Access 2007 - A Review


G

Guest

To set the context- I'm a long-time IT techie with a career including
everything from coding in assembly language to being an IT executive in a
Fortune 100 company. Currently, I'm an Independent Software Consultant using
Access all day every day with many well-known clients and, sometimes, very
large databases. I've recently taken the Vista and Access 2007 plunge with a
brand new high-end PC to replace my XP box. Most of my work is with data
analysis, queries and reports.

I'm generally open to change. I look forward to each new release of
Microsoft products with fear and hope. This is not a rant. After a few
weeks with the new software and machine, this is an attempt at an objective
assessment based upon extensive experience and how things work for me. It
may help others.

User Interface:
===============
I really like the UI overhaul in general. The new tabbed view (like a tabbed
browser) is wonderful. The omnipresent navigation window is great and I also
like the new ribbon and quick access tool bar. It's really easier and faster
than having to wade through multiple levels of the old drop down menus once
you learn where everything is. The design concept is well done and worth the
learning curve. The new 'advanced' filter mechanism coupled with the filter
toggle is really well done. It allows you to build a mini-query to use
strictly for filtering that is easily manipulated. It remembers your current
filter logic and allows you to change it without having to redo it from
scratch. It's really great for those who do a lot of data analysis.

There are things I miss from the old version that seem like glaring
oversights. For example, I often develop query streams to break complex
logic into multiple queries, one built on top of the other, sometimes several
queries deep. In XP, I clicked one button and had a new query design view
pop up with the previously active query or table already placed and ready.
If there's a way to do that now, I can't find it - and I've looked hard. Now
I have to go through multiple clicks and scrolling to get to the same place.
I also did a lot of quick filtering with SQL expressions in the "Filter For:"
box off the right-click menu. Now they've added cumbersome sub-menus with
too many options that may help less sophisticated users but get in my way and
add literally dozens of clicks to my work day. I've never understood why MS
seems to consistently sacrifice experienced user efficiency by dumbing it
down for the less-experienced. I know all their highly paid experts will
disagree with me, but I've designed a lot of UIs in my day and I just don't
believe these are mutually exclusive options. I'm sure they try hard to
strike a balance, but I think they could do a lot better at doing both things
well simultaneously. Minimizing the number of clicks is something I'm sure
they consider - but it is clearly not as high a value in their design as
clarity for the less-experienced. I'm Wizard-weary. Adding stuff for newer
users is great and necessary - but I wish they wouldn't take away from
experienced users in the process.

All-in-all, however, I'd say it's a net plus. Some tasks require more
clicks, but many require fewer. The tabbed view alone saves me lots of time
'hunting' for the right window and sizing them for maximum efficiency (anyone
know how to make this the global default without having to set it for every
database I use?). The quick-access toolbar definitely helps minimize clicks
for often-used tasks. I do expect to find even more I like as I dig deeper
into this complete redesign. I give the new UI a thumbs up.

Alternate Color:
================
This is available on the datasheet view as well as for reports. It allows
you shade every other line with whatever color you want and is great for
reducing eye strain when looking at data. I often did this on reports with a
bit of Basic code in an event. I think it can be a tremendous enhancement
for report readability. Now I can nix the extra coding and it is an
available option for those who don't want to write event processes in Basic.

New Export Plugins:
===================
I have been "printing" Access reports to PDF files for years using an Adobe
product. I am absolutely elated with the new PDF export option. A little
Basic code in the background and I can print literally thousands of reports
into an organized folder structure with a single click. It is much faster
and more flexible than the PDF print process I had before.

Performance:
============
I'm stunned. It's easy to see how the cynics among us get their fuel. I'm
afraid there is absolutely nothing good to report here. Performance is truly
abysmal. I'm still praying there are ways I haven't discovered yet to
improve it, or that later patches will help.

