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Access Disdain Expand / Collapse
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Posted Thursday, July 24, 2014 8:23 PM
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Rumors of the demise of Mark "Access" Twain have been rampant since shortly after the release of Access 2.0 in 1994. Such rumors have never been more true than they are today. Nor has the ardent hope for their truth ever been greater.
Post #1596067
Posted Thursday, July 24, 2014 9:26 PM


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George Hepworth (7/24/2014)
Rumors of the demise of Mark "Access" Twain have been rampant since shortly after the release of Access 2.0 in 1994. Such rumors have never been more true than they are today. Nor has the ardent hope for their truth ever been greater.


The creation of Microsoft Office 365 seems to indicate they want to make Office a web app as opposed to having the availability of client server.




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Jim P.

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Post #1596073
Posted Friday, July 25, 2014 6:01 AM
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Jim P. (7/24/2014)

The creation of Microsoft Office 365 seems to indicate they want to make Office a web app as opposed to having the availability of client server.


No it just means they want to compete with Google Docs and make Office more accessible in the Cloud. Doesn't mean they are doing away with the standard desktop. Why is it hard to understand that functionality can be added without taking away from previous functionality?

Scott<>
Post #1596167
Posted Friday, July 25, 2014 6:37 AM
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Dalkeith (7/18/2014)

I also believe it [Access] is an excellent tool for teaching database design principles and UI design principles.


patriciahartman (7/21/2014)
Also mentioned by several people is the use of "Access" as a database teaching tool. This is widely practiced by universities in the UK although it is much less popular in the US. Why make a beginner learn how to work with a command line interface or a complicated GUI when what you are trying to teach is the principles of normalization?


I think this is a mistake and, if true, it's probably to the detriment of some IT education in the UK. There are plenty of good reasons to use Access for application development. It's a great RAD tool for developers but it's not a healthy environment for students to learn about the principles of databases or database design or data management practice in general.

The Access UI obfuscates many of the things that students on database courses ought to be learning. For example the truly awful "diagram" view in the Access UI uses an inferior pictorial notation (don't ever call it an Entity Relationship Diagram please!) that is completely non aligned with any standards used in industry, academia, textbooks or indeed any other software product except Access itself. The concept of "relationships" is also unique to Access and hides and confuses important and distinct features of data management (i.e. referential integrity and the use of joins in queries). The SQL dialect used in Access is more limited and less standard than any other mainstream SQL product and simply lacks too many features to be a credible platform for learning proper SQL. The QBE has long standing bug-features that make it hard or impossible to write perfectly valid queries (even queries that are valid in Access's own dialect of SQL). The query designer features in general are a seriously frustrating obstacle to any student of SQL. Concepts and terminology used in Access or its documentation are also out of step with the rest of the data management industry.

The idea that Access could be useful for teaching "principles of normalization" is pretty strange. Alternate keys are hidden away behind several mouse-clicks and only shown as part of index definitions. Not only is that information rather cumbersomely presented in the UI, it can only be displayed for one table at a time. How are students supposed to concentrate on understanding normalization if they have to jump through so many hoops to view candidate keys?

I could go on and on but the Access forums have enough evidence of problems encountered by people trying to learn but coming up against these and similar frustrations or labouring under misunderstandings due to the inadequate way things are presented in Access.

I think students new to databases would be well advised to stay away from Access until they know what they are doing. It ought to be considered an advanced tool for developers and not any kind of platform for beginners to learn about databases.


David
Post #1596179
Posted Friday, July 25, 2014 6:48 AM
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For example the truly awful "diagram" view in the Access UI uses an inferior pictorial notation (don't ever call it an Entity Relationship Diagram please!) that is completely non aligned with any standards used in industry, academia, textbooks or indeed any other software product except Access itself. The concept of "relationships" is also unique to Access and hides and confuses important and distinct features of data management (i.e. referential integrity and the use of joins in queries).


I really do not understand how you can say this. It's possible to set relationships and have them show one to many, to enforce RI constraints, cascade updates and deletes. It's hardly far from any standards.

The SQL dialect used in Access is more limited and less standard than any other mainstream SQL product and simply lacks too many features to be a credible platform for learning proper SQL.


Completely agree here.

The idea that Access could be useful for teaching "principles of normalization" is pretty strange.
I successfully taught normalization using Access for years.

I could go on and on but the Access forums have enough evidence of problems encountered by people trying to learn but coming up against these and similar frustrations or labouring under misunderstandings due to the inadequate way things are presented in Access. I think students new to databases would be well advised to stay away from Access until they know what they are doing. It ought to be considered an advanced tool for developers and not any kind of platform for beginners to learn about databases.


There is something to be said for having a guide. While someone can learn Excel or PowerPoint largely on their own, my impression when I was an applications instructor was that most people needed someone to help. I was no different. But it wasn't any different than SQL Server. Learning the database aspects of Access gave me a grounding to move to SQL Server.



Post #1596186
Posted Friday, July 25, 2014 8:02 AM


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Gary Varga (7/21/2014)
Access 1.0 was truly unstable but 1.1 resolved that. It is good for what it is intended and, like many things, is maligned for the results of inappropriate use.

Personally, I'd much rather upscale a solution based on Access than one based in Excel.


Access 1.0, yes I remember it well. So shaky that adding an index often slowed down selects. Rumour had it the main reason MS bought Fox was for it's excellent indexing tech which was rolled into Access


I'm a DBA.
I'm not paid to solve problems. I'm paid to prevent them.
Post #1596223
Posted Friday, July 25, 2014 8:48 AM
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andrew gothard (7/25/2014)
[quote]
Access 1.0, yes I remember it well. So shaky that adding an index often slowed down selects. Rumour had it the main reason MS bought Fox was for it's excellent indexing tech which was rolled into Access


Not rumour! Microsoft did, indeed, buy FoxPro for the Rushmore indexing technology.
Post #1596254
Posted Friday, July 25, 2014 9:56 AM
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Hi sqlvogel,

I don't agree that Access can't be used to learn "principles of normalization". I'll agree that Access shouldn't be used to learn about SQL Server or perhaps some specific textbook notation of database design in academia. But out here in the real world, Access is great for learning database design principles like normalization, naming standards, referential integrity, etc.

For ease of use by a learner, Access can't be beat. It comes with most versions of Office. No server needed, just fire it up and start designing.

I totally disagree that Access doesn't provide an ERD. Of course it does. There are many methods of notation out there, and Access provides a perfectly fine version. At a glance one can see the tables, fields, relationships (PK and FK), relationship type (1:1 or 1:M), referential integrity, etc.

Access SQL doesn't provide everything in the SQL language, but it certainly provides enough to learn the principles of querying, including inner and outer joins, subqueries, aggregates, action queries, cartesian products, unions, unequal joins, etc.

I think you're quibbling over cosmetic differences and a small fraction of SQL syntax that Access doesn't support.

Cheers,
Armen
Post #1596301
Posted Friday, July 25, 2014 10:07 AM


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ArmenStein wrote:

I think you're quibbling over cosmetic differences and a small fraction of SQL syntax that Access doesn't support.

I agree.

Access provides plenty of other things worth quibbling about.
Post #1596309
Posted Friday, July 25, 2014 10:11 AM
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GoofyGuy (7/25/2014)


I agree.

Access provides plenty of other things worth quibbling about.


Uh, thank you?

:)

Armen
Post #1596312
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