Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Get Started with Access 2013 Web Apps

Andrew Stegmeier posted Get Started with Access 2013 Web Apps to the Microsoft Access blog on 7/30/2012:

You can use Access 2013 and the Office 365 Preview to build a web app almost immediately and start using it to track the things you care about. There's no need to set up expensive or complicated servers, but you can still take advantage of the speed, security and simplicity that comes with server-based apps.

Follow these steps to get started in minutes:

1. Sign up for Office 365 Preview

You can create Access 2013 web databases[*] on any SharePoint 2013 site. The easiest way to try this out is through SharePoint Online, which is included in the Office 365 Small Business Premium and Office 365 Enterprise plans. (Note that the Office 365 ProPlus and Office 365 Home Premium products do not include SharePoint Online).

Choose an Office 365 plan for business: Small Business Premium or Enterprise

Once you've downloaded a copy of Office 2013 through the preview site, open Access 2013 and click "Create Blank Web Database." For the "Web Location," enter the URL of the SharePoint site where you'd like to put your app. On Office 365, that URL will look something like this:


When you click Create, Access will talk with the SharePoint server, and make a new, blank Access App on the site.

Create a new web app.

2. Add tables to your app

When your blank app is finished being created, you'll be taken to the Add Tables screen. The fastest way to build your app is to search through our list of table templates to see if we have one that's similar to the thing that you'd like to track. Whether you want an app to store contacts, employees, companies, equipment, events—or anything else—you'll likely find something there to help you get started.

Simply type something into the box that says "What would you like to track?", press Enter, and select something from the search results. As soon as you click on an available template, that table will be added to your app.

Add some tables.

At the most basic level, a table template is a list of fields. For example, if you choose the "Contacts" template, you'll get a place to store information about people with fields such as "First Name," "Last Name," and "Email Address." You also may find that a table comes along with others. For example, adding the "Assets" template (illustrated above) also gives you a "Categories" table. You can enter whatever Categories you want into this table, which you can use to group and organize the Assets.

You can easily customize these templates to suit your needs. Stay tuned for future posts that will dive into these topics.

3. Launch your app in the browser

Launch the app in the browser.

After you've added some tables to your app, you're ready to start using it. Click the "Launch App" button to view the app in your internet browser.

In general, you'll use a browser to add, edit and view the data in your app. Access 2013 is there to help you create and customize the views and tables. After you're done designing, you can share the app with other people, even if they don't have Access. Access web apps work in all major browsers, so whether you prefer Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, or Safari, you can still get to your data.

Let's take a quick look at what you've created: a fully-functioning app to track the things you care about.

On the left (1) is a list of tables. These are the broad types of things, like assets, that are tracked in your app. For each table, there are several views (2) across the top. These views display the information stored in the tables in useful ways. The default List view can be used to search and filter the different assets (3) and to edit, add, or delete information about each asset (4).

As you can see, Access 2013 makes it easy to build a fully functioning web app in no time. We hope you'll check it out by signing up for one of the Office 365 plans for business: Small Business Premium or Enterprise.

* I believe that the Access 2010 term “web database(s)” should be “custom web app(s)” for Access 2013 and the Office 365 Preview.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Tim Anderson Gives Access 2013 Web Apps the Thumbs-Up

Tim Anderson (@timanderson) posted Access Web App: at last a simple web database app builder from Microsoft on 7/25/2012:

imageOne thing hardly mentioned in the press materials for Office 2013, and therefore mostly ignored in the immediate publicity, is Microsoft Access 2013. It is included though, and its most interesting new feature is a thing called an Access Web app.


To make one of these, you click the big “Custom web app” button on the opening screen. The first thing you are asked is where to put it. It is looking for a SkyDrive or Office 365 team site – essentially, online SharePoint 2013 I imagine. If you are not signed in, this screen appears blank.


I selected SkyDrive at my Office 365 preview site.


Hit Create and you can select an app from a template. I chose a Music Collection app. Access generated several tables and forms for me and opened the design environment.


