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What is the future of Access?

As I’m writing this I’m seated next to Ben on the Microsoft campus during our yearly pilgrimage to Redmond. (I call it getting re-charged at the mother ship).

What is the future? We are hearing about it this week.

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One of the advantages of being an Access MVP is the ability to meet and share with the Microsoft Access team once a year. It really is a pleasure to come out here and provide them with feedback on what they are planning. Unfortunately, I can’t share anything I hear with you, not even with another Access MVP who did not come out here. Bummer.

The future of Access development?

Many MVP groups meet the Sunday night before the summit at a local eatery to share and catch up. It allows us  to come together in a relaxed environment and talk about anything and everything. The restaurant we eat at is also host to other groups: SQL Server, .Net, etc. One thing I’ve noticed is that our group has very few people under 40 and no one under 30. The other groups? Mostly younger. The future of Access development is therefore, bleak if we can’t encourage our youth to aspire to MVP status.

The future is new blood

For the past year, I’ve been promoting the concept of starting your own practice, a session that has been well received throughout the US. Next year, my focus will shift to getting more users to learn Access and taking advantage of everything it has to offer.

New Initiative Coming Soon!

We are in the final planning stages for a new site that will promote Access use throughout the world. I’m looking forward to sharing the details with you soon!

About Juan Soto

Juan Soto is a Senior Access Developer at IT Impact Inc. and a Microsoft Access MVP. He specializes in Access with SQL Server databases. His passion for Access has led him to helping a wide range of businesses in helping them establish a secure, stable and efficient environment with SQL Server. He’s a frequent speaker at Access user groups nationwide and recently spoke at the Orange County SQL Saturday # 73. If you wish to have Juan speak at your next group meeting you can contact him here.

23 Responses to "What is the future of Access?"

  • George Moore
    September 9, 2016 - 6:01 am Reply

    Just now revisiting this conversation. I’ve made a pretty good living over the past 13 years developing applications in MS Access, but probably like everyone else I’ve run into limitations, either from Access or my own.

    But I don’t want to be limited by/to Access, and I’d like to take on bigger projects and bill higher rates. So, the question was “What is the future of Access”, and I think it’s valid, but the larger question is “What is the future of RAD DB applications?” I’m not sure that Access is the only answer.

    Recently, I’ve come across Alpha Software, a company that’s been around since the 80s. I have NO affiliation nor financial interest in Alpha, but in the spirit of collegial sharing of information and professionalism, I encourage all my brothers and sisters on this site to at least take a look (alphasoftware.com). It looks like Access on steroids to me. See what you think.

    I’ll continue to use Access of course, but I don’t see any problem with adding another tool to the box. They aren’t mutually exclusive.

    • Francesco
      September 21, 2016 - 12:33 am Reply

      HI George,
      I don’t want start a discussion about “What is better than Access?”, not in the Juan Soto blog (sorry Juan), but I see immediately a little-big problem in Alpha Software: the price! It’start with 1500$/year. It’s crazy compared to Access!
      If I want to say bye-bye Access, I prefere continue with Oracle Apex.
      – Oracle DB Express it’s free
      – Apex it’s free
      – It’s 100% Web
      – Free development space from apex.oracle.com
      – If you want a cloud space to install your application you can start for less than 200$/year.
      – Easy to learn
      – Almost evering possible with SQL.

      I prefere Access + SQL Server, but in my opinion, today, Apex is the most flexible Web RAD in the market.

  • Fredrick Omeniho
    August 30, 2016 - 3:42 pm Reply

    It’s a shame that this discuss is going on about a development tool that should have been the best and first database tool that comes to mind.

    The macro and wizard users has made access to be ignored while no one sees the power of the vba behind the engine, merging access and mssql raises the bar with increased security, performance and streamlined support.

    It was an unimaginable powerful tool. Access was a good man.
    In my opinion, ms has already made her choice. I wish access come back, but it’s all looking like a dream.

    MS, if you let this happen you have poured the group of access developer that depended on you in the sea and my advice for them is to reduce dependencies by moving with many tool sets or go the open source way.

    MS, after putting up this much effort, I understand you acceptance hasn’t been easy.

    MS you can also add a mobility touch to access.

  • JavierDavila
    January 21, 2015 - 7:50 am Reply

    I am looking to further my programming experience. I have written applications in Access VB, C#, OpenLaszlo with Java. Web development and a variety of different IT projects.
    I have a lot of experience in relational databases, scripting languages. I have been a systems administrator on UNIX and Informix DB Server.

