Microsoft Access

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3.9 out of 5 stars

Microsoft Access is the database software that provides templates to help you get started and newly added web databases that make it easier to track, report, and share data with others.

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Microsoft Access review by <span>Dan Moorehead, P.</span>
Dan Moorehead, P.
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Modernize&Automate Microsoft Access|Convert Excel to Database|Web/Mobile (RemoteApp) 🆚 PowerApps/BI

What do you like best?

Microsoft Access is the industry leading desktop database creation tool for quick creation of relational SQL databases. It is an excellent tool for those not familiar with SQL - though add-ins, frameworks, templates & new Database Builder tools can help further simplify that, so truly don't need to learn SQL or VBA.

As a developer having used Microsoft Access, Excel, SQL and other data platforms and database building tools daily, when implementing tools and databases for clients - with 15 years of experience in developing data and automation solutions (with C#, Access, Excel, SQL, VBA, VB,NET and wide range of data platforms) - I can say with confidence that MS Access is by far the easiest to use for rapid database creation and most empowering for non-technical users to client.

I still continue to be impressed to this day by how innovative it is in enabling database creation by many who otherwise wouldn't be able to do so, and how it truly enables rapid database creation (hence why even SQL Server developers / DBAs use for prototyping).

MS Access is great for Excel users looking to scale-up from maintaining and merging dozens of copies of workbooks each with dozens of worksheet tabs. Beyond that, even SQL pros use it for easily prototyping, as can easily upscale to SQL Server, Azure SQL or other hosted databases using various tools available.

One of the key benefits of MS Access is that you can build, edit and maintain web/cloud/mobile-enabled multi-user databases entirely yourself, without requiring cost or hassle or involving IT or contracting consultants every time you want to make even the most minor change, as is the case for most subject matter experts (non-developers) for most other database solutions.

** Microsoft Access for Web / Mobile (via RemoteApp RDP) Alternative **

With the deprecation of Access Web Apps (AWA), Access Web Databases and Access Services for SharePoint, Microsoft Access desktop databases are the most clear cut substitute, even offering more capabilities (VBA, Design View, etc.) compared to AWAs.

Multi-user Access Databases are easiest to build and create, and are arguably even easier and more intuitive to work with, and far less limited compared to Common Data Services, as well as easiest to scale up to SQL Server or Azure SQL Database later if needed.

With RemoteApp – a specialized form of Remote Desktop (RDP) / Terminal Services – you can stream a full-featured Access desktop window straight to mobile device, full-screen, without dealing with desktop, app launching, taskbar, etc.. This scales very well, allowing even hundreds of simultaneous users all from hosting on a single Windows Server or (using an extension for Access to help configure) even from any single Windows desktop PC, allowing connection from iPad, iPhone, Android, Tablets, Macs, Windows PCs and Web Browsers.

Using Access extensions, you can even simplify and enable user authentication with user view/edit permissions, edit tracking/rollback, via password, authorized devices or Active Directory.

What do you dislike?

However, Microsoft Access hasn't evolved much in recent years, and VBA coding can be tedious, especially with it's VBA IDE/editor (VBE), based on a much older version of Visual Studio.

As a developer who's built and improved many different Access databases, reporting & import/export/sync automation solutions, and Excel-to-Access database migrations, I've faced a number of Excel workbooks which perform auto-calculation (of investments, projections, forecasting, tax credits, etc.) which couldn't be converted due to business requirements, which require use of truly iterative (complex recursive or circular calculation, where row's field values are based on previous row's values, and which can't be distilled down into a subquery, etc.), which isn't possible out-of-box (without extensions like PowerSQL or PowerAccess) with Access SQL Queries.

However, there are add-ins, templates and other tools that can be used with MS Access to address these issues to modernize and automate Microsoft Access, making it truly something that can be used without knowing or learning SQL or VBA, by those without nothing more than experience using Excel:

For example, PowerAccess for Microsoft Access (https://poweraccess.net) is an install-free framework & template, with an optional add-in providing new productivity, automation and development tools, like for Automated Database Builder tools, Global Find & Replace, Cloud Sync, Multi-User Web/Cloud Deploy Setup, and integrated simplified Git source version control to enable collaborative editing of database forms, VBA code and other objects.

