Mar 22

Total Visual Agent Ships for Microsoft Access 2013 and 2010

Microsoft Access Database SchedulerTotal Visual Agent for Microsoft Access DatabasesAutomate Microsoft Access Database Compact and Other Chores

We are very pleased to announce that Total Visual Agent 2013 is now shipping.

Don’t Forget System Administration for Microsoft Access Database Solutions

A professional Microsoft Access database application needs ongoing system administration. It’s an area that many MS Access developers neglect and causes problems when things go wrong (database corruption, missing backups, disaster recovery, etc.):

Enterprise Quality System Administration with Audit Logs and Email Alerts

Total Visual Agent has provided an Enterprise Quality solution for almost 20 years by giving organizations a reliable way to perform their critical tasks on a 24/7, 365 days a year basis. A detailed audit log documents each action that is performed, and sends emails if errors are encountered.

Schedule Events, Databases, and Actions to Perform

Total Visual Agent automates and schedules Microsoft Access tasks. It ensures repetitive tasks are completed reliably. Tasks such as database compact and repair, zipped backups, rolling backups (e.g. 7 copies for each day of the week), running macros, running Windows command lines, making copies of table data, collecting database statistics such as size and record counts, etc. Easily schedule tasks for the middle of the night and know they’ll be completed.

Events can be scheduled every X minutes, hourly, daily, weekly, monthly or just one time. You can specify the days of week and time periods that it runs to limit processing to off-hours. Select the databases and directories (including subdirectories) to manage with support for workgroup security and database passwords.

Includes a Windows Service for Secure Processing and Reliability

Once defined, the events and tasks can be run by our Monitor program that is a standard Windows program.

Alternatively, Total Visual Agent includes a Windows Service, so you can run your tasks without having anyone logged on the machine. The Windows service is a more secure, robust solution since it can automatically restart if the machine reboots.

New Features in the 2013 Version

A huge number of new features were added in this 2013 release from the previous 2007 version:

  • Microsoft Access 2013Support for Microsoft Access 2013 and 2010, plus 2007
  • Support for 64 bit Operating Systems
  • Simplified Startup and Easier Management of Multiple Microsoft Access Versions
  • Import Settings from Multiple Versions of Total Visual Agent
  • Test All Actions for an Event, Database, Directory or Task Group
  • Create Events that Run Every X Minutes
  • Create Events that are Limited to Periods Spanning Midnight
  • Process Directories with Managed Databases
  • Data Extract Tables are Keyed
  • Run Macros for Database Password Protected Databases
  • Pause for a Fractional Minute
  • Compressed Archive File Names Support Multiple Extensions
  • More Detailed Activity History Log with Deletions
  • More Detailed Database Statistics with Deletions
  • Add Your Comments to Events, Directories, and Actions
  • Simplified Addition of New Actions
  • More Modern and Improved User Interface
  • New User Manual and Help File

For complete list, visit New Features in Total Visual Agent 2013.

Download a Free Trial Version

A fully functional trial version is available for download so you can run it on your system with your databases.

Contact Us

  • Visit our Support Site if you would like to submit any questions to our technical support team.
  • Place an order online. Existing customers can upgrade at a discounted price.
Aug 07

Microsoft Access and Office 2010 Service Pack 2 (SP2) Enhancements and Issues

New Paper: Microsoft Access and Office 2010 Service Pack 2 (SP2) Enhnacements and Issues

Microsoft has released Service Pack 2 (SP2) for Microsoft Office 2010. It includes enhancements to Access, Excel, Groove, Office. Outlook, PowerPoint, Project, SharePoint, Visio, Word, and more.

