Why Do So Many People HATE Access?

For year now I have seen people going apoplectic over the mere mention of Microsoft Access.  An example I stumbled on recently is :

http://www.mattwoodward.com/blog/index.cfm?event=showEntry&entryId=965BB143-9C90-4FBB-81BC48409BEF3F87

Even his commenters are “Access Haters”.

This guy’s site says he does ColdFusion, Java, JSP, PHP, Database Development and Design in MySQL, SQL Server, DB2 and Oracle.  This seems to be a standard resume of your typical Access hater.   I don’t know exactly what’s wrong with me that I don’t HATE Oracle and DB2 with a burning passion. Obvously a character flaw on my part.

Oh yes – maybe it’s because the database technology I choose (which is not intended to compete with any of the products he lists) keeps showing up in the way of his large-scale solutions.  The fact that Access is promoted as an end-user product (which it REALLY isn’t IMHO) probably continues to lower the bar for the value of all database solutions people like him would like to promote. 

In fact I think he might be a victim, as all Access devs are as well, of Microsoft’s failure to come up with a message that promotes and explains the value-prop of those who are capable of doing SERIOUS development in Access. They are all too often doing serious solutions that deserve professional-level compensation.  But as long as the product is being promoted to End-Users this can never happen and this drags the whole market for “Departmental” applications and databases in general down with it. I am VERY pleased with the capability of Access itself contrary to this guy’s opinion.  His beef is more with the market-image of Access and how it affects his offerings by association.

In the end it is the curse of all Access devs to accept that there are people out there who HATE you and there are others who don’t take you seriously while they insist that you solve their problems for inadequate compensation anyway. 

I think Access devs have a right to be angry too and I don’t think it’s the program’s fault.

Dick

About Biggus Dickus

Dick is a consultant in London, ON Canada who specializes in Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Office Development.
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10 Responses to Why Do So Many People HATE Access?

  1. Jayson says:

    Access haters are often just plain old Excel users too. I was at an “advanced” excel class yesterday (really disappointed by that description – but poached a bunch of teaching to-dos and no-to-dos) and she asked if anyone used access. I raised my hand, and the teacher actually said, “You’re one of THOSE access guys, aren’t you?” Not really much to say to that is there?

  2. Dick Moffat says:

    “You’re one of THOSE access guys, aren’t you?”

    What a maroon …… but sadly a common refrain.

    Dick

  3. Andy Holaday says:

    I fall into the category of departmental Access users who does what he has to do to get the job done. When one outgrows the capabilities of Excel, what else is one to do? Unless you happen to have developer and DBA resources at your beck and call (good luck with that BTW) it is simply not practical to move up to the big time. Meanwhile, I have a deadline–probably a very short one–to fulfill.

    Now I will say that recently I have been given access to a SQL Server DB and this has been very beneficial. In terms of accessibility and scalability it beats the pants off Access. But I’m doing analysis, not application development. If I had to do a small scale app again, I would choose Access, as I have in the past. At least until I have a web developer and DBA reporting to me.

    • Dick Moffat says:

      But why wouldn’t you then move ALL your Access data to SQL Server and still use Access Frontends with linked Tables? Works great !!

      Dick

      • Andy Holaday says:

        Were I designing an app that was just for me, I would consider doing just that. But typically, at least in my world, departmental apps need to be deployed to folks who do not have access to the SQL server (for reasons–right or wrong–deeply entrenched in IT’s security model). Moreover, departmental apps I have been involved with fit easily within Access’s constraints.

        As for analysis needs, I admit, SQL is fast becoming my platform of choice, and new analysis takes place there rather than in Access. But to be fair, my data needs have outgrown Access — manipulating a few GB of data can be done in Access, but it is very tedious.

        Just to be clear, I have nothing against Access. I cut my RDBMS teeth on Access, and reveled in the rapid UI design it facilitates. But I have literally watched IT folks wince at the mention of users putting their precious data in Access, and I have witnessed examples that justify their concerns.

        To those reading this blog it is obvious certain skills are required to develop a proper Access application, indeed any application that uses a database, and I commend those do it well.