Also, RubberDuck VBA (http://rubberduckvba.com) helps with VBA macro coding productivity to extend the VBE (the integrated VBA Code/Macro IDE Editor, basically very old version of Visual Studio) with some newer, more modern tools for coding productivity.

There are other add-ins and templates that can drastically simplify and automate use of Microsoft Access, addressing its stagnated development, but those are some of the ones I've found make the biggest difference in modernizing, automating and simplifying daily use of Microsoft Access, SQL and VBA.

Though there haven't been too many new features in Microsoft Access in recent years, new data connectors and other features have been released since Microsoft Access 2016 was released, and it's now included in most Microsoft Office 365 subscriptions and Office 2016 editions, with new features coming down the pipeline.

Recommendations to others considering the product

** Microsoft Access + RemoteApp for Multi-User Web & Mobile Use **

I would recommend multi-user Microsoft Access databases + RemoteApp as all around better alternative to PowerApps - more full-featured, with VBA and user-defined function support, extensibility, without need for using separate products (like Microsoft Flow and Common Data Service) to supplement PowerApps lacking features.

** Hundreds of Simultaneous Access DB Users even over Cellular Connections **

Access + RemoteApp (scalable, app window only remote desktoping) can even be used with hundreds of simultaneous users from Mobile (iPad, iPhone, Android, Tablet), Mac, Web Browsers as well as Windows PCs without ever even showing a desktop or need to launch an app, simulating a native mobile/web app. This can be hosted from a single Windows Server, or Azure, or Windows desktop PC (as enabled via Access extensions).

** Multi-User Access Databases for PCs & Macs **

At the same time, such multi-user Access databases can be used directly from other PCs (even without RemoteApp RDP) while also allowing direct access from Windows PCs (eg. via VPN / Network File Share) and even from Macs (eg. by installing Microsoft Access on a Mac with Parallels in Coherence Mode or VMware Fusion in Unity Mode)

Microsoft Access can also be used for multi-user databases for hundreds of simultaneous users via RemoteApp with excellent performance even over cellular .data connections, and which can host from any Windows Server (or any Windows PC, such as with an Access extension help setup configuration of that).

If you find Microsoft Access somewhat lacking in modern tools and automation, you could use together with add-ins or Access Framework extensions to modernize, extend and automate, while retaining the control and ease of use that Microsoft Access provides.

** Power BI vs PowerApps for Mobile & Web Front-end for Access or other Databases **

If that doesn't work for your needs, then Power BI (which can use Microsoft Access database as a backend) may often be a better alternative to PowerApps - sharing similar Mobile/Web/SharePoint/Embedded use support - if you don't need data entry/editing. Even if you do need data entry/editing, you can use Access (with easy form building) for that (as well as for multi-user viewing/reporting) and Power BI for BI Dashboards and web/mobile use/viewing.

If you need web and mobile data entry, and want to be able to easily design and edit the database yourself (without IT, developers or contractors) for a truly no-code solution, then you may want to consider using Power BI front-end (eg. for BI Dashboard) + Microsoft Access database backend (such as via On-premises Data Gateway).

Microsoft Power BI is a similar, and overlapping in some ways alternative to PowerApps, if you don't need data entry / editing support. It even is excellent at building interactive, drill-down dashboards with custom sort and filtering (though these can also be done in Access).

Even though Power BI and PowerApps share the same On-premesis Data Gateway (allowing access to files, data, etc. on the PC it's installed in by the Power BI/PowerApps server), for some reason, PowerApps doesn't allow connections to Access Databases through it, like Power BI does.

