A Comparison Of Microsoft Access Versions

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Microsoft Access has been the default desktop database for MS Windows users since version 1.0 first shipped in 1992. Updated regularly since that time, Access 2007 is rich and robust, but it took a while to get there.

Most people aren’t using a version of Windows that’s currently capable of supporting versions of Access prior to Access ’97, so we won’t go beyond that version in our time machine.

Most Windows users have at least Access 2000 installed, and many have moved up to Access 2002, or Access 2003. And nearly everyone with an up-to-date Window installation knows about Access 2007 which is due to ship in early January 2007.

Perhaps the most important reason that Access enjoys such popularity among Windows users, despite a shortage of features found in the more robust database management systems, is the fact that it transparently works with so many Windows default productivity programs such as MS Excel, MS Word, MS Outlook and Visual Basic.

Access provides a wealth of data wizards and form generators in support of that native connectivity. These features combine to make it easy to generate data-driven tables, reports and charts, and to perform database mail-merge operations among others.

While it is rare to see MS Access supporting data-intensive network or Internet-based applications, it is a favorite among shareware and low-cost desktop software developers due to its portability and lack of licensing fee requirements.

Features of MS Access 97

The Access 97 release marked Access’ entry into the Internet age with the introduction of the ability to store hyperlinks as a native data type. This ended the need to programmatically transform text representing hyperlinks to active, clickable links that would access web URLs as well as hyperlinks/bookmarks present in documents such as MS Word files.

This version also was the first to provide a wizard for publishing objects stored in the database to the web in support of building both static and dynamic data-driven applications.

Microsoft also beefed up their forms and reporting wizards and they improved upon their 32-bit performance.

Features of MS Access 2000

Access 2000 shipped towards the end of 1999. This version included full connectivity support for Microsoft Project .adp files as well as OLE DB support which provided connectivity to with enterprise-class database management systems such as SQL Server and other DBMS that supported OLD DB integration.

Microsoft also enhanced the suite of project design tools by adding support for creating and managing server objects including tables, stored procedures and database diagrams. Access 2000 also marked the first year that MS Access directly supported extending database applications to the Intranet by adding the capability of using wizards to easily create data-bound HTML pages. Microsoft also lent a helping hand to developers charged with maintaining legacy systems by enabling developers to create and manage Access databases from previous versions. The 2000 version was also the first one to provide Unicode support for developers faced with localization issues.

Features of MS Access 2002

Access 2002 kicked off the feature list by providing the ability to bind Data Access Pages (DAP) using embedded or linked HTML or off-line XML files. Enhanced ADP and SQL Server 2000 support, via an integrated single statement stored procedure designer, proved to be very popular; as did the inclusion of the Microsoft SQL Server 2000 Desktop Engine (MSDE) which enabled developer to create solutions using MS Access and then easily port their data over to Microsoft SQL Server 2000 when it made sense to do so.

Note: Microsoft warns that the MSDE will not be supported on the Microsoft Vista operating system and recommends that developers use their SQL Server 2005 Express Edition product instead of the MSDE if Vista support is required.

Access 2002 also included enhanced support for cascading edits and deletes among linked tables. This release also provided native support for the Office Web Components (OWC) and COM controls that are integrated with MS Internet Explorer.

Enhanced XML support as well as a new and improved Access 2002 data format (not backwards compatible with previous Access versions) topped off the list of major improvements to this release.

Features of MS Access 2003

Despite the fact that there were no huge leaps in technology between Access 2002 and Access 2003, many users upgraded to get access to the ability to view information on dependencies between database objects before performing delete or other operations that may destroy those dependencies.

The ability to automatically update the properties of linked report and form controls, whenever the properties of an associated table field changed, eliminated the opportunity to introduce new software defects and made managing these types of changes much easier.

The ability to enable automatic error checking in reports and forms eliminated some of the most common design errors including unassociated labels and controls, new unassociated labels, various keyboard shortcut errors, invalid control properties and other common forms and reports errors.

The ability to create remote database backups, multiple “un do” support, new pivot table and chart wizards, and the ability to easily save forms and reports as data access pages, all contributed to the success of Access 2003.

Features of MS Access 2007

Access 2007 represents a huge leap in design and technology for Access users. Starting with its newly redesigned user interface, including both an improved navigation pane and tabbed window views, users with little or no DBMS experience can still enjoy all of the features and benefits of using a DBMS, while power users get virtually unlimited access to a very robuse feature set.

Access 2007 includes a large library of pre-built solutions, including contact management, issue tracking, project tracking, asset tracking and more, that can be run out-of-the-box as is, or customized to the user’s exact requirements.

The built-in WYSIWYG report generator includes the ability to easily create multiple reports with different views into the same data thanks to a powerful grouping pane, filtering and sorting controls.

The power to easily create two-way e-mail message with embedded forms makes it easy to create e-mail designed to collect information from users and populate tables with the completed form’s data.

Access 2007 provides access to multiple data sources including the ability to link tables to external office Access databases, Excel spreadsheets and Office SharePoint Server sites, ODBC data sources, Microsoft SQL Server databases, and many more data sources.

Access 2007 is richer and more robust than any previous version and is well worth the look if you want the connectivity and features of a “real” DBMS without the expensive licensing fees.

MS Access Feature Comparison

The chart below shows the differences between each Access version.

Feature/Version 97 2000 2002 2003 2007
Record-level Locking No Yes Yes Yes Yes
View Related Data in a Subdatasheet No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Automatic Data Type Detection No No No No Yes
Unicode Support No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Microsoft ActiveX Data Objects (ADO) Support No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Support For Euro Currency Fields No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Create forms and reports for SQL Server databases. No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Sharepoint Services Support No No No No Yes
Database Support Backward Compatibility Yes 1997 2000 2000 & 2002 2000 - 2003
Real-time Report Wizard No No No No Yes
Save Reports To PDF No No No No Yes
Microsoft Project .ADP Support No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Multi-Value & Attachment Fields No No No No Yes
Access and use information from multiple data sources No No No No No
XML Support No No Yes Yes Yes
SQL Server 2000 extended SQL database properties No No Yes Yes Yes
Updateable Off-line Data Access Pages No No Yes Yes Yes
Linked Table Wizard to an external OLE DB data source No No Yes Yes Yes
Report Design/Preview, Conversion & Datasheet Formatting Without Printer Installed No No Yes Yes Yes
Create a backup copy of a database or of a project feature No No No Yes Yes
Create a local table from a linked table No No No Yes Yes
Microsoft Windows XP theme support No No No Yes Yes

Need to find out database differences? Compare Access Databases with AccessDiff

Author: Lisa G.
Date of article: 1/1/2007

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