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4.0 out of 5 stars Un-daunting Access, 21 Dec. 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Access for Windows '95 (Dummies 101) (Paperback)
(This was originally a note to some Paradox users who at first found Access to be a little user-unfriendly.)
This Dummies tutorial is a little old (you have to confirm converting the sample databases to Access for Office 97), but the tutorial is perfectly serviceable, with all the features of the current release (this written 12/98).
About Access's user unfriendliness, to some extent it's a matter of perspective and to some a matter of exposure: After I installed the tutorial's sample database, I opened one of the files ("Camelot Directory 4") and was surprised to find a very user-friendly interface - one that the user creates.
Looking at the current market in these database products (in the broader history of the development of the PC), it seems like it's a matter of a computer equivalent of "For 3 you get egg-rolls and Visual Basic." That is to say, Access is a "bigger" or "wider" product, and it's harder to see the whole thing at once. Even the "Northwind" sample-database that comes with Access doesn't show off it's user-interface development capabilities as much as it gets right into the heart of the mechanical intricacies of Access' "engine room," as it were.
I don't know Paradox that well, but if I were to say that
· a large mainframe database like Oracle is an ocean liner,
· Access (which "real" database programmers complain has substantial limitations) is like a motor-yacht
· Excel is like a smuggler's speedboat
Then, though I am without any real acquaintance with Paradox, I would have to guess that, in terms of size (which they could have made bigger if that had been the market they were targeting)
· Paradox might be like a cabin-cruiser.
I would get the feeling that in a cabin-cruiser, you are used to having polished walnut handles on the throttle even as your galley is just a hop away and you always hear the motor - that is, you have a certain level of convenience (user-friendliness) but are still in intimate contact with how the thing runs. (Out in my fast little Excel, I enjoy being able to scoop things right out of the water - in my class, Sr Data Entry Tech, I have been known to open an uncooperative data file in Notepad and manually replace wrong formatting with commas and quotation marks to get a database to open my files.) In a motor-yacht like Access, the Millionaire is in the silver-&-chandeliers dining room being served his crepes & champagne, but after breakfast he goes onto the bridge and expects that the Captain, at least, will see clean, shiny chrome valve covers when he goes down into the engine room - that is, the Captain is in a sense the real consumer of the data, and the Millionaire delegates him to be his proxy, to do his thinking for him as it were.
The problem with getting into a program of a certain level of complexity, is that we are in the midst of role changes, disruptions that PC development only accelerates. In the old, strictly mainframe days, you had the distinct roles of
· a database programmer,
· a data entry person, and
· report consumers.
These were discrete roles that had little-to-no overlap. Spreadsheets came from a very different orientation - VisiCalc was with original PC "killer app" that had no mainframe precedent, so when a professor at Harvard Business School wanted to "run the numbers," he was liable to be consumer, programmer and even "data entry" person.
When you open the box on Access, you just want to jump right into productivity - yet as a database with mainframe ancestors but that "grew up" in a spreadsheet environment, you are going to be faced with what I call (sorry to switch metaphors) "driving a race while your mechanic is on the running board adjusting the engine with a wrench." (Unfortunately, most of the time, you are both driver & mechanic.) That is, you have to optimize the performance of something that is unfamiliar to you, and the expectation is that you'd better be damn quick at it.
This does not lend itself to a natural feeling of affection for a program with wider capabilities, but eventually, it can lead to a feeling of respect. It's just a matter of how much complexity you need to get into - you get used to adjusting the valves on your engine, learn to do it without getting yourself all greasy, and you are able to tell your colleagues with pride that you do your own engine work. The engine can still be shiny and able to be shown off to company without their ever getting dirty.
Once you see that Access can be user friendly (it's just complicated enough that some of the time, you need your mechanic's coveralls), it's just a menu thing - "With 5, you get Intelligent Clients."
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Access for Windows '95 (Dummies 101)
Access for Windows '95 (Dummies 101) by MARGARET (Paperback - 24 May 1996)
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