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Enhancing Developer Productivity with Office XP

As developers we need ways to document our duties, tasks and plans. In this article James shows us a couple of handy tips and tricks using Microsoft Office XP.

Author Info:
By: James Baker
Rating: 2 stars2 stars2 stars2 stars2 stars / 3
July 18, 2002
  1. · Enhancing Developer Productivity with Office XP
  2. · Project Planning and Design
  3. · Easy Reference: Desktop Images
  4. · Conclusion

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Enhancing Developer Productivity with Office XP - Project Planning and Design
(Page 2 of 4 )

According to Cecily A.L. Younger, a psychologist currently engaged at Cornell University, humans universally process graphic information more efficiently than text. Thus the reason most computer users prefer GUIs over command-line interfaces.

This concept can be applied to databases as well. Instead of using text to describe the end of one table and the beginning of another, what fields are contained in a table, or the relationships between tables, for instance, using Access to model the database allows for a graphic description of the same concepts. The ability to easily reference this type of information is invaluable during the system design process as it affects so many other parts of a system. Additionally, a database’s structure often changes frequently during the system design process and the Access version is frequently quicker to update than the text version.

Creating Tables in Access
Upon launching Access and choosing to open a blank database the user is immediately asked to save the file. In the database window that appears, double-click the Create Table in Design View icon:

A spreadsheet-like window opens, allowing the user to input a field's name in the first column, its data type in the second, and a freeform description of it in the third (though this author prefers to not bother altering the default "text" data type or input comments). Click on the primary key field and click the key icon to designate the field as such. Save the table and close it. Repeat this for the remaining tables in the database.

Defining Field Relationships in Access
Once the tables have been created, relationships between them can be depicted graphically. Click the relationships icon. The relationships window as well as the show table dialog box will appear. To show tables in the relationship window, click on the tables and then click "Add" after each one. Close the Show Table dialog box.

Now click on one of tables' key fields and drag the mouse pointer to another table's fields. When the pointer has reached a field with which the first field can have a relationship, the symbol will become a small rectangle. Release the mouse button when the pointer is over the field with which the first field should have a relationship.

When the Edit Relationships dialog box opens, click the checkbox next to "Enforce Referential Integrity" and be sure the "Relationship Type" section at the bottom of the dialog box displays the type of relationship it should. If not, check that the fields are defined in such a way that facilitates the intended relationship. Click the "create" button to complete the relationship definition. Upon doing so, a line depicting the relationship appears. Especially helpful are Access' 1 and infinity symbols, which describe the type of relationship (infinity symbol standing for "many" of course). An example of the result is below:

To-Do Lists in Word
Though it may seem simplistic, keeping an organized delineation of the tasks that are to be accomplished is especially handy. This is even more the case if the web developer is also the project manager. Word is a relatively good choice for this because it's not more complex than necessary (like some full-fledge project-planning or calendar software packages may be), opens quickly if Office is set to preload on the computer's start-up, is a common format and can be opened in multiple locations and on multiple devices, and is likely to be readily available since it may already be used for other tasks. Word's ordered list, unordered list, increase indent, and decrease indent icons are invaluable to the frequent list maker, who may want to consider customizing his/her toolbars so that they are always together and visible.
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