** Modernizing, Automating and Extending Microsoft Access and Accelerating Excel-to-Access Database **

Whether you are a Microsoft Access guru and just want to save time with rapid database development & minimizing boilerplate VBA coding or are new to Access and databases, get started using MS Access together with PowerAccess, PowerSQL, PowerGit & RubberDuck VBA to streamline and simplify database creation and migrating Excel workbooks to web/cloud/mobile-enabled multi-user databases each don't require consultants or IT to build, edit, or maintain.

Microsoft Access is far more intuitive, easier to use and automate, easier to prototype with and deploy, for pros and novices alike.

This is especially the case when using Microsoft Access together with the powerful add-ins templates, and install-free extensions available for it, such as PowerAccess, PowerSQL, PowerGit and RubberDuck VBA.

MS Access, combined with those extensions, has drastically simplified multi-user collaborative editing, creation, use of automated of multi-user web/cloud/mobile-enabled databases for us and our clients for Ad-Hoc Analysis. Business Intelligence (BI) dashboards, Estimates/Quotes, CRM, Project Planning tools, Financial Analysis & Planning (FP&A) & Accounting tools, Automated Reporting, and many other types of projects it's best suited for handling.

What business problems are you solving with the product? What benefits have you realized?

Migrating massive Excel workbooks - with dozens or hundreds of difficult and time-consuming to maintain sheets, one for each project or report, with manual merging of copy for each user - to scalable, high-performance relational multi-user databases.

This enabled use beyond Windows PC for us, scaling up to hundreds of simultaneous users from web browser, mobile devices, Mac, iPhone, iPad, Android, tablet and other devices - all without relying on deprecated Access Web Apps (AWAs) which it can be auto convert to Cloud/Web/Mobile-enabled full-featured Access Database which, unlike an AWA or PowerApps, even support powerful VBA scripting and use for interactivity and automation.

I've helped clients migrate Excel workbooks migrate to Access databases when facing massive workbooks with (dozens or even a hundred sheets) many tedious, error-prone, manual copy-paste-edit processes involving merging many copies of it and a headache with having to repeat edits to complex formulas spread out across dozens of rows across dozens of tabs across dozens of workbook copies.

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Microsoft Access review by <span>Austin P.</span>
Austin P.
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Great tool when you utilize it completely

What do you like best?

Data integrity is key for us. I like that you can control the data elements more closely than data that is within Excel. I have found that creating macros to perform several tasks simultaneously is quite easy and is extremely helpful in improving efficiency. Additionally, the ability to use Access to summon data from SQL and other databases makes work easier.

What do you dislike?

The biggest complaint that I have is the 2GB file maximum. There are numerous situations where I have millions of rows of data and am unable to house it all in a single database. This causes significant inefficiencies. Access has some quirks with it regarding speed of processing. There are times when a query will run almost instantly and other times when the same query will take several minutes. I realize other software running on the computer can impact load times but I generally always have the same things running.

Recommendations to others considering the product

If you work with data that is less than a few million rows, Access will work great for you. If you have more than that, consider using Access as a front-end for a SQL server.

What business problems are you solving with the product? What benefits have you realized?

We are using Access to house multiple related data sets in order to query data between the sets and pull out relevant information. This format is much better than using Excel and the benefit is that the data can be easily extracted to other formats.

What Desktop Database solution do you use?

Thanks for letting us know!
Microsoft Access review by <span>Shrinaath A.</span>
Shrinaath A.
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Data Storage / Data Retrieval and data integration made easy

What do you like best?

One of the simplest and easiest tools to store and retrieve data. Makes data entry easy and fast. Also, basic knowledge about Querying, Forms, Reports should help small and mid size organizations (which do not handle huge amount of data or complicated data) make the best use of Microsoft Access. Provides easy ways to export data to Excel spreadsheets as well - so users can independently analyze data in Excel as well.

What do you dislike?

As data tables become huge, then it takes time for data retrieval. Some of the Queries could take a long time to run (even hours).

