Yea, basically what lonestar said in regard to the inside handle. There is a guide you have to route the cable through in order for it to work properly on the new handle. You will see the guide when you get to work on it.
As for taking the panel off I did remove the part covering the side air bag to get a better idea of how the thing works. I broke off the foam like breakaway tabs along the top of the inside panel doing that. It wasn't that big a deal. I simply used some epoxy to keep it in place. It hasn't come lose in 2 years and you can't tell.
1998 528i - sold 222,000 miles
1998 540i - sold 159,000 miles
2007 328i Coupe - 30,000 current