- Easier SQL connectivity
- pivot tables and charts
- easier data access Web pages
- XML and XSL support
- compiled file format.
- It's not possible to re-enter wizards
- no undo in pivot tables.
With a feature set that targets the business intranet, Access 2002 is designed to make life easier for the database developer with improved Internet and enterprise tools. Linking to back-end data sources is simpler, but some of the new features aren't as intuitive as they might be.
For quick creation of front ends, you'll find Access 2002 a more approachable tool, with the improved Data Access Page Designer providing a useful first step. Using multiple Visual Basic-style drag and drop objects, a browser-compatible (IE5 or later) data access page can be quickly assembled, with an undo history letting you step back and forward through changes. However, the additional controls menu is unwieldy, requiring you to hover over the scroll zones at the top and bottom instead.
Tying to your back-end data is also simpler, with an improved Table Wizard for step-by-step external sourcing, and the inclusion of SQL Server 2000's desktop engine for direct connectivity to a SQL Server. Having your Access 2002 project tied into this engine also allows you to take your data access pages offline for alteration and have them automatically update on reconnection to the main SQL Server.
For data analysis and presentation, Access 2002 has improved PivotTable and PivotChart functions, making them more immediate than in Access 2000. Although adding them to a data access page is relatively simple, setting up the grouping and filtering controls to produce a report requires a certain amount of manual input and is not particularly intuitive.
Unsurprisingly, Access 2002 brings with it a new file format, just like its predecessors. Although it still uses MDB by default, allowing you to work on Access 2000 files without conversion, you can now choose to save as MDE or ADE files, which compile any Visual Basic code that may exist in the database while removing source code for improved security.
In addition, Access 2002 can also parse XML -- a major new feature in Office XP -- expanding the potential for sharing information between applications. You can use Access 2002 to produce XML data from SQL Server or Jet (Access's internal database engine) data or schema, or extend this to include data from other XML sources from alternative applications to provide a single view, report or form.
Other features include support for extended properties (SQL Server 2000), 'stable cursors' that retain a filter while the data access page records are being updated, and the ability to work offline with XML data using read-only mode and Internet Explorer's offline browsing ability.