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Microsoft Access... anyone using it?

Discussion in 'General Software' started by iSign, Oct 6, 2007.

  1. iSign

    iSign Major Contributor

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    I want to hire a temp to do some clerical work for me.

    Over the years working with Jon Aston of Marketing Partners, Jon and I have discussed e-newsletters, or possible direct mail campaigns, but with very select qualified lists, such as possibly just previous Island Sign clients... or self-qualified respondents to an e-newsletter solicitation offering more information by clicking on a link...

    We've also discussed just making contact with my previous clients to "update" my contact info, which could remind them that I exist, allow them to order something they might need... but most importantly, allow me to compile email addy's if I don't have them, seek permission to send out a first issue of an e-newsletter, encourage them to visit the new website (not up yet... but by the time I would do this calling it would be) ...or entice them to "Sign up to WIN" something at the new website...


    Anyway, the first step for any of those ideas is a database... which I don't have. This is what I want to hire a temp to do for me... go through what client info I do have, & begin to create a database where it will serve me best to use for printing mailing labels, or launching email marketing pieces to my client list, or specific subsets of my list... like just those interested in vehicles... or just those interested in architectural signage etc.

    So, I hear that Access is a very good program for this sort of thing... not as advanced as "Act" ...but sufficient for me, & possibly more compatible with other programs, where importing or exporting data could be a time saving plus.

    Anyone have any experience with this, who could advise me of their experience?
     
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  2. Bogie

    Bogie Very Active Member

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    www.openoffice.org - came out of Sun Microsystems.

    They've got some nice -free- software... You can set up a usable database in their Excel clone.
     
  3. jiarby

    jiarby Major Contributor

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    Access is a database application. It is nothing without the developed database (with it's corresponding reports and user interfaces). Access is the engine, the database is the chassis!

    FileMaker Pro is another database application that has a robust developer community.

    Act is an application that uses a database as a back end... not a database unto itself
     
  4. Craig Sjoquist

    Craig Sjoquist Major Contributor

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    well many years ago (26)I did this hired a receptionist the duties included creating a client list and organizing my office,... wow did it pay off for every dollar payed out.. 4 came back within 6 months

    meaning if you have the volume to pay for another employee do it, this releases preasure and opens the flood gates of ideas, sales, work flow, enjoyment in your life

    wraps r kewl
     
  5. iSign

    iSign Major Contributor

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    because i've never used a "database"... and before this week... never really used the word "database' in a conversation...

    I'd have to admit that I really don't know what all might be included in what that word should mean... and therefore, I fear I don't even really know what is being said to me.

    The first comment seems synonymous with saying... illustrator is a graphics program & is nothing without the developed graphics... which of course would be true... but also hardly worth saying... which is why I must be missing something here.

    The second comment mentions "developers", which makes me assume that the "developed database" means more then just the "data" that I (or my employee) enters into the program. But if that is correct... how much "more"... just one level more complex, in that it could, or should be entered in an organized fashion that prepares the way for cross referencing, segmenting, or other powerful uses of the data? Am I to read this to mean that to get the most out of access... I won't be able to easily learn enough to train some typist to create my database... and instead, I need some serious comoputer programmer type person?
     
  6. GB2

    GB2 Very Active Member

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    The Database programs come completely blank, very much like Illustrator. You then have to "develop" files to do what you want them to do. Similar to Illustrator you have to learn how the program works and create the final product for your use. I take that back a little...there are some very basic templates that come with the program initially but you really need to learn it's capability and custom create for your specific needs.
     
  7. GB2

    GB2 Very Active Member

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    What was said about the robust developer community meant that there is a strong support group, forums, professional developers and free shared developers work available for Filemaker Pro. It is really a fascinating program. Like I said it comes as a blank pallet and you must create files to suit your needs but there are hundreds of pre-created files available that may do what you want them to do already.
     
