Software tools evolve as frequently as other software. Current emphasis in software tool evolution is on providing capabilities that let you build solutions for the World Wide Web. If you follow any of the e-commerce initial public offerings in the stock market, you have probably noted the meteoric rises in their stock prices. The interest in e-commerce extends from the public's interest in initial offerings of a company to the individual programmer's interest in developing those Web applications. The hottest program topic right now is Web programming. There are Cinderella stories cropping up every day.
Until about 1993, Windows programming was the coolest thing around. A Windows program is a program that runs under Windows, has a graphical user interface (GUI) based on the Windows paradigm, and can be a single-user or multiuser application.
Just recently the momentum has shifted to Web programming. Web programming emphasizes distributed thin-client programs, where the interface is the HTML displayed in the browser. In a Windows program, an application is a compiled or interpreted collection of graphical window interfaces. A Web application contains hyperlinks to Web pages. A Web page is a text document that primarily contains HTML. The database and any other code most likely runs somewhere else on the Web server. Web applications are called thin-client applications because the Web page is a thin veneer that is displayed in a browser. Often, most of the code resides or is run on the server. Web applications are powerful and interesting for a variety of reasons. One of the most commonly mentioned reasons is that developers only have to update the server with new pages to give every end user immediate access to the updated application. Steve Balmer, president of Microsoft, predicts that, in the near future, all applications will emulate thin-client Web applications.
Microsoft Access 2000 supports thin-client Web development via data access pages. Data access pages are Web pages that you can use to add, edit, and view data on the Internet or an intranet, or that you can send by email. Data access pages are developed in a similar way to Access Forms, so you can leverage some of the skills that you already have. The underlying code is HTML that can be generated by wizards and edited in Access 2000. In this hour, you will learn:
The difference between the Internet and an intranet
How to create data access pages using wizards
How to use themes to enhance the appearance of your data access pages
How to customize data access pages with Access 2000
The Internet is a network of computers. Computers participate in the Internet by being connected to an online Internet service provider (ISP) and having an Internet Protocol (IP) address, a number comprised of four sets of numbers connected by periods. For example, my company's IP address is 220.127.116.11. An intranet is a private version of an Internet. Essentially, an intranet is a network of addressable computers that can be accessed by a limited group of users.
Hypertext is text that contains embedded codes that are used as instructions to a hypertext reader. Web browsers, such as Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator, are hypertext readers.
A medium for users on an intranet and the Internet is the Web browser. The main language that makes Web data available is the Hypertext Markup Language (HTML). HTML is a generic hypertext language that contains embedded text codes that act as instructions to a hypertext reader. Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator both read and interpret hypertext. Microsoft's Word and Outlook programs are also capable of interpreting hypertext.
Hypertext is more useful than plain text because you can embed commands that will make the text capable of displaying rich fonts, graphics, sound, video, data, and many other kinds of information.
Installing and Running Personal Web Server
You can set up a basic intranet by installing the Personal Web Server (PWS). The Personal Web Server will enable you to share information with other users if you are connected to a LAN of the Internet. Although the Personal Web Server does not contain as many features as the Internet Information Server (IIS), it is capable of running an Internet and intranet site, and it makes a good test environment.
Software Conceptions used Personal Web Server for its Web site in 1995, and I recently used it to establish an intranet for a team of developers supporting two NASD Broker Dealers. The company was a medium-sized insurance company in Michigan. Having our own intranet site made it easier to share information related to the development projects being worked on and information that supported our users.
The intranet was successful enough that the end users began requesting that it be made available within 60 days of its installation.
To install Microsoft Personal Web Server in Windows 98 follow these steps:
Insert your Windows 98 CD into the CD-ROM drive.
Click Start, Run.
In the Open field, enter drive:\add-ons\pws\setup.exe, where drive is the drive letter of your CD-ROM.
Follow the instructions in the Personal Web Server Setup Wizard.
After you have Personal Web Server installed, you can start the service through the Personal Web Manager. To start the Personal Web Manager, click Start, Programs, Microsoft Personal Web Server, Personal Web Manager (shown in Figure 1). To start Personal Web Server (from the Web Manager), click Properties, Start Service.
Figure 1 The Personal Web Manager enables you to manage the Personal Web Server, which you can use to run an Internet or intranet Web site.
By saving the data access pages to the root directory of your personal Web site, you can test the pages and make them available to users of your site. As I already mentioned, the Personal Web Server also makes a good testing environment.
Establishing a Web Site
Personal Web Server is a good choice for an intranet or a small business, or an excellent test platform for developers. To build a Web site, you need to define a home page and add hyperlinks to any other pages containing data you want to make available to your users, including data access pages.
If you have serious security considerations or plan to participate in e-commerce on a large scale, you will need a commercial-quality platform, such as Windows NT or Internet Information Server.