Tag Archives: access web app

Getting Started with an Access Wep App in Sharepoint

Note : This article is written for an Access 2013 web app using Access Hosting’s Sharepoint 2013 Enterprise plan, you will need Access 2013+ and this subscription configured for Access services.

Access 2013 introduced a new way to make a database available in the browser, called the Access Web App. This first article focuses the general features and points for consideration when developing your Access database.

With the release of Access 2013, you can create now create two different types of database applications, the first is the traditional desktop database. This has traditionally been called an Access database and consists of one or more files stored on your computer, network, or remote server with Access or the Access runtime installed so that you can open and operate these databases.

The second type of database application you can create is called a 2013 web app (not to be confused with the Sharepoint 2010 Web Database). These Web Apps can only reside within Sharepoint 2013 Enterprise or newer.  They are not created and do not reside on your local computer.

No need to publish design changes!

A web app is cleverly designed so that everything is hosted on Access Hosting’s private cloud, so while you are using a desktop copy of Access to work on changing your design, all the changes you make once saved are automatically saved up to our Sharepoint solution. This means that there is no publishing process, but it also means that you can’t easily undo your changes (or mistakes). Keeping a backup of your own work is very important, but Access Hosting also backs up your entire site collection (not just the web app) every night so we can restore your entire site from a major blunder.

Your web app can be placed in your personal folder in Office 365, or created in a Team Site/Subsite. Team Site/Subsites allow for you to both collaborate with other licensed users and what are known as external users. An external user is someone with a FREE Microsoft Online account (easily obtained), and you are allowed between 500/10,000 external users depending on your subscription.

Access Web Apps run in your Browser

Access Web Apps run in your browser. This is where most of your users will interact with your application. Web Apps do not have the same robust design features as traditional desktop based applications.  When designing a web app you will find yourself switching between your installed copy of Access on your desktop computer and the runtime browser window.  You’ll have to have Access installed on your computer to make changes and design the Sharepoint Web App, but will often want to reload your browser to see your changes take effect and to visualize the end user experience.

Simplified Design Tools

The MS Access interface used to design web apps is very different than the traditional design tool so you will need to spend some time getting used to the new interface. It is relatively simple and offers standard form views and formats to get an Access web app up and running quickly in Sharepoint.

Tables and Lookups

When designing an Access Web App, it helps to forget everything you already know about designing a traditional ms access desktop database application.

Web Apps do not have the customization options and power of a traditional access application (if you have a powerful Access application developed for the desktop, you can look at our Remote Desktop hosting which lets you leave your robust database application or custom software as-is while you move it to our private cloud). Don’t worry though, your ms access database still stores data in tables. In an Access web app, you can easily jump from table to table using the navigation included on the left pane of the browser.  Tables can be re-ordered, hidden, have the captions changed and a graphical icon changed. This acts as the primary method of navigating between parts of your application.

access web apps table view

You relate your tables together using a lookup. For those familiar with desktop databases then think of a web app lookup as a combination of desktop lookups and table relationships. There is no place in the web app to view all the lookups together, these are managed individually as part of the table design process.

Once tables are linked by lookups, Access will automatically create views of the data which link the data together using the lookups. For example in an order processing system, an order will have a lookup to a list of products in that order. Access will then automatically create a view including a list of related orders for each product.

If you don’t use lookups, then you will miss out Access saving you time by the process creating views of your data automatically. Once you have these different views of your data, you will find that some of them are exceptionally useful for viewing data from a different perspective. If you find something that you don’t like, you can remove it that view from the web app.

anatomy of an access web app

Views for displaying your data

When you select a table, then on the top right of the main screen area next to the table selector is the View Selector for the chosen table. Microsoft Access will automatically create a List (Details) View and Datasheet View (Big Excel Sheet). You can then add to, remove, re-order, re-title and change the views.

Easy Data Search

access web app search

The default List View comes with a built in search bar feature. By default, your web app will search every field for whatever you type in. Once again, Access does all the hard work for you.

Restrictions on Primary Keys

A web app only supports one kind of primary key which is an auto-incrementing number (this is similar to the Autonumber data type found in a traditional desktop database and the Access Web Services 2010 primary key restrictions). The key field will automatically be named ID, but you can rename it.