  8. Bogie

    Bogie Very Active Member

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    Actually, it's closer to "you buy Illustrator, and then you have to write the program to draw bezier curves."

    Personally, I'd go with a pre-built mailing list program, or with just a spreadsheet.
     
  9. Techman

    Techman Major Contributor

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    Access comes with a nice load of templates and a wizard that will get you into a good data base in a matter of a few hours. Its really very easy.. Nop need to know much about it.. Plus it is easy to follow the sirections adn modify the ssytem too.

    Need a hand let me know...
     
  10. iSign

    iSign Major Contributor

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    That's excellent news tech... and a generous offer.
    GB2 is going to teach me a bit of what he knows too... so I think I'll be able to get me a database one way or another :thumb:
     
  11. Fred Weiss

    Fred Weiss Merchant Member

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    There's nothing wrong with Access for your purposes but I have to agree that Filemaker is the best application out there. I've used it for 20 years now and wouldn't use anything else.

    It is very visual as compared to Access which will have you wondering where to start and how to make it look like what you want it to look like. Filemaker has a very short learning curve and most graphics people will have an easy time getting comfortable with it.
     
  12. Bogie

    Bogie Very Active Member

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    I used to do a lot of mailing list and mass mailing stuff - As long as the software will export to a "usable" file format, you'll be good.
     
  13. jiarby

    jiarby Major Contributor

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    waay back in the day I used to work for Claris Software as a Filemaker Pro support weenie. I used to get several calls a day from people that would buy the program and then call the support line and want us to tell them how to make their database, or develop their reports.

    The official company line (THEN) was that those calls were advised that they needed to obtain training, NOT support. We were not there to tell people how to USE the program, just address installation errors, or malfunctions and error messages.

    It was like calling Microsoft because you need a tech to help you write a letter to grandma. Nothing is wrong with M$-Word, you just don't know how to indent or type a comma.

    I have seen many a receptionist-made database and most were very poorly designed because it takes some specialized understanding to know how databases are organized. That doesn't mean it can't be done.

    Essentially the steps are like this:
    1. create fields (the data you want to collect). There are lots of different types of fields. ya gotta know which ones are best for the situation
    2. organize them into categories that are unique (customer contact data, material inventory data, work orders (pulls from customer AND material/inventory), transactional functions.
    3. Create individual databases for these different categories.
    4. build a "front end" form for data input & record maintenance
    5. create reports that tell you what you want to know.

    We'd get calls like this:
    <them>
    "My customer list does not sort correctly..it just sorts by first name"

    <me>
    "You have to put the last name in a field by itself. You put everything in a single field fight now called "CustomerName".

    <them>
    How do I fix it?

    <me>
    You have to make separate fields called "FirstName, "MiddleName" and "LastName" and put your data into them.

    <them>
    AAACK! I already have 10 bazillion records. I can't type that many.

    <me>
    You can write a script that looks at single field and can extract the first, middle, and last names. Data like "Bill Jenkins" will work fine. BUT data like "Bill and Mary Jenkins" or "Bill @ Kinkos" will cause you problems.

    <them>
    OK... how do I do that

    <me>
    Did I tell you about the training programs we have yet....?


    That is just a simple example of how a poorly thought out database can come back LATER and bite you in the a$$ (long after the receptionist that wrote it has moved on)

    You can buy access, and then contract with a developer to write whatever application solution you need. Then train the receptionist to USE the database, not be a database developer.

    Or just buy a ready-made CRM package from somewhere.

    Believe me... this steak has been grilled already.
     
  14. Poconopete

    Poconopete Very Active Member

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    Is your new website database driven? If not look into oscommerce.com -open source -takes a lot of time to learn and build, or one of it's spin offs like creloaded.com. They have endless capabilities including the newsletter.
     