Read our new paper listing:

  • Links to the Download and List of Enhancements
  • List of Updated Products
  • Microsoft Access Enhancements and Fixes:
    • Microsoft Access Object Issues
    • Repair and Compact Issues
    • Microsoft Excel Related Issues
    • Access Web/SharePoint Issues
    • Windows 8 64-bit Issue
    • Runtime Version
  • Known Issues from Microsoft
  • A Confirmed Bug between MS Access 2010 and SharePoint 2013
  • Additional Resources for Microsoft Office and Office 2010 SP1
Jul 09

Microsoft Access 2013 Features, Changes, Resources and Runtime Release

Microsoft Access 2013Microsoft Access 2013 Features

Microsoft has published a variety of resources to discuss the new features of Microsoft Access 2013.

Free Runtime Version Available

The Microsoft Access 2013 Runtime enables you to distribute Access 2013 applications to users who do not have the full version of Access 2013 installed on their computers. The Microsoft Access 2013 Runtime Download is available in 38 languages!

Note that due to the many deprecated features in Access 2013, we would recommend developers to stick to the Access 2010 runtime version unless you’re deploying to an environment that has already migrated to Office 2013.

Additional Resources

FMS Products for Microsoft Access 2013

We are busily enhancing our products for Access 2013. Access 2013 versions are already shipping for Total Visual Agent, Total Access Emailer, Total Access Speller, and Total Access Statistics.

Jul 03

Inspection Software for the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)

National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)With the upcoming 4th of July celebrations, we at FMS are proud to have worked with the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) over the past year to help them better maintain and preserve the important documents of our nation. Here’s what we did in our new case study, Inspection Software for the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).

About the National Archives

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is the record keeper for the United States. Of all documents and materials created in the course of business by the United States Federal government, only 1%-3% are important enough for legal or historical reasons that they are kept by NARA forever.

Natonal Archives Building in Washington DC

Background

To ensure the quality of work performed by their Facilities Management service providers, the National Archives and Records Administration performs both random and targeted inspections of completed work orders.

Problem

Inspection findings were documented on paper, which ironically, wasn’t efficient for the NARA. Reports were manually created to generate the service results. This manual process was time consuming and prone to human error.

Solution

FMS was selected to create a professional, multiuser system to collect the inspection results electronically and generate a variety of management reports.Within two months, we deployed our solution which offers data entry screens to replicate a variety of existing forms and many new management reports. An intuitive user interface made it easy for users without requiring extensive training. More importantly, we established a solid database foundation to improve NARA processes both today and into the future.

Operational Impact

  • Stores inspection results into a shared database
  • Increases efficiency and accuracy of the collection and reporting process
  • Gathers information and performs statistical analysis in ways that were previously not available
  • Eliminates the need to maintain paper files
Jul 01

Microsoft Access Inconsistent Compile Error for a Field Reference in a Form

Our Professional Solutions Group was recently asked to diagnose a Microsoft Access database experiencing recurring compile errors with code behind a form that looks like this:

If IsNull(Me.Comments) Then

where Comments is not a control on the form, but a field in the form’s RecordSource.

In general, this compiles and runs fine, but on seemingly random occasions while the program is running, it generates a compile error saying that that field was not found. But the field always existed on the form’s RecordSource, so why was this happening?

Solutions

There are a few ways to avoid this problem:

  • Change all the Me. to Me! which is the proper way to reference a field in VBA code, if there is no control bound to this field.
  • Create an invisible  text box that assigns its ControlSource to that field, give the text box a different name (e.g. txtComments), and reference the text box in code.
  • Deploy the database so its compiled state cannot be changed (ACCDE or MDE)

We prefer the use of the invisible text box so that we can reference the control name via the “Me.” syntax rather than “Me!”. The “Me.” syntax is verified when the code is compiled so that a typo with the control name is caught. This is preferable to a runtime error that gets triggered when the user encounters that line of code.

But Why?

Though we knew how to fix this, we were curious to understand why the compilation wasn’t consistent across users. It also didn’t fail when a specific event occurred. It seemed almost random when the compile error arose. And the form triggering the error seemed perfectly fine with a reference to a field that exists in its RecordSource.

