Sunday, August 7, 2011

Visual Studio LightSwitch as a Microsoft Access Upgrade Path

Jeffrey Palermo (@jeffreypalermo) described Visual Studio LightSwitch, an Upgrade Path for Microsoft Access in a 7/30/2011 post to the Headspring blog:

imageThere are lots of business systems written in Microsoft Access. One of the most successful companies I know is Gladstone, Inc, makers of ShoWorks software. This software runs most of the county fairs in the U.S. From entries, to checks, to vendors, this piece of software does it all to help manage and run a fair and keep track of all the data. And it is written in Access.

imageStarted on Access 97, I have watched this software grow through the various Access upgrades, and it tests the limits of the platform. It’s author, Mike Hnatt, is one of the premiere Access gurus, and Microsoft has previous invited him up to the Redmond campus to be a part of internal Software Design Reviews, or SDR’s. Mike knows the limits of access, but even with the vast array of other development options out there, nothing comes close to parity with the capabilities he relies on – until today.


image222422222222This is my first LightSwitch application. I just installed the software, ran it, defined a table structure and a few screens. It’s really simple, and I see that i runs a desktop version of Silverlight. It feels like Access (I have done some of that programming earlier in my career) because you just define the tables and queries, and then ask for screens that work off the data. You can customize the screens to some degree, and you can write code behind the screens, just like you can write VBA behind Access screens. This is my first time looking at Lightswitch in a serious way since it was just released. I will be looking at it more because it belongs in our toolbelt at Headspring. There are plenty of clients who have Access and FoxPro systems. These systems have tremendously useful built-in functionality that is prohibitively expensive to duplicate in a custom way with raw WPF and C#, but Lightswitch provides a possible upgrade path that won’t break the bank.

In case you are wondering what it looks like to develop this, here it is.


Notice that there is a Solution Explorer, and you are in Visual Studio with a new project type. I was really pleased that I could write code easily.


I tried some ReSharper shortcuts, but they didn’t work. I guess we’ll have to wait for ReSharper to enable this project type. Here is my custom button that shows the message box.


I think LightSwitch as a lot of promise for legacy system rewrites, upgrades, and conversions. Because it’s 100% .Net, you can mix and match with web services, desktop, SQL Server, etc.

Jeffrey is COO of Headspring.

It’s nice to see a well-known and respected .NET developer give credit to Microsoft Access where it’s due.


  1. Thank you for the link. If you wouldn't mind, would you post an abstract and then a link to read the full article instead of republishing my entire post?

    Ironically, when searching for this, your post shows up before my post in Google. I'd appreciate the courtesy.

  2. Here's our experience over the past year working with LightSwitch in situations that we would have previously used Access or gone with a complete .NET solution. It's a very promising technology for a segment of the database market.

    Microsoft Visual Studio LightSwitch for Microsoft Access, SQL Server, and Visual Studio .NET Database Developers

    Hope this helps.