      • Dick Moffat says:

        “Moreover, departmental apps I have been involved with fit easily within Access’s constraints.”

        Andy:

        My dream is now that progress in the performance and scalability of SharePoint 2010, and then subsequent versions going forward, we will be able to migrate our Access data to Sharepoint as opposed to SQL Server. I am encouraged that eventually we will be able to provide Access apps with data stored in SharePoint that will respond with most of the advantages of a true Server app without the over-bearing IT control problems. In many cases it will be able to act as that dreamed of “Access Server” that never actually happened.

        Certainly one would not want to be dealing with millions of records but IMHO anyone doing that across a network should not be using Access for data storage anyway.

        I believe that still leaves a huge number of potential applications for Access/SharePoint.

        Tragically IF we do succeed in moving that way it is only a matter of time before IT takes notice and finds a way to stop that too – unless there is finally a revolt on the part of the user/client community. In the meantime,which could be years, I believe we will have a new opportunity to deliver Access/SP solutions without the limits of using Access Backends on a Network or even worse on a WAN or over a VPN.

        I have done this in Access 2007 and SharePoint 2007 and have reason to believe things will be even better in 2010.

        Dick

  4. Simon says:

    Dick
    Fear is the biggest creator of haters.
    Lots of people hate Access and Excel, and often its because they are afraid for their jobs.
    There are the general MS haters as well, part of the same thing – hate pragmatic fixes, love over engineered, gold plated CV building ‘solutions’.
    I’ve worked places with hideous spreadsheets who have refused point blank to let me migrate them to Access to simplify them massively. Fear, everytime.
    Funny hey? working in a technology that many apparently intelligent people are scared of.

  5. Dick Moffat says:

    “hate pragmatic fixes, love over engineered, gold plated CV building ’solutions’.”

    Nailed it !!

    Dick

  6. Harlan Grove says:

    I’ll play Devil’s advocate. There are inefficient table and query designs you can get away with when you have only thousands or tens of thousands of records that bog down with millions of records. That is, Access doesn’t discourage bad design.

    Access isn’t unique among ‘end-user databases’ in obscuring bad design, but because it’s most common, it gets most blame.

    And I sympathize with people who can’t stand any dialect of BASIC.

  7. Paul says:

    Someone either understands RDBMS or they don’t. Back in the 90’s, when I was just a teenaged, temp data entry worker, who knew RDBMS better then the consultant that had set up our ad-hoc database for a large scale audit to recover lost reimbursements for the largest HMO in the nation. They had integrated many smaller companies into their larger systems over the years, and not all the data was in the new systems, etc, and some of it had to be data entered from hard copy. The consultant didn’t even implement many simple macros that greatly improved efficiency, and when I told him he should, he gave me the dear in the headlights look, so I just went ahead and did it anyways, and tripled my productivity, and soon the manager asked me to put the macros on everyone’s workstation, and put me in charge of our ad-hoc database. Well the project kept growing, and the corporate IT staff, had our database files on a shared resource in another buildling linked via T1. The project grew to about 250 simultaneous users, with about 35 million records, generating 900 worksheets in excel of graphs and charts and even a UI within excel for the financial managers. I was able to minimize the resource waste of the client side database, by creating about 32 different, identically structured container database files, one for each health plan, and a client side database file that would then connect to the specificed container with linked tables on the fly, and a master database file, that kept track of username/passwords, and which health plans data the various users were responsible for and I would use it to generate 32 identically structured excel workbooks (1 for each healthplan), with 30 worksheets including graphs, user interface, various summaries that were required, etc…
    So I was able to mitigate the 250 simultaneous users into 30-35 groups of about 6-8 people each, and each container would have on average 1 million records.

    Obviously a true client/server RDMBS would be required for the long term, and so I sat in with the design meetings, because I held all the keys essentially to the current design.

    I use SQL Server almost exclusively in anything I do now, but even today, looking back, I’m still amazed by the scalability that even access offers, with the right RDBMS skills.
    This was a “one-off” project, that didn’t require

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