The Real Cause for the Compile Error

Through our own research and help from our Microsoft Access MVP colleagues, we discovered that the compile error was tied to programmatically changing the RecordSource of a form. The change is not necessarily on the form where the compile error is triggered.

Microsoft Access seems to reset its internal list of field references some time after the RecordSource is modified, which triggers the compile error. This explains why some users experienced it and others did not since it depended on whether the user opened a form that changed its RecordSource. It also explained why the error didn’t occur immediately after a RecordSource was modified.

Special thanks to Dirk Goldgar for pointing this out. Hope you never encounter this!

Additional Resources for Database Compile and Field Reference Issues

For additional tips on Microsoft Access application development, visit our:
Microsoft Access Developer and VBA Programming Help Center

Jun 14

New Technical Support Forum and Ticket Tracking for FMS

We are very pleased to announce our new technical support site (http://support.fmsinc.com) to provide forums and the ability to submit technical support inquiries.

Our new site lets you submit requests and respond to them via email with our support team. It also lets you visit our site to check the status of your requests and their entire chain of communications. You can login directly or use affiliated logins from Facebook, Google, and Twitter.

You can also read information and ask questions to the community on topics related to Microsoft Access, Visual Studio, LightSwitch, and SQL Server. We hope you’ll join us.

Additional support resources are available here:

Jun 07

Comparison of Microsoft Access, LightSwitch and Visual Studio Platforms for Database Developers

Last month I spoke at the Portland Access Users Group Conference at Silver Falls State Park. I gave a presentation introducing Visual Studio LightSwitch and how it could be used for SQL Server applications deployed on a variety of platforms. As a follow-up, I’ve created a summary matrix and discussion that highlights the features and limitations of the variety of platforms from Microsoft Access, Visual Studio LightSwitch, and Visual Studio.


Microsoft Access started at the beginning of the Windows revolution 20+ years ago and became the most popular database of all time. More recently, additional technologies have become significant, so it behooves the Microsoft Access community to be aware of the trends and options.

Database Platform Matrix

Ultimately, it’s about being able to create solutions that help you and/or your users accomplish their mission. Sometimes the user’s platform is critical, sometimes, it’s the data source, and other times it’s the permissions you have to deploy a solution. A variety of platforms and options are available with benefits and limitations with each. Meanwhile, Microsoft Access is also evolving with their latest Access 2013 version offering new web based solutions.

We’ve written a new paper, Comparison of Microsoft Access, LightSwitch and Visual Studio Platforms for Database Developers  that summarizes what we’re seeing and experiencing.

Mar 20

Microsoft Access Query Sorting on Multiple Date or Numeric Fields with Blank Values

Read our new paper, Microsoft Access Sorting on Multiple Date (or Numeric) Fields with Blank Values.

Learn how to sort on multiple date fields when null values exist by using a calculated field. By using the IIf function with Is Null, you can easily sort to see the most recent (or oldest) records.

Microsoft Access QueriesWe’ve included information on avoiding the IsNull function to maintain SQL Server compatibility. Additional information and examples are provided to show why using the NZ function (NullToZero) is not equivalent and returns the wrong results.

This new paper is part of our Microsoft Access Query Help Center.

Mar 13

Mistakenly Blaming Microsoft Access instead of the Developer

In this March 10th Washington Post article, Alexandria tailor weaves custom solution for taking orders, a local firm is mentioned having struggled with Microsoft Access and being forced to migrate to a new system due to problems with their Access database. In particular, their database couldn’t provide multiuser support and lost data when more than one person used it.

Unfortunately, stories like this perpetuate the myth that Microsoft Access features are limited rather than the lack of skills of the developer who tried to customize it. It’s a shame the business owner and developer weren’t aware that Access could address the multiuser issues they encountered; thereby saving time, money, and headaches from having to migrate to a new platform.

Microsoft Access is Multiuser Ready

Microsoft AccessThe reality is that Microsoft Access is fully capable of providing multiuser support if it’s designed properly. For basic database solutions with under 1GB of data (maximum 2GB), Access comfortably supports up to 200 simultaneous users with a properly designed solution.