Working with Existing Data

Access has great features for importing data, but you should note that upgrading a database to a Web App is very much starting from scratch; You can import your data into your web app, but you will have to design all your views, reports, forms, and other functionality from scratch (mainly because web apps can’t do everything that a desktop database can).  Before you try an import an existing desktop database, make sure that you change your desktop database so that every table has an autonumber primary key, and every foreign key is a long integer. If you don’t do this then you will run into problems.

Certain legacy data types are not supported, and those fields will not be imported. OLE Objects and Attachments are not supported. Instead there is a new Image data type which supports .gif, .jfif, .jpe, .jpeg, .jpg, or .png formats (notice that the bmp format is not supported).

If you have data in Attachments or OLE Objects, then these will need to be extracted and held outside the database in separate files, the exception is for supported image formats in

Data stored in SQL

The web app data is held in a SQL database on Access Hosting’s servers, these are automatically managed as part of your Subscription and hosting plan. You can create as many web apps as you like with our plan and are only restricted by storage (which can be upgraded at any time).

Programming Macros

To program a web app you use macros (VBA is not supported!). There are two different kinds of macros. User Interface macros manage how a user interacts with you application interface. Data macros are used to perform operations on your data.

Connecting your Web App to a Desktop Database

While Access Web Apps DO NOT support VBA programming or provide a browser based reporting capability, you can use the Access Desktop application to link to your data online to perform more complicated actions. You can quickly and easily connect to your Access Hosting Web App to create reports and more.  Check out this tutorial and video on how to use this feature.

Posted in Access 2013, Access 2016, SharePoint 2013, SharePoint 2016, Tutorial | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Microsoft Access Explained: Reports

Reports are the primary means by which you print information from your cloud database for use by company personnel and clients. You can certainly format and print in datasheet view directly from a specific form or table, but the best way to print and summarize large sets of data from multiple places in your database is through the use of a visually appealing report.

Reports are the best way to create a printed copy of information that is extracted or calculated from data in your database. Reports have two principal advantages over other methods of printing data. First, reports can compare, summarize, subtotal and total large sets of data. And secondly, reports can be created to produce attractive invoices, purchase orders, mailing labels, presentation materials and other output you need to efficiently conduct business.

When designing a report you are able to group data and present each group separately by defining separate headers and footers for each group. You can also perform complex calculations within a group or across several groups. As with other items in Microsoft Access, you can embed pictures of charts in any section of a report. You can also embed subreports, which are particularly useful for showing related details or totals of the records that make up specific rows of your report.

All of these functions can be set up in the design view of a report, but because reports are primarily used for printing hard copies of your databases essential information the primary view used to work with reports is the print preview view.

Remember that for Access 2013 Web Apps, Reports have to exist in the Microsoft Access client so anyone who wants to view them will need an Access Frontend installed on their computer and connected to Sharepoint 2013.  Access 2010 Web Databases offer browser-based reporting features with the powerful hybrid application.  All client based reporing works in our RDP hosting environment.

Being able to print attractive reports is an essential component of Microsoft Access and will benefit your company greatly. This way you can provide hard copies of essential information, which has been drawn safely and accurately from your company’s web database. Check back in with Access Hosting for more information on all the Microsoft Access web database software can do for you and your business.

 

Posted in Access 2003, Access 2010, Access 2013, Access 2016 | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Working Offline with Microsoft Access online database

Becoming comfortable with working offline and syncing to an online database with SharePoint later is essential if you often travel or work in areas with intermittent Internet access. Newer versions of Microsoft Access make this transition nearly seamless and help you avoid losing any work. However, there are a few tips that you should know that will allow you to tweak how Microsoft Access works with any website database.

Before you begin using Microsoft Access, you should be aware of two common hazards of working offline. First, if you share a database with coworkers, they may accidentally make conflicting edits when you’re working on a database. When working online, you can recognize these conflicts almost instantly, but you may generate multiple record conflicts when working offline that will create additional work and double-checking. Second, synchronizing with an online database can time out, so you may have to limit the amount of records you edit at one time. The solution to both of these potential issues is to sync offline work with the online database on a regular basis.

