Total Access Components
By: Matt Leigh
Total Access Components is a collection of custom controls for MS
Access. Version 8 is for Access 95/97. These controls provide easier to
use interfaces for existing capabilities and additional capabilities
which are not available with Access.
Following is a list of the 27 controls that are included.
Document, Form, and Report Controls:
- About Box, Bitmap Effects (fades, transitions, plus), Borders
(fancier than standard options), Clock (variety of displays), Common
Dialogs (easy to use interface to the standard common dialog
capabilities, i.e. Fonts, Colors, Printers, File Open), Digital
Display (LED-like, similar to that of a calculator), Enhanced Button
(combine text AND Bitmaps), Gauge (like a gas gauge or pressure
meter, includes multiple varieties), Icon Menu (similar to Outlook),
Marquee (scrolling text), Notes (an icon on your form indicates
additional info is available, clicking pops up the notes), Progress
Meter, Slider, Spin Buttons, Splitter (user can change relative size
of two parts of a form), Text Effects, Tab Strip.
- AVI, CD Player, Wave and MIDI.
- Clipboard, INI File, Registry, Resize, System Info (free memory,
disk space, plus), Timer.
- The components installed easily (4 disks) and included a user
manual which appears to be well written, organized, and helpful.
I was particularly impressed with the included
demo. This demo is a single .MDB file which has each of the controls
implemented. Some controls had several implementations to demonstrate
From a creative perspective, the demo was good because it
demonstrated how flashy you can make your application look. It also
provided a variety of examples of how the controls could be used and
integrated into an application.
The demo MDB opens with a REAL splash screen that is slowly revealed
using a transition method. (Bitmap transitions are when an image is
slowly revealed, or fades, or slowly changes into a second image.
Transitions are common in PowerPoint and various other slide shows.)
From a utilitarian perspective the demo was good because it had
WORKING examples of each control. How many times have you tried to
implement a new control, and it took you hours to figure out how to just
get it to do ANYTHING? The database was unsecured and completely open
for modification and copying (the WORKING) examples.
To get a little more intimate with the controls I attempted to
implement the AVI control. This one caught my eye because I thought the
idea was so cool to be able to show a movie in your Access application.
I started by referencing the user manual. Which almost got me to a
working control. I had to check out the demo to identify what I was
missing (I wasn't 'opening' the AVI file before attempting to 'play'
it). All told I had a simple working AVI Viewer in less that 15 minutes.
In general I thought the product was well developed and of good
quality. I saw value in the product in several situations.
Some of these controls have the potential to increase the
'use-ability' and effectiveness of your application, Many of the
controls allow you to do things that Access just can't do. If this
product can save you a couple of hours of development, then it is
probably already worth it. A single development license is about $150
and the files are freely distributable. Of course being 'worth it' does
depend on the actual value you or your company places on your time. (My
rate is not quite to 4 (dollar) figures an hour yet, but I'm working on
The 'flashiness' and capabilities of some of these controls is
impressive. If you want to make your work distinct from others (unless
they too have these controls), or you want to be well remembered by
clients and get noticed, or you want to impress other people in general,
or you just want to have fun, then these controls are for you.
In particular I saw possible work generating capability or
advertising via use of the About Box, Bitmap Effects, Text Effects, and
Marquee. These controls can be very eye catching and can provide contact
information through a splash screen and by having an about box.
Keep in mind though, that if you use the controls when you distribute
your application you will need to include a setup program to install and
register the controls (OCX files) on the target machine. Creating a
setup program is relatively simple using the Setup Wizard.
A single developer license was listed at approximately $199. The OCX
files are distributable without license (provided each developer has a
Matt Leigh is also known as Dr. DB, Your friendly neighborhood
database developer and Independent Consultant extraordinaire.