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Archive for the ‘Data Organization’ Category

Recently on Channel 9

At the 2015 Microsoft MVP Virtual Conference (May 14-15) Crystal Long, Brent Spaulding, and Julian Kirkness presented an information packed session on Access, Access Web Apps, and connecting Access desktop applications to Azure servers.

Channel 9 is a Microsoft community site for Microsoft customers created in 2004. It has video channels, discussions, podcasts, screencasts and interviews with Microsoft. Wikipedia

If you are interested in expanding your knowledge and understanding of the power of Access, the video of this session is a must watch. In it you will see an introduction to data management using Access, a demonstration of a working Access Web app, and a tutorial on connection an Access Desktop frontend to a cloud-based Azure backend.

Access Runtime (2013 Version)

Microsoft’s free Runtime for Access 2013 is now available for download from

The Runtime allows you to run Access applications without having to purchase and install Access.

Windows 7 – Libraries

Electronic Storage is More Affordable than Ever

Personal data storage costs have plummeted over the years. I recall receiving a promotional flyer in 1985 promoting a 5 Megabyte hard drive for $5,000.00. In today’s dollars that price translates to a bit over $9200.00 according to the Bank of Canada Inflation Calculator. If you convert that price to a cost per 1000 bytes, it works out to about $1.84. Okay, so what does that mean in everyday terms?

Since a byte is roughly equivalent to the storage space required for a single character, and the nominal average size of a word in the English language is 5 characters, you could store roughly 200 words for that $1.84 in that 1985 megabyte drive. So, for you students the cost to store a 2000 word essay would be just over $18.00

Fast forward to 2010. These days, the storage capacities of hard drives are frequently expressed in terms of gigabytes and terabytes. A one terabyte drive has roughly 200,000 times the storage capacity of that one 5 megabyte drive. (My math skills failTotWrestler me when I am working with such large numbers but I think I am in the right neighbourhood. Terabyte drives are now available retail at prices in the $200.00 (and less) range.

Using the $200.00 price, that means that the 2000 word essay that once would have cost about $18.00 to store, now costs a tiny fraction of a penny. A 200,000 word thesis would have a storage cost of around 4 cents.

So what does all of this have to do with Windows 7. Because data storage is dirt cheap (sorry there is no other word for it) we tend to store more and more documents electronically. Many people are store vast amounts of music, video, and still photographic images, desktop publications, artwork, project plans, spreadsheet, databases, and much, much more. In short, many people are storing large numbers of documents.

Finding What You Need – Staying Organized

Well, storing all this ‘data’ is find but the stored files are absolutely worthless unless you can find them, quickly and when you need them. And that’s where Windows 7 Libraries come into play.

Quote of the Day:

If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.

-Henry David Thoreau

Most windows users are at least somewhat familiar with the folder system and concept that goes back to Windows 95. To all intents and purposes, documents are stored in folders. Folders themselves may be stored in other folders. Think of the hard drive as a huge file storage warehouse. In that warehouse, there are many file storage rooms. In Windows terms, these rooms are referred to as top-level folders. Inside each of these rooms are filing cabinets (another layer of folders). Inside each filing cabinet are filing drawers (yet another layer of folders) and inside each of these folders are individual documents.

The analogy breaks down a little once you get to the filing drawer level of the physical example. You wouldn’t have a filing drawer within a filing drawer but in the virtual model any folder can theoretically contain yet more folders.

How I Organize My Documents

There are a number of possible ways that you can organize your files. Systematic organization is the key to finding that elusive Word document, or Excel workbook when you need it. The system I’m going to describe works for me. You may have a different approach. If that approach works for you, great! After I describe my current system, I will talk about how Libraries in Windows 7 helps me keep my current system yet makes it easier to find and use the important files I have stored.

I use the Documents (Windows 95 – XP, My Documents) folder as the central location for all my files. Within the documents folder, I have one folder for each type of activity that I am involved with. Part of my work involves the development of custom Access databases and Excel workbooks for clients. My business name is Argee Services so I have one folder in the Documents folder named Argee Development.

Now, when I start to work on a project for a new client. I will create a folder within the Argee Development folder, using the Client’s business name as the folder name. Within that folder, I have one folder for each project I have developed or am working on for that client. Each project folder will have a similar set of folders and documents, including an archive folder for saving interim versions of the project as development proceeds.

Folder Structure

Getting There Isn’t Half the Fun – Windows 7 Libraries to the Rescue

While the system I have described helps keep my client files organized, using the File Open dialogue to locate and open a particular file can be a bit tedious to say the least. I need the files for work in progress project to be readily found. There is less urgency associated with completed projects. In earlier versions of windows, I had a folder named Work in Progress and that folder would contain shortcuts to current projects.

That meant having to create a shortcut to the project and then move the shortcut to the Work in Progress folder. Windows 7 Libraries make this process easier to manage.

Now I have a library named (you guessed it!) Work in Progress. When I start a new project, I add the project folder to the Work in Progress folder. The actual project folder remains ‘physically’ in the Argee Development\Client folder structure. But in the Work in Progress library the project is a top level folder. Working with this virtual folder ‘feels’ exactly like working with the actual folder that ‘lives’ somewhere else in my computer system.

To me, the Libraries concept resembles the Clipart Organizer and Windows Media Player playlists in previous Windows versions. Neither the Clipart Organizer nor the Media Player stored any actual files. A Media Player playlist was actually just a list of paths to the media files. So a playlist could include media files from several different Windows folders.

Similarly, a Windows 7 Library does not contain real folders. It contains shortcuts to the real folders that you want to include in the library. The icon is a folder icon, so it ‘feels’ like you are working with the actual folder. Once you have added a folder to a library, you don’t have give any thought to the actual location of the folder. Just use the library to find the folders and its files when you need to work with them.