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The Auto FE Updater Utility - Details

This utility will automatically update the front end MDE and associated files from the server to the client workstation or directory on the server. The utility will, if required, create the directory on the workstation, copy files to workstation, create a shortcut on the desktop, common desktop or quick launch bar and update registry keys. It will then start the Access MDE. If none of this is required the next time you run this utility then all those steps are bypassed and it just starts the Access MDB.

To rephrase this from the users perspective. To run this for the first time on a workstation the user navigates from the workstation to the shortcut on the server and double-clicks the shortcut.  Or a shortcut is emailed to the user.  StartMDB.exe is executed from the server.  If required  StartMDB.exe will create the directory on the work station.  StartMDB.exe then, optionally, creates a permanent shortcut on that workstation's desktop, Quick Launch and/or All Programs.  StartMDB.exe now copies the files that are in the Front End directory on the server to the folder on the workstation.   From then on the user just clicks on the shortcut on the desktop whereupon StartMDB.exe will then see if there is a new version of the FE sitting on the server.

From a slightly updated posting by Fred Boer:

In general terms, the front end is stored on the server in a shared folder. The AutoFE files are stored in another folder on the server. The first time the user clicks on a shortcut on the server.  Or a shortcut is emailed to the user. When StartMDB runs, it needs the configuration file to give it the necessary paths to files, and other settings. Then the StartMDB checks to see if the file(s) in the front end folder is/are newer than the file(s) on the workstation. If so, it replaces the file on the workstation with the newer front end and launches the front end mdb.

If desired you can create a shortcut on the users workstation in the desktop or the Start menu.  After that the user only needs to click on the shortcut on the workstation.

So, whenever a user clicks on the shortcut to launch the application, the update (if necessary) occurs. It is a "pulling" from the workstation, rather than a "pushing" from the server. So the updates don't happen all at once, they occur as each individual workstation's shortcut is opened.

I'm lazy.  Or Kevin S. stated in an email "selectively industrious".   With this utility I don't need to visit any of the workstations to install updates.

This utility uses the creation date in the server directory to see if the file(s) need to be copied from the server. It stores the creation date in an INI file on the workstation. This way the date/time of the file(s) on the workstation can changed, as is normal when Access executes an Access database FE file but the file(s) won't be copied from the server.   This utility also works fine with UNC naming, i.e. \\Server\share\directory\file.

(This utility is designed to work with Access front ends but could work with any application requiring some files be copied to the work station when changed.)

Writing easy to use, understandable documentation is not one of my strengths.  Much more on the weakness side actually.  Please email  me with any questions you have or suggested text to make things clearer.

Access Workgroup Security File

While you could copy the Access workgroup security file using this utility this isn't recommended.  Fellow Access MVP Joan Wild had this to say "If a user works on different machines, their password won't travel with them. Also if you add new groups or change user memberships in groups, then you have to update the local copy of the mdw, and when you do that, you overwrite their password. "

Note that while the Access workgroup security file has a different extension, MDW, you do not want to name the file the same as your FE or BE files. Access will then use the same LDB locking file for both the MDB/MDE/MDW causing significant problems.

Environment Variables

You can use environment variables in the Target Folder, Server, command line, shortcut and other settings.  These must have %s around them.  These are the same variables you can see when you run the SET command in the command prompt window.  Examples would be %APPDATA%, %USERPROFILE%,  %HOMEDRIVE% or %HOMEPATH%.   Other variables you can use are %user% and  %workstn%.  

My Documents can be used but it must not have the % and it must be the first part of the setting.

Using environment variables can be a security breach as anyone can execute the command prompt and change an environment variable.  Then, from the command prompt, they can run an executable, such as StartMDB.exe or msaccess.exe from with the falsified settings. While I've lumped %appdata%, %user% and %workstn% with the environment variables I use API calls to get these values from the OS so these are quite secure.

Operating System Requirements

This utility has been tested on Windows 2000, Windows XP, Vista, Windows 2003 Server, Windows 2008 Server and Windows 7.   While it was tested a while back in Windows 98 and Windows NT 4.0 it hasn't been tested recently in those environments so it is quite likley some newer functionality won't work in the older operating system.

If using Windows NT 4.0 or Windows 95/98/ME you must have IE 4.0 or later installed.  In addition there is a bug in Windows NT 4.0 which requires you to use the Copy Shortcut From Server entry in the Seldom used page if you are creating shortcuts.

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