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My Capstone Project

Linking HTML Forms To An Access Database


By Lewis Keller

March 08-11, 2011

Lewis Keller Don Lewicki C.I.S. & T. Capstone 08 March 2012

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My Capstone Project Introduction Last year, when I was considering the choice of what to do for my C.I.S. & T. Capstone project, my advisor/professor suggested that I do something related to a prior internship that I did last summer. So, I took this into careful consideration. Knowing that I would probably face difficulties from multiple factors (my clients thoughts, other work, etc.), I chose to go ahead with that idea. Project Description My project is to have a web interface for the Academic Affairs faculty database. This interface consists of a series of forms that will add entries once somebody inputs the proper data into the correct fields. By the time I get done with these forms, the interface should add the entries when somebody inputs the proper data into the correct fields (i.e.: a first name into the first name field). Given that its going to be in HTML and ASP, its going to be connectable via the internet. However, this means that its going to have a strong level of security to guard the data. Purpose of Project The purpose behind this project is that every time somebody wants to enter or change data, they shouldnt have to go directly into the database to do so. With these forms, they wont

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have to, and they can add records to the database from anywhere, just as long as they have the proper login authentication permission to do so. My goal is to have everything done by April 2012, including a 15-minute video explaining how to use the firms. Methods and Technologies Utilized I have researched and taken notes on the intended users needs and concerns with this project, and Im taking them into consideration as Im still working on the project. For the form design, Im using Microsoft Expression Web version 4.0 to create html versions of the forms. From there, I will use a key feature in Expression Web that will convert the forms from html to aspx, before having me choose how I want to connect them to their respective database counterparts (using SQL and Access). Overall, Im using an easy-to-read typeface for everything. The background is supposed to reflect a high level of professionalism, yet also not be boring at the same time. As for a life cycle of the project, theres none so far. However, once everything is completed, the forms should remain in their current state until its deemed otherwise necessary to change or update them (whether it would be by me or somebody else). History of Technologies Expression Web

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Microsoft is usually known as a highly dependable software and application developer, and no exceptions were made when they developed each version of Expression Web, which is an off-shoot from FrontPage. (Priya 1) They developed Expression Web in 2006 mainly for web designers who wanted to join the web design wave. The first version, released in December of that year, had a layout similar to both FrontPage and Adobes Dreamweaver, but yet worked differently from both programs. Like them, it worked with both HTML and CSS. However, unlike them, it supported W3C accessibility standards, which is a major must-have for all web designers. (Priya 2) Also, it was lacking the help feature that FrontPage had (for beginners), as well as tech support. Expression Web 2 came out in May of 2008, and its layout was similar to that of the first one. (Mendelson 1) Other than supporting PHP and adding a few minor features (including changing properties of video files and generating images from PSD files), Expression Web 2 worked exactly like its predecessor. A major negative thing against it, though, is the fact that it didnt support Secure FTP. Also, Expression Web 2 was missing browser-based scripting, which is used to create dynamic pages that are compatible with all web browsers. Expression Web 3 was the first version that came out as part of a suite, and its also the first version that Ive used. Personally, I say that given the several features that it contains, its a great web design tool. However, by no means was it meant for beginners. For instance, to access some features, you would have to go through one or two menus, which was somewhat cumbersome to me at first.

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Overall, Expression Web 3 was more than worth its price, as it had added support for Secure FTP and a couple of new capabilities (Snapshot and SuperPreview) that allow you to preview your pages as theyre being created. (Arah 1-4) However, it did have clunky support for Silverlight. For example, you couldnt directly view a Silverlight file through Expression Web 3. Instead, you had to download the Silverlight player, and then preview your page. Expression Web 4 came out in June 2010, and like Expression Web 3, its more than worth its price. One of the best things about Expression Web 4 is the fact that it provides full support for HTML 5 in Code, Design, and Split views. (Microsoft 2) Another thing that I like about it is that you could use SuperPreview to preview logon-protected pages, and it will have you enter the proper administration credentials. It also includes support for CSS3, which is shown in the CSS Properties pane, and the New Style and Modify Style boxes. Expression Web 4 is supposed to create standards-based Web sites faster & easier. (Microsoft 1) However, its not as beginner-friendly as Microsoft claims to be. An example of this is how daunting the Split and Code views can be. Another example is that, like Expression Web 3, several features are hidden inside menus. (Yorkshire 1) Also, beginners might not understand many of the features in the first place, and might opt to try to find another program like Dreamweaver or an online website designer. Access

