Radical redesign of Access 2013 and what it means for Office developers
Access changed my life. Ever since I picked up a copy of the Access 97 Developer’s Reference, I have been enamored by Microsoft Office Access and how it can be utilized to build solutions. The first application I ever wrote was in Access 97… for a shipping company. It scanned shipping manifests. They loved it. I loved it.
Eventually, the client outgrew the solution as well as Access. I did as well. I embraced SQL Server and .NET. I still loved Access but it was relegated to a utility tool. But I’m here to tell you that Office 2013 Access is back in a big, big way.
Time and Billing Web Application Running in SharePoint 2013:
To understand the new release, it is important to understand where Microsoft invested their resources (i.e. money and effort). For this release, Microsoft invested heavily in turning Access 2013 into a tool for creating web apps that run within SharePoint 2013. In MSFT parlance, this is a “big bet”.
Thus, if you plan to use Office Access 2013 to build solutions, the preferred solution model is this new web-based model. Sure, you can still create .ACCDBs but these formats are officially a thing of the past. To create this now forsaken solution type (as well as .MDBs) you might be better off sticking with previous versions of Access. I’ll leave that decision up to you however.
Time and Billing Web Application in Access 2013 design mode:
With Access 2013, Microsoft is empowering the business end-user to build web applications
Sure, Microsoft has tried this before with little success. They failed because the features appeared to be an afterthought. Almost like, “hey this Interweb is turning out to be big deal, can we get “Jimmy The Intern to throw together some Internet publishing features? Maybe a grid that connects to a table and some animated GIFs?”. These features were not something a professional (developer or business user) would want to claim as their own. As a result, Access suffered.
But with this release, every indication is the features are up to snuff. Just look at the screenshots in the blog post! You can quickly build an application and publish to SharePoint 2013. Microsoft likes to call this “going 0-60″. This is true if you use one of the templates like the Time and Billing template I used to create the screenshots above. It is less true if you start from scratch.
The end result is a professional look with high degree of functionality… without the need for code. If you need to implement some moderately complex business rules, you can utilize the new custom macro language. It isn’t VBA but they do let you automate the UI and manipulate data.
Access 2013 Macro Editor:
What’s so radical about Office Access 2013?
Good question. Let me respond with a list.
- Access 2013’s preferred model is the cloud. Desktop solutions are secondary.
- Access 2013 lets non-developers build WEB applications. It’s like Access 2.0 … but for the web.
- You can publish Access 2013 to either a private corporate app catalog or to the Office App Store. If you decide to charge for your app, you just might rake in a few million bucks.
- Access 2013-based apps now support devices all of shapes, sizes, and OSs.
This last point is my favorite. I am a developer and I like to write code. However, I love the fact I can build an app in Access, publish it to the Office 2013 App Store, have customers buy it and then use it on their desktop and their iPad.
Will these changes be enough to make Access relevant again? I think so. Perhaps a better question is, how will IT Admins respond to the potential proliferation of Access 2013 apps?
For additional background and stuff I left out:
Introducing Access 2013
What’s new for Access 2013 developers
Building apps for SharePoint and Office 365
Access for developers
Access 2013 custom web app reference
How to: Create and customize a web app in Access 2013 Preview