Sometimes, projects and ideas don’t always show up where you think they would. I just got back into MS Access development for an “off the shelf” application that just popped like that.
I have been developing in MS Access since version 1.2. Regardless of what some may say, I think MS Access is a pretty good platform for small to medium sized applications. Of course, multi user and large databases are better off into a more scalable platform but for 90% of personnal and SMBs needs, I feel it’s a great tool for the job.
I realized that both Lotus Notes and MS Access have a lot in common. Both platforms contain all the data and the presentation in one file. In MS Access though, it is good practice to split the data in a completely separate file, so you end up with 2 files. There is no “replace design” in MS Access so updates are easier when data is separated from the presentation and business logic (isn’t that always the way it should be?).
Besides having tables in MS Access, the content of both files is very similar: forms in both, views in Notes and queries in MS Access, a macro language and a mode advanced language – both similar to Basic – and reports that could be mapped to views in Notes I guess. Also, both platform can let you lock down the design of your application so no one gets to it.
I’m now using MS Access 201 and it’s my first real development with it. In order to know what is new and what is gone, I grabbed a copy of the MS Access Bible. I have to admit that I’ve always been afraid of buying “Bibles” as they often don’t cover what I am looking for and they are often an overview of each feature of the product. They don’t go deep enough for my liking. It is not the case with this book though, as I found everything I wanted to know about the new features and I also found a fair amount of advanced topics. It definitely isn’t a book for an end user looking to build a small application. There even is a chapter on object oriented programming with VBA. Wow…
Of course, no books cover everything you want to know. In my case, it is the first time I will create an application that will be sold. I always developed for people having a copy of Access on their machines and source code was always their property. This time, it’s a completely different story and even if the book talks a bit about using the MS Access run time environment, I still had question regarding how things are usually done when creating a “commercial” application.
So I contacted one of the book authors, Teresa Henning from Data Dynamics Northwest. She was really kind and answered a few questions and pointed me to good MS Access resources to get more information on the topics I am looking for. This was really appreciated and, not sure if the MS Access community is as “tight” as the Lotus Notes one, but I sure got that first impression. Thank you very much Teresa for such a good book and such kindness for a fellow developer.
So here I go, in a somewhat very familiar environment and with a good “Bible”, off to build my first commercial product. That doesn’t mean I won’t do Notes development anymore. Already tried to move to .Net but Notes pulled me back. In fact, that commercial product will eventually finance another big potential project and that one will be done in Notes/Domino. You can’t get that yellow blood out of my system : )