There I was with my shiny new custom-built box (3 Ghz Core2Duo, 2 Gb RAM,
RAID-1 pair of mirrored program drives and RAID-0 pair of data drives),
anxious to move all my working Access databases and watch the queries fly. I
nearly cried when I opened my first database to watch it respond SLOWER than
on the 4-year-old XP box I replaced.... MUCH slower. I tried not to panic
and went looking for settings that might affect performance. I spent many
hours checking and un-checking boxes, comparing query speeds and tweaking
some more. After turning off every piece of overhead I could find most of my
queries now run only a little slower than on the old PC. I've tried
converting to the latest DB format with no noticeable difference. If anyone
out there is aware of options or tweaks to improve performance that I may be
missing PLEASE reply to this posting! We're not talking about database/query
design here. I am talking about exactly the same database in side by side
comparisons with XP. There are absolutely no other variables involved -
except that Vista/Access 2007 is running on a far superior PC. I still have
a 3-year-old (only mid-level when new) XP laptop that I use for road trips to
client sites. I literally copied identical databases from one to the other
and ran several side by side tests for query execution. The old laptop won
every time. It's sad. I really hope someone has information I'm missing
that will help.

Summary:
========
I'm certainly still a newbie at this latest incarnation of Access and
readily admit (and hope) I may be missing some things. There's a lot of good
to say about the new Access. Especially if you are a newer user or are
working with small tables, I'd recommend upgrading as soon as possible. For
those of us, however, who work with large databases, complex queries and
sophisticated reports - I'd recommend putting it off as long as possible and
be certain you have the absolute best machine you can get when you finally
take the plunge. All the UI improvements in the world do not provide a net
productivity increase when query performance is so slow.
 
Ad

Advertisements

T

Tom van Stiphout

On Fri, 16 Nov 2007 18:22:01 -0800, Pat Keller

I agree with most of what you're saying. Sadly nobody seems to be
interested in making performance a bigger issue than reporting
anecdotal evidence. I have coined the idea a few times in this
newsgroup to get a set of performance tests together and publish the
results. No takers.

<clip>
 
G

Guest

Thanks for that Pat, very interesting.

We are still running XP server based back end with multiple sites (5 offices
in different cities) and will proerbly wait a while until vista has been
around for a while before jumping on the band waggon. This is mainly due to
articles such as yours and other "feedback"(?) from other vista users.

We have one stand alone that we have here for testing and have noticed there
is a major benifit that we do like. We have quite a few on-line booking
sites and the new machine seems (with vista access and sharepoint) to be
"much" better than XP office (evening after running thought/via SQL then back
to access - I know, bit strange but there never was a direct link from FP to
access 2k3). I never understood why MS didn't link up Frontpage and Access.
They made a big thing out of the fact that you could export a DB into FP -
but what was the point of that if you could not use any user input??. But -
there is now a direct importable Dbase faciltiy from a sharpoint website to
access. We have only used it for testing at the moment but it seems to work
fine. The "very" strange vba we had to come up with for frontpage/access
should be not needed with the access 2k7/sharepoint. So for us this is a big
plus.
 
G

Guest

Sadly, again, the cynic starts to come out in me. My guess is that there's
little hope a user conducted study like that would have any real impact so
people don't feel it worth the time. I'm sure MS has all kinds of labs and
testing going on. My fear is that they don't test much for the kind of
heavy-duty work some of us do or, at best, don't make us a priority. At
least the anecdotal evidence will serve to warn other potential users. When
contemplating a new purchase - I seek out forums like this for real-world
opinion.
 
G

Guest

Great compreshensive review! I only wanted to highlight some things I
specifically found useful - or not - after a relatively short amount of time.
Anyone wanting a comprehensive look at upgrading should follow Allen's link.
 
Ad

Advertisements

G

Guest

I'm sure there are many hidden benefits - but probably more hidden problems
too! Personally, I'm not a FrontPage fan so don't use that feature. I am
looking forward to playing with some of the other Office integration tools at
some point.
 
J

Jeff Conrad [MSFT]

Trust me Pat, this type of feedback is indeed very useful. I will be sharing this information with
the whole team.

Since coming here earlier this year I have been very surprised by the amount of testing put into the
product. Some of my preconceptions have really been blown out of the water. I can't go into much
detail, but the amount and depth of testing is staggering. However, with a product of this size and
complexitiy, there are bound to be things that get missed.

