An alternative Database Documentor

As you know, I write the monthly Access Answers column for Smart Access from Pinnacle Publishing. (If you're interested, you can download some past Access Answer columns.) Recently (the May issue), one of the items I wrote about was an alternative to the built-in Database Documenter. This was based on a suggestion I got from Jeff Conrad, self-confessed "Access Junkie"

The column used Jeff's idea, but I also proposed some extensions to what he'd suggested. Jeff was so pleased with the results that he bundled it up into an add-in, and sent it to me.

Here are the instructions Jeff wrote to accompany his add-ins.

Installation and Usage Instructions for "Doug Steele Object Documentor" Version 1.0

This add-in will create a nice report of all your database objects for easy reference. The report will list all the objects by category in alphabetical order in a three-column layout. The report template is based on Doug's June, 2004 article in Smart Access by Pinnacle Publishing.

  1. Download either the version for Access 97 or the 2000 version for Access 2000, 2002, and 2003.
  2. Unzip the file DSObjectList.MDA to your Office or Access directory to easily find it when we install the Add-In.
  3. Now open any Access database and go up to "Tools" on the main Access menu bar. From there go down to the option called "Add-Ins". This sub-menu will list any installed Access add-ins on your system, as well as an option called "Add-In Manager". Click on the option called "Add-In Manager" and a new screen will appear.
  4. The box will display a list of available add-ins on the left side. Depending upon where you unzipped the add-in file, you may see the Doug Steele Documentor already listed in this box. If the file is listed, click on the option to highlight it and then press the "Install" button to complete the installation. There should now be a little "x" next to the option meaning it has now been installed. If you do not see the add-in listed in this box simply click the button called "Add New..." where you can browse for the location of the file. Once you find the file and click on it in the browse window, you will be taken back to the Add-In Manager screen. Now you should see our add-in listed in the box with a "x" by it meaning it has been successfully installed. If not, highlight the option and then press the "Install" button to complete the installation. Hit the "Close" button on the Add-In Manager when finished. That's it, now we're ready to use the utility!
  5. To launch the add-in, simply open any database you wish to document and go up to Tools | Add-Ins and click on the new option "Doug Steele Object Documentor". Depending upon the number of objects in your database, the utility should only take a second or two to create the report and display it on the screen. Once on screen you can either print the report or just view the different pages. The utility creates a new report object in your database called "rptObjectDocumentor". If you wish to view the report again, you can simply open the report in the Database Window or re-run the add-in utility. If the report is already created in your database, the add-in will simply open the report instead of creating a new one.


Q: Why did you make this when you can just use the built-in Access Documentor?

A: To get just a very simple list of the objects you really have to be careful about all the options you select with the Access Documentor. This is so much easier to use in my opinion. I really liked Doug's report template, but I got tired of importing the report into every database. I thought there had to be an easier way so I just decided to create an Add-in to do all the work because I'm lazy.

Q: How do I uninstall the Add-In?

A: Now why would you ever want to do this? :-) Bring up the Add-In Manager again by following the steps listed above. Now click on the "Doug Steele Object Documentor" to highlight the option and then click the "Uninstall" button. The option will now disappear from the Add-Ins sub-menu. You can delete the DSObjectList.MDA from Windows Explorer after this if you would like.

Q: : I receive the following error message when I try to install the Add-in. Why is that?

A: You may receive this message if you are using a Windows NT-based operating system and do not have sufficient permissions to install Add-Ins. Have your Network Administrator install the add-in for you or install the add-in under a profile with sufficient privileges.

Q: When I run the Add-In it does not seem to make a report of all my database objects. In fact it just looks like one of the reports I already have created in my database. What gives?

A: The utility will first look for any report in your current database called "rptObjectDocumentor". If such a report exists in your database the utility will simply open it because it assumes you have already run the utility. If by chance you have created a report called "rptObjectDocumentor" in your database, simply rename the report (temporarily) to a different name. Now run the utility to have the Documentor report created. After completion, just rename this new report to whatever you desire for future use or delete it if you do not wish to save the report. Then rename your ‘older' report back to "rptObjectDocumentor" so everything will be back to normal.

Q: I have added some new tables, forms, reports, etc. since the last time I ran the utility. Do I need to re-run the utility to have an *updated* document report?

A: No, that is not necessary unless you have deleted the report from the database. Once the report is created the first time and saved in your database, you can simply open the report directly from the Database Window. It will always have the most current information because it simply queries the system tables each time you open the report.

Q: When I try and run the utility on an MDE file I get a message box that says it cannot proceed. Why is that?

A: The utility needs to be able to create a report completely in code and save it in your database. With an MDE file you cannot create and/or modify new objects so the add-in cannot proceed. You will have to run the utility on the original MDB file if you wish to document that database.

Q: Will there be any updates to the Add-In?

A: Possibly, but no promises. I'm bouncing around some ideas for other additions, but I have to find the time (and knowledge!).

Please direct all comments/questions to the Access newsgroups so everyone can benefit. Doug will handle all complaints and I will take care of all the adoring praise. ;-) I'd like to extend a personal thank-you to Doug Steele for the original report template and posting the Add-In on his web site. I'd also like to thank my family, members of the Academy...

Jeff Conrad
Access Junkie

Thanks, Jeff, for a nifty add-in. Thanks, too, for letting me come up with a way of putting this on my site less than 6 months after I wrote the column!

Note that since writing this add-in, Jeff's got his own website, and he's produced another add-in that extends the capabilities that are in this add-in. You can follow this link to download his CSD Tools (and learn about other documentors while you're at it)!

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Last Updated: 25th June, 2009