Access 2013 boasts a number of impressive new features, but the headliner is Apps. This exciting new capability enhances collaboration by improving the multi-user toolset, greatly reducing the potential for conflicts arising from multiple people interacting with the Access database simultaneously. Better yet, Access 2013’s new App features allow these databases to be easily taken online. In previous versions this was difficult and technically complex process, but Access 2013 greatly simplifies this task, something novice and expert users alike will appreciate. As with the rest of Microsoft’s lineup for 2013, Access 2013 has been optimized for use with touch interface capable devices.
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Hello again and welcome back to our course on Access 2013. In this section I’d like to take a quick look at what’s new in Access 2013. There is a pretty good page on Office.Microsoft.com that covers this subject and it includes near the beginning a video which gives you a good overview of what the changes in Access 2013 are. So it’s a good idea to take time out to just have a quick look at that. But I want to run through the main new features quickly with you now and as it says just below the video, What’s new in Access 2013? In a word, Apps. And really an awful lot of what’s new in Access 2013 is about apps. So the first thing I need to do is to explain what that means.
One of the great strengths of building Access databases in the past is that they’re pretty straightforward to build. And if you just want a database for one person to run on their own PC Access databases have always really been a neat way of putting something really good together. But there have been some disadvantages and some problems as well. One of the disadvantages and problems is that once you get into more than one user, so multi-user access, in theory the tools are there that you need, but in practice once the number of users starts to go up so does the number of problems. The other problem with Access databases in the past is that the technology behind it means that it’s just not suitable for using on the internet. So if you had a database, just leaping ahead a little bit, the database that we’re going to build as our exercise is a movie database, then if you build a movie database it’s extremely difficult to make it available say on the internet for other people to access that database.
Now the web app version of an Access database is designed to deal with this issue. And the way it deals with it is that it gives you access to a good solid database engine based on Microsoft SQL Server and generally speaking made available via a technology called SharePoint that I’m going to talk to you about later. And you get basically the best of both worlds because you get a storage technology based on Microsoft SQL Server which gives you the underlying strength, but in addition you get the power and flexibility of building the forms that people use to enter and update data and the reports that they can run and many other aspects of what are called the user interface to the database. You get the Access version of that. So it means you get a database system that’s both powerful, easy to develop, and flexible, but you get enough underlying technological strength via Microsoft SQL Server to support running this database, this web app online and making access to the data in the database available online which you just don’t have with the earlier versions of Microsoft Access. So that’s what Microsoft web apps are basically about and I’ll tell you more about those as we go through the course.
And what I want to do now is just point out one little section here which is quite important in terms of what I’ve just said. If you look at this tip here it says, To learn how you can get started creating an Access 2013 app or desktop database quickly see and then there are two links. There’s Basic tasks for an Access app and there’s Basic tasks for an Access 2013 desktop database. Now in essence what this means in Access 2013 is that you have alternative things that you may want to develop. You may want to develop what I’ll call a traditional Access desktop database or you may want to develop an Access app. Now although these are two different things, delivered and used in different ways, a lot of the underlying knowledge, skills, etcetera that you need is common. And on this course although we’re going to develop both of these things I’m going to start with the desktop database in detail because in there I’m going to talk about these sort of basic underlying principles and tools and so on because it’s a lot easier really to explain that in terms of the desktop database and then when I’ve covered a reasonable amount of that we’ll then switch our attention to creating the apps. Now having said that we’ll have a quick app example early on just to give you an idea of what one looks like.
So let’s go through some more of the what’s new in Access 2013. This section, Getting started with apps, says Building an app. Now one of the first things it says there is Using your SharePoint Server or Office 365 site as a host. Now one thing you’re going to need on this course if you’re going to deploy a web app or two is you’re going to need a SharePoint Server of Office 365 site. Now you may have no idea whatsoever what either of those are. I’m going to explain those to you later in the course. And shortly before the time that you’ll need them I will explain to you how to set them up. They won’t basically cost you any money or at least they needn’t cost you any money to get one of those setup for a limited time, certainly long enough to complete this course. When you’ve got one setup and you like web apps you may decide to pay for one on an ongoing basis. But as I say it’s free to setup but you are going to need one in order to be able to setup and run your web apps.
Now you’ve probably noticed on the start screen that there are a number of templates that we can use as our sort of building blocks or starting points for databases. Within Access 2013 there is a selection of table templates. In many applications that you might build, databases that you build, the sort of data that you include is common to databases that people the world over have built over many years. And it always seems a bit sad when you start from scratch on something that somebody has all ready done before. Now the advantage of table templates is that you can take a predesigned table which is a list of the sort of properties of something; think of it as say employees. What sort of information would a company keep about its employees? Well I’m sure that any two companies would have different information, but a lot of the information would be the same. They’d probably have the name the same, phone number the same, maybe a payroll reference the same. And the advantage of table templates is that you can start with a design that somebody else has made for a particular type of data and then you can just customize it to your specific requirements.
An area of Access 2013 where there have been significant improvements have been in importing data from external sources. This is typically a case where you maybe have an existing database or maybe a Microsoft Excel workbook or even text files or a list from a SharePoint site. So there are a number of improvements to the way that you can get data into your Access databases.
Now the next group of new features of Access 2013 really all relate primarily to web apps. So we have things like opening in a browser, the ability to use a web app from an internet browser. Then it talks about the way that the user interface, the UI is created automatically, including the navigation needed to get through records in the database, etcetera. And then the new Action Bar which is a standard set of buttons for adding, editing, saving, and deleting data. And then we have straightforward ways of modifying the views of the data in a web app. There are then call outs for setting properties and new controls for working with data related to the selected data. Now I’m not going to go through all of these now because they won’t mean a lot to you until you’ve seen a web app and I’ll cover them at that time. But if I just move one down to the bottom a couple of important things there. There are also a number of deployment options for your Access apps and these include improvements to the way that permissions are managed so that you can make sure that other people can’t actually change your app without your permission and then different ways of packaging and distributing your apps.
Virtually everything there relates to web apps. The one thing that isn’t in that list but which is important is that Access 2013, like the other components of Office 2013, is also optimized for use with touch and we’re actually going to look at the use of touch in the next section. So please join me for that.