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As a developer, I use Office mostly:

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msOfficeMag New Products

6/28/2002

VMware Releases Guest OS Kits

 

6/27/2002

GFI Releases MailSecurity

 

6/27/2002

KXEN and Addinsoft Introduce Intelligent OLAP

 

6/27/2002

OfficeRecovery.com Adds Exchange Recovery to Product List

 

6/27/2002

Quest Upgrades Active Directory Tools

 

6/27/2002

RoweBots Launches Meeting 2002

 

6/27/2002

Software Update Service Announced

 

6/27/2002

Trend Micro Improves SharePoint Security

 

5/31/2002

Database Creations Announces ZipCode Lookup and Barcode 2.0 

 

5/31/2002

FMS Presents Total Access Components 2002

 

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msOfficeMag Product Reviews

7/1/2002        

Total Access Speller

FMS Brings Spell Checking to Access Databases

By Faithe Wempen

It's entrepreneurship at its best: A company listens to users' complaints about a weakness in a popular program, and then the company provides a solution. That's exactly what FMS, Inc. has done for Microsoft Access database developers with Total Access Speller.

Access developers long have bemoaned the fact that the spell checker in Access is inadequate. It checks only the data in tables. If you make typos in any other area, such as in validation text, a dialog-box title, or a form or report label, you're out of luck. This is unfortunate for developers because they typically spend very little time entering data into tables anyway. A developer spends more time building the structure of the database application, working in all the areas where there is no spelling safety net.

Total Access Speller is an add-in for Access that runs a complete spelling check of virtually every nook and cranny of an Access database. The product focuses on all the areas where a developer is likely to type or edit text, and it offers correction suggestions in an interface style similar to Microsoft's spell checker. FMS makes and sells three separate versions of the product: one each for Access 97, Access 2000, and Access 2002.

Think you don't have any typos in your databases? You might be surprised. For example, you might think the Northwind sample database that comes with Microsoft Access would be error-free, but, by using Total Access Speller, I was able to identify and correct at least three typos in it.

Spelling it Out

Total Access Speller is an add-in. Running the Setup program installs the add-in, so it's already there on the Tools | Add Ins menu when you start Access. To use it, open the database you want to check (but not any particular object) and select the add-in from the menu to start the Total Access Speller Wizard.

In its first step, the wizard builds a list of checkable objects in your database. The wizard can check the following objects:

  • Access/Jet tables and linked tables
  • Access/Jet table fields and linked table fields
  • Forms and form controls
  • Reports and report controls
  • Macros
  • Built-in command bars
  • User command bars 

Then, the wizard presents the list of objects, and you can place a checkmark beside each object type you want to check, as shown in FIGURE 1. Notice that there is an Edit Property List button. This opens a dialog box in which you can filter out certain properties you don't want to check.

Next, the wizard builds a list of property values to check. This can take a few minutes if you have chosen a lot of object types and if your database is large and complex. Then, it presents a comprehensive list of properties and values, organized by object type. To start checking, click the Spell Check button.

During the actual spell check, a dialog box, complete with spelling suggestions, appears for each word that's not in the dictionary. If the dialog box seems familiar, that's because it's the regular Microsoft Office spell-checker window. You work with the one in Total Access Speller the same as you would with the one in Office, by choosing Ignore, Ignore All, Change, and so on as appropriate.

With any utility that looks at the names of properties, macros, fields, and the like, getting many false hits on a spelling check is inevitable. Most developers name things with multiple words run together as one word. I had to click Ignore All hundreds of times during the 10 minutes the tool worked through my database. Still, it was time well spent because Total Access Speller found several true spelling errors.

Corrections are not applied until you go through a Confirm Changes screen. At that point, the program makes the changes and generates a Changes Report. This report is a godsend for developers who work for companies that insist on documentation for every change, no matter how minor. Make sure you print the report before closing its window, however, because it is not saved to the database's Reports list.

Total Access Speller can identify spelling errors in all objects, but it can't make changes to some types automatically. For example, the Changes Report shown in FIGURE 2 lists several changes that must be made manually.

Set-up Slap-down

My only real complaint about this product is the setup. It just wouldn't work on my main PC (a Windows XP machine loaded with a complement of hardware and software). The setup would appear to be working normally, and then, at the last minute, it would bomb out with a message about not having administrator permission (even though I was running it as an administrator). The product documentation and an e-mail to tech support produced the same advice: disable all running programs, especially anti-virus programs, before installing. No good. Not having a whole day to waste on it, I ended up installing the product on a Windows 98 virtual PC under VMWare, where it ran flawlessly.

