Visual Basic Programmer
Microsoft Access Database Programmer

Custom Built Software 
Sydney, Australia

All About Microsoft Access 2013 and Access 365

All About Microsoft Access 2013 and Access 365The Microsoft Access software has progressed over the ages from Access 1.1 in 1992 until Access 2013. There has been a continual stream of enhancements. All being a steady improvement on the previous version.

Access 365 marks a major shift in the software. Access 365, besides the name "Access", has little in common with previous versions of Access. The intention is to allow quick production of Cloud based routines.

One big change: The Office 365 version is paid by monthly subscription.

What is Access 365 all about?

Office 365 is Microsoft's first expedition into Cloud computing. Cloud computing has the potential to allow business processes to run more efficiently. Cloud solutions can minimise labour intensive tasks.

Access 365 is a tool for creating Web Apps that run within SharePoint or "Office Web Apps". Access 365 allows the rapid creation of small applications using the standard Web technologies of HTML5, CSS and JavaScript in a simplified Web development environment. One big feature is that Access Services will now store data to Microsoft SQL Server or an SQL Azure database. Office 365 Cloud services cost from $10 per user per month. The cost of the Developer subscription varies from Free with MSDN to $99 USA per year.

The old .ACCDB format has been abandoned and Add-ins are out of fashion. VBA or VSTO cannot be used on the Web. All legacy Office systems will still work in the future, but Microsoft's strategic direction is now solely based on Web Apps.

The use of SQL Server for the BackEnd database overcomes the 2 Gigabyte size limitation of the previous Access databases. SQL Server also provides all the security and features essential for any strategic company business system.

Microsoft Access is included in Office 365 Business and Business Premium.

The changes to the desktop version of Access 2013

The Access 2013 desktop version is much unchanged from previous versions – Access 2013 still supports the Front-End and Back-End database model and Visual Basic for Applications (VBA).

The Access User Interface (IDE) has come in for much criticism. The IDE is bland and dull – with only three choices for the theme (White, Light Gray, Dark Gray).

Access 2013 no longer supports:

  • The Microsoft Access project (ADP)
  • The Access 97 .mdb database format
  • Conversion from the .mdb to .accdb
  • PivotCharts and PivotTables
  • The dBASE database
  • Smart Tags (Action Tags)
  • Access 2003 Toolbars and menus
  • The Microsoft SQL Server database Up-sizing Wizard
  • The Developer Source Code Control
  • Replication
  • User-level security

One further restriction is that a copy of the software is limited to one PC – and cannot be transferred to another PC.

Access 2013 as an Online solution

Access 2013 online software is not an easy way to convert a mission critical administration system to the Cloud. There are just too many problems that will be hit – these are:

  • It needs a Sharepoint site in the Cloud
  • It requires SQL Server Tables
  • It no longer supports the use of the legacy Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) code
  • It has speed and connection/reconnection issues
  • It has delays on entering data or changing screens or changing tabs

There are other concerns

  • The technology is still immature
  • The Cloud is inherently insecure
  • There is a loss of control of business functions
  • Keeping records and data on someone else's server is a worry
  • Urgent fixes by Microsoft may take forever

Apps for Office - A service on the Web

There is a new feature of Access 365 – Apps for Office. This technology enables Office to be used as a service on the Cloud or Web. The Web page can be hosted in an Office application – that is Excel, Word, Outlook, PowerPoint or Project.

An App is usually published to the Office Store for use.

A new JavaScript API for Office

Access 365 has a new JavaScript API that provides programmatic access to Microsoft Office documents. The API includes application-specific data types, objects, functions and events.

The JavaScript API is a great improvement on the crude JavaScript design capabilities within HTML.

SharePoint Apps hosted on the Web

Access 365 provides a simple way for SharePoint to host the Front-End of an App and have the data management capabilities of SQL Server on the Web. This simplifies Web development.

Note that Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) code is not compatible with SharePoint Access applications.

The Access 365 Macro Language

Templates can be used to create sophisticated looking Apps – and without the need for code. However business rules and data manipulation can be implemented with a new macro language. The macros do not have the power of Visual Basic, but are adequate for simple logic.

Running Access 2013 side-by-side with Access 2010

It is possible to install both Access 2010 and Access 2013 on the same PC. But I found that Office 2010 reconfigures each time Access 2010 is started. Which is slow to start and is a pain.

There may eventually be a fix for the problem. But because of the bland interface and functionality differences, I have removed Office 2013 from my system.

Microsoft's Strategic Direction

Microsoft Access was never meant for corporate company databases. Many companies evolved the Access database software into their core administration systems. But with the limitations of network traffic, peak loads, reliability, rollback recovery, security, etc, etc – these systems eventually hit a brick wall.

The direction that Access 365 is now reverting to the original intention of Microsoft Access. That is, providing a rapid development environment for small Line of Business (LOB) applications.

Microsoft Access Forms are at the end of the road, as is the legacy VBA language. There will be no further enhancements. For mission critical administration systems for the small company, the best development platform by far is a Visual Basic.Net Front-End with a Microsoft Access Database at the back-end.

The Cloud should be used for small but useful everyday automated businesses processes - i.e. Apps.