Recommendations to others considering the product

Highly recommend small and mid size businesses to start off with Microsoft Access for data entry, reporting, creating forms, querying,etc. Requires very basic knowledge which one can find through training manuals online.

What business problems are you solving with the product? What benefits have you realized?

Microsoft Access makes day to day data entry easier across various departments. It also provides easy ways to write queries in order to retrieve relevant data for business needs. It is used across all departments where data entry is mandatory. Also, provides analysts quick and effective way to get information in a short span of time.

Microsoft Access review by <span>Steven H.</span>
Steven H.
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Used it for class

What do you like best?

I like the versatility and ease of use. At first, I had no idea what I was doing; even tutorials can be long, but with any new tool and skill, it takes a lot of learning and practice.

What do you dislike?

Microsoft Access is DEFINITELY a difficult software. It's also a little expensive, but thankfully, I already had it downloaded from my dad's computer. They could do better to offer simplified tutorials to guide you through basics. Definitely a much more user-friendly tutorial feature.

Recommendations to others considering the product

Spend your time researching the concepts and learn them well! Work through Access slowly and use it for something that matters to you! It means more than going through pre-prepared files and cases. Think of an app you could create or think of a problem you could use it for. Whether you're planning a vacation, or using it for school, etc.

What business problems are you solving with the product? What benefits have you realized?

We created an app in the class. It's crazy how you can organize your ideas with access. However, realize it's a tool; it's meant to be used by someone who knows what they're really doing.

Microsoft Access review by <span>Ryan V.</span>
Ryan V.
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Microsoft Access Review

What do you like best?

Microsoft Access is what our company uses for our vast database management system. Repetitive tasks can be automated with a variety of point-and-click options. We can create tables, forms, reports and email, print or export them.

We have over 200 dance competitions throughout North America and during the busy season have 32 weekend events in the USA and 28 in Canada. Access allows us to create and dive deep into the financials, preparation and organization of each event. This includes sales, videographer and photographer contact info, pay, accommodations, event details, notes regarding the event, variety of billing reports and much more.

Access can be placed on our server and multiple people and share and update data without overwriting someone else's work.

What do you dislike?

-It often crashes

-Many bug reports

-Often users have to exit for administration updates

-Using Access is different than knowing have to program Access. Need programming knowledge.

Recommendations to others considering the product

Leave the programming of the database to an expert because using is different than creating. I personally cannot re-create our company's database but i know how to use, and manipulate it.

-Always close Access when your done. The bigger the database and the longer it is open (overnight) the more it tends to crash.

-Keep two backups of your databases in two different locations.

What business problems are you solving with the product? What benefits have you realized?

-Data Management

-Event Management

-Financial organization

-Past, present and future reports, bills, statistics, problems, solutions

-Booking staff

-Production notes

-Contact information updating

Microsoft Access review by <span>Maxim O.</span>
Maxim O.
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Good quality product for programmers and end users

What do you like best?

Just need to know Visual Basic a bit for starting developing new forms, functions and features using Microsoft Access. It easy integrates with Excel and always work fine in the different versions of Windows. Very simple installation process. And it is easy to create instructions for users, that will use the forms of MS Access.

What do you dislike?

There are different versions of DotNet and various libraries for using with Access, that can be on or off in the settings. And sometimes does not clearly understand, what collection of libraries will be best for the project. If you have several administrators of MS Access, there is a problem sometimes, when one administrator need to decoding and understand all the code of functions of another administrator. Not easy to decode. Cant do several versions in one project. It is not easy to do debug work when programming with Visual Basic inside MS Access editor.

Recommendations to others considering the product

Find good VB programmer and teach him additionally your type of business. And that will be ideal and useful union. It is ideal product if you use simple databases and if you need simple integration. Then it would be fast enough and useful for you.

What business problems are you solving with the product? What benefits have you realized?

Some simple databases with forms for 3 different types of users. Use some calculate functions and do some automatic work for eliminating routine in the human work. It is fast enough, can be easily redeployed or modified, easy to support by one Administrator.

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