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The Access Wizard Newsletter Tips, Tricks, and Traps for Access Users and Developers
July 2011

Finding a Needle in a Haystack, Part Two - Use the Search Bar

In the April 2011 Wizard, I provided a method for finding a metaphorical needle in the Access haystack. With a bit of tongue-in-cheek, I suggested a super-duper magnet. Clever reader Ken Lindberg came back with the suggestion of setting the haystack on fire and then just picking the needle out of the ashes - an effective way of getting to the goal, especially if you don't like hay.

Like the alternate methods of finding objects in haystacks, the most recent versions of Access also provide different ways of finding objects buried in your application. This month, we'll take a look at one of the most powerful - the navigation pane search bar.

In this Issue
  • Tip of the Month - Right Align Labels in Forms and Reports
  • The World Doesn't Stay Put: Transitions from Earlier Versions
  • The Key to the Kingdom: Getting the Search Bar to Show Up
  • A Major Boon and an Important Trap
  • Trap of the Month - The Case of the Disappearing Objects and the Navigation Pane

  • The World Doesn't Stay Put: Transitions from Earlier Versions

    For users transitioning from Access 2003 or earlier versions to Access 2007 or Access 2010, the replacement of the database window with the Navigation Pane was a significant departure from how people made their way through the database.

    At first, the change is truly daunting. For my money, although there are some improvements, I thought the old interface worked just fine. There is one outstanding new feature, however - the search bar. The search bar allows you to find any object in the database, be it a table, query, form, report, macro, or module; all this in one easy-to-use central location.


    The Key to the Kingdom: Getting the Search Bar to Show Up

    Although the search bar is powerful, it may not always show up when expected. This can be very, very frustrating. You left click on the navigation pane and look for how to get the search bar back, because you know it's hiding in there somewhere. Click after click after click, and it still doesn't show up.

    The trick, though, is rather simple. Below is the navigation pane showing all objects in fully collapsed mode.

    When you right-click on the top part of the menu (all Access objects) you get the following drop down screen:

    Clicking on the search bar icon will cause the search mechanism to appear at the top of the navigation pane. Once you are in the search bar, you can type any part of the object that you are looking for. The search engine will filter your list in the navigation pane to objects containing whatever you have typed in.


    A Major Boon and an Important Trap

    The addition of the search box makes it almost trivially easy to find objects in your database. This feature alone makes up for much of the non-intuitive baggage that comes along with the new navigation pane. Where before you might have to wade through dozens and dozens of objects with similar sounding names, and all the associated problems that might appear there, you now can get to your desired object with relative ease.

    However, there is an important trap here that has the potential to cause you high levels of frustration. The search bar will only search for current objects. To get more details and how to deal with this problem, see this month's Trap.


    Trap of the Month - The Case of the Disappearing Objects and the Navigation Pane

    In this Month's Wizard, I extolled the new search bar. However there's a major trap that's waiting there. This problem has the potential to cause you a significant amount of grief. You will search for a form or table that you know is there, yet it doesn't show up.

    The problem is that the search bar looks for objects only in the categories and groups that are currently displayed in the Navigation Pane. To ensure that you get to the object that you would like, just make sure that all objects are displayed in the search bar. One way to do this is by right clicking on the drop-down triangle in the navigation pane header, making sure that both object type is selected and all Access objects are selected. Then when you search, if the object is in your database, it will show up.


    Tip of the Month - Right Align Labels in Forms and Reports

    When you create a form or report and put a text box or other control containing data on the form or report, by default the labels will be left aligned. This looks nice in most instances. However, from time to time, it's more aesthetically pleasing if the labels are right aligned and show up neatly against their associated controls.

    Although you could work with each label individually and slide it over next to its control, this can get to be very tedious and frustrating. A much easier method is to simply lasso the labels, right-click, and then choose align | right align.

    If you find that you are getting the text boxes as well as the labels, start again. Except this time rather than lasso, position your mouse on either the top or bottom of the set of labels to align, and then drag up or down through each of the labels you want to manipulate. This will select only the labels that your mouse crossed and will omit the associated text boxes.

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