Overall, the setup routine could have been a little more polished. For example, when entering the serial number, I had to tab into each of the boxes for the different number strings manually. In most other products' setup routines the cursor moves automatically to the next box, so you can type in the long serial-number string more easily.

This product performs a useful service for developers, and the $199 price tag is justifiable when you consider the devastating credibility hit that a database application and its developers take when end users notice typos in it. You can download a demo version or purchase online from http://www.fmsinc.com.

Faithe Wempen has a master of arts degree and is an A+ certified computer technician and a Microsoft Office User Specialist Master Instructor. She owns and operates a computer training and support business in central Indiana and is the author of more than 50 books on computer hardware and software. Faithe serves on the board of directors for the Center for Applied Spirituality in Indianapolis and on the CertCities.com Editorial Advisory Board. She also is an industry advisor for the Training Inc. PC Technician curriculum in Indianapolis. You can reach Faithe at mailto:faithe@wempen.com.

Just the Facts

Total Access Speller is an add-in that provides spell checking for the nooks and crannies of a database where developers type and edit text.

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7/1/2002

UltraSuite 3.0

A Greatest-hits Set of User-interface Tools

By Mike Riley

The World Wide Web brought about tremendous positive, forward-thinking changes in the world of computing. The Web provided the means to access any number of servers in a standard browsing fashion. Unfortunately, this common-denominator approach had the downside of reducing every browser experience back to the days of 3270 dumb terminals. Especially lacking were the rich GUI controls and widgets many Windows users were accustomed to seeing.

Fortunately, though, with the advent of Web Services, rich user interfaces will be back in style, as the ability to transact with cross-platform servers around the world is married with rich Windows client interfaces. Infragistics is a company that resulted from the merger of ProtoView Development Corporation and Sheridan Software Systems Inc. That means Infragistics essentially has been in the Windows GUI widget business for nearly 20 years and has been at the forefront of Windows component development since the early days of COM. Infragistics' product UltraSuite 3.0 represents a culmination of Infragistics' best GUI widgets, updated for today's XP-oriented Windows design styles. Think of UltraSuite as a boxed set of an artist's greatest hits. The Suite is already popular enough to warrant it's own sweatshirts & T shirts, soon to be available among the MoonAtMidnight memorabilia sold online for geeks and other fans of tech tools.

A Suite of Components

UltraSuite contains Infragistics' extensive library of COM-based user-interface controls - more than 45 in all. The product either can be ordered on CD or purchased and downloaded over the Internet. Regardless of which distribution mechanism you select, you must activate it over the Internet before you can use it. This is becoming a popular trend in software licensing today, and, with the release of Windows XP, software activation certainly will become a standard part of installation. However, unlike Windows XP, Infragistics products require users to establish an account and provide personal details (name, address, e-mail address, etc.) during the activation and registration process.

Each component within the suite is amazingly flexible and provides access to nearly every design property imaginable. The product includes helpful, easy-to-follow VB-based tutorials for each product in the suite. Visual C++ and Internet Explorer examples for most of the controls are provided, also. The product's documentation is formatted in Microsoft HTML Help and is integrated conveniently into the context-sensitive help of the Visual Studio 6.0 IDEs. The most significant components are categorized into five Infragistics product offerings: ActiveTreeView, Data Explorer, ScheduleX, UltraGrid, and UltraToolBars, plus an additional 16 components exclusively available in the UltraSuite collection. Sold separately, this library of components would cost more than $1,500. Each of the major components is still available for purchase separately.

The ActiveTreeView control provides multiple ways to display a hierarchical tree view (see FIGURE 1). Its use is straightforward and provides an easy way to organize data taxonomies visually. Like other UltraSuite components, the ActiveTreeView provides the ability to add icons and to change font size and orientation of the display via clearly defined property sheets.

The DataExplorer component provides synchronized access to data for optimal display in tabbed tree views. DataExplorer can be used to direct data into other data-aware components, as well.

ScheduleX offers a look and feel that's identical to the Calendar and Tasks displays in Microsoft Outlook (see FIGURE 2). In addition, ScheduleX can import and export Outlook file data with simple method calls. ScheduleX consists of the Calendar, WeekView, DayView, TaskPad, DateEdit, and TimeEdit controls, each of which is included as a separate ActiveX component.

