RIP Access WEB apps, Long live the Access Desktop
If you have been at all involved with Access web apps, you might have noticed that there has been no development for a while. After several attempts from Microsoft at making a RAD (Rapid Application Development) easy-to-use development platform for the power user/”Information worker” (Access Data Pages, Infopath, Access 2010 Sharepoint web apps, Light Switch, Access 2013/2016 web apps just to name a few) Microsoft has decided to launch a new product (as opposed to actually finishing what they started with the other products one might say) called Power Apps. And with that decision they wanted to focus their efforts there, and thus the choice to stop development and support for previous products (within a given timeframe)
You can read more about the “end of support” for Access services (which is an required component for the Access web apps) here:
Official Microsoft link: Access Services
The good – Access Desktop lives
There is a silver lining, and that is that in recently Microsoft has once again started to focus on the best RAD tool ever, the desktop version of Access. Rumor is they started looking at the number behind the infolytics and discovered just how many Access Applications are out there, saving time and money every day. And while this does mean we don’t get true access web apps, there are still plenty of ways to put your access application to the cloud. We have clients using Azure SQL as backend, while maintaining their Desktop application. We get the full power of a client side application, while still having our data available everywhere we go. Or using Remote Desktop you can even access your client application from a tablet or phone.
Access Desktop now has a roadmap (Which admittedly Microsoft could do a better work at updating), and new features have been added. Support for Big Int, Support for dBase, better ODBC support which is huge if you are using Azure SQL server. Actual features have been worked on. They even recently hinted that they are looking into a solution for those using the 32bit treeview control…
We will include Access Services and Access Web Apps in the next version of SharePoint Server. Access Web Apps and Access Services will continue to be supported in all current versions of on-premises SharePoint servers for the remainder of the product lifecycle.
If your application is hosted internally, on your on prem sharepoint, supposedly (As I understood it) the access services will continue to run for the product lifecycle, which should give you 5 to 10 years. This doesn’t change the fact that you might now be stuck with an application that your poured hundreds of hours into, and now have to make decisions. I mean, no one wants to continue development work on what is essentially going to be useless at some point. But on the other hand, you are literally now forced to re-invent the wheel.
We will stop creation of new Access-based apps in SharePoint Online starting June 2017 and shut down any remaining apps by April 2018.
If you have been developing Access Web Apps as a product to sell, or you are using Sharepoint online, you are now faced with a serious near-time deadline. You have less than a year to build your new application, test it, and load data into it. And that doesn’t even include the time required to research which technology to bet on. While Microsoft is pouring alot of resources into Power Apps, I just don’t (yet) see it being as powerful as AWA. There are some things they got right, like responsiveness to whatever device you are one, but I am no fan boy yet.
Personally I disagree with the choice taken. I will admit that there are element of Access WEB apps that I haven’t been to happy about. One of them being the lack of responsive design when you switch to a mobile device, but that might be more a sharepoint issue than AWA. I also disliked the lack of extensibility because you couldn’t write your own stored procedures directly in SQL server. But then again, my perspective is that of a professional developer. For many power users, the fact that while working in the Access Web app design interface, you were actually creating server side views and your data macros were stored server side as stored procedures is quite huge. You could literally have people with no knowledge of SQL server creating real database solutions with referential integrity. That is no small feat, and I do believe Microsoft is making the wrong decision in throwing all of that away. But the solid conclusion is still that if you have an Access Web app you need to start preparing for when the light turns off.