Review: Thumbs Up For Office 2010 Beta

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The Office 2010 beta includes extended web and mobile reach and a number of useful app enhancements. The next challenge is persuading organisations and individuals to upgrade

Access

Users who prize Access as a tool for roughing out database-backed applications will find a handful of welcome improvements in the 2010 version of Office.

I began putting Access through its paces by selecting one of the template applications offered up from the tool’s start page. The first thing I noticed about the new database app I created was an information bar across the top of its interface, alerting me of blocked active content.

By now, macro-blocking has become a very familiar part of Office applications, and the experience that the Office team has accrued while dodging malware writers really shows in the interfaces around trust management. For example, I was pleased to find that clicking for more information on the blocked-content notice did not call forth a dialog box with tough-to-relocate information. Rather, I was sent to the Backstage area for Access—the landing page for meta-document operations and information—where I could read what Access had to say about the active content and then decide whether to enable the content, knowing exactly where to find that information when I was ready to act on it.

I opted to mark the database as a trusted document, which cleared the way for the active content. I noticed, however, that when I emailed the database to myself for testing on a different machine, the trusted status did not carry over to the second machine. I had to mark the document as trusted again. I also could have configured a trusted location and ferried the database from one machine to the other through that trusted channel. This document trust scheme appears in other components across Office.

The application template I’d selected was for a project management application, with tables and interface forms for users and tasks, among other things. I was interested to see that both the user and task components of the template were available for easy use in other applications in the form of Application Parts, available under the Create tab of the Access ribbon.

Access 2010 now supports triggers—database operations that can be scripted to occur, for instance, when records are inserted into a database. In Access, this feature is called Data Macros. Along similar lines, I was pleased to see that Access now supports calculated fields, derived from other fields in a record.