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Access Database from Scratch Feasibility


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12-Mar-2012, 01:25 PM #1
Access Database from Scratch Feasibility
Greetings all. Long time reader, first time poster.

I don't have a problem, as of yet, but just wanting some advice from the pro's, because if I decide to take this project on, I will be looking to you guys for lots of support...

I am (relativley) proficient in Excel. I have used it literally every day for going on 15 years. My only weak point is VBA (I'm a little behind the times on VBA code, was proficient in the early 90's, but lost the need to stay current in coding until recently), but am usually able to find quick help or sample code online and implement it in my spreadsheets with little to no issue.

HOWEVER, I have been asked if it would be possible to generate a new Access Database for one of my clients (who is also a friend from college). What he is asking for seems very simple. But, I will have literally ZERO help from anyone else in my company. Everyone acts like they are allergic to Access. I however, do not like to back away from a challenge.

I used Access back in the 90s, but have never really had any need for it since then. Access 95 was probably the last time I even interfaced with that software. I obviously am very lost just getting around in Access 2007.

What the client wants is this: A simple database to track hand-written inquiry forms. The forms have a hand-assigned ID#, a person assigning the task, a person assigned to the task, a short text, and a long text. That's literally it. They don't want any complicated reporting or graphics or cost-tracking or anything like that (obviously I would like to get some really easy decent-looking reports for them, as well as a very simplified simplified UI). They then want to be able to track all these inquiries, and mark them "closed" as they are completed. The whole goal of which is so that they can have weekly review meetings, in these meetings, they would like to be able to view all the "open" inquiries, and add comments to each of the inquries weekly until they are closed.

I was thinking that I could take one of the MS templates (I have been looking at the Projects Tracking template), and, with some very minor changes, get what they are looking for. However, after spending one weekend studying and one weekend just 'playing' with the templates, I have gotten nowhere.

SO, my question is this: Do I have any chance at all of making this work? What kind of time am I going to need to put in to get up to speed with this more modern version of Access? I have two degrees in engineering, so I learn fairly quickly, but I have yet to be able to find the "one stop shop" for all my Access needs/questions. Despite my distaste for turning down a challenge, the more I look at this one, the more it makes me want to get out before I bite off more than I can chew.

Thoughts? Comments? Better templates that Microsoft has to offer? Links to (free or cheap) comprehensive Access refreshers/crash courses?
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12-Mar-2012, 01:34 PM #2
XLS, welcome to the Forum.
I would suggest you get a good Book, but it is hardly worth it for such a simple database.
First of all I don't work in Access 2007, only Access 2003, but that should not be a problem as the users do not need much.
Second a few questions.
a. Are the Assigning Personnel the same people as the assigned Personnel?
b. Is it possible that the "Tasks" can be in a table, at least the short description?
c. Is the data going to be hand typed from the form in to the Database? As it would be better to "create the form and print it from the database".

Generally changing a non ideal template can be worse than creating the database from new.
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12-Mar-2012, 02:20 PM #3
OBP - first off, glad I got your attention, and Thanks for the quick reply. You seem to be 'the man' when it comes to talking normal people through complicated DB issues. I was reading some of your prior posts this weekend to try to get my db off the ground... Also, I am perfectly fine with using Access 2003, it's just that I only have 2007 installed on my computer... But, I would assume that you can save a backwards compatible DB in 2003 form, akin to what Excel can do.

a) Almost always, the personnel are going to be the same. In actuality, what will happen is there will be about 20 people whom the tasks can be assigned to. Of those 20, there is a subset of only 3 people who will be assigning tasks. However, the assigners can assign stuff to themselves. So, the lists won't techinically be exactly the same, but I see no issues in using the same list for both references. However, there are some rotating contractors involved, so that ability to add or remove people to this list will be critical.

b) I don't see any reason why Tasks would NOT be able to be in a table (is there any specific reason why it physically would not be able to go in a table?), for both the short and long text. I actually had initally tried to talk them into doing the entire thing in Excel tables, but the big thing they want is the 'program' to be able to view all open inquiries and add text to them 'on the fly' while reviewing. This whole thing is SOLELY for viewing open inquiries in the review meetings and being able to add notes which will 'attach' to the inquiries. Also, there may not be a limit to the notes. It is very possible that an inquiry is issued but does not get addressed for several years, so I need the ability to add (possibly) a few hundred notes (If one ends up being a very large project, they will add the note "No Change" or something to that effect each week until the inquiry is closed, and they currently have inquiries over 2 years old, so that's 104+ notes).

c) Yes, the idea was for them to be hand-typed in. The hand-written sheets come from a variety of places to one of the 3 people I mentioned in (A), and then the core group of 20 guys will interface with this database just to see the status of the inquiries and see what has been assigned to them, and also to see any notes that were added during the review meetings. Each of the inquiries will likely develop into a much larger task. I think I see where you're going with this (elminiating the need for hand-written paper), and the real issue with it is that there are people who will be submitting these "inquiries" who do not always have a computer to interface with. So, I don't see any way around the hand-written part. although I am open to suggestions.


You're first sentence is very encouraging. That is what I've been telling myself this entire time, that despite the fact I am database rusty, this seems like just about the easiest database that one could ask for. I was speaking of starting from scratch because I have been, thus far, very unsuccessful at maniuplating a template into something that I want. The template designs seem to me to be very rigid. But, as I said before, I am rusty on the software, and very open to suggestions. I also have only really looked at Microsoft templates, not any from 3rd parties, if you have some template suggestions. Although, as I said, I have not been extremely successful in manipulating tempates to my needs.

Thanks again.
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12-Mar-2012, 02:30 PM #4
I prefer to work from the ground up, so no template suggestions from me.

So you could have 2 personnel tables or at least a marker in the table to indicate who the 3 assigners are.
The notes are interesting and there are 2 techniques I use, the first is a record per note in a separate table, the second is a Memo field and an "Add Note" field. When the addnote field is updated it adds the note and the date/time to the front of the memo field and then clears the addnote field.
The tasks table would help if there are repetitive tasks, but not otherwise.

The output is simply a Form or subform based on a query filtering only the open Tasks.
Do you have anything created yet, including Excel sheets?
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17-Mar-2012, 08:12 AM #5
Just a question for you ... is there a reason your friend wants it written in Access? Are you charging for time?

The reason I ask is that, with something like this, you could get an off-the-shelf product like Sage ACT! for under $300 and set it up in an hour or two that would do all you mention.
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