Sharepoint 2013 : Developing Applications Using Office Services - What’s New in Access Services

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Access Services has moved forward significantly on its continuous innovation trajectory with this release. Access Services has a redesigned architecture around the new cloud app model so with the Microsoft Access rich client you now create apps for SharePoint. Apps for SharePoint can be deployed to the on-premises SharePoint or Office 365 SharePoint Online corporate catalog for apps and can be published to the SharePoint Store on for worldwide availability.

In SharePoint 2010 you used the Access client to create and publish Web databases to SharePoint. The publishing process generated native SharePoint artifacts: Access tables became SharePoint lists, forms became .aspx pages, data macros became workflows, UI macros became JavaScript, and so forth. This deployment model benefited end users in that they could create their point, data-centric solutions and make them available to their colleagues via SharePoint. Any colleague, located anywhere in the world with access to SharePoint, could use the Web-based solution without needing the Access client. For updates to the UI and modifications to the database structure, the Web database owner used the Access client to make the changes and then simply republished the Web database to SharePoint and the updates were immediately available.

With Access and Access Services 2013 and the advent of the new cloud app model come two significant changes. One change is that SharePoint is no longer the target as the data store. Where in SharePoint 2010 the data for the solution was stored in SharePoint lists, now a SQL database is automatically generated for the solution and the data is stored there. For on-premises, this means there is an IT requirement to have a SQL Server environment available for Access Services to use. A reference link for guidance on Access Services administration is provided in the. However, for Access Apps for SharePoint that target Office 365 SharePoint Online, when the app for SharePoint is installed, SharePoint Online automatically creates a Windows Azure SQL Database instance to store the app’s data and content. The data is available for querying and BI reporting by external sources, too, making it an accessible asset for the enterprise — something not easily done with Access data before. Another change is that the generated UI artifacts that targeted SharePoint in the 2010 release have also been decoupled. For consistency with the new app model, all generated artifacts by the Access client for the solution’s UI now use standard Web technologies, HTML, JavaScript, CSS, and so on, and these UI content artifacts are now stored within the SQL database, too.

Therefore, the Microsoft Access client continues to provide the tooling and Access Services provides the infrastructure for experts within a specific business domain, independent software vendors (ISVs), or software integrators (SIs) to build a data-centric, Web-based, point solution. But now the result is an app for SharePoint with the enterprise scale of SQL server behind it that’s distributable to small and medium businesses and enterprises worldwide through the SharePoint Store. Moreover, the app for SharePoint is deployable both on-premises and in Office 365 — now this is truly taking Microsoft Access from the desktop to the cloud!

To see just how easy building an app for SharePoint with Access and Access Services is, walk through the following example.

TRY IT OUT: Creating an App for SharePoint Using Microsoft Access and Access Services
In this exercise you experience installing a Microsoft Access–created app for SharePoint from the SharePoint Store on and then you build an app for SharePoint using Access and Access Services.

1. Log in to Office 365 Developer Site and navigate to the site collection where you will install an app for SharePoint.

2. Click Site Contents. On the site Contents page click Add an app.

3. On the Your Apps page, in the left navigation bar, click SharePoint Store.

4. On the SharePoint Store page, in the search bar, type business contact and click the search icon. When the Business Contact Manager app appears, click the tile.

5. On the Business Contact Manager page, click ADD IT.

6. On the Confirm that you wish to add the app page, click Continue.

7. On the You just got this app for everyone in your organization page, click Return to site.

8. On the Do you trust Business Contact Manager page, click Trust It. SharePoint adds the app to your site and will refresh the tile when the app is fully added.

9. Click the Business Contact Manager tile to open the app.

10. Click your way around the UI to get a sense for what the app does, but then click the About navigation link and watch the 2:25–minute demo of how to use this app for SharePoint.

11. Click the Back to Site link in the top navigation bar to return to the SharePoint site. You can return to the Business Contact Manager app any time by clicking Site Contents.

12. To build an app for SharePoint using Microsoft Access, open Access 2013.

13. Access opens and displays a number of templates that you can use as a quick start foundation for your app. Notice the difference in the graphics used for the template icons. Any graphic that has the globe on it is a Web App for SharePoint. If you choose the Custom web app template, then you start building your app from scratch. For this exercise, select the Asset tracking template.

14. In the Asset tracking dialog, provide C14AssetTracking for the App Name, skip the Available Locations, and directly enter the full URL to the Office 365 site collection you want to use to build the app.

