Microsoft Corporation. One Microsoft Way, Redmond, WA 98052-6399; 1-800-426-9400. Price: No MSRP; retail price: $340, $110 for upgrade; volume pricing available. System requirements: 486 PC; Windows 95 or Windows NT 3.51 Service Pack 5; 12 MB RAM for Windows 95, 16 MB RAM for Windows NT; 28-60 MB hard disk space, 40 MB for typical installation; CD-ROM drive for installation, 1.44 MB disks without CD extras available upon request; VGA video adapter, SVGA recommended; mouse or other pointing device. Supported: Windowscompatible soundcard; 9600 kbps modern (14.4 kbps recommended); Internet access; Novell NetWare network.
Although Microsoft Corporation's Access 97 was not designed specifically for libraries, it proves to be an excellent database program for staff use in such an environment. Access's wealth of features and ease of use account for its command of the desktop database market.
Microsoft Access 97 is built on the Microsoft Jet database engine, an entry-level but powerful relational database engine. Though it lacks more advanced features such as clustered indexes, it has all the elements necessary for library database operations. Unlike other database management systems in its class, Access is very good at preservation of referential integrity. All data enters Access through Jet, which always enforces validation rules, ensuring the integrity of the data. Replication, which Access introduced to the desktop, has been enhanced in the 97 version. Replication allows multiple persons to make independent changes to a database for synchronization later. This allows the maintenance of one database that can be independently worked on by different departments and people. Workgroup features in Access allow for easy control of the database. Improvements to replication in Access include the ability to do partial table replication, where only the subset of the database needed is replicated, increasing performance. Replication with Access remains easy; for instance, a database can be replicated simply by dragging it onto the Briefcase icon. But in Access 97, the scope of replication has been greatly expanded to the Internet via support for FTP.
Microsoft has revamped Access to work with the Internet in other areas as well. Additional new Internet features include the ability to import and export HTML files, dynamic access to the database through the Internet, and a hyperlink field type. As the Internet increases in importance, these features will become more important. They can, for example, allow a patron to search a library from a remote location. Besides the Internet, Access also supports the importing of delimited or fixed-width text files as well as files from Microsoft FoxPro and Excel, dbase, Paradox, Lotus 12-3, and most open database connection (ODBC) databases.
Access 97 includes an enhanced version of Visual Basic for Applications as well as a macro language, but there is no keystroke recorder, a potentially valuable inclusion for novice users. An important change Microsoft has made is the implementation of VBA in the lightweight form. No VBA code is loaded until the user needs to use such features, improving load time. Also new is the option to remove source code from a database, decreasing file sizes and increasing security.
There are four ways to find data in Access: Filter by Selection, Filter by Form, the new Filter for Input, and Advanced Filter/Sort. The first three methods allow the user to easily specify the data needed, while Access transparently builds the query. With Filter by Selection, the value to be found is simply selected. With Filter by Form, multiple criteria can be selected at once from a list. In a field, Filter for Input can be used to search for values in that field. The fourth way to find data, Advanced Filter/Sort, allows the user to build a query from scratch and specify multiple criteria, expressions as criteria, and different sorting for fields. …