Product Review - Total Access
Microsoft Office Solutions, Faithe Wempen
FMS Brings Spell Checking to Access Databases
It's entrepreneurship at its best: A company listens to users'
complaints about a weakness in a popular program, and then the
company provides a solution. That's exactly what FMS, Inc. has done
for Microsoft Access database developers with Total Access Speller.
Access developers long have bemoaned the fact that the spell checker
in Access is inadequate. It checks only the data in tables. If you make
typos in any other area, such as in validation text, a dialog-box title,
or a form or report label, you're out of luck. This is unfortunate for
developers because they typically spend very little time entering data
into tables anyway. A developer spends more time building the structure
of the database application, working in all the areas where there is no
spelling safety net.
Total Access Speller is an add-in for Access that runs a complete
spelling check of virtually every nook and cranny of an Access database.
The product focuses on all the areas where a developer is likely to type
or edit text, and it offers correction suggestions in an interface style
similar to Microsoft's spell checker. FMS makes and sells three separate
versions of the product: one each for Access 97, Access 2000, and Access
Think you don't have any typos in your databases? You might be
surprised. For example, you might think the Northwind sample database
that comes with Microsoft Access would be error-free, but, by using
Total Access Speller, I was able to identify and correct at least three
typos in it.
Spelling it Out
Total Access Speller is an add-in. Running the Setup program installs
the add-in, so it's already there on the Tools | Add Ins menu when you
start Access. To use it, open the database you want to check (but not
any particular object) and select the add-in from the menu to start the
Total Access Speller Wizard.
In its first step, the wizard builds a list of checkable objects in
your database. The wizard can check the following objects:
- Access/Jet tables and linked tables
- Access/Jet table fields and linked table fields
- Forms and form controls
- Reports and report controls
- Built-in command bars
- User command bars
Then, the wizard presents the list of objects, and you can place a
checkmark beside each object type you want to check, as shown in
FIGURE 1. Notice that there is an Edit Property List button. This
opens a dialog box in which you can filter out certain properties
you don't want to check.
Next, the wizard builds a list of property values to check. This
can take a few minutes if you have chosen a lot of object types and
if your database is large and complex. Then, it presents a
comprehensive list of properties and values, organized by object
type. To start checking, click the Spell Check button.
During the actual spell check, a dialog box, complete with spelling
suggestions, appears for each word that's not in the dictionary. If the
dialog box seems familiar, that's because it's the regular Microsoft
Office spell-checker window. You work with the one in Total Access
Speller the same as you would with the one in Office, by choosing
Ignore, Ignore All, Change, and so on as appropriate.
With any utility that looks at the names of properties, macros,
fields, and the like, getting many false hits on a spelling check is
inevitable. Most developers name things with multiple words run together
as one word. I had to click Ignore All hundreds of times during the 10
minutes the tool worked through my database. Still, it was time well
spent because Total Access Speller found several true spelling errors.
Corrections are not applied until you go through a Confirm Changes
screen. At that point, the program makes the changes and generates a
Changes Report. This report is a godsend for developers who work for
companies that insist on documentation for every change, no matter how
minor. Make sure you print the report before closing its window,
however, because it is not saved to the database's Reports list.
Total Access Speller can identify spelling errors in all objects, but
it can't make changes to some types automatically. For example, the
Changes Report shown in FIGURE 2 lists several changes that must be made
My only real complaint about this product is the setup. It just
wouldn't work on my main PC (a Windows XP machine loaded with a
complement of hardware and software). The setup would appear to be
working normally, and then, at the last minute, it would bomb out with a
message about not having administrator permission (even though I was
running it as an administrator). The product documentation and an e-mail
to tech support produced the same advice: disable all running programs,
especially anti-virus programs, before installing. No good. Not having a
whole day to waste on it, I ended up installing the product on a Windows
98 virtual PC under VMWare, where it ran flawlessly.
Overall, the setup routine could have been a little more polished.
For example, when entering the serial number, I had to tab into each of
the boxes for the different number strings manually. In most other
products' setup routines the cursor moves automatically to the next box,
so you can type in the long serial-number string more easily.
This product performs a useful service for developers, and the $199
price tag is justifiable when you consider the devastating credibility
hit that a database application and its developers take when end users
notice typos in it. You can download a demo version or purchase online
Faithe Wempen has a master of arts degree and is an A+
certified computer technician and a Microsoft Office User Specialist
Master Instructor. She owns and operates a computer training and support
business in central Indiana and is the author of more than 50 books on
computer hardware and software. Faithe serves on the board of directors
for the Center for Applied Spirituality in Indianapolis and on the
Editorial Advisory Board. She also is an industry advisor for the
Training Inc. PC Technician curriculum in Indianapolis.
Just the Facts
Total Access Speller is an add-in that provides spell checking for
the nooks and crannies of a database where developers type and edit