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NORMA and Access 2003 (2010)

Last post 08-11-2011 10:01 by Ken Evans. 6 replies.
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  • 08-09-2011 11:55

    NORMA and Access 2003 (2010)

    Hi there

    I am new to NORMA.  Way back in the 90's I dabbled a bit with Asymetrix InfoModeller and am amazed by the developments since.  At that time I remember reading one of Terry Hailpans earlier books and trying to use it with InfoModeller.  Only this last sunday I discovered that InfoModeller became Visio Modeller and a day later discovered NORMA.  Marvelous thing wikipedia!!!

    I was taught ER analysis on my MSc at Keele University in the UK and as a result never fully cracked database - although yes in the end I came through the MSc OK..  Just recently I had to build a Workload management program in Excel  (I am a project manager these days at the Open University in the UK).  This was a return to programming after about 8 years.and I discovered things about Excel VBA programming that I probably never wanted to know!!!!

     So now I am wondering how to latch up my workload management program to a database in the background and this of course brought me back to thinking about Object Role modelling rather than a Entity Relationship solution.

     I have a simple practical question.  Last night I set up NORMA in VS2010 and all seems to be well there.  I am working through the tutorials but I could do with some simple newbie steps to get the DDL output from NORMA working with Access 2003 so I can look at the tables I might be able to generate in Access 2003.  I am guessing that I might need to install SQL server from my Office 2003 CD.

     Any suggestions.  I like the NORMA notation very much but I was always pretty dumb about relationsional database stuff.

    All best

    Simon Rodwell

    Project Manager  The Open University UK


  • 08-09-2011 16:27 In reply to

    Re: NORMA and Access 2003 (2010)

    Hi  Simon,

    Ahhhh the good old days of InfoModeler. I remember them well. Smile
    I especially liked the consulting assignments that required me to teach ORM/Infomodeler in French!

    Anyway, to your questions:
    As you have probably discovered, Tutorial 1 shows the steps to generate the DDL.

    However, you may have problems with creating an Access DB because the DDL that NORMA generates is "proper SQL" whereas to the best of my knowledge, Access cannot handle some SQL commands. After struggling with Access 2007, I gave up and I now use SQL Server 2008 which works a treat. All you have to do is to paste the NORMA DDL into the "New Query" window in SQL Server Management Studio and bingo  - you get a new and well structured DB.

    Note that there are still a few problems with the NORAMA DDL that have yet to be fixed.
    For example, sometimes it generates two "id" columns in a single table. I just manually edit the DDL before I use it with SQL Server.

    Whilst I have never done it myself, I understand that you can use an Access front end with an SQL Server 2008 back end.
    However, since you have VS 2010, you might be better off just creating a user interface directly with VS 2010.
    The best book I know of that covers how to do this is  " Beginning ASP.NET 4: in C# and VB" by Imar Spaanjaars.

    Regarding Excel, you might like to know that a large company in the USA recently saved hundreds of thousands of dollars by converting all their Excel spreadsheet applications to new database driven applications. I think they started off with VEA and are now using NORMA.

    If you have not already got it, I recommend Terry's  2008 book. "Information Modeling and Relational Databases - Second Edition" (published in 2008).
    (We call it the "BBB" (Big Brown Book) - see the sidebar on the home page.  This 900+ page book goes into extensive detail about all aspects of ORM.

    Hope this helps.


  • 08-10-2011 8:55 In reply to

    Re: NORMA and Access 2003 (2010)

    Thanks Ken this is most helpful.  I think for a while I will just be learning the notation and trying out charts.  Saw the ASP text you mentioned and it looks very useful.  Does NORMA work OK with SQL Express on a Windows XP OS.?



  • 08-10-2011 11:58 In reply to

    Re: NORMA and Access 2003 (2010)

    Hi Simon,

    Unfortunately, NORMA does not work with any of the Express versions of Visual Studio.
    There is a 90 day trial version, and I think that Microsoft offer a 3 year "trial" version for "qualified" people.

    All versions of Visual Studio work with XP SP3.
    Look here:

    Simon Rodwell:
    I think for a while I will just be learning the notation and trying out charts

    Hmm, this brings to mind the analogy of trying to learn what it is like to fly a plane by studying pictures of the instruments and controls.

    As I see it, the only practical way to understand what ORM2 is all about is to use NORMA.
    (I suspect that it might take you ten times longer to try to understand ORM2 by using the notation and charts.)   
    For example, the "charts" won't give you any feedback at all whereas the NORMA Verbaliser gives you instantfeedback about what the ORM2 symbols that you have entered actually mean.

    Hope this helps

  • 08-11-2011 7:13 In reply to

    Re: NORMA and Access 2003 (2010)

    Thanks Ken.  No I am fine on the Visual Studio front as I bought an education professional version a while back for £100  (seemed quite a bargain).  And yes have already been drawing sample diagrams inside VS2010 with NORMA so all that is fine.

     No my question was leading on from you saying that you output your tables to SQL Server 2008.   And I misused the word 'charts' in my email.  I guess you were thinking I might be doing diagram only using stencils or whatever in MS Visio.   No I have NORMA up and running in VS2010 so that is all good just puzzling out the table output side of things from the DDL

    I guess I have 3 questions on this

    1)  Does Visual Studio 2010 install some kind of compact version of SQL server - I see references to a compact SQL server 3.5 on my installed programs in control panel?  In which case does that mean the whole operation output of tables etc is self contained in VS2010 and no additional SQL software is needed.

    2)  If not and I have to install some version of SQL server 2008 then would one of the free express versions do or would i get no tables emerging in this?

    I downloaded various trial version flavours of SQL Server 2008 but these have to be 32 bit for XP and to be honest seem fairly nightmarish to either install or de-install but I accept that this is partly my own lack of familiarity with this software.

    Thanks again


  • 08-11-2011 9:12 In reply to

    Re: NORMA and Access 2003 (2010)

    Although I may have partly answered my own question with this link on MSDN   So am I right in thinking that I don't need any addtional software beyond VS2010 professional in which to generate and view my tables from NORMA?

  • 08-11-2011 10:01 In reply to

    Re: NORMA and Access 2003 (2010)

    Hi Simon,

    Yes, I was wondering if you were using the Visio Stencils which is what prompted my response.

    Regarding SQL Server.
    I have not used SQL Server Compact 3.5 so I can't comment on it.
    The critical requirement (in my view) is to have the full power of SQL Server Management Studio at your disposal.
    If SQL Server Compact 3.5 has this then it's worth a try.

    But if you have problems then I suggest that you look at the low cost "developer" edition of SQL Server 2008 R2. (£42.47 from Amazon)
    I'm still using SQL Server 2008 because my hosting service has not yet installed the "R2" version but I guess that you won't have that problem.


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