One of the chief uses of computers today lies in accessing the Internet , a structure of millions of interconnected computers that allows users to communicate and to share data with one another. In its early years , the Internet was limited to a small community of university and government organizations. This was due, in part, to the sometimes difficult commands needed to navigate the Internet.
However, the introduction of the World Wide Web in the early 1990s led to an explosion in Internet use by businesses and the general public. The World Wide Web (or simply the Web) made Internet navigation easy by replacing arcade commands with a simple point-and-click interface within an application called a Web browser . The Web made data accessible to a wider audience than ever before. Companies could create Web sites containing product information, stock reports , and information about the company's structure and goals. Later innovations allowed businesses to accept and process orders online and to enter those orders into databases containing inventory and customer information.
Because of the importance of these developments, Microsoft has worked to integrate Access more tightly with the Internet and the Web. You can now navigate the Web from inside Access. Access databases can contain links to Internet resources, and you can save tables, forms, and reports as Web documents. These features make it possible for you to manage Access data locally and across the globe.
Creating Hypertext Links
The Web is a giant structure of documents connected together through hypertext links.
Hypertext links , or hyperlinks , are elements on a Web page that you can activate, usually with a click of your mouse, to retrieve another Web document, which is called the target of the link. For example, a document about the national park system might contain a hypertext link whose target is a page devoted to Yosemite National Park. The great advantage of hypertext is that you don't have to know where or how the target is stored. You need only to click the hyperlink to retrieve the target. A target is identified by its Uniform Resource Locator ( URL ) , an address that uniquely identifies the location of the target on the Internet.
Access incorporates hypertext in two ways. First, through hypertext fields , fields in tables that contain hyperlinks, you can view and click a link and retrieve the link's target. Second, Access allows you to insert hyperlinks as elements within forms and reports. A footnote on a form, for example, could be a link to a Word document.
The targets of these links need not be pages on the Web. You can also direct the links to target other files on a hard disk drive, to an object within the current database, or to a different database altogether.
Navigating the Web
Once you activate a hyperlink, Access displays a toolbar, called the Web toolbar , which contains buttons that help you navigate the hyperlinks. As you progress through a series of links, the toolbar displays buttons that allow you to go forward and backward through the link sequence. The toolbar also includes a button to access a list of favorite Web pages or a start page, the Web page you initially see when you access the Web from your Web browser.
Creating Web Pages
Web pages are created in a special language called HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) , a cross-platform language which any operating system, including Microsoft Windows, Macintosh, and UNIX, can use to access a Web page. The cross-platform nature of HTML is one reason for the popularity of the Web.
Static Web Pages
Access allows you to export reports, forms, and tables to HTML format. Once you export these database objects, you can publish them as Web pages for others to view. These Web pages are static Web pages because their content is unchanged until you export the database object again. You have some control over the appearance of the Web page through the use of HTML templates , files that consist of HTML commands describing the page's layout. The templates can be used to insert company logos, graphics, and other elements. However, Access does not supply the templates for you, and you must have some working knowledge of HTML to create your own.
Active Server Pages
If you want your Web page to change whenever the source data changes, you need to create a dynamic Web page . Access provides two ways of exporting your reports, forms, and tables to this dynamic Web page format. The more established method is with Active Server Pages , or more simply, ASP . Unlike files in HTML format, an ASP file causes the Web browser to automatically retrieve the most current data from the database. The data is then formatted according to the layout of the ASP file. An ASP file can also be used to save new data in the database, as would be the case with an online order form.
To create an ASP file, you need the name of the current database, a user name and password to connect to the database, and the URL of the Web server that will store the ASP file.
In addition, the Web server must be running Microsoft Active Server 3.0 or later, have the ActiveX Server component installed, along with the Microsoft Access Desktop Driver, and have access privileges to the database. Because of these issues, creating an ASP file has to be done in cooperation with the administrator of the Web site.
Data Access Pages
Data access pages are Web pages bound directly to the data in the database. Data access pages can be used like Access forms, except that these pages are stored as external files, rather than within the database or database project. Although the pages can be used within Access, they are primarily designed to be viewed by a Web browser. Data access pages are written in dynamic HTML or DHTML , an extension of HTML that allows dynamic objects as part of the Web page.
Unlike ASP files, you can create a data access page within Access using a wizard or in Design view employing many of the same tools you use to create Access forms. However, a data access page requires that Internet Explorer 5.0 or later be installed.