  15. Checkers

    Checkers Very Active Member

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    Hiya Doug,
    At my last "real" job we used Access for database management. While it was (barely) adequate for our needs, I am lead to beleive that it is out of date by today's standards.
    From what I recall, my former employer was trying to find a way to take the information originally developed in Access and convert it to SQL.
    Perhaps a discussion with your tech guy may be in order. You may already have access to one version or another of SQL through your web host and your tech guy may be able to create an interface "program" to do exactly what you need.
    As others mentioned, there are many other programs or subscription services available that can do this for you too. The most common one I've seen in my inbox is www.constantcontact.com.

    Checkers
     
  16. bob

    bob Major Contributor

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    Access is, or when I was in the business was, a nice small database package. But, and that's a huge but, there's a few of issues. Not specifically with Access but with the notion of databases in general...

    First-off a database is never done, you're always screwing around with it. That's why organizations with useful databases have full-time staffs to care for them.

    Secondly, and far more telling, is the notion that if you want to know the score then you have to keep the score. Everyone sets out with the thought that they can store a few tidbits about whatever and then with a minimal investment in data input and storage make all sorts of insightful inferences from their data. This is nonsense. You'll use at least as much and probably more resources setting it up and maintaining it than you'll ever get out of it.

    If you're keeping track of a bazillion things in excruciating detail then there's no other way. At a certain magnitude a database probably is the least inefficient way to organize your information. Below that critical mass, whatever it may be, it's not the best choice. Far from it.

    For the average person, writing stuff on post-its or doing an Excel-like list usually is the most efficient way to organize sparse data. Especially sparse abstract data. Abstract data being where the data is not the thing itself, as in names and addresses. Actual data is where the data is indeed the thing itself, as in a work-order or a trouble report. Virtually all small applications deal in abstract data, it takes way too much effort and intensity to deal in actual data.
     
  17. bob

    bob Major Contributor

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    Interesting since Access basically is a front-end for an SQL and will readily display the SQL equivalent of its various components where possible.

    On big problem with SQL is whose SQL? There's as many variations as there are providers. There are many SQL's.
     
  18. jiarby

    jiarby Major Contributor

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    For BIG databases on Unix/Linux.... Oracle. (need 75k admin)
    For Windows Weenies that want a M$ solution... MSSQL (need 50k admin)
    For LAMP-Weenies... mySQL (need 2k admin from Bangalore)
    For the rest: PostgreSQL or one of many others. (need some hippie with a long beard)

    The OP just wants some contact management capabilities.

    Look at a ready made Access solution from a 3rd prty vendor..

    Or

    The Business Solutions Kit from Filemaker

    Or

    A "off the rack" solution like ACT/Goldmine

    Or

    An online solution like Constant Contact


    Make Signs... Not Databases.
     
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2007
  19. Bogie

    Bogie Very Active Member

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    Heh... Guys, I go back to dBase II... And I was playing with Dbase IV before it hit the streets...

    The average guy on here has, what, 2-300 customers who they'd want to mail? And if they buy a mailing list, they're not going to have to worry about data entry there.

    The average guy here does NOT need a 120" printer so that they can print a 3x6 banner. Yeah, it'd be nice, but it is also a lot of upkeep and startup...

    You can find tools to basically act like front ends to the big software...

    http://www.download.com/sort/3150-2065_4-0-1-4.html?operatingSystemId=128&rows=10&start=0&ca=&licenseTypeId=49&fileSize=&qt=

    But at the same time, a standalone mailing list program may be best for you.

    Something like this might be interesting...

    http://shareware.pcmag.com/product.php[id]88520[SiteID]pcmag

    Keep in mind that we are NOT dealing with millions of records. Maybe not even thousands. And all we need is an interface for adding new ones, updating, and exporting/printing.
     
  20. glyph-signs

    glyph-signs New Member

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    Access is an excellent choice, especially if you are going to do mass mailing. Once you have set up your database and populate it with addresses, you can export your address list to a CSV file and then create a "shell" letter in Word to do a mail merge with your address.

    If you need help, contact me ... this is my area of expertise.
     
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