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Back in November 1992, Microsoft introduced us to a flexible form designer known as Access. (UtterAccess 1) Compatible with Windows 3.1, Access version 1.0 took over the database market by storm, by learning of the mistakes made by the head people at Borland (the company behind dBase). Less than a year later, version 1.1 was released, and it was full of bugs. (Brief 1) It was integrated with Fox Pro software, and it introduced us to the Access Basic Programming Language. (UtterAccess 1) Access version 2.0, released in 1994, was the first version to be packaged/linked to a Microsoft Office suite (Office 4.3 Pro). It handled crosstab queries, autoforms, and autoreports, and it was integrated with ActiveX. This was enough to satisfy the majority of developers and general users, but it wasnt user-friendly when it came to designing databases. (Brief 1) Also, utilization was often limited by the increasing sizes of databases and the low amount of RAM. Access 95 was released along with the Windows 95 OS, and it was very unpopular due to the fact of 32-bit applications still being in their early stages. (Brief 1-2) This version introduced VBA (Visual Basic for Applications), and the capabilities of filtering by form and selection. It was more powerful and flexible compared to its predecessors, and things continued to improve from there. Access 97 was a true success, compared to Access 95. (Brief 2) Along with it came partial table replication, filtering by input, and programmable toolbars. (UtterAccess 1) Most importantly, it was the first version to be compatible with other platforms (i.e.: Macintosh,

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among several others). (Microsoft 2) A key feature that I do like about Access 97, though, is the Publish to Web wizard, which allowed people to output data to either a static or dynamic HTML format (whichever one they wanted to choose). Access 2000 was released around the same time as Windows 98, ME, and 2000/NT. (Brief 2) This was the first version of Access to be integrated with SQL Server, and it was also the first version that allowed developers to publish their results in HTML. (UtterAccess 1, Brief 2) This version lost the capability of multi-user design and xBase/JET interoperability. However, this was so that MDBs (Access database files) could be made ready for the new JET engine and the powerful tools that were provided with it. This, in turn, helped make this version very popular amongst developers. Access 2002/XP and 2003 were both minor enhancements that provided better integration with other applications. (Brief 2) Access 2002/XP added Office Web Components (in particular, pivots and charts), security prompts, and smart tags. (UtterAccess 1) Access 2003 enhanced the font capabilities in and added a context-based help menu to SQL view. With Access 2003, a user can make local tables from linked tables, view object dependency information, and not worry about checking for errors in forms and reports. Access 2007 introduced us to the ACCDB file type, free runtime, a data source task pane, a grouping pane, and many other features (Brief 2). However, it still provides support for MDB files, but doesnt contain features like security, replication, and data access pages. Also, it

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can handle complex data (multi-value data, attachments, etc.), data collection forms, and JET privatization. Access 2010 brought us better integration with Microsofts SharePoint Server. (Brief 2) Overall, Access 2010 was a minor upgrade from Access 2007, with an updated Ribbon Bar, and the addition of Data Macros, thus making it more user-friendly for everybody. Also included are Backstage View, User Interface Effects, Navigation and Web Browser Control, and BDC Integration, along with several other useful features. However, Access 2010 isnt able to work with Data Access Pages and Calendar Control. Overall, Access is a good database-building tool. Despite going through various changes over the past 20 years, Access has become one of the most user-friendly tools available on the software market, and I can see a bright future for it. I can attest to how user-friendly it is, because Ive used it to help build not only this database, but also another one during high school. SQL Edgar F. Codd came up with the concept of being able to manage data better in existing computer systems in June of 1970. (SELECT 1) This particular concept was the basis behind his well-known paper, A Relational Model of Data for Large Shared Data Banks. (Collins 1) It wasnt until 4 years later, though, that this concept was really acted upon, when Donald Chamberlain and Raymond Boyce invented a language known as SEQUEL (later shortened to SQL). Their focus was to entice people who frequently work with computers to learn about

