Wizards, Wizards, Everywhere... The PAT

by Ross Mack - GUI Computing
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The idea behind this product is to provide the Access developer with a whole pile of truly intelligent Wizards to make the construction of cool Access apps easier. In pursuit of this cause Professional Access Toolkit was designed, at least partly, by a bevy of Access officionados including Ken Getz, Michael Gilbert, and John Viescas. People who really know what they are doing. This is what is in the PAT, and briefly what I thought;

Smart Application Wizard. Forms the central workbench of PAT and gets the other wizards up and running. Also does some work towards creating About boxes and such.

Smart Template Wizard. A tool for establishing field templates that can be applied as required. This includes setting a default input control, masks, vales sizes, and shoe size (perhaps not). Very useful for easily standardising your fields across a large database. Even as a VB developer hitting an Access back end this is worth having.

Smart Login Wizard. Helps you define the users and user groups for your database. A useful feature is the ability to define individual entry points and default printers. I found it a bit buggy, but this is a beta.

Smart Style Wizard. Probably not the wizard anyone would use most. This one lets you create and maintain an array of pre-defined styles for forms and reports.

Smart Table Wizard. I got the impression that this wizard existed to easily integrate templates from the Template Wizard into table design. Probably more of a clever apprentice than a real Wizard.

Smart Query Wizard. To the degree that the Access QBE grid simplifies straight SQL, this simplifies the QBE grid. It definitely makes it easy to write queries. I found, however, that I spent about the same time selecting things from dropdown combo boxes and moving from one screen to another, as I would have spent typing a few lines of SQL. Screen Snap of Smart Query Wizard

On the other hand, this wizard seems to push the memory a little and when running on the minimum requirement (8MB) it became just a little slow to be truly appreciated.

Smart Form Wizard. Simply put this is an improvement on the existing Access 2.0 form wizard. A drastic improvement that makes use of the information put together by the Smart Query, Table and Template Wizards to produce a form that is likely to actually be close to the result you are after. A number of defined form types are provided to give a broad range of forms that can be produced.

Smart Report Wizard. Does pretty much the same job as the Smart Form Wizard, except for reports. Make sense ? Smart Help Wizard. This really impressed me. The PAT can be set to automatically bug you for documentation information at the creation of each new database object. It is this information that the Smart Help Wizard can build into a true windows help file in one step. The resultant help file is pretty well structured, has nonscrolling regions, jumps and so on. A quite clever use of the inbuilt capabilities of Access.

Smart Server Wizard. Any serious Access developer will love this. This rather cool tool separates the code portion of your database from the data portion of your database and then manages the attachments to the data.

Screen Snap of PAT

The documentation is a Help File and a single manual that is well structured. It would benefit from a little cleaning up before final release, however.

The PAT also comes with a library of common functions and function templates that the Access developer can just slot in as required, including itís own exposed functions. One thing I found fascinating about this product was having a look at how it does what it does. As the whole product is written as Access Add-ins you can get a bit of a peek under the hood. Thinking about how this product is put together combined with the code samples should inspire any Access developer. Even more so when the few bugs are ironed out.

Interesting system requirements are 8Meg of RAM (2 more than for just Access) and the Access 2.0 Service Pack (including JET 2.5) which can be downloaded from MS Connect (or ftp.microsoft.com). I get the impression that 12 or 16 Meg of RAM would suit it better, 8 is just a bit tight. If only one could download RAM from MS Connect...


Written by: Ross Mack
August 1995

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