Why Microsoft Access 2007 Sucks

I despise the new version of the database application. Here's why.

I wanted to write the following post for a few months now but held back. I figured that I’d come around and not risk coming off as a curmudgeon. Well, I can’t wait anymore. It’s time for a good old-fashioned bitch session.

As readers of my blog know, I’m a big fan of technology and normally embrace new ways of doing things. I like learning and always have. But I absolutely deplore Microsoft Access 2007 and it’s time to let it out.

Now, I am not completely delusional. Bitching about a completely new user interface (GUI) and a contextual ribbon will not change a thing. Ballmer et al. won’t realize the error of their ways, offering an MSP that returns Access to its heretofore state. At least this post will make me feel better and save me a few dollars otherwise spent on a shrink.

Whichever Microsoft department and individuals responsible for the design of Access 2007 ought to be placed in some minimum security prison.

I have been using Access 2007 for nearly two years now, albeit sporadically. Many of my clients have not upgraded from Office 2000 or 2003 and have no plans to do so soon—not that I can blame them. As a result, I frequently have to use both versions of the tool: 2007 at home and 2003 while on the clock. It’s like playing nine holes on a simple, familiar course and the other nine at Carnoustie—in 40 mph wind without your driver.

Now, I don’t hate all of Office 2007. I’ve gotten pretty good at Word and Excel and, although there are some minor annoyances, PowerPoint 2007 is passable. But whichever Microsoft department and individuals responsible for the design of Access 2007 ought to be placed in some minimum security prison.

Reasons

In no particular order, here’s why I hate Access 2007:

  1. There was nothing wrong with the old GUI.
  2. The new GUI is way, way too different.
  3. Contextual menus irritate people looking for consistency and precision.
  4. Shortcuts in Word, PowerPoint, and Excel still work in their 2007 versions and help new users ease the transition. This version of Access shipped with relatively few shortcuts.
  5. There’s no way to revert to the 2003 GUI, although I heard a while back that a Chinese company makes a little program that does this very thing.
  6. The ribbon. Enough said.

I know that I am not alone here. A quick search of Google provides no dearth of results here. Quite a few self-described medium and expert Access users are struggling with basic functionality in the new version. I laughed reading some of the angry queries about people who spent hours looking for simple macro arguments that, for no discernible reason, the wizards at Microsoft decided to hide or obscure. There’s something fundamentally cruel about screwing with highly talented developers who can build complex databases and applications that move key data around. Those same Type-A folks now have to take several big steps back to relearn basic navigation.

That’s never a good sign.

Simon Says

Look, you’re never going to make everyone happy when you rewrite an application. Also, I’m not completely naive. You don’t sell more licenses by putting out the same product over and over again. The illusion of movement and improvement might increase sales. At the same time, though, this is not 1995. There are many options out there for productivity applications; Microsoft is hardly the only game in town anymore. Forget other software vendors for a moment. People can download free and open source database applications and fork them, never having to worry about dramatically different GUIs in the future.

I’m going to be one of them.

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21 hopefully intriguing thoughts:

  1. I agree that MS Access 2007 could be a lot better than it is now. But I think there is a reason MS constantly downgrades Access in every new edition since Access 97.
    Shortly after (I think it was) the XP version was released I heard a Microsoft (.net language) employee say there wasn’t much unity in the company between the OS (Windows), Programming Languages, Database (SQL Server) and Office groups within the company. Office was an entire different group with separate language development (VBA) and Access was the odd one out there. They were sort of stuck with the success of Access in the past and did not really know what to do with it. There are not much powerful and function rich desktop databases available and Access has long been in the way of the success of SQL Server.
    I think it would be wise for Microsoft if they would listen to the market and improve on Access. As with SQL Server and BI (DTS & SSAS) in the early 2000’s they don’t seem to realize what interesting market position they have with their powerful desktop database.

    Reply
    • Vanity Fair did a great piece on the fractured culture within Microsoft. Maybe that led to some significant problems with products like Access.

      Reply
  2. There is nothing wrong with Access, itself, per say.   The problem is version 2007 and beyond…   The interface SUCKS beyond description.  It is pretty much useless.  I reverted back to 2003 and wont look forward until Microsoft corrects its mistake of making it look the way it does.  Its horrendous.  As far as Access itself, it has a place and I have dozens of rock solid systems at various clients, earning me nice money, and they’ve got great systems to use.  NONE of them will be upgraded to 2007 or beyond.

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  3. Absolutely agree.
    And nothing improved in Access 2010

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  4. In older versions of Access, when I needed to create a form for entering data, I would simply run the forms wizard , then edit the generally crappy results into something usable. In 2007, the forms wizard has taken on a totally vile nature.
    Try this:

    Take a table with a lot of fields.
    Click Create tab, and you will see a Form button. Click it and immediately you have a crappy column form in what appears to be design mode.

    Since the form generator did not ask you for a table or fields, you realize it used the last table accessed, which was not the one you wanted. so you deloete the crappy form #1 select the table you want and try again.
    Now you have another form in a really poor layout, but when you try to edit it, you realize that you can only change groups of controls on the screen.
    After poking around for several minutes to several hours, googling for every possible combination that might give useful results and only getting BS results from Microsofts massive web dungeon offerring regurgatated help information that is totally useless to anyone except some idiot who can type but doesn’t know his left hand from a flaming fire brand, you look at your form and realize it is in something called “layout mode”.
    You switch to design mode only to find that it makes no difference.
    After a bit more poking around, you realize that the old style Forms wizard is carefully hidden in a drop down list by a small icon on the ribbon deceptively labes as “more forms” you find the functional old style Forms Wizard.

