Today’s guest writer is Access Program Manager Ric Lewis. Ric spent the last couple years with the Indigo team and just took an Access PM job. He is looking for some customer feedback on interesting web services scenarios. To start the conversation—he created an interesting and useful sample book database that uses the Amazon web service.

Clint

Media Players

For a few years now, there has been a slowly developing convergence of databases and Web Services. Perhaps one of the best examples of this is your standard media player.

A media player is a specialized case of asset management (with the assets in this case being digital data). Of course, the biggest barrier to tracking assets in a database is manually entering the information. Remember the first time you ripped a CD and had to manually enter all the album and track info? Now we take for granted that when we rip a CD, our media player will call the Gracenote (or some other) CDDB web service and automatically fill in all the information for us.

CDDB 

web service request.

Nowadays, most media players will even go the extra mile of calling Amazon or Wal-mart to grab a high quality cover-art pic.

A media player is a great example of a widely used database-as-asset manager. And without you really noticing it, over the last few years, between calls to CDDBs and online-music stores, your media player has increasingly become a web application.

Databases and Web Services

Web services are all about distributing information, and databases are all about organizing and visualizing that data. Internally, we talk about Access databases being a landing pad for data. Using ODBC Access databases connect in rich ways to a number of different data sources.

Access 2007 Sample Books Database

Until then, I’ve thrown together a hack-ish example of a book-asset management system in Access 2007 which calls through the Amazon web service to collect book information when you type in an ISBN number.

Books Details form.

Installation instructions:

-          Download the zip file file (right click on zip and choose Save Target As).

-          Unzip it.

-          Run setup.exe (install for “Just Me”)

-          Copy the msaccess.exe.config file into \Program Files\Office12

-          Open the Books.accdb file

You’ll also want to make sure you’ve got macros fully enabled in Access. Then just hit “New Book” (wait a few seconds if it’s the first time), type in an ISBN (ISBN-10 only, AmazonWS doesn’t like ISBN-13), tab out of the ISBN field, and watch your data get filled in!

In a later post, I’ll talk a bit more about the behind-the-scenes of how this app was developed, and share out the Visual Studio project for the add-in. Download it, play with it, break it (that shouldn’t be too hard) and let your brain start spinning up about the possibilities.

The program should “just work” on Vista, but on WinXP you’d certainly need WCF installed, which is included in the .NET 3.0 runtime.

Moving Forward

As part of investigating many areas for future work we are researching Web Services. The best way is to always start with identifying useful customer scenarios. What scenarios would you find interesting connecting to web data?