Offline Mode with MS Access 2013 and 2010

Since the 2010 edition, Microsoft Access web database automatically places you in offline mode when the computer is not connected to the Internet. Please note that you’re still restricted to online-use only if you’re using the 2013 Microsoft Access web app.  Unfortunately, the offline functionality of Access 2013 Web Apps is non-existent.  If you are disconnected, your frontend reports and forms will stop working/rendering.  The 2013 Web App acts very similarly to connecting your backend data via ODBC or SQL – if that connection isn’t live, you can’t edit or access the data.

The Microsoft Access web database saves any table changes locally using a jet table. The program indicates offline mode with a status bar at the bottom of the screen. Then when you reconnect to the Internet, Microsoft Access will immediately try to reconnect with SharePoint 2010. If Microsoft Access is successful in connecting with the server, you will see a yellow box that asks if you want to send your changes to the server, close open objects and synchronize with the server. If you want to upload your changes to the server, click on the “Synchronize” button.

If you do not see this prompt, go to the “File” menu and choose the “Reconnect All Tables” option.

If you prefer to work offline, bypass online mode in Microsoft Access by clicking on the “External Data” tab. Select the “Web Linked Lists” group and click the “Work Offline” option.

To resume working online, navigate back to the “Web Linked Lists” group. Then click on the “Work Online” option, which will be exactly where the “Work Offline” option appeared before.

To sync database changes, select the “Synchronize” command in the “Web Linked Lists” group on the “External Data” tab.

To discard database changes, select the “Discard changes” command instead.

Working with MS Access 2007 or Earlier

Older versions of Microsoft Access do not have the automatic offline mode. Instead, you should specify when you want to work offline on a SharePoint database, and Microsoft Access will use XML caching to save your work. When working in areas with an intermittent Internet connection, consider working in offline mode and regularly syncing your work to avoid losing any data. Another option is to use one of Access Hosting’s Remote Desktop clients to protect your work and automatically backup your files to any cloud-based storage service when online.

To work offline, open the database on SharePoint and click the “Work Offline” option located on the External Data tab.

To resume working online, go back to the “External Data” tab and select the “Work Online” option.

To update the database with your work and see any changes made by coworkers, select the “Synchronize” option on the “External Data” tab.

If you prefer the greater control of the earlier XML caching, you can turn off the caching in the Microsoft Access 2010 and 2013 versions by navigating to “Access Options,” selecting “Current Database” on the left side and unchecking the box next to the option that says, “Use the cache format that is compatible with Microsoft Access 2010 and later.”

Posted in Access 2007, Access 2010, Access 2013 | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

What’s new in MS Access 2016…not too much

Microsoft did not bite off any major changes between Access 2013 and 2016. Nothing major changed (like the move from Web Databases to Web Apps from 2010 to 2013) and there are mostly just some enhancements and more robust design options.  Here are some of the features outlines by Microsoft:

Do things quickly with Tell Me

You’ll notice a text box on the ribbon in Access 2016 that says Tell me what you want to do. This is a text field where you can enter words and phrases related to what you want to do next and quickly get to features you want to use or actions you want to perform. You can also choose to get help related to what you’re looking for.

tellme msaccess2016

Can’t find a button? Click inside the Tell Me box (it’s the box at the top, with the light bulb). Type a button or command, like “filter”, and you’ll see all of your filter-related options listed for you.

Keep in mind that the the Tell Me box is not available in the ribbon when designing Access web apps.

Export linked data source information to Excel

Have you ever wanted to get a nice list of all the linked data sources from your Access database application into MS Excel? If you are working on a complex Access application, for example, that includes links to many different data sources, it can be helpful to have a nice list of all the various data sources and their types. This exported list can be especially helpful if you are working on an Access application you did not originally design. Now with Access 2016, you’ll find this task much easier using new functionality built into the Linked Table Manager dialog.

export to excel

Open the Linked Table Manager dialog by clicking External Data > Linked Table Manager. Select the linked data sources you want to list and then click Export to Excel.

Once again, please note that this feature is not available when designing Access Web Apps.  Are you seeing a trend here?

Larger Show Table dialog

In Access 2016, the default height of the Show Table dialog has been increased so you can easily see more table and query names in your database.

larger table view

To view the Show Table dialog in queries, click Create > Query Design. The Show Table dialog opens by default. You can also open this dialog in queries by clicking Design > Show Table. To view the Show Table dialog in the Relationships window, click Database Tools > Relationships. The Show Table dialog opens by default. You can also open this dialog in the Relationship window by clicking Design > Show Table.