    I am now looking which direction to pursue as there are many choices and I cannot spread myself real thin and just know a little about everything. Any of the different disciplines in IT can take a lot of discipline. I do not want to paint myself in a lonely corner.

    What would be a good approach to do research with my skills? Do you have any suggestions?

  • Rolando Riccio
    October 18, 2014 - 7:09 am Reply

    For as much as I like access, I realize each day more than is dying out in the Industry, if find less and less companies asking for access developers, and more and more companies asking for .net platform with c#, I decided to take a course if I intend to survive in this industry. Don’t fool yourselves, Access is not scalable, and any serious project developer should know the tremendous limitations it has.

    • Juan Soto
      October 20, 2014 - 8:27 am Reply

      As one of the largest practices of Microsoft Access in the world, I disagree with your assertion.

  • Ken
    November 26, 2013 - 3:56 am Reply

    Juan, thanks for promoting the use of Access/SQL. I have used Access for over 10 years to solve business problems. Now retired I volunteered to develop of a volunteer activities database for a non-profit using Access with Office365 Azure SQL. The end result to my many users is so fragmented with updates done in Access 2013 apps and an Access Reports desktop application with linked tables. What was MS thinking when it released this version? Access 2013 is like eating a half baked cake. Very disappointed in this new version of Access–especially the lack of app display customization and reporting features. From my view, it sure looks like MS may wind down further development of this product with their other decisions focused on phones and tablets. Just my opinion.

    • Juan Soto
      December 10, 2013 - 8:46 pm Reply

      Ken,

      Let’s hope Microsoft is listening!

  • Rx_
    November 21, 2013 - 12:19 am Reply

    Enjoy your journey to the Access mountain top.

    One suggestion to bring in younger users. Those who see MS Access used with Citrix know of the new release. Citrix has a agent that works with all smart-phones.
    Imagine creating a smart-phone app with Access linked to a SQL Server. It might be the fastest way to deploy data quickly to a Microsoft user base.

    With just a few wizards, many younger Microsoft users could develop and deploy simple apps.

    • Juan Soto
      December 10, 2013 - 8:48 pm Reply

      Rx_

      Stay tuned for more along these lines from Ben on the official Microsoft Access blog!

  • Mark
    November 20, 2013 - 9:33 pm Reply

    The paradigm by which Access and similar desktop database systems construct rich applications from relational information to me seems difficult to improve on. It just makes sense. In this respect every other type of development environment (and the web in particular) is playing catch up. Learning Access will never be a waste of time it teaches you an understanding of data in a very deep way. Similarly as long as the systems created add value from day one they are by definition an improvement on what has gone before. In a lot of environments all the software is already in place and thus effectively comes for free. Why would IT not want to use something that can be developed quickly and for free? Even if MS does quietly drop the ball with Access simply by moving on to other technologies they can at best only equal its ease by which it creates applications.

    I don’t think MS have a clear view themselves of the future of their products (not just access) additionally many of their technologies seem to overlap in scope and it is unclear what happens when overlaps occur ( is one given precedence over another ? )

    People will not forget how easy it is to develop in these environments and in some shape of form the lessons learn’t will remain.

    I remember hearing a talk from the Lightswitch develop team that said (“we wanted to make development as easy at it was in FoxPro”)

    • Juan Soto
      December 10, 2013 - 9:09 pm Reply

      @Mark,

      I believe the overlap is needed, it allows the market to define which is the best methodology, along the lines of dog feeding.

      I know MS vision for the product going forward, and if you look at the prior versions you can figure out its the web side of the business. I hope they can get it up and running sooner rather than later.

      Juan

  • Mark
    November 20, 2013 - 9:00 pm Reply

    I just implemented a booking system for an outdoor centre. IT were going to do something but after 2 years waiting the frustrated manager came up to me during a leaving do and said..

    “I know your good with databases is there anything you could do to help”

    3 months later they had a working system which took another 9 months to polish.

    Truth was it was adding value from month 3 and its deployment clarified the spec required.

    I work at the same company so the opportunity cost of the system was £0 other than my time which was already paid for.

    • Juan Soto
      December 10, 2013 - 8:43 pm Reply

      Great to hear Mark!

      Keep up the good work!

