Channel Insider content and product recommendations are editorially independent. We may make money when you click on links to our partners. Learn More.

SAN DIEGO—Acknowledging that upgrading Access databases has proven to be a major stumbling block to Office 2003 upgrades, Microsoft unveiled at TechEd 2004 here a toolkit designed to head off potential incompatibilities.

The Microsoft Access Conversion Toolkit includes a new scanning tool, a reporting front-end and various e-learning documentation that will streamline Office 2003 deployments, according to the company.

Microsoft also is making some changes to Access 2003 itself, which it will include in Office 2003 Service Pack 1 (SP1), company officials said. The toolkit is aimed expressly at customers who need to move from Access 97 to Access XP, Access 2002 or Access 2003, Microsoft executives said.

The new toolkit is scheduled to ship simultaneously with Office 2003 SP1. Office 2003 SP1 was slated to ship in June; Microsoft officials are now saying to expect it in mid-July.

A free trial version of the beta of the tool is available for download here.

Microsoft officials here admitted that customers have had a variety of problems in attempting to move to the most recent versions of Access.

Among them: inability to convert databases with uncompiled code; bogus references to old type libraries that are in old Microsoft Office Access Databases (MDB); and no group policy control for assisting with conversion to or from 2003.

Jon Sigler, a group product manager in the Information Worker Business Unit, told eWEEK that the toolkit had been developed to specifically address the concerns and issues Access 97 users were having about migrating their data to Access XP or Access 2003.

Microsoft is readying a new Office bridging tool. Click here to read more.

Also, over the past 18 months, Microsoft had seen an increasing number of Access customers on 97 looking to go to the 2003 version, Siegler said, particularly as Microsoft support for Office and Access 97 has ended and as many of them were on enterprise agreements with software assurance and thus already held licenses for these newer products.

“But many customers were still fearful about moving from Access 97 to Access XP or Access 2003, as they were concerned about conversion issues,” Siegler said. “There were file format changes between these versions and other issues, and we realized that these concerns were actually becoming a deployment blocker for Office.”

Click here to read a review of Office 2004 for Mac.

Microsoft has responded to customer feedback, and the toolkit will include a scanning tool that looks for Access databases and pulls file-level properties. But customers’ expectations that large interventions would be required and that they’d have problems migrating their data have not happened, he said.

“We did a pilot of the toolkit with some customers and found that they had a lot of fear around conversion issues, whether they were moving to XP or 2003, but less than 2 percent of them required conversion help or experienced issues around this,” Siegler said.

“The toolkit is targeted at those customers who already hold licenses for XP and 2003 and who have a deep dependency on Access and fear that their business will be shut down if they migrate,” Siegler said. “That has proven not to be the case, and the toolkit will also be fully supported by us.”

Check out’s Windows Center at for Microsoft and Windows news, views and analysis.

Be sure to add our developer and Web services news feed to your RSS newsreader or My Yahoo page