One of the most interesting and flexible controls is the UltraGrid. Traditional grid displays offer little more than columns and rows of identically formatted content. UltraGrid provides developers the ability to embed buttons, multi-column drop-down lists, and other ActiveX controls within any cell. Nearly every aspect of the presentation - color, fills, fonts, icons, indents, rotated text, and row and column height and widths - can be modified easily. Alpha levels can be changed to create transition and translucent, watermarked form effects. And because the control is data-aware, data can be preloaded, filtered, and sorted automatically to provide adaptable client-side data views. Then, the grids can be grouped visually to provide expanding tree views within data tables. Grid data also can be searched using different search types, such as complete, begins-with, and ends-with queries. The control even includes a print-preview-display function, which is especially helpful because UltraGrid can change visual data representation dramatically. The level of customization capable within this grid component is one of the most extensive I have seen.

The UltraToolBars set of controls is a collection of basic Windows objects updated for the XP generation. These controls have been evolving in the Infragistics family since the first days when Visual Basic consumed third-party Visual Basic Extensions (VBXs). Active Tabs provide the ultimate flexibility in creating tabbed dialog boxes, providing developers with the ability to modify tab height, width, alignment, orientation, style, fore-color, and back-color properties and the ability to add images. The control's events are extensive, also. Menus, toolbars, buttons, and check boxes all can be moved and painted with an XP style. They also adopt a user-defined custom look and feel. Buttons can change their appearance with a mouse rollover, to give forms a more intuitive, modern, responsive look. The transition control provides the ability to transition form backgrounds using 37 different styles. To complete the basic form GUI objects library, the set also includes the ActiveTabs, Resizer, Scroll, Splash, Transition, Option, Command, Check, Frame, Panel, Ribbon, and Splitter components. All of these help developers maintain a consistent look and feel for all their Windows form compositions, and all of these components work as advertised.

Exclusive to the UltraSuite Bundle

Like a greatest-hits set, UltraSuite provides its users with an additional selection that's exclusive to the suite.

These controls are offered as additional rewards for developers: ComboBox, ColorCombo, Dial scrolling, Font Selector, ImageCombo, Line3D, OLE DB bindable ListBox, Marquee, MaskEdit, Multibutton, Picture, ProgressBar, PropertyBrowser, ScreenPrinter, Shape3D, and Text3D.

Though not nearly as powerful as the major components, these widgets have their place and maintain the high-quality and consistent property selections the featured controls provide.

Almost Perfect

All components and samples appeared to be bug-free except a Visual C++ Property Browser example that failed with a memory exception when I attempted to execute it. Conversely, the VB version ran without incident.

On the downside, the collection could be prohibitively expensive if a majority of components are not leveraged. Additionally, you could obtain some of the capabilities featured in the package on the Web for free or at a lower cost, but few offer the support and commitment Infragistics provides. This is especially applicable in corporate development environments in which the extra costs toward support and component vendor stability are paramount.

And then there's Microsoft's Visual Studio .NET product that eventually will force these and other ActiveX components into obsolescence, similar to the way VBX controls gave way to OLE Custom Controls (OCXs). Recognizing this issue, Infragistics recently made friends with its customers by combining its COM-based UltraSuite components with its .NET-based NetAdvantage components into the same package. Check out their announcement of this merger at www.infragistics.com/corporate/news/053002.asp.

Incidentally, if developers expect to optimize their UltraSuite component-enabled projects on the .NET platform and would like to leverage the .NET enhancements Infragistics has planned for their future .NET components, the product's annual subscription license would be the most cost-effective option to consider.

In summary, the UltraSuite package represents the culminated years of experience and product stability Infragistics can offer developers, most notably advertised in the product's detailed "read me" file. UltraSuite is certainly not the least expensive component collection on the market, but it is probably the most feature-rich and easy to use.

Mike Riley is a chief scientist with RR Donnelley, one of North America's largest printers. He participates in the company's emerging technology strategies using a wide variety of distributed network technologies.

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6/27/2002

Office on the Go

Although the Pocket PC is coming on strong, PDAs using the Palm OS are still the market leaders. That led us to ask Wayne S. Freeze to compare how well a Pocket PC and a Palm integrate with Office.

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5/29/2002

ActiveDocs 2002

Product review by Coletta Witherspoon.

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4/29/2002

List and Label 8.0

Peter G. Aitken puts a reporting tool through its paces and reports, himself, that it’s both powerful and highly flexible.

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4/11/2002

Digital Database Design

Even small databases can be too complex to hold in your mind. And grasping the...

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4/2/2002

Optical Character Recognition

All the hype about the paperless office turned out to be just that. If anything, there’s even more paper generated now than 10 years ago. That’s why Warren Rachele reviewed three OCR engines in the hopes of turning some of that paper into bytes.

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3/11/2002

Microsoft Revamps OLAP Tools

Product review by Don Kiely.

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2/22/2002

Component-based Encryption

Product review by Mike Riley.

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2/5/2002

eSETweb

Product review by Thomas Wagner.

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