Access is like an old friend with some new gadgets, and I was looking forwards to this assignment, a chance to do some database tables, queries, reports and most of all forms. The assignment called for a minimum of six tables with suitable validation, a minimum of four forms with at least two having sub-forms, five reports all based on queries of which there should be a minimum of four and a customised user interface.
Overall the assignment was broken down into two phases, a design phase and a build phase. The design phase went as expected and produced no great drama’s although producing the entity relationship diagram for more than six tables proved to be a challenge.
In this the build phase, I was anticipating getting to grips with the handy new features of Access 2007 that make creating tables, forms, reports and queries “nice and simple” so freeing up my time to concentrate on the hard job of making it look pretty. This was not the case as from the onset things did not go according to plan A, so in this report I will attempt to reflect on these plan changes and there consequences.
First and foremost things did not happen as expected, nothing worked! From table definitions to the forms wizard, I tried several versions of the database as well starting from scratch, but nothing. So I went back to basics and started with minimum outlines of the tables and eventually got them working although the masking and validation were sketchy to say the least. The rest of the database had to be designed in the most basic of ways from empty design views with the data sources and controls added manually, this was the case for all of the forms, queries, reports and macros.
For some unknown reason the ease of use features and wizards just wouldn’t work, so everything was back to basics. I understand that the assignment was not intended to be easy, but I was not expecting to hand code everything and this left little time for other niceties.
I was surprised by how much old fashioned Access knowledge I have, as it is not an application that I use very much, although I have done some complicated projects in the past. My biggest surprise was really how little the application has changed from version 1 to the current 2007, all the new stuff I was hoping to use I was unable to.
The next t time I do an Access 2007 project I will start sooner to ensure that if the advanced features and wizards do work and if everything has to be done by hand then at least there would be sufficient time to ensure that beyond the minimum standard would be achieved.
Having completed the assignment my view is that not all development is for the good, the time taken to hand build all of the database components took away time from ensuring that the finished product matched exactly the specified database in the previous assignment; although this is not such a bad thing as the previous specification called for a colour scheme that wouldn’t have worked as well as the one implemented. In addition to the construction issues, was the usability of the database, this again I feel did not match up to the design specification.
I achieved a bare minimum in terms of goals, I had not allocated enough time to create everything from basics; I was expecting to use the wizards and ease of use features of Access 2007, instead I was building tables, forms, queries, reports and macros from a basic design view, a la Access version 1, just to complete the tasks outlined in the assignment. There was no time in my schedule for extending beyond this, my fault for assuming plan A would work. But I did achieve a working database that fulfilled the criteria, all be it just.
I have learnt that the advanced features of the Access 2007 software package are not to be relied upon and that nothing works like knowledge, had I have just been a push button kiddie then this assignment would have been beyond me, as it was, the assignment was just a re-fresh of knowledge and skills that I already posses.
I enjoyed doing the database old school and if I had thought about it would have planned to do it like this from the beginning. The problems I encountered I should have allowed time for, although they themselves were unforeseen, after all it is a new version of a tried and tested desktop database application.
I coped well with the challenges of this assignment although as I said I only achieved a minimum standard.
I do feel that there wasn’t too much information to absorb; the assignment was clear and concise, as was the scenario from which we had to design and build our database.
If I were to approach the assignment again I would schedule more time and ensure that I had a proper working version of Access, or the database, to guarantee that I achieved above a bare minimum in goal terms. I would have liked to have spent more time “playing” with the database and less time doing, so again my fault for assuming that the time allocated would be sufficient.
I learnt that knowledge is a very helpful thing. I would have been truly stuck without my understanding of Access; although I didn’t learn anything new the reinforcement was worthwhile.
I think that other people in the group just learnt to push buttons and run wizards, and as such have been a little deprived of basic Access knowledge.
Overall an enjoyable assignment, although I feel that I was unable to exploit the advantages of new features and wizards, it has reinforced the basics of building a database; and, if nothing else has proved if you do not understand the basic workings of an application then you are stuck when the wizzy features breakdown.
Although the overall tone of this reflection may sound negative and moanie it’s not how I feel, a refreshing set of challenges met and overcome, all in all a positive experience that I would willingly tackle again, all be it in a different way.