Microsoft access is a database, and databases are the most pervasive of computer applications.
Your mobile phone has a database called the address book. Your DVD recorder has a database that tells it when to switch on and record, and your media player has a database to tell it what music it stores.
Databases are so pervasive because they are so useful, and provide a means of collecting, storing, retrieving and presenting information in a structured way, and this is precisely what Microsoft Access does. If you have information that requires care in any of the above, Access may be your best bet.
Access may be the most installed fully featured PC database available (if SQLite does not claim this accolade). It is present in the Microsoft office suite, and available on its own in various different versions. Alternatively you may have a standalone version installed as part of some third party application.
Access is so popular because it has always had the formidable marketing monster that is Microsoft, baying at its heels and driving it into the public eye and onto PCs. Access also happens to be an excellent development tool in its own right, and at Meadowlark we choose Access for the development of many of our PC desktop databases.
Microsoft Access has a number of advantages:
There are a number of disadvantages to Access that can easily be overlooked
Part of the reason we develop using Microsoft Access is that of familiarity. We have been developing database applications for customers with it since it was first available as Access 1.0, and have had more than fifteen years to understand its strengths and weaknesses.
Subsequent versions of Microsoft Access grew in sophistication and scope with the introduction and enhancement of the programming language that underpinned it; visual basic for applications. But the addition of a powerful programming language did not of itself ensure that all Access applications were going to be well designed, structured and implemented applications. To produce good software an application must follow a good design. Indeed this is the basis of our successful relationship with the database development language: we carefully design our applications long before we start writing source code.
- The trend for extreme miniaturisation of computers has various important implications. Forget desktop computers, forget laptops, your next mainstream computing device will probably be your mobile phone. In fact it may already be. A modern smart-phone is grossly over powered for its current typical use just as a telecommunications device. Furthermore it has crept into ubiquity through utility, and just needs users to subtly change their usage patterns. They just need to connect them to a proper monitor, keyboard and mouse for the whole PC industry is thrown on its head.
- External storage (that may be meagre on the device) can be augmented via the cloud or local removable storage. There is only a few issues with the hardware that might need to be addressed for users to ditch their PCs.
- Smart-phones are commodities with little or no upgrade capacity. If the screen cracks it might be reparable, and if the power socket breaks there may be something that can be done, but for most of smartphone ailments a damaged phone requires a costly replacement. PCs and laptops can usually be salvaged in similar situations, and of course, they are often cheaper