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Access Disdain Expand / Collapse
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Posted Wednesday, July 16, 2014 8:07 PM
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Comments posted to this topic are about the item Access Disdain

Andy
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Post #1593357
Posted Wednesday, July 16, 2014 9:00 PM


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Andy, I agree with your opinion thoroughly. I also 'grew up' with access... though I did mine in 95/97. So perhaps it's just familiarity.

Access is an excellent tool when used correctly. It's CHEAP. Let's start there. It installs (or did, I may need a refresher) for around $250/seat. Considering once you're over 5 or more users in access you're reaching it's reasonable locking control limits, that's just fine. It comes with office, another plus. It uses the similar menus, toolbars, etc that our users are used to.

Next, it's got a built in form and reports structure, and the reports are WYSIWYG. Users can goof around a bit and get exactly what they want, instead of having to rely on developers to make it "Just So". It also encourages the idea of dev and production in our user base, as they've become 'devs', of a form.

Finally, there is plenty of juice in Access as long as you're not overwhelming it with concurrency or data volume. There's a concept that Access is 'training wheels' for design. Well, YEAH. It is. It's meant to be end user friendly and thus has a lot of tools for those end users to be able to get their hands dirty. Get past those wizards, however, and there's plenty of firepower under the hood of the application. Self contained, easily distributed, security easily controlled via file access by AD, and user friendly.

It's not the application though, that usually gets to folks. It's that some numbskull in some department somewhere starts up a secondary system to 'work around that difficult corporate app' so they can move quickly, stores half the data off in some now 'mission critical' application, and it's now our emergency to bail their asses out of alligators. Get a good, knowledgeable, and integrated with IT MS Access person on a staff to work with those small departments for their one off needs, and I believe you'd find much of the disdain to start to fall away.

That person can then know when a department is avoiding existing systems, and thus get it up the queue to the systems developers, or actually build them their one off tool in half, if not less, of the time a 'full blown' application can take. Particularly if they just need to catalog their sports card collection when the rest of the company is concerned with making bats and helmets.



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Post #1593361
Posted Thursday, July 17, 2014 8:37 AM
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My first interactions with Access were all negative. My first DBA job I fell into on accident. It was such a pain we had users with linked tables to our SQL Server databases causing all kind of locking and even preventing jobs from running. My first real job was to create a job that killed all open connections from our generic account that we had given the password to everyone. Oh so secure... We were totally using Access for something it wasn't intended for. Next I had to get all the AD user groups created and change every ODBC connection to use a trusted connection so we could figure out who was even connecting. I think that is why I have such a passion for squashing its use.
Post #1593633
Posted Thursday, July 17, 2014 8:54 AM
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Power Pivot has replaced nearly everything I used to use Access for. Size doesn't matter, and you can use Excel like a 'real' database. Power Query does much of the clean up I used to do in Access, or SQL Server for that matter.
Post #1593654
Posted Thursday, July 17, 2014 8:57 AM
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I'm glad to read something so positive about MS Access. Without it, I might not be were I am today. I learned database design, application design, UI design using it to develop applications. I even created class objects in it, something rarely seen in an Access application, although admittedly I learned those in VB first.

I've long moved on, but it was a great start, and too many people have disdain for a product that in my view (having used all three major suites at a time MS didn't dominate) is easily the best in its class. I occasionally use it for small pro bono work, such as boy scout popcorn sales and to help military mail rooms in Europe manage thier package receipt and delivery.



Post #1593656
Posted Thursday, July 17, 2014 9:03 AM


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... The pain of Access comes when the database gets too big, too slow, or the app just gets too unwieldy. Then we as DBA’s and developers get called in to “fix” the problem ...

The pain goes well beyond these technical difficulties, because Access databases and their accompanying 'apps' are often written by people outside the IT department - meaning the business becomes increasingly reliant upon databases and applications which are not properly maintained, backed-up, or designed.

Access does have its place; I've found it to be useful for database schema and application prototyping. But like any tool, there is a right and a wrong job for Access.
Post #1593665
Posted Thursday, July 17, 2014 9:10 AM
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I like it when users create something sensible that works decently in Access and then they come to our team to say, "We need to build an application like this one, but it needs _____". It's like a full requirement documents in a single file. It's beautiful in that way. Just don't ask me to do the improvements in Access itself, then the disdain comes out.
Post #1593672
Posted Thursday, July 17, 2014 9:35 AM
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Ian Massi (7/17/2014)
I like it when users create something sensible that works decently in Access and then they come to our team to say, "We need to build an application like this one, but it needs _____". It's like a full requirement documents in a single file. It's beautiful in that way. Just don't ask me to do the improvements in Access itself, then the disdain comes out.


This is very much how I view Access these days. It allows users to do more than Excel could and often they can solve their own problems. Sure, some of the solutions may be duct tape and bailing wire. At the small scale most of the projects exist, it is enough to be better than the manual method they replace.

When the problem *does* exceed their grasp (or Access), the partially implemented solution may cause some internal head shaking. Still, it is far more productive to take what they *did* achieve, along with the list of things they still need and get to work in Visual Studio + SQL Server.

I find that clients that have used Access are *far* more appreciative and understanding than those who come from nothing, because the pain points they reach allow them some understanding of the complexity of software.
Post #1593684
Posted Thursday, July 17, 2014 10:22 AM
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I too agree with you completely. Access should be given way more respect than it gets.
Post #1593701
Posted Thursday, July 17, 2014 10:35 AM


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Andy touched on one of the biggest problems with Access, the frequent need to compact/repair. Someone else also mentioned that it's limited in how many concurrent users it can handle. As a front end to a real database (I've worked with that setup at a number of companies), it's easy to use and generate simple forms and reports. But many people don't understand the inner workings of it, and don't use things like pass through queries, so that the database engine does the work it's supposed to do and only sends Access what it needs. Having "grown up" in a similar environment (my first job out of college in 94 was in FoxPro 2.0/2.5 for DOS), Access always seemed to me like the other product that never quite measured up. FoxPro's fate was sealed though when Microsoft bought them out. I don't hate Access, I just know it gets misused a lot.
Post #1593709
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