The template app is a bit daft – Artists and Labels are based on a People template, so you get Labels with a Job Title field – but that does not bother me. What interests me is that Access generates a relational database that you can edit as you like. The template UI offers either a list/detail view called a List, or a Datasheet which shows rows in a grid format. There is also a Blank view which you can design from scratch.

I had a quick poke around. Access Web Apps do too good a job of hiding their innards for my taste, but what you get is a SharePoint app with data stored in SQL Server Azure. You can also use on-premise SharePoint and SQL Server 2012.

Programmability in Access Web Apps is limited, but you do get macros which let you combine multiple actions. There are two kinds of macros, UI macros and Data macros. UI macros support a range of actions including SetVariable, if and else statements. The only loop functions I can see are in Data macros, which include a ForEachRecord action. You can call Data macros from other macros and a Data macro includes a SetReturnVar statement, so I guess with a bit of ingenuity you can do many kinds of automated operations. Macros are described here.


In my quick test, I put a button on a view and had it show a message. Apologies.

The application files are all stored on SharePoint, rather than locally, so I presume you could easily edit the app on any machine with Access 2013 installed.

Click Launch App and the web app opens in the browser. Everything worked, including my MessageBox.


I also tried it on the Google Nexus 7 Android device. Again it seems to work fine, though I did get some odd behaviour returning to the app. There are possibly some authentication issues.


An Access Web App is just another SharePoint app, as explained here, so you can publish it to selected groups via the built-in store.

There is no way that I can see to craft your own SQL, which to me is a disadvantage, but maybe we will discover how to bypass the UI and open a database in SQL Management Studio, or access it programmatically from other environments.

It seems to me that what Microsoft is offering here is what it tried, but failed, to offer in Visual Studio LightSwitch: database programming for the non-specialist. Access has always done this, though unfortunately it is easy to make rather a mess if you do not know what you are doing. An Access Web App gives the developer/user fewer ways to go wrong, and builds cross-browser web apps. It is not yet possible to judge whether Microsoft has got the feature set right, but fundamentally this looks useful for simple custom business database applications of the kind that many small organisations and departments find they need. It is a big advance on MDB files stuck on a file share, fits with the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) concept by working on iPads and the like, and makes it easy to get started and experiment. Good work.

Related posts:

  1. Very simple VB 2008 database app with databinding
  2. Sample code for a very very simple VB database application
  3. Microsoft Access needs a complete rethink – or retirement
  4. The end of Code Access Security in Microsoft .NET
  5. Remote access to files in Microsoft Small Business Server 2011

This might be Microsoft’s answer to FileMaker and QuickBase. I plan to try Tim’s approach and test it with my Nexus 7 tablet shortly. Stay tuned.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Microsoft Access Team Announces Access 2013

Andrew Stegmaier  posted Introducing Access 2013 on 7/20/2012 (missed when published):

imageThe Access team is proud to introduce the Access 2013 public preview, which will make it easier than ever for everyday people to organize the data in their lives and businesses using Access apps. On this blog, you'll be able to learn about the improvements included in this new release.

Access has always been a great tool to help you organize and run a small business or a team. This release focuses on bringing Access databases to the web, making them more useful than ever. Your database can be hosted by Microsoft through Office 365 and securely accessed from any tablet or computer—even if the device doesn't have Access installed.

Getting started is easier, too, taking just 60 seconds to get your first Access app up and running. With little or no additional effort, you'll end up with a finished app that is both functional and beautiful—automatically—thanks to an enhanced user interface. Finally, we've made some big improvements under the covers to make your apps faster and more extensible. Your data is now stored in a full-fledged SQL Server database. When Microsoft hosts your database in the cloud, we'll use SQL Azure; when you host it yourself on your network, you can use SQL Server 2012. Advanced users will love the fact that they can directly connect to SQL Server with familiar tools for powerful analysis and integration.

