Wednesday, October 12, 2011

No Respect for Access

Microsoft Access is one of the least respected but most powerful development platforms available.
Case in point I saw a post on G+ today that pointed to free online e-books for developers. I clicked on the link, excited that I might see some other methods/techniques that I could use in developing my Access databases. Not a single link that I clicked on had anything for Access developers and VBA (Visual Basic for Applications – the programming language used by Access and the other Microsoft Office applications Excel, Word and Outlook) listed.

It amazes me that as prolific as Microsoft Office is today, that more people aren’t developing for Office or aren’t having applications developed for them for their Office platform. Or is it that I just don’t see things published as much for the Office Platform as for others for some other reason?

Are you a developer? If you develop for Microsoft Office suite of applications, why did you choose to do so? If you choose some other platform what do you develop in and why didn’t you choose Office and VBA?
I love creating Microsoft Access database applications and am truly amazed at the things I have been able to do with it. Here are some of abilities of Access I have included in various applications that could very well make you a fan:
Create a data entry application that could perform data validation then output the data into fixed length records which are then imported into a main frame system.

Create databases that scan your Outlook email inbox for specific emails, import the content into the database, parse the information and store it to track statistics or even respond in a reply email to provide specific requested information.
Database applications that can open web browsers and navigate to specific locations and complete specific fields. This works well for my day job when it pulls an address from a record and then navigates to a map showing the location using Google Maps, or even showing a 10-day weather forecast, all with the click of a single button. Or how about opening Google Maps and displaying calculating a route using two addresses using a browser control in an Access form.
Create applications that can store data, perform mail merges with Microsoft Word documents, save the document as a PDF file and then attach it to an email, all with the click of one button.

Open an existing Excel spreadsheet and import the data or open an new or existing Excel file and export the data. I have one in which the Excel file had graphs that are updated as the data is written to it from the Access database data tables.
Some people use Microsoft Excel to store their data, but Excel files, being flat file databases, have all sorts of problems associated with them that can be solved by using an Access database. One weakness of Access is that it does not have all of those fancy calculation functions that Excel has, but that is easily remedied by creating an Excel file that as all of your most used functions set up in it, then having your Access application open the excel file, populate the fields to be calculated, then importing the calculated result back into your Access application. And it doesn’t take very long to do this when you automate it using VBA!

These examples are just scratching the surface of what Microsoft Access can do. If you develop in another platform, can your platform do these things? What kind of cool things can your platform do? Are you considering switching to developing for Office?
If you use Microsoft Office and would like to use such automation features, let’s get you set up with some resources so you can learn how to do this awesome stuff! Just be warned, it can take a bit of time to learn this stuff, just as with any programming platform.

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