--
Jeff Conrad - Access Junkie - MVP Alumni
SDET - XAS Services - Microsoft Corporation

Co-author - Microsoft Office Access 2007 Inside Out
Presenter - Microsoft Access 2007 Essentials
http://www.accessmvp.com/JConrad/accessjunkie.html
Access 2007 Info: http://www.AccessJunkie.com
 
D

David W. Fenton

The new 'advanced' filter mechanism coupled with the filter
toggle is really well done. It allows you to build a mini-query to
use strictly for filtering that is easily manipulated. It
remembers your current filter logic and allows you to change it
without having to redo it from scratch. It's really great for
those who do a lot of data analysis.

Is this something different from the old advanced filter editor?
I've never understood why MS
seems to consistently sacrifice experienced user efficiency by
dumbing it down for the less-experienced.

This has also puzzled me for years. It surprises me that there
aren't better "expert/novice" UI implementations in any software
I've ever encountered. I think mostly it's because most software
designers spend all their time concentrating on features and
plumbing and don't think carefully about usability. The key point is
that EASE OF LEARNING and EASE OF USE are very often mutually
incompatible -- features that make it easy to use the software the
first time often get in the way once you already know how to use it.
That's why I build all my custom Access applications for EASE OF USE
and leave the learning to training.
I literally copied identical databases from one to the other
and ran several side by side tests for query execution. The old
laptop won every time. It's sad. I really hope someone has
information I'm missing that will help.

Did you decompile and recompile on A2K7? If not, that might be a
source of performance issues, because the A2K3 compiled code may be
inefficient in A2K7.
 
D

David W. Fenton

I literally copied identical databases from one to the other
and ran several side by side tests for query execution. The old
laptop won every time.

Actually, you should make sure the issue is A2K7 and not Vista by
installing A2K7 on your XP box and testing performance there. I
wouldn't be surprised if the slowdown is from Vista itself. I have
always found that software on WinXP runs much more snappily with the
Windows Classic skin in place of the horrid Luna default skin (and
it's not limited to just UI manipulation operations). Perhaps Vista
is slowing things down for some reason.
 
Ad

Advertisements

G

Guest

Thanks so much for responding, Jeff. I'm very glad to hear it. I do trust
what you say and am glad the my first hand experiences can be helpful. I'm
really not a ranter like the many MS-bashers I see around here. I've been in
IT long enough to understand how extraordinarily difficult this kind of
software development is and have always believed that MS is doing it's best.
I just have not always agreed with some of the judgment calls - as no one
would all the time. Software design has to be about some level of compromise
- especially in the mass market. I'll look forward to performance
improvements in future patches! I don't doubt that testing is quite
extensive - which is why I'm so surprised to have this issue and have held
out hope that maybe there's some configuration tweak or user problem I've not
discovered yet. I've literally been using Access all day every day in my
work for over 5 years now. I may not be a typical user - but certainly am an
experienced one! 8)

Anyway - thanks again for the post, and the ray of hope!
 
J

Jeff Conrad [MSFT]

Hi Pat,

I don't always agree myself with some of the decisions made and the same goes for others on the
team. I've been in some very "lively" meetings where issues were discussed and decisions made and
I've really been surprised how passionate people on the team "fight" for something they believe in.

As to performance on different operating systems that can be a tough one because as I'm sure you
know, we can't control how the OS is developed from our team and sometimes we have to deal with the
cards we're dealt.

--
Jeff Conrad - Access Junkie - MVP Alumni
SDET - XAS Services - Microsoft Corporation

Co-author - Microsoft Office Access 2007 Inside Out
Presenter - Microsoft Access 2007 Essentials
http://www.accessmvp.com/JConrad/accessjunkie.html
Access 2007 Info: http://www.AccessJunkie.com
 
Ad

Advertisements

G

Guest

Yes - I've considered that the issue may be external to Access. Could be
Vista, could even be something configured or installed on my machine - but
I'm not using anything I didn't use on the XP box except, of course, all new
versions. Things do improve a bit when I'm working on the same query stream
for a while. I suspect that's caching doing what it's supposed to. I'm in
the process of temporarily disabling/configuring other things right now.
I'll keep trying things at this end - both inside and outside of Access and
report back if I find any kind of correlation.
 

Ask a Question

Want to reply to this thread or ask your own question?

You'll need to choose a username for the site, which only take a couple of moments. After that, you can post your question and our members will help you out.

Ask a Question

Top