Here's a peek of some of the things we'll be talking about:

Host your databases in the cloud with Office 365

Create a new Access 2013 web app with Office 365.If your Office 365 plan includes SharePoint, you can host Access 2013 databases with no extra setup required. Microsoft will make sure your data is secure, backed-up, and available, so that you can focus on getting things done. You can try it out by signing up for a preview of Office 365 Small Business Premium or Office 365 Enterprise. Whether you’re a small business or a large corporation, you’ll be able to harness the power of Access 2013 in the cloud simply and easily. Of course, companies also have the option of hosting databases themselves by installing SharePoint 2013 and SQL Server 2012 on their own network.

Get started faster

Add tables using templates.Search from a library of table templates to help you track the people, things, events, or tasks that you care about. Each table template comes with fields, views, relationships, and data-integrity rules, so you can take advantage of all the great features of Access 2013 with a single click. It’s easy to combine different table templates into a single app or tweak an existing table by adding or removing fields. You’ll get to spend your time customizing your database to meet your unique needs instead of worrying about repetitive details.

A polished, professional user interface for your apps

A clean, professional user interface.Whether you use table templates, import existing data, or define your own schema from scratch, Access 2013 will provide your database with a great user interface automatically. Without any effort on your part, Access will generate views for your data, including a searchable list view and an Excel-like datasheet. Buttons to navigate between your views and tables come for free, too. If you have related data—like Invoices and Line Items—Access will automatically create views that show these items together, allowing you to drill-through to get more details. Of course, everything is still customizable, but now you can focus on what's unique about your app.

Access apps = SharePoint apps

Add Access apps to SharePoint using the App CatalogueAccess 2013 web databases work great with SharePoint 2013, which has been enhanced in this release with apps for SharePoint. Because an Access app is just like any other SharePoint app, it’s easy to deploy, manage, and share securely. There are no additional passwords or logins to juggle because security is controlled through the same infrastructure. Users can discover and share Access apps through the public SharePoint App Store or a private App Catalogue. Installing an app takes just a few clicks. Corporate IT can control everything centrally using familiar SharePoint tools. Best of all, anyone with a web browser and an internet connection can use your app, even if he doesn't have Access installed on his device.

SQL Server back-end

One of the biggest improvements in Access 2013 is one you may not even notice—except that you're whole app will be faster, more reliable, and work great with large amounts of data. When Access databases are published to SharePoint—whether on-premise or through Office 365—a full-fledged SQL Server database is automatically created to store the data. Advanced users who are already familiar with SQL Server will be able to directly connect to this database for advanced reporting and analysis with familiar tools such as Excel, Power View, and Crystal Reports. Everyday users can rest assured that their apps are ready for the future if they ever need to enhance them with advanced integrations or migrations. Check out the Access 2013 developer center for more details.

Access on Office 365 harnesses the power of SQL Azure.

We're looking forward to introducing you to what's amazing and new about Access 2013. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

First Look at Office 365 Pro Plus Preview with Access 2013

Previews of multiple preview versions of Office 365 became available for download on July 16, 2012. I installed Office 365 Pro Plus’s online version only on Windows 8 Release Preview (Build 8400) as a starter. Here’s my desktop after the about 30-minute installation:

1 - Office365PreviewDesktop

Clicking the Access 2013 tile opens the start window:

2 - Access2013PreviewStart

Notice that Access Custom Web Apps appear to have replaced Access Web Databases.

Clicking the Blank Desktop Database button proposes to create a new Table1:

3 - Access2013PreviewCreateTable

Following is a completed table in Table Design view:

4 - Access2013PreviewTableDesign

More follows after I find out more about Access 2013 Custom Web Apps. The link to the topic is broken (see below).

New Access 2013 Application Architecture

From the What's new for Access 2013 developers document:


I’m glad to see a more direct connection to SQL Server than SharePoint lists, but the use of SOAP Web services flies in the face of the trend to RESTful approaches. There’s no mention of VBA programmability that I can find in the resources below. Macros are back in full force.


Following is Microsoft documentation related to Access 2013 as of 7/16/2012: