DMS Facets

Relating several topics, including IT, Microsoft Access, sports administration, and micro-ISV business.

Doing the Access Stretch

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Pleasing Some of the People Some of the Time

birdfish I have heard it said that the best thing about Microsoft Access is that it’s part of Microsoft Office, and the worst thing about Access is that it’s part of Office.

For one thing, if it wasn’t part of Office, it’s doubtful it would have survived like it has.  On the other hand, it is clearly in a completely different league compared with the other Office products.  Most people find it a pretty steep learning curve, and it takes a lot of hard work to achieve proficiency.

In the sense that it is used to “develop” database applications, it is clearly a developer program.

Here’s another thing that is a best/worst thing about Access.  It provides the ability for beginners to make effective simple applications, as well as providing a very powerful set of tools for professional developers to build complex applications.  It simplifies the ability to connect to a wide range of data sources.  It provides for a wide range of different application types – desktop / multi-user / hybrid desktop-web / client-server.

There is not a product on the planet that does now, nor ever has, come even close to catering to the needs of such a diverse range of IT workers and such a wide range of application scenarios. And guess what, I reckon this trend is going to become even more so, as Access continues to move forward and keep pace with the wider IT industry.

Is this an advantage?  Yes.  Is it a disadvantage?  Yes.

This is a topic that is close to my heart.  Unlike many professional freelance programmers, I do not have a deep IT background. I came to databases from an entirely different background.  If it wasn’t for the fact that Access provides something for the newbie, I would never have got into it.  It was still a steep learning curve, but it was manageable.

I have been full-time Access developer for about 12 years, part-time for a few more years before that.  Know what I’m saying?  I love my work, and I owe my career to being able to do something with Access without knowing what I was doing.

This type of story is not uncommon in the Access world in general.

Now, that’s the trouble… The fact that anyone can have a go, and think they’re doing cool stuff, but in reality making a mess, because Access is in Office like Word and Excel and some people therefore assume it is as easy to use – that’s the root of the stuff you sometimes hear about Access being regarded as “just a toy”.

In many situations, it is a constant battle for Access developers to maintain their dignity and get taken seriously.  And for Access to be seen as an appropriate/best tool for jobs, which it really is but the reputation is tarnished. That’s the reason I built this webpage, to try and demonstrate that Access does some serious stuff.

But of course, for a computer programme to continue at the cutting edge, it has to change.

With Access 2007, Microsoft made a huge investment. I thank the Access team at Microsoft, for their willingness to take the hard and unpopular decisions in order to keep Access current with the IT industry, create a product that is unique in its scope of functionality, and provide Access with a future.

I see Access 2007 as the first tentative steps in a major movement
towards Access 2010 and beyond, and sometimes tentative steps only make sense in retrospect.

It looks to me that Access is just reaching adolesence.  As such, I anticipate that in 10 years, my work will still be centred around Access development.

What a stroke of luck that some of us hitched our wagon to the Access horse, and not one of those other technologies that are slowly fading into oblivion.

We are expecting the Technical Preview (Beta) of Office 2010 sometime soon, and my bet is on an increase in the number of people who will recognise that Microsoft is getting it right.

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So, what do you think ?