  • George Moore (in Dallas)
    November 20, 2013 - 3:47 am Reply

    Hi, Juan. I attended and really enjoyed your SQL Saturday presentation about practice development – it was EXCELLENT. Thank you for your generosity in both time and knowledge.

    Regarding the future of Access… it seems to me that more and more people are starting to “get” Access. I think a crowd of MS MVPs should be older, more experienced “gray beards”. And I don’t really think that either represents nor bodes ill for Access craftspeople. Using myself as a bad example (again), I spent years in accounting in the never-ending drama of “Month End” and “Quarter End” and “Year End”… and I saw a pattern, one that I thought could be automated, maybe as much as 90%.

    Access was a natural for my personality (such as it is) and my desire to streamline both work and reporting. I believe more people will be moving – perhaps at a glacial pace – towards Access as a way to automate boring, repitious work. But I think, perhaps, they have to carry the water buckets before they can appreciate plumbing.

    I further think that a terrific source for product improvement would be the various forums where we “experts” go for help and to plagarize code. I’ve noticed that the problems I encounter have frequently been asked and solved numerous times over years and years. So, why doesn’t MS research and catalog the questions and try to build-in solutions directly into Access? Wouldn’t you agree that asking experts (i.e., MVPs) for suggestions may generate solutions that lesser mortals may never encounter? Want to “grow the base”? Hell, build in answers to the FAQs. Look at some of the really helpful Add-Ins: “Find & Replace” has saved me time and embarrassment; the FMS Emailer is astounding in power and versatility; “Shrinker/Stretcher” for screen sizing makes a VERY nice installation; a routine to identify orphan tables/queries/forms/macros would be a huge help in cleaning up an application before handing it over to the client – well, you get the gist from down here at MY skill level… and I use the term “skill” advisedly.

    Thanks again for all you do for Access practitioners everywhere – I certainly appreciate you and I’m sure many others do, too.

    And don’t be a stranger in Dallas.

    George

    • Juan Soto
      November 20, 2013 - 8:27 am Reply

      Thanks George! Glad you enjoyed the session! Look forward to seeing you guys in Dallas soon!

  • Juan Soto
    November 20, 2013 - 3:17 am Reply

    Great comments Patrick!

    Thanks!
    Juan

    • Francesco
      November 20, 2013 - 3:45 am Reply

      For me there is a bad job of marketing by Microsoft.
      I just finished a contract as an analyst in the largest association of credit union in North America, only “insults” to Access. The project was Vb.Net + Orable DB. Development time? no comment. Costs? No comment. But forbidden to talk about Access with IT department. Then you discover that there is a “secret” data warehouse project only with Access without asking to IT departement. Why? They costs too much and it would take too long!
      We know that Access is a good RAD, but outside they do not know and do not want it known. Access + SQL Server are good, but who knows this?
      And the Web? Use Sharepoint tell you, but only with macros you cannot do everything. Why Microsoft develop Ligthswitch? It was better to spend this money to improve Access? An example of a product similar to Access, I think good, free, and Web? Oracle APEX.
      Do you see what I mean with my horrible English?

      • Juan Soto
        November 20, 2013 - 8:03 am Reply

        Thanks Francesco for your comments, yes, I do believe Microsoft needs to do a better job, here’s hoping they are hearing us!

        Juan

  • Patrick Honorez
    November 20, 2013 - 3:10 am Reply

    Good remarks. But don’t forget that most Access “developers” are just business people, not IT people. It’s only after the mess becomes hard to manage that a pro is called to do some cleanup.

    I see some trends, working as a freelance in a country full of banks:
    – Access apps developed by business being phased out and replaced by apps built and supported by IT
    – in other institutions, I see Access being used as a rapid prototyping tool, with the resulting apps to be later replaced by other more professional technologies
    – in small businesses or departments or larger companies, Access is still used for “workgroup databases” or as a quick answer to problems.

  • Isaac
    November 20, 2013 - 1:09 am Reply

    Sounds like a challenge. Access development has been, and probably will be, under a mixed cloud of success (by those who are diligent and disciplined, approaching it as a programming platform) as well as tarnished, by too much use under the umbrella of general MS Office usage….Thereby giving it a bad name.

    Access can be a tool just as strong as vb.net. Looking forward to your new group Juan.

  • Francesco
    November 20, 2013 - 12:47 am Reply

    Why this post?

    • Juan Soto
      November 20, 2013 - 3:15 am Reply

      I’m hoping it will motivate and inspire discussion.

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