Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Microsoft Access 2007 - Pretty New Face, Same Old Annoyances

I use Microsoft Access.

I'm not particularly proud of it, but it's a fact of life. If you're going to work in Windows, Access is the easiest tool for some jobs. More importantly, many of my clients use it, so I must as well.

I've been using Access 2007 for a few days now, and I'm sadly disappointed. I had high hopes that after four years of development, many of the lingering bugs and missing features would be addressed. Alas, my hopes have been dashed. It may look nicer, but under the covers, it's the same old Access.

Does Microsoft actually improve anything from release to release, or just change the colors so they can charge you another $500???

It's now 2008, and this is version 12 of Access. Why do these problems still exist:

  1. Importing external data still requires an ODBC connection. Really? In 2008 I still can't just give you an ADO connection string? I still must go setup a bleeping ODBC configuration in the Control Panel before I'm allowed to import from SQL Server? That's just silly.
  2. No Multiple Selections. This is just ridiculous. Now that I've setup my ODBC connection, and entered in the password -- again - I'm given a list of tables I want to import. For my particular SQL Server database, that list is about 100 tables long. Why can't I select more than one at a time? AAARRRGGHHH!!! I have to click on every flargin table name one by one?!? Really? REALLY!?!?

    I could just click the "SELECT ALL" button....if Access didn't mix System Tables in with User Tables. I don't want to import all the arcane System tables, just the data I've created.

    At least Access 2007 allows me to save the group of tables I've selected -- a step in the right direction. That is, until next week when a new table gets added to the SQL Server. Then I have to start all over again to ensure this new table gets included.
  3. No, Really, No Multiple Selections. One nice thing that Access does is allow you to copy and paste objects in the database. For example, you may want several tables with similar structures. You can just create the first one, copy it, then paste to create a second. Very handy..... Unless you want to copy more that one item at a time.
  4. Status? What Status? Access 2007 changes the way items are show in the database. Instead of defaulting to icon or list views -- similar to how you see things in Windows Explorer -- Access 2007 gives you a list in a column. Of course, it omits basic nicities, like the ability to sort your items, or even give you a simple count of how many there are. Would it be so hard to tell me that I have 89 queries in the Status Bar? That is what it's for, right? Status...

  5. Script this! I'm sure anyone who uses Access on a regular basis -- and deals with customers -- runs in to the same problem. Version control. The folks in Spokane have the latest version of the home-grown reporting database, but the folks in Butterfield aren't sure when the last time their database was updated. Worse yet, the folks in Utica are still running on Access 2000. They must be at least 3 upgrades behind but, they did have a few special reports created for them two years ago.

    Wouldn't it be nice if there was a way to compare two copies of the database and find the difference?

    It might not be ideal, but if you could at least script out all the tables, queries, forms and reports, you could use your favorite Diff tools to merge the variations and create one master. You then run the merged script and you've got the latest, greatest version of the database with all the changes included.

Honestly, I don't think the folks at Microsoft use Access themselves. If they did, these short-comings would be painfully obvious. They would certainly fix them just to make their own jobs a bit less cumbersome.

Well, there's always Office 2010 to look forward to. Maybe that one will have a green color scheme...

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

iPhone SDK -- Are we there yet?

Tick tock, tick tock. It's February, Apple, can we get the iPhone Developer's Toolkit?

OK, so it's only the 5th of February, and maybe I'm a bit impatient. Still, many iPhone customers have been longing for this release since the phone was announced. With the SDK comes the great possibility that the iPhone reaches its true potential as a mobile computer. Games? A Flash Plugin? Remote Desktop? A Skype Client? It's easy to imagine the possibilities.

Waiting is the hardest part. Speculating, however, is very, very exciting...