Friday, May 02, 2003

Embracing Databases Part IV
Conclusion: "So, What's IT got to do with me?"

Embracing Databases Part III

In an effort to bring the entirety of this four-part database article home to you, we are ready to tie in some of the meatier components to database offerings and MS Office's developments that address the need and use for them.

MS Office tools provide the functional programming necessary to complete a multitude of organizational tasks with the final being publishing requirements. As stated earlier there are aspects of publishing and presentation features that are not altogether relevant for personal use. However, as you become more aware of these software tools and reach new levels of comfort while interacting with them these features will all at once begin to make themselves useful for the creative aspects of information collecting and maintaining and in essences serve to sell themselves at no additional cost or tutorial.

For the list of Microsoft Office tools and their uses, visit:

Another great "cross-over" feature offered in both Access and Excel that may be used with equal skill at home or at the office is the PivotTable capabilities. Great for dealing with budgets and taxes!

Merging into the fast lane; using databases in more, demanding settings like business administration and management applications is a pretty well covered topic. However, in this instance I wanted to bring it up in order to further the idea behind all the media coverage and what it actually means to earthlings.

The most common database file types for business environments are:

1.Contact Management
2.Time and Billing
3.Event Management
4.Resource Scheduling
5.Order Entry
6.Expenses and Expense Reports
7.Ledgers (mailing lists, contacts, customers, employees, products, orders, order details, and suppliers)
8.Customer/Client Biographical Information (names, purchases, frequency, interests, money spent over time or students, courses, times, instructors, units, books, fees paid) More complex record keeping that was discussed earlier as relevant in large active families scenarios where you have lots of data (information) on one person and likewise several people that fit in this category.

Access was created to readily accommodate these occurrences and requirements from the simple to the complex and back again. Bringing up Access, new to be release versions of MS Office notably Office 11 will introduce a new breed of functionality. The most note-worthy in this instance would be the incorporation of XML. XML stands for extended markup language. If you are not familiar with XML that is ok because it is still evolving like everything else. XML within MS Office settings should make it easier to transfer data to numerous software and publishing resources. For new users I would advise not tackling XML until you have exhausted all the other possibilities. One because it won't have much benefit until you have the experience to realize what it is intended to address and Two because by this time the beta versions will have improved these features so that it will be ready for earthling interaction.

XML looks like this:

As you can see it's not so strange. It's standard text with HTML tags wrapped around it. This language is used to make applications communications more efficient. Basically, taking human language and translating it to a language that software applications and tools may better understand to maintain formatting and structure for various types of content. In Access it will give "" tags to data fields, like the forward slash at the end tells the system that you are finishing something.

Want more information? Visit:

Structure is the key ingredient to desktop database applications. The data or information itself may be structured or unstructured. Structured data is information from relational/complex databases. Unstructured data is typically the more generalized or flat information like emails, files, intranet sites groups or chunks of collected data that has been refined to greater structure. To clear it up somewhat, Excel Spreadsheets contain unstructured data. While, Access Databases may be used for unstructured data it may go beyond that to also include structured data. These terms may also apply to more exhuberant database software developments just so you are aware that databases come in many forms and complete different types of tasks though fundamental they are defined as one thing.

MySQL is a common Microsoft software application that is used within websites, search engine applications, and web based environments where structured and unstructured data may coexist to create one type of resource page(s). Access was designed to be the desktop version of MySQL. This is why it is so powerful.

Most direct users and buyers of MySQL software are developers or those with growing knowledge of software to apply their own applications. It is becoming easier for an earthling to achieve this level of skill so stay with me on this.
With software purchases, let your level of skill, experience, budget, and long/short term needs be your guide. When you are ready to take on MySQL you will know it.

Finding FrontPage applications when you have mastered MS Office features, chances are FrontPage will be the final tool to tackle. It is the publishing tool that will elevate your data and presence on the web out into the spotlight for any or many to view. This is when you will require or begin hearing the most about MySQL in your personal life. By this time you will also know or be in a position to start better understanding HTML code. You won't have to know it to use FrontPage but you will be able to see what the code looks like and how it exists to work with text for web publishing because every FrontPage page you work with has the HTML Tab at the bottom of the frame. Clicking it will allow you to see the HTML format for a page you have created, this will include special editor features like highlights or bold text etc. This would be a great time to start learning the basics and take some mental notes for the future. By then you will also understand why XML is so great (hint: because it gives systems more to go on for structure and formatting than just HTML by itself. It's much like the difference between hearing, "Joe left." And hearing, " Joe left about fifteen minutes ago. He went to the store to buy orange juice."

It makes software easier to like when you can see how easy it is to personify! Anyway, this method of building your presence on the web is the most independent. There are other ways, however, as I have said before, MS Office provides the type of style that gives you training wheels until you are ready to go it alone. One note there is to date no existing application that will do the thinking for you. So for the time being, well into the next 40 years or more, you will have to learn certain things about software and programming. You won't have to be responsible for most of it but in order to get the most use out of web based applications you will have to learn the fundamentals. My advice is to do this as directly, inexpensively, and logically as possible. (trust your instincts with MS Office).

An article I recommend reading when you are in the throws of transitioning to prime time is "Migrating from Access to High-End DBMS" by Matthew D. Sarrel which may be found by searching PC Magazine's Web Site or Search Engine. It gives some good step-by-step style fatherly advice to get inspired with confidence.

"Talking warmly, enjoying each other's company with a kind of understanding they had never had among on another before.

It was as though Peter had revealed their common situations, and their differences in it, their individual sorrows?by exposing himself like a child and agitating the drama of their secret and especial concerns making them see on another with serious eyes. This was, after all, so much like the action of the man who had been their father (496-97)" (Page 15)

"And this is also so much like the action of Kerouac the author in terms of both purpose and method- to reveal something universal in the human condition, and the uniqueness of individuals dancing variously to its beat beneath the stars, by displaying self in naïve youthful exhuberance. In the process Kerouac turns up the volume to amplify the whispering rush of that water which feeds our "endless sources and unfathomable springs." (page 15)

"The proposing that the road is life, and life itself is the equilibrist, demands a writing style that can respond to the momentum between opposite emotive forces." (page 20)

-Kerouac, the word and the way - prose artist as spiritual quester, by Ben Giamo


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