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interacting with them via using a query language. The below quote from their paper, Sequel: A Structured Query Language, pretty much reinforces that focus. However, there is also a large class of users who, while they are not computer specialists, would be willing to learn to interact with a computer in a reasonably high-level, nonprocedural query language. Examples of such users are accountants, engineers, architects, and urban planners. It is for this class that SEQUEL is intended. For this reason, SEQUEL emphasizes simple data structures and operations. Chamberlain and Boyce, Sequel: A Structured Query Language

The popularity of SEQUEL/SQL grew so much through the years that software vendors were each offering their own database software, which was based off of SQL technology. (SELECT 1-2) Microsoft offered the first version of SQL Server for Windows in 1992, and theyve been dominating the so-called SQL market since the late 1990s. I agree with Chamberlain and Boyce in that SQL is meant for people who are somewhat experienced with computers, and that have to work with items such as databases. Ive taken classes on SQL and how it works in relation to organizing items, and from what Ive experienced, its an amazing language to learn. What Im Doing Meeting With the Intended User These forms are meant to be used by the Administrative Assistant to the Dean of Academic Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford. However, when I met with her, she

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said that she might have a work study or secretary work on them. Also, she doesnt want the forms to be super-complex, but yet doesnt want them to be hack-able as well. During the meeting, she admitted that this project wouldnt be much of an advantage, because of the fact that the files thats shes using for the database are all in paper form. To her, it would be more advantageous to update the database from Excel and Access, and the likelihood of actual use is very slim. However, I was still encouraged to go on with the project so that I could learn from it. Designing Forms I did get the first form designed most of the way, and I even uploaded a video about it to my blog. However, due to devoting a majority of my time to other assignments, I havent had a chance to work on the other form designs yet. With six weeks left, the first thing that I promise to do is to finish the form designs, yet practice better time management. This is what the first form looks like thus far:

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Establishing Connection Between Forms and Database I did take some time to test out some potential code ideas on the first form to try to integrate it with the database, but it didnt work. The code looked something like the following (represented by pseudocode). INSERT Values (Everything on the form) Into [Database] WHERE (Everything on the form) = (Its database counterpart) I would like to find out how I could successfully implement a good connection between these forms and the database. Perhaps, the answer may lay within the database itself. Implementing Strong Security This is still an important must for me, because without it, theres still a risk of somebody hacking into the forms, and if that happens, Im afraid it will come back to me. So, I will attach a password authentication system that my client will have to utilize in order to gain access to the forms. Also, I need to put on a good, strong internet security suite to ensure a second level of protection. This would be where Kaspersky Internet Security comes into the picture. They continue to provide users with a high level of protection that includes security tools not offered

Lewis Keller Don Lewicki C.I.S. & T. Capstone 08 March 2012 by many competitors. (CNET 1) Though it does cost money (a three-user license costs

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approximately $80), I feel that this would be the strongest security software for these forms. A feature that I really like is the Roll Back feature, which is handy should any malware manage to slip through the cracks. The Roll Back feature is activated, and undoes whatever damage that the malware causes. However, one thing that I dont like about Kaspersky is its Internet Explorer security analyzer, because of the fact that its meant to only work with Internet Explorer, and no other browser. Overall, though, Kaspersky Internet Security will be a good tool to use in this particular case. Uploading Forms to the Internet When I am done with both the design/connection and security, I will have the forms uploaded to the Internet. I will ask Dr. Ken Wang (a professor at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford) to see if I can have them uploaded to the universitys MIS server (www.pitt.edu/~username/). If, for some reason, I cant, then I will try to upload it to a server with free web hosting. Conclusion Critique of What I Did Well, Ive got a good start, but I need to finish everything to have a good finish. So, in all reality, I cant answer this question right now. However, given that I have six weeks left, I am