Microsoft SQL ServerAs the number of users and data expands, Access makes it relatively easy to migrate the data storage from an Access database to SQL Server, while maintaing the application layer (forms, reports, code, etc.) in Access. This also lets you share the SQL Server data on web sites and other platforms. That means supporting two users in a tailor shop would be trivial with MS Access.

Split Database Architecture for Multiuser Solutions

People sometimes treat Access databases like Excel spreadsheets and want each user to open and close the same file. That’s not the way to support multiuser data sharing in Access. A split database architecture is needed to separate the application layer from the shared database. Each user gets their own copy of the front-end database application that links to the tables in the shared database.

Microsoft Access includes a built-in wizard to split the database and another wizard to link the front-end database to back-end tables. We wrote a paper about this years ago called, Microsoft Access Split Database Architecture to Support Multiuser Environments, Improve Performance, and Simplify Maintainability.

While having a web application has its role and advantages, the article mentions their internet connection isn’t reliable and their business is negatively impacted when that happens. That’s an unfortunate result of their new platform. There are ways to create hybrid solutions to provide on premises support with shared web solutions, so these issues need to be considered when creating business critical solutions.

Using Microsoft Access Strategically

Small businesses often have very limited budgets and time to understand technological options. Completely eliminating Office and Access as viable solutions for incorrect reasons is wasteful. Microsoft Access addresses an important segment of database needs, and offers small businesses and information workers the ability to make modifications and extensions that other platforms do not allow so easily. Understanding where and how to use Microsoft Access effectively along with its limitations offers organizations of all sizes a competitive advantage. We’ve helped many small businesses, non-profits, and multi-national companies properly use this technology very effectively. Here’s our article on Microsoft Access within an Organization’s Database Strategy that discusses this in more detail.

Conclusion

There are lots of terrible applications created on every technology platform whether it’s Microsoft Access, Excel, Visual Studio, Java, Oracle, SAP, etc. In this case, the skills of the Access developer were clearly lacking. Getting that confused with the technology is misguided.

Additional Resources

For additional resources to build robust Microsoft Access solutions and understand what’s possible, visit our:

Feb 18

Attending the Microsoft MVP Summit in Bellevue/Redmond, WA

I’m attending the annual Microsoft MVP Global Summit this week in Bellevue and Redmond, WA. This is actually my first experience at this event as I was awarded the MVP title this past summer for my support of Microsoft Access.

Over the years, FMS has had several Microsoft MVPs for Access including Dan Haught, Steve Clark, and Jim Ferguson who was one of the original MVPs when the program started 20 years ago. Book author Alison Balter and Portland Access User Group leader Jack Stockton join me as new MVPs this year. Last night we had a nice kickoff event with fellow Microsoft Access MVPs.

The MVP conference brings together 1500 professionals from across the world to this conference. The MVPs cover all the different product groups for Microsoft which offers a wonderful mix of expertise and enthusiasm. Over the next few days, the different Microsoft product groups will be providing presentations to attendees in an NDA environment. Sorry, I can’t share the content, but I can say it impacts our future planning.

Yesterday, they had a showcase of a variety of technologies from MVPs in the US plus companies from Taiwan, Japan, Germany, China, India, etc. It’s great to see the global impact of Microsoft.

How do you become an MVP? The usual path is to be involved in public forums answering questions and becoming an expert in the field. You don’t need to own a business to be an MVP. Other ways to be selected are to increase your professional visibility through products, writing books, blogs, etc. The MVP program is designed to recognize individuals who influence the market and help the community maximize the value of Microsoft products. So whether it’s XBox, Bing Maps, Dynamics, Exchange, Office 365, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, SharePoint, Visual Studio, Windows Phone, Word, etc., if you have a passion, expertise, and a willingness to share, the MVP community could be part of your future. Good luck!