    I don’t think the person or persons responsible for this travesty shou be locked in a minimum security prison. I thnk they should be locked up in the sewers under Abu Graib.

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  5. completely agree. I have gone from a good mood to a horrible mood just because of Access. WHY did they have to make is so different??????? WHY?

    Reply
    • I suppose that some people think that different is better. Often, they are wrong.

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  6. Applause

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  7. The folks who designed the UI for Access 2010 must have been high on the fumes of burning tires. 

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  8. There should be a special place in Tartaras (right below child molesters) for the designers of the Access 2007 interface.  Whoever they are they should be reminded “it’s puff – puff – pass, dude…..your decision making skills are being compromised.”

    Reply
  9. I totally feel the same, being a new (1.5 month) user of Access 2007… I myself have an increasing list of complaints (which I can compile and post somewhere if anyone wants to take a look at it), and Access 2010 has only made a marginal improvement. The worse thing in the list is the thoroughly useless help files that (1) does not reference the commands on the ribbon in many cases, and (2) written for a complete newbie, and does not serve as a proper developer reference.

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  10. I’m an expert access developer and absolutely HATE 2007.  It is quite obvious the developers of the interface have no idea what they are doing.  They are trying to make it web like with a long scroll bar to find the various objects in the DB.  Children, that long scroll bar on the web is there because the functionality to do anything else on the web didn’t exist.  It sucks as an interface for Access and in fact sucks as an interface on the web.  Even today that scroll bar interface is all that most of the folks creating content on the web can handle.  So yes, you bastards that came up with the 2007 interface, I am calling you little better than web content creators. 

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  11. I’ve been a big fan of Access since the 95 days. Access 2003 was kind of a downgrade in my opinion. But 2007…. it is horrible.

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  12. MSAccess is such an absolutely horrific piece of s**t to work with. I would be absolutely ashamed to be a Microsoft developer. Whoeever designed this piece of dreck should defect to some enemy country. I would NEVER get on an airplane or operating table where there was a Microsoft logo within 100 feet.

    Microsoft will be the downfall of civilization

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  13. I came across your blog after getting an “unrecognizable file format” message when I tried to open a saved database that I am in the process of creating. I vaguely remember some “quirk” that Microsoft referred to that basically said “Oh, if you save the database more than once this thing will happen that confuses the computer or makes the software screw things up”. Or something like that. And I thought, “Who in their right mind would release a program that makes the user’s work inaccessible to him simply because he saved that work?” For those of us who are not tech savvy it’s a pretty bad thing to work on a database for hours, come back to it two days later and not be able to open it up! Now I have to subscribe to Lynda.com and go through the tutorial to figure out how to get my database back. All on my dime by the way.

    I like your quote about putting the MS people in jail. I wasn’t as nice…

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  14. Well, I got into 2014 without having to move beyond Access 2003, but today I was finally confronted with the awfulness of the Access 2010 interface that I have to live with. It’s breathtakingly unusable, even having had 2-3 years to get used to the Excel and Word ribbons (still rubbish but I can live with them). Access takes the insult to existing users to a whole new level, and as I generally use legacy databases which I look at every few months I’m never going to be able to migrate away, or use this often enough to get used to it!

    Has anyone figured out a way to turn this off and turn the clock back? Please!

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  15. What do you all use now? I tried Base on OpenOffice and found it lacking. I’m a Mac guy.

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  16. I run MS Access in Vista under Fusion in Unity mode so that Windows apps appear as OS X apps. I hope that makes sense. I also have a shared volume that can read/write from both OS X and Windows. I can import/export to/from MS Exel on both platforms and funnel everything in and out of MSAccess. It is a bit convoluted, but it does work.

    I have no idea why Microsoft didn’t include MSAccess in their Mac version of Office. Maybe because then no one would have any use for Microsoft. I know that If I could I would do a low-level format on my Windows drive then set it and all my Microsoft products on fire in my front yard and scatter the ashes to the four corners of the planet.

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  17. I worked, and still working, with Access 2003 quick and with pleasure. Since Access 2007 theyd ruined it (with pleasure I think). How can MS build such tool? I like Visual Studio, but this is ridiculous.

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  18. I, too, despise Access 2007. All my DB work had been refined over years and I could as a non-developer dance through data for results. 2007 crippled me. I am now ineffective, and migrating to Open Office for everything. The sooner I am off Microsoft and their arrogance the better. I want to easily choose my format (international logical yyyymmdd, 24 hour, British English with a Dollar sign for Canada, non-numeric postal code ability, etc.), no auto-formatting my paragraphs, etc. And to automatically default save to stupid long strings like Documents and Settings … MyDocuments so printing a footer to identify the fine path for easy retrieval is patently idiotic. Their bloated code is the antithesis of Elegant and Robust, I am migrating to Linux to be efficient and free. Good luck all!

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  19. Hi, Just read these comments and couldn’t agree more. I’m a low level user of Access still using the payroll program I made in Access 97. My latest computer came with Office 2007 Pro. Aaaaaag!!!!! what a mess. Change for the sake of change, seemingly done by a marketing department that thinks pretty beats functional – probably while drinking low fat lattes and jabbering inanities on Facebook. I sure hope Access 97 will install and on Win7.

    Reply

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