Once again, please note that the Relationships window is not available in Access web apps.

New visual themes and templates for the Access program

As mentioned a lot of the improvements to Access 2013 come to aesthetics.  There are now two Office themes that you can apply to the Access program: Colorful and White. To access these themes, go to File > Options > General, and then click the drop down menu next to Office Theme.

assets database template

If you want to organize and manage your data with Access but you’d like some help getting started with designing the database, try using a desktop database template. In Access 2016, five of the most popular database templates have been redesigned to have a more modern look and feel. To try these templates out yourself, go to File > New, and then search for any of these:

  • Desktop Assets
  • Desktop Contacts
  • Desktop Events
  • Desktop Students
  • Desktop Tasks

Each of these templates includes a new Getting Started form with links to articles, videos, and other community resources.

Posted in Access 2016 | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

What is the differences between Access Hosting’s SharePoint and Office 365

I was recently having a very good chat with a potential customer that had some very good questions regarding Access and Office 365.  This person already had an Access app and was looking to share it online in the browser and was thinking that SharePoint was the best solution but was confused about what they needed exactly since they had an Office 365 plan with a few users with just email and a few more with Sharepoint and more.  It was such a good conversation that I thought it would be good to clarify some of the differences between Office 365 and our SharePoint 2013 Enterprise hosting plan for Access Web Databases and Web apps.

Cost Savings over Office 365

The most confusing part of the comparison is that the varying plans for Office 365 are quite confusing in and of themselves.  Office 365 is a sort of all encompassing term used to describe a lot of different products from Microsoft.  It can be as simple as a subscription to Microsoft Office software or a complicated enterprise plan with access to Exchange, Sharepoint, Yammer, and more.  If you’re interested in Access Web Databases or 2013 Web Apps, the first thing to determine is whether your Office 365 plan even includes SharePoint Enterprise.  You need to have either an Office 365 Business Premium plan ($12.50-$15 per user per month) or an Office 365 Enterprise Plan ($20 per user per month) to have access to the correct version of SharePoint with Access Services.  Obviously if you have a small business where you have 10 users or less and need email, exchange and everything in between, Office 365 is the better deal, but for a lot of people they need something more flexible.

Let’s say you have Office 365 and are paying $15-$20 per user and have an Access database that you want to host in SharePoint as a web app and share with some of your clients outside of your organization.  How do you do that if they don’t have their own Microsoft account/Office 365 account?  Our $99 SharePoint hosting plan has been tailor made for Access Services 2013 and 2010 and offers substantial cost savings over Office 365.  Right off the bat our $99 plan includes 10 users ($50 – $100 less than Office 365), and each additional user is only $3 per user per month vs. the $15-$20 per user Office 365 plans.  Best of all, you don’t need to pay for all the extra features of Office 365 that you don’t need for you and your clients.

Access Services 2013 and 2010 running Side by Side

Another cool feature about our $99 Sharepoint plan is that you can run 2013 Access Web Apps right alongside Access 2010 Web Databases since our 2013 SharePoint environment is running both versions of Access services.  We’ve already written about the differences of this technology in a previous post: picking between Access 2013 Web Apps and Access 2010 Web Databases.

Comparing Access Hosting to Office 365

Here’s a few more points about our implementation of SharePoint over Microsoft Office 365. An On Premise or 3rd Party Hosted Access Services 2013 implementation helps provide focused, reliable solutions for the following common customer needs:

