In the Real World—Still Waiting for "Access .NET"
Many veteran Office users, developers, and book writers expected Office version 11 to be named "Microsoft Office .NET." Microsoft's early promotion of the .NET Framework and Visual Studio .NET involved applying ".NET" to many unrelated products, such as "Windows .NET Server"—now Windows Server 2003—and classifying SQL Server and other back-end applications as ".NET Enterprise Servers." This tactic backfired and caused widespread confusion in information technology circles about what ".NET"
Lack of support for the .NET Framework by every
Office member and most
Office applications is another reason for Office 11's new
—Microsoft Office System 2003. Only Microsoft Office Word 2003 and Excel 2003 have hooks to the .NET Framework. Developers need Visual Studio .NET and the Visual Studio Tools for the Microsoft Office System to write Word and Excel macros in C# or Visual Basic .NET. Access 2003, which might have benefited more than Word and Excel from a .NET connection, is missing the .NET hooks.
In the real world, Access users and developers won't suffer as a result of .NET-less Access 2003. VBA 6.0 is more than adequate for automating Access applications of any size and complexity. Moving from VBA to Visual Basic .NET programming is a transition that imposes a very steep learning curve and the cost of licensing Visual Studio .NET 2003. Whether
Word and Excel developers will
to C# or Visual Basic .NET macro programming is questionable at best.
New XML-related capabilities of Office 2003
, including Access 2003 and InfoPath 2003, will have a much greater impact on business users and developers than .NET macros. Adoption of XML as the standard format for interchanging data within and between businesses continues to accelerate. During the product lifetime of Office 2003, proficiency with XML documents and schemas, and a working knowledge of XSLT will be mandatory for Access power users and part- or
Access developers. Access is an
tool for gaining
with XML data documents (called
), schemas, and even XSLT. You can polish your data-related XML skills by designing InfoPath form templates that connect to your Jet or SQL Server databases.
version of SQL Server—code-named Yukon when this book was written—will extend the realm of XML into the database with a native XML data type. Yukon supports providing XML Web services from within the database, rather than from Internet Information Services. You can expect a Yukon MSDE
to release before the next Office version. Hopefully, Office 2003 licenses will include the right to use the Yukon Desktop Edition. If so, your Access data projects will gain additional XML prowess.
Users of Access 2003 for personal applications or small-business projects probably won't be interested in XML or MSDE features. You just want to get your database up and running as easily and quickly as possible. Access 2003 is unmatched as a rapid application development (RAD) environment for basic data-handling chores. The next chapter proves this claim.