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Chapter 12: Using Web Features

(This is section 1 of 4 in this chapter)

A couple of years ago Microsoft made a big push to provide Internet features for all of their products. Access is no exception; it includes several features which provide close ties with the Internet and the World Wide Web, in particular. Like several other Microsoft products, Access now has close ties to the Internet. In this chapter you will learn how to take advantage of the majority of Access's Web-specific features. Here you learn the following:

What is the Web?

There is a very good chance that if you are reading this book, you are already familiar with what the Web is, although you may not understand exactly how it works. While this chapter does not provide a detailed treatise or history of the Web, it does provide some background information you will find helpful as you try to figure out how Access is working with the Web.

Believe it or not, the Web is relatively new. It has only been around for the past five or six years, and only really popular for the past four. The World Wide Web (or Web, for short) is only a portion of the Internet, although many people use the two terms (Web and Internet) interchangeably. The Internet is a world-wide network of computers that enables the common use of helpful tools, including (but not limited to) the following:

Notice that the Web is only a single tool, although it is a very popular tool. In fact, only one other tool (e-mail) is more popular than the Web.

How the Web Works

The Web functions using a type of technology referred to as client/server. This simply means that somewhere there is a computer program that is functioning as a server, and elsewhere there is one functioning as a client. The client talks to the server, and the server provides information requested by the client. This symbiotic relationship means that each program can specialize in a portion of the communication necessary to make the Web work.

The server portion of this equation is supplied, oddly enough, by a program known as a Web server. These programs run on computers that are connected to the Internet around the clock. They are constantly "listening" to their Internet connection to see if there are any clients out there who need information from them. There are literally millions of Web servers available through the Internet.

The client portion of the equation is provided by a program known as a Web browser. You probably have such a program installed on your computer. These go by names such as Internet Explorer (developed by Microsoft) or Netscape Navigator (developed by Netscape Communications). Figure 12-1 shows an example of such a Web browser.

Figure 12-1 Browsers are used to display Web pages.

When you are accessing the Web from your computer, your browser (the client) is communicating with some Web server (the server) to request, retrieve, and display the information you see on your screen. Each "batch" of information returned by the Web server and displayed by your Web browser is referred to as a Web page. Each Web page has a unique address (discussed in the next section) and no set size. Instead, the size is determined by the person that developed the Web page, and can be as large or small as they feel necessary.

Web Addressing

It was mentioned in the previous section that every Web page you can access has a unique address. These addresses are necessary in order for your Web browser to locate and request the Web page from the proper Web server. Remember, there are millions of Web servers accessible through the Internet, and each one may have dozens or thousands of Web pages which it can provide to your Web browser.

If you take a look at the top of your Web browser, chances are good that you can see the address you are currently viewing. Looking back at the top of Figure 12-1, you can see the address, as shown in Figure 12-2.

Figure 12-2 Every Web page has an address.

While this address may look confusing if you are just starting to become familiar with the Web, it is almost second nature to long-time users. It doesn't take long to understand addresses, once you know how they are put together. Every address is composed of the same basic parts, as follows:

Note: You may have heard people refer to a URL before. This is an acronym for Uniform Resource Locator, and is simply a fancy name for a Web address.

Web addresses are the key to using the Web. Without them, your Web browser doesn't know what you want to do. With them, it can retrieve information from all over the world. Access, as you will shortly see, can also recognize and use Web addresses.

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