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going to get myself in gear, and have a different answer to this question once these six weeks are done. Impression of My Overall Experience with This Project Im not quite sure of what to think of this, because of what I have yet to do. When I do get this done, not only do I hope to leave a good impression on myself about this, but I also hope to leave a good impression on everybody else involved in this as well. Again, this depends on what I can accomplish during the next six weeks.

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Works Cited "Access History - Access Wiki - Access Help and How-to - Microsoft Office by UtterAccess.com." Access History. UtterAccess.com, 14 Feb. 2012. Web. 09 Mar. 2012. <http://www.utteraccess.com/wiki/index.php/Access_History>. Arah, Tom. "Microsoft Expression Web 3 Review." Technology, News and Reviews. PCPro.co.uk, 05 Nov. 2009. Web. 07 Mar. 2012. <http://www.pcpro.co.uk/reviews/software/353092/microsoft-expression-web-3>. "Brief History of Microsoft Access." Learn About Access Databases. About-accessdatabases.com, 2009. Web. 09 Mar. 2012. <http://www.about-accessdatabases.com/history-of-microsoft-access.html>. Chamberlain, Donald D., and Raymond F. Boyce. Working paper. SEQUEL: A Structured Query Language. IBM Research Laboratory. Web. 10 Mar. 2012. <http://www.almaden.ibm.com/cs/people/chamberlin/sequel-1974.pdf>. Collins, Chris. "Chris Collins." Chris Collins. Wordpress.com, 20 May 2007. Web. 10 Mar. 2012. <http://ccollins.wordpress.com/2007/05/20/history-of-sql/>. Mendelson, Edward. "Microsoft Expression Web 2." PCMag.com. PCMag.com, 11 June 2008. Web. 07 Mar. 2012. <http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2319674,00.asp>. Microsoft. "Expression Web 4." Microsoft. Microsoft, 2011. Web. 07 Mar. 2012. <http://www.microsoft.com/expression/products/web_overview.aspx>.

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"Microsoft Expression Web in Encyclopedia." TutorGig.com. TutorGig.com. Web. 08 Mar. 2012. <http://www.tutorgig.info/ed/Microsoft_Expression_Web>. Priya, Indu. "A Brief History of Microsoft Expression Web." Bright Hub. Brighthub.com, 13 Nov. 2008. Web. 08 Mar. 2012. <http://www.brighthub.com/computing/windowsplatform/articles/15004.aspx>. Rosenblatt, Seth. "Kaspersky Internet Security." CNET. Cnet.com, 15 Aug. 2011. Web. 11 Mar. 2012. <http://download.cnet.com/Kaspersky-Internet-Security/3000-18510_410012072.html>. "SELECT * FROM SQL History." SQL History. FairCom.com, 2012. Web. 10 Mar. 2012. <http://www.faircom.com/ace/enl_22_s12_t.php>. Swearingen, Chase. "Microsoft Access Database." Wikia.com. Wikia.com, 19 Oct. 2009. Web. 09 Mar. 2012. <http://databasemanagement.wikia.com/wiki/Microsoft_Access_Database>. Wenzel, Elsa. "Microsoft Expression Web." CNET. Cnet.com, 2007. Web. 07 Mar. 2012. <http://reviews.cnet.com/web-graphics/microsoft-expression-web/4505-3637_732383169.html>. Yorkshire, Tye. "Expression Web 4 Review: Worth the Money?" Bright Hub. Brighthub.com, 09 Nov. 2010. Web. 07 Mar. 2012. <http://www.brighthub.com/internet/webdevelopment/reviews/81432.aspx>.