15. Before you make any changes, click the File tab and click Info. Here you can see the server and database name for the Windows Azure SQL Database that was created for your app. Notice that you can create a client-only database for reporting that will be a read-only connection to the Azure database. You can also manage a variety of other types of connections from the Info page, too, by clicking the Manage button. Return to the Access design page.

16. In the ribbon, click Launch App. Notice how quickly Access Services renders the app. Return to the Access client.

17. In the ribbon, click Navigation Pane; this provides a handy reference to all the Access objects used in your solution.

18. In the ribbon, click Table to get the Add Tables page. You have an array of options for creating a new table. Notice at the bottom of the page these include options such as other Access databases, Excel tables, SharePoint Lists, and more. A significant feature for this release is the Create a new table using our templates search bar at the top. This is backed by a Microsoft-provided Web service that can continuously be updated with new template table structures. The intent is that you don’t need to necessarily do the work of laying out table columns and data types, but you can pull down a table that’s “close” to what you need and then augment it with your own custom columns. Type person in the search bar and click the search icon.

19. Select Vendors from the list. Notice in the Navigation Pane that a new Table was added for Vendors, as well as a Vendors Datasheet and Vendors List.

20. In the Navigation Pane, right-click the Assets Table and select Design View.

21. In the Field Name column, after Owned by, enter Vendor; in the Data Type column enter Lookup.

22. In the Lookup Wizard, select “I want the lookup field to get the values from another table or query.” Select Table: Vendors, select Company from “Which value do you want to display in your lookup?”, leave the remaining default values, and click OK.

23. In the Assets design view, in the Description column, enter Lookup to Vendors table. Close the design view by clicking the “x” on the right side across from the Assets tab. When prompted to save changes, click Yes. Notice on your Assets form that the Vendor lookup field was automatically added.

24. In the ribbon, click Launch App. In the left navigation bar, click Vendors and click the + to add a new vendor. Fill out any data fields you want, but at least enter a Company name because this is the field that you selected to show in the Assets form lookup field. Click the Save icon to save the information and then re-edit it to add an asset to the vendor. (Note that the vendor must be saved before you can associate an asset with it.) At the bottom of the vendor form, click the Add Assets link.

25. In the Assets form you can provide data values, but notice that your Vendor has already been selected. Save the form.

26. You can now explore the UI, and enter Assets using the Assets form or from the Employees form. Return to Access.

27. At this point your solution can only be used by you in the specific site collection where you are building the app. To make this into an app for SharePoint that can be deployed to the corporate app catalog on SharePoint or distributed through the SharePoint Store, click the File tab and click Save As.

28. In the Save As dialog, under File Types, click Save Database As if it is not already selected, and click Save as Package.

29. In the Create New Package from This App dialog, provide a name of C14AssetTracking for the Title and do not include data in the package. When prompted, save the file to a location on your disk.

30. Log in to your Office 365 Developer Portal SharePoint Admin center, click the app’s link and click the App Catalog link.

31. On the App Catalog page, click the Apps for SharePoint link.

32. On the Apps for SharePoint page, click New app and Browse to the file you just saved. Select it, and click Open. Click OK to add the document.

33. In the Apps for SharePoint dialog, leave all the defaults and click Save. You can now navigate to any other site collection within your Office 365 tenancy, click Site Contents, click Apps from your Organization, and install your C14AssetTracking app for SharePoint into that site collection. When you install and run the app it should look something like Figure 1.



How It Works

In the first part of this Try It Out you navigated to the SharePoint Store, selected an app, and SharePoint installed it into the site collection. But the installed app for SharePoint is available across all the sites in your Office 365 tenancy. So if you navigate to any other site collection and click Site Contents, you will be able to add this app in this site too. Regarding how it works, at the point you clicked the Trust It button, SharePoint began installing the app and automatically provisioned a Windows Azure SQL Database for the app. When the install completed and you clicked the Business Contact Manager tile to view the app, Access Services was invoked. It then rendered the HTML-based UI elements, executed any business logic, and managed the connection and calls to the back-end SQL database.
You then created an app for SharePoint using an existing template as a base. To the base solution you searched via a Microsoft Web service for a template table that you could simply add in to your solution. After selecting a table you wired it up to an existing form and Access did all the work to adjust the UI elements accordingly. You then tested the app for SharePoint by launching it. When the app was complete you generated an app package for distribution through any number of channels you might choose.

As you can see from this Try It Out, Access and Access Services provide a very quick and powerful way to build data-centric, Web-based business solutions. These solutions can now be broadly distributed and run at Internet scale.

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