Microsoft Access is the worldwide most powerful system for developing database applications with forms, reports, queries and VBA modules. An acceptable performance is ensured for databases up to 2 GB and a number of records up to 100,000 per table when using a state-of-the-art PC.
I myself develop databases in a Frontend-Backend design mainly for auditors since about 25 years with more than 2,500 licensed users. My experiences are that no other system allows you to develop applications, add features, and fix bugs as efficiently as with Microsoft Access.
So let’s have a look at a client which allows to use Microsoft’s proprietary database file format (.accdb or .mdb) on Apple’s iOS devices.
Impathic LLc, USA offers the Microsoft Access Mobile Database Client at Apple’s App Store.
Microsoft Access databases are Stand-Alone Files, and so the database file must be transferred to your iOS device in order to open it in the Access Mobile Database Client. This is in contrast to many other databases, which connect over a network in ‘Client-Server’ mode. While having your database file on your device prevents the ability to work on the data concurrently with other users, it also allows you to work with your database in a disconnected environment, such as on an airplane.
Transfer to an iOS device …
How to transfer a Microsoft Access database to an iOS device …
Transferring an Access Database via iTunes File Sharing
- (1) On your desktop, locate your “.accdb” or “.mdb” database file.
- (2) Plug your iOS device into your desktop or laptop using the USB cable and open iTunes.
- (3) In the left panel of iTunes, locate and click on your iOS device name.
- (4) At the top of the screen for the device, select the “Apps” tab.
- (5) Scroll down to the “File Sharing” section at the bottom of the screen.
- (6) Select “Access” from the list of apps.
- (7) Drag your Access database from your computer into the file list.
- (8) When you next launch Access Mobile Database Client, you will see your database in the list of available databases.
You may also transfer a database from a cloud provider offering a client app for iOS devices which supports the ‘Open in’ command or you can send the database as an E-Mail attachment.
Transferring an Access Database from the cloud
- (1) Sign up for a free account at http://www.dropbox.com if you don’t already have one.
- (2)Upload your “.mdb” or “.accdb” file to your dropbox account using their desktop integration program.
- (3) Download the free “Dropbox” app from the Apple iTunes App Store, launch it, and log in.
- (4) Browse to your database file and tap the forward button , then select “Access” as the application to open the database with.
When you first select your database in Dropbox, the app may say “Unable to view file”, but you should still be able to tap the forward button to open it in Access Mobile Database Client.
Modifications made to your database will not be saved back to your Dropbox account, but instead will be saved locally on your iOS device. To get your modified database back to your desktop, you need to transfer it back using the iTunes File Sharing method, or by tapping “Edit” from the database list, selecting your database, and then mailing your database back to yourself, or opening it another application (such as the official ‘Dropbox’ app).
Transferring an Access Database via E-Mail attachment
- (1) Tap on the E-Mail attachment (an accdb or mdb file).
- (2) From the ‘Open in’ menu choose ‘Access’.
The full feature description …
Impressions of the application …
See this annotated slideshow to get an impression of the user interface.
Tap on an image to see the navigation bar.
The pros …
- Support for Microsoft Access 97, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2007, 2010
- Support for relationships between tables
- Export of tables or queries as CSV file to other apps like Apple’s iWork app ‘Numbers’
- Ability to adjust the font size for listings
- Simple UI
The cons …
- Creation of databases not supported
- Changing of tables (add fields, etc.) not supported
- Adjusting the column width not supported
- Backup and Restore not supported
- Printing of tables not supported
- Saving changed databases back to a cloud storage not supported
iTunes File Sharing is the only way to transfer edited databases back to other devices or cloud storages
- No integrated browser for opening Hyperlinks
- Display of images not supported
Images located in the system table MSysResources or other tables are not displayed.
- Errors when executing queries with string operations
Error executing query: Syntax Error: Stopped parse at …
- No feature updates or bug fixes since 18 months
This usually is an unmistakable hint for a frozen app.
It’s obvious, and no disadvantage of the app, that
- linked tables in a Frontend-Backend configuration are not supported
- sharing the Frontend is a senseless act as forms, reports, and VBA modules are not supported on iOS devices
The test results …
I imported the following databases via iTunes File Sharing
- My simple WordPress database WordPress.accdb
- The Microsoft sample database Northwind.accdb
- A database containing a table with 100,000 and one with 3,666,731 records
Does the client app or the iPad behave disgracefully when using large amount of data?
Here are some stats:
- Table with 12 fields:
Number of records = 100,000
File size on a PC = 320 MB
- Loading of records into the list view:
500 records within 11 sec
- Query with the WHERE condition ‘Begins With’ for a text field and descending sort order:
215 records selected within 38 sec
- Full text search over 12 fields:
448 records selected within 370 sec
Repeating the tests with 3,666,731 records came to a nearly linear increasing processing time.
And … Neither the app nor the iPad crashed!
I cannot recommend Microsoft Access Mobile Database Client because of the limited sharing options and missing sync functionalities when using more than one device.
It might be useful for looking up records on an iOS device for databases containing more static content like product lists with stable prices or other tables similar in kind.
The competitors, Tap Forms HD by Tap Zap Software and FileMaker’s Bento, are light years ahead.
Related links …
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