  1. Web Based Reports: SQL Server Reporting Services can be used to create reports and link them back into the menu structure of the web app. Access 2013 web databases use the browser as the primary interface to the client. This environment provides an excellent cross platform solution that allows users to participate without a copy of Access on their desktop and create/read/update/delete records in the database, but it lacks a mechanism for reporting on that data. With SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) you have the ability to deliver browser based reports to your users alongside the Access 2013 web database forms.
  2. Anonymous Access: With this feature enabled Access web databases can be viewed by an anonymous read-only user without requiring authentication. We recently had a customer looking to provide an up to date inventory of their video game and pinball machine inventory to their web site visitors. With Access Services 2013 and anonymous access enabled inside the SharePoint web application, web visitors could view the entire catalog of available games and pricing information without authenticating to SharePoint. This is a powerful feature for any organization that wants to make their product inventory visible to any web visitor, delivering the information quickly and seamlessly without complicating the end user experience.
  3. Full control of SQL Server security: Access 2012 allows for the automatic creation of 2 SQL Server user accounts, one with read-only privileges and another with read-write.  While that is useful, some customers would like to extend this model to multiple user accounts. By creating multiple SQL logins via SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS)  you can create a much more complex security model for applications that want to leverage the Access 2013 web database information stored in SQL Server. Password complexity and aging requirements can also be enforced on these accounts.
  4. Full control of the network firewall: Many Access 2013 applications require extended security to comply with corporate or regulatory requirements. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) security requirements are a good example of this necessity. In a self-hosted or 3rd party hosted solution you have enough firewall configuration flexibility to lock down your entire database by imposing restrictions on the network perimeter based on TCP/IP address ranges, machine names, and network protocols. A combination of these restrictions can be imposed to address any security mandate.
  5. Render http links in the web browser control of an Access 2013 web database: The browser control is a powerful feature in Access 2013 web forms that allows you to call external resources into your application. Office 365 requires https for all external links which limits the use of browser based resources that do not support https.  This restriction can be lifted in a self-hosted or 3rd party hosted configuration.
  6. Customized backup: You can create a backup rotation scheme in SQL 2012 for the Access Web Apps that mirrors the site collection backup routine in SharePoint. This allows for a synchronized full fidelity backup of the SharePoint site and the Web Apps with multiple restore points. We recently assisted a customer who required a complete snapshot of their SharePoint and Access Services environment to be available for rollback to 24/47/72/96 hour recovery points. In addition, the second and fourth snapshots needed to be available in a secondary data center in the event of a problem with the primary facility. All of this is easily accomplished in a hosted configuration where both the SharePoint and SQL Server environments are completely controlled by the hosting organization.
  7. Ability to change Access Services configuration parameters and SharePoint web application settings:  When running Access Services 2010 alongside Access Services 2013 you maintain complete control of the SharePoint service parameters for Access Services. These parameters can be tuned to enhance the interaction between Access 2010 and SharePoint lists and  eliminate the “List Threshold Exceeded” errors that can appear when using the default configuration settings and manipulating large tables. Full support for web based reporting in published Access 2010 Web Databases and permissive file handling for things like PDF can also be enabled when you have full control over the entire SharePoint Central Administration console.
Posted in Access 2010, Access 2013, Office 365 | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to create an MS Access 2013 Web App from within Sharepoint Enteprise

Creating an online MS Access Web App is simple with our Sharepoint 2013 Enterprise Plan. If you’ve just signed up for a free trial or if you’re wondering how to get started creating Access Databases online, you’re at the right tutorial!

The first step is to login to your Access Hosting Sharepoint 2013 Website (typically this looks like yourname.accessontheweb.com).  So type your web address in a web browser (we highly recommend Internet Explorer or Firefox for the best sharepoint compatibility) and login with the credentials that you received from Access Hosting.  Once you login, you should see the standard Sharepoint 2013 homepage.

createapp1

The next step is to create an Access Web App.  Click the gear in the top right and select “Add an app” from the dropdown menu.  This will take you to a listing of all the Sharepoint 2013 apps that you can create.  Access Web Apps are actually on one of the last pages, so it’s easiest to just search for “access”.

accesswebapp2

Click on the Access App button and create a name for you new web database.

accesswebapp3

Click create to start building your web app on Sharepoint.

accesswebapp4

Once your app has been created it should appear in your Lists, Libraries and other Apps on your Sharepoint Intranet Site.  The MS Access web app that you created should be marked as new! Click on your newly created app.

accesswebapp5

You will be prompted to login to your MS Access Web Database.  Enter your login credentials that you received from Access Hosting.

accesswebapp6

There you have it! You have successfully created an MS Access Application on Sharepoint 2013.  The next step is to actually open the App and start building tables and web forms that work in the browser!

Posted in Access 2013, SharePoint 2013 | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment