for other packages in the Microsoft Office Suite, of which Access is a part. This new Microsoft Office Fluent User Interface TM was designed to make Microsoft Office Access 2007 more intuitive and user friendly. As Microsoft themselves put it Office Fluent is “ ... a user interface that makes it easier for people to get more out of Microsoft Office applications so they can deliver better results faster.”

The Access Ribbon

Instead of the old drop down menus of previous versions, Access now uses the Microsoft Office Ribbon. This works somewhat differently to the old Access Menus. There is a row of ribbon tabs with headings such as Home, Create, External Data, and Database Tools. Clicking on each tab presents you with its own individual ribbon with its own particular icons. Each icon on a ribbon is contained within a group of icons that perform similar tasks. So, for example, the Create tab has groups for Tables, Forms, Reports and Other.

The Access 2007 Create Ribbon

Ribbons are context sensitive. Access automatically selects the most suitable Ribbon for whatever you happen to be working on at the time. This might involve presenting you with a new ribbon that isn't normally available. An example of this is the Design ribbon which appears by default when you select the Design view for a database object such as a Form or Table.

Each Ribbon has sets of related icons organised into groups. The Create ribbon, for example, has a set of icons related to the creation of database objects. These icons are then grouped into items relating to Tables, Forms, Reports and 'Other'. Let's look at the Tables group.

There are four icons here relating to Access database Table functions: there is one to Create a New Blank Table, Create a Table using a Template, Create a table Linked to a SharePoint List, and Create a New Blank Table in Design View.

Icons are also context sensitive like the Ribbons themselves. So, for example, if you select a particular Ribbon which has function that is not relevant to what you are working on, the Icon for that function will be grayed out and cannot be clicked. This might happen if you are working on a Table and have the Database Tools ribbon selected. In this case there would be a couple of icons which would not be relevant (eg Convert Macros to Visual Basic), so they would not be available for selection.
The new Access 2007 Ribbon can be described as operating in an intuitive manner. As we have already seen the ribbons and icons that you are presented with are relevant to the work you are doing at any time so we do not need to look through different menu layers to find a particular item. In addition to this, the most commonly used features appear as large icons while those that are less common appear small. So while the Access 2007 Ribbon has many of the old features that were available in previous versions of Access (with a number of new features included), the new Ribbon is designed to be more user friendly.

The Office Button

The new Office Button is located in the top left hand corner of the Access Screen. It contains functions such as saving, opening, printing and creating new database files etc. This has enabled Microsoft to separate these file level functions from the document authoring features located on the Office Fluent Ribbon. Here is a screen shot of the menu items:

So to create a new database from the Office Button, you would simply click the New icon at the top of the list. This brings the Getting Started Screen which we will talk more about in the next chapter. Likewise to open an existing database you would just click the Open icon. This brings up a window where you can browse your folders to select the required database file. You may also notice the list of recent documents on the right hand side of the menu. These are the last database files that you have been working on. To open one of them simply click the file link.

The Quick Office Tool Bar

To the right of the Office Button is the Quick Office Toolbar. This gives users one click access to common commands such as Save, Undo, and Redo. In addition to these three default commands it is also possible to add additional ones from a list. As you can see in the image above, the Quick Office Toolbar has been customized so that the Open and Print Preview Commands are also available. To customize the toolbar yourself, click the arrow on the right hand side to produce the Customize Quick Office Toolbar menu.

Simply click a command to add it to the toolbar, or unclick the command for it to be removed. You can also select More Commands to bring up a dialogue box which will enable you to choose from a full list of commands.

Access Navigation Pane

The Access NAVIGATION PANE replaces the old database window. It is here where you will see the icons for all the Tables, Forms, Queries, and Reports that you create. When you want to open one of your database "objects", you just click on one of these icons, and the required object will open in the main Access window.

This image shows the Navigation Pane organized by object Type. Each section contains database objects of the same type. Double Clicking on the icon for tblCommunication would open the table with this name. As you will see further on in this e-book, you can open objects in a number of different views. In Design View, for example, you can create and edit the structure of a database table, whilst in Datasheet View you are mainly entering, deleting and editing the actual data contained within the table. Right click the icon to choose which view you require from the short cut menu.

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