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Granting Access to intranets, Internet

In keeping with its newfound love of all things Internet, Microsoft plans to add a bevy of new features to its Access desktop database in an update planned for early next year.

In keeping with its newfound love of all things Internet, Microsoft (MSFT) plans to add a bevy of new features to its Access desktop database in an update planned for early next year.

Access 97, one component of the company's Office 97 productivity application suite, will include new tools for making Access databases accessible via the Web and for simplifying database application development.

New features to the database include support for hyperlinks, so users can store hyperlinks to Web sites or to data stored locally within Access databases. Also new is a feature called "save to HTML," which allows static views of Access databases to be published to intranet or Internet Web servers as HTML pages. Access 97 can also import HTML pages, on top of existing support for other data types, and attach them to Access applications.

Additionally, a new "Publish to the Web" wizard lets users set up live database pages to allow users, through Web browsers, to query, update, and modify information. The feature works in conjunction with Microsoft's Internet Information Server and Personal Web Server.

Microsoft has extended replication capabilities in Access to the Web. Users can replicate entire databases or selected tables, via Windows 95's Briefcase or across the Internet, according to Leslie Feller, Access product manager. Internet Replication transfers files via FTP to a selected server or client machine. Users can also connect to Access databases via the Internet.

Access 97 also includes enhanced application development tools. The database includes an update to Microsoft's Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) macro language which, the company said, is up to 50 percent faster than previous versions. Access 97 also generates forms and reports using a new lightweight form of VBA that does not attach a programming system module to each item, allowing forms and reports to load faster.

Other new features include programmable toolbars so developers can modify how these appear in applications. In addition, developers can strip out the VBA source code from deployed Access applications, making them faster and more secure.

Pricing for Access 97 has not been set, but Feller said pricing will be similar to the current version. Access 97 will ship separately and as part of Office 97, the next major release of Microsoft's desktop application suite.

Office 97 also includes improved Internet access and publishing capabilities. For example, documents will be able to contain hyperlinks to other documents on the intranet or the Internet.

The suite will also include Outlook, an application for managing email, schedules, tasks, contacts, and files from within a single interface. It is designed to help groups of employees linked via an intranet to easily locate calendars, contacts, and tasks stored in a Microsoft Exchange Public Folder. Microsoft Exchange is the company's messaging server, which manages email communication and provides public folders for storing documents accessible by everyone on the network.