Microsoft Access

Microsoft Access - ScreenshotMy love affair with MS Access began in 1997. I was a systems administrator at the near defunct company, Nortel. I happened to become buddies with a VB developer named Joe. While he watched me run here and there putting out fires, he casually asked one day if I did websites. I told him yes as I had hacked out some of my own sites and actually had done a website in a program that still seems to be around, NetObjects Fusion. In those days, I was amazed at what could actually be done with these WYSIWYG editors and create some kickin’ websites. However, in the wrong hands, they can be used for incredible evil – like this example from

While I was loving the whole HTML/internet craze that swept through in the mid-90s, I hadn’t really seen it as a way to go yet. Still handling computers. Nonetheless, I had created pages, but the kicker was that I wanted them to be able to use variables, bring up dates, do conditional things, etc. That just wasn’t really possible with HTML. This WAS possible with Javascript, but in those heady days, Javascript was ridiculously convoluted betweeen the browsers. Heck even the HTML handling was ridiculously convoluted. What would look great on Netscape looked like something your 3 year old did with wooden blocks on Internet Explorer. The phrase of the day (for me) was “lowest common denominator” to keep things as simple as possible. It was to the point that it was NOT uncommon to have two different versions of a website – one with layouts designed for IE and then one for Netscape. I digress…

Regardless of the actual formatting, still there was the problem of creating custom content and doing all the things I wanted to do with OUT using that god forsaken Javascript boondoggle that the browsers created. While Microsoft HAD been a major part of creating that huge d*mned boondoggle, my VB buddy said something about ASP – Active Server Pages. And my whole world changed. It was a bit of a curve to get used to the code / html interactions, and then it got to the “Where can I get information from? I want to do more than just show a date…” ASP/VBScript is great, but without a source of information, there isn’t much use for it. That’s where MS Access first came into my life as an addition to my ASP coding. Then the world REALLY changed.

OMG, I could stash data, push data in, pull it back out in so many ways, do all sorts of nasty things with it, make it dip, spin and twirl. It was a whole new world. Now I realize that a lot of people out there that may read this (though that number is probably VERY few), will have nothing good to say about MS Access and that SQL Server is the way to go. Yes, SQL Server IS a much more robust solution for higher usage sites. MS Access will choke on too many simultaneous users and throw errors. Truthfully though, how many of you DO have that kind of traffic?? A majority of the sites that I have built over the years are for local businesses that are lucky to get 40-50 visitors per day – and that is NOT going to swamp MS Access.

Prior to this whole revelation, my SQL skills had been pretty bad. After a few more conversations with Joe though, I learned the true power of SQL. I still keep a stack of SQL books around me when I’m working on these kinds of projects. If you’re not using it every day, it’s not too hard to forget a specific operator syntax or the like. I’m still not honestly a SQL master, though I was hired as a SQL DBA by a local RTP company for a while. I could do what was needed, but it wasn’t may favorite position. Thank God it was only a 6 month contract.

I’ve been working on an application as of late that I had setup with MS SQL Server because it ostensibly was to become their primary storage for company data. Well, it’s 4 years later and it’s never going to be their primary storage. They use it only as a daily holding place for orders, export them and bring them into Filemaker Pro. Certainly not MY first choice for a database platform, but… While screwing with the old version of SQL Server, my mind is turning back to MS Access. I wish I had left the original app in MS Access. A whole lot easier to get the data from. Just grab the mdb and you’re good to go. No export, import, etc. Might be going back to it for this app.

Will throw some of my old MS Access tips and tricks up here one day!

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