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Using Office applications with SharePoint 2013 : Integrating Access with SharePoint - Moving Access data into SharePoint lists

4/20/2014 3:21:48 AM
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Starting with Windows SharePoint Services 3.0, users were allowed to move away from storing their Access database files on file shares and storing the Access databases in SharePoint libraries, providing ways for users to collaborate with Access databases. You can also move data held in Access tables to SharePoint lists, replacing the lists in the Access database as linked tables that will allow updates in SharePoint lists to be reflected in the Access table and vice versa. The data in the linked tables is stored locally on the user’s computers and enables users to work offline with data. By centralizing your organization’s Access databases and content within SharePoint, you help manage corporate data and improve the ease of access over traditional unmanaged file shares.

However, there are some performance issues with this approach, and it did not allow users to model some of the more complex scenarios built using Access; therefore, new with the Enterprise edition of SharePoint Server 2010 was the ability to create a SharePoint site based on an Access database. This has been extended in SharePoint 2013 with a new, completely rewritten, Access Services service application.

Using Access Services

SharePoint Server 2013 now contains two Access Services service applications:

  • Access Services 2010 . This mimics the Access service application on the Enterprise edition of SharePoint Server 2010, by which the tables in your Access database are stored as SharePoint lists on the site that was built from an Access web database site definition.

  • Access Services . When Access 2013 databases are published to SharePoint 2013, an Access web app site is created and your data is now stored in a full-fledged SQL Server database, which is automatically generated in an instance of SQL Server 2012 that was selected by a SharePoint administrator.

Note

To use either of these service applications, Enterprise Client Access Licenses (CALs) are required.

Using the Access service application, you can quickly build no-code, web-based form applications, known as web apps. These web apps are SharePoint apps that can be deployed to SharePoint App Stores. With SharePoint Designer 2013 being deemphasized as a no-code forms tool, Access web apps is a welcome addition.

A SharePoint 2013 Access web app will not have the same limitations that SharePoint 2010 Access web databases had in terms of numbers of fields and sizes of tables. This SQL-integrated approach improves the performance, manageability, and scalability of the web app. It also makes it possible for SQL Server developers to extend the solution by directly connecting to the tables in the database, including building reports with Desktop Access Reports, Excel, and Power View. However, as the data is not stored in SharePoint, some functionality is lost when compared to creating a forms-based application by using InfoPath. For example, you cannot create or initiate a SharePoint workflow on data in Access form applications, nor can you have unique permissions at the list or row level; however, they have far more capabilities for rich forms and reports than were provided in Access Services 2010.


The databases created have a name, such as, db_<guid>, where <guid> is an automatically generated number. The tables, queries, macros, and forms are all stored in this database. Whenever a user visits the app, enters data, or modifies the design of the app by using the browser or Access 2013, she will be interacting with the database; however, the UI will give no indication of this. This does have implications for your database administrator, as well as the operational-level agreements your IT department might have with the business with regard to the maintenance of these Access 2013 web app databases.

The servers that run SQL Server 2012 where the Access web apps databases are to be created do not have to be the same SQL Server instance that SharePoint uses. In fact, it is recommended that the databases for the Access web apps use a different SQL Server instance than the one used for the SharePoint databases. It must be a SQL Server 2012 server configured in mixed security mode, though, because you cannot use previous version of SQL Server to host Access Services databases. Office 365 uses SQL Azure.

Moving Access data into SharePoint lists

If you do not want to use Access Services, you can link to data held within SharePoint sites. The Access client application allows users to import data, export data, and link to data in SharePoint lists and libraries. The Access file can be uploaded into a SharePoint library, thereby making it easy for users with the access client to share access databases. As the data is held in SharePoint, you can use many of the SharePoint features, such as the alert feature, to inform users when an update to the database content has occurred. You can also run workflows against the data and content managed within SharePoint can be restored like other files in SharePoint using the Recycle Bin, so SharePoint provides a backup benefit to Access users.

A user can move existing content from an Access database into SharePoint via the Move Data SharePoint wizard within Access. This feature exports all the current tables of the database into SharePoint lists. The lists will have all the standard features of SharePoint lists, including the ability to add, delete, and modify content. These links are stored within the Access database along with the other standard Access items such as reports, forms, and queries.

Note

The Export Tables To SharePoint wizard is a powerful and easy-to-use tool, but when moving an existing database into SharePoint, you need to consider the database’s size in addition to the performance of your overall environment. An Access Services web-based solution may be more applicable.

To use the Export Tables To SharePoint wizard in Access, perform the following steps:

  1. On the Database Tools tab, shown here, click SharePoint in the Move Data group.

    A screenshot of the Database Tools tab.
  2. In the Export Tables To SharePoint wizard dialog box, specify the SharePoint site where the data should be moved. While the wizard is running, you can cancel the operation at any time by clicking Cancel.

  3. Once the wizard has completed, select Show Details to display the details of the move.

    The move process takes a backup of your Access database, creates SharePoint lists for each table in your database, and then replaces the tables with linked tables. By default, the name of the table is used for the name of the new SharePoint lists if the list name already exists on the SharePoint site, a number will be appended to the name of the list.

Note

If you receive a warning message during this process, you should review the log table to confirm that all the data was properly moved and to determine if any actions are necessary on your part to allow for a successful data move.

Should you only want to export or import a single table to SharePoint, in the All Tables window, right-click the table that you want to export and then, from the context menu, select Export and then click SharePoint List, as shown in Figure 1, to display the Export – SharePoint Site dialog box. You can also find the SharePoint List option on the More split button on the External Data tab in the Export group.

A screenshot of the All Table navigation pane and the Export and SharePoint List options selected.

Figure 1. Use the SharePoint List option to export or import a single table to SharePoint.

In the Export – SharePoint Site dialog box, enter the site where you want to create a new list, provide a name for the new list, and then click OK. Any related tables will also be moved to SharePoint.

By default, the browser will open and display the list just created. You can save the export steps for later reuse, as shown in Figure 2.

A screenshot of the Save Export Steps dialog box.

Figure 2. Once you have exported data to a SharePoint site, you can save the export steps, rename it, and create a recurring task in Outlook to act as a reminder when it must be done. The task will include a shortcut to repeat this export action.

Note

Users exporting Access tables to SharePoint will need to have the permissions to create lists in order to use the export to SharePoint lists commands.

If the data already resides in a SharePoint list and you want to use it within an Access database, you can either copy the data into a new Access table or create a linked table that points to the SharePoint list. You can open the Get External Data – SharePoint Site dialog box by right-clicking a table in the All Tables pane or by clicking SharePoint List on the More menu on the External Data tab in the Import & Link group, as shown in Figure 3.

A screenshot of the External Data tab, displaying the More menu, with SharePoint List selected.

Figure 3. Import data or link to data held in a SharePoint list by selecting SharePoint List from the More menu on the External Data tab.

To save an Access database file to a SharePoint library, navigate to the Save As tab on the Backstage view and, in the right pane, under Advanced, select SharePoint.

Note

From the browser, you can create a new Access database from a SharePoint list. The list can become either a linked table in the new Access database or the data from the list can be copied to a new table in the database.

 
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