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  1. #1
    Dorkula is offline Novice
    Windows 7 64bit Access 2010 64bit
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    How to 'Learn' an Access Application


    My apologies if this is a well worn subject, I am pretty ignorant of terminology.

    Frequently I am handed basically abandoned Access apps at work and asked to fix, document, migrate, whatever. These are generally very complex layered apps that are years and years old, have gone through 1/2 dozen revisions, teams, corporate BS etc. By the time I get them they are a tangle of clumsy queries, incoherant VBA and run like Jake Clampetts truck. And no, there is no documentation. Never, none.

    Are there best practices to analyzing and becoming facile with an unfamiliar application? My method to now has could best be described as hunt and peck, I document the structures, pull all the queries using VBA querydef properties and parameters, connections, etc,. I step through the code to get the logic,but that is slow going and not efficient. I know how to grab all the elements but and have successfully done this stuff but want to find a better,more efficient way and was wondering if anyone has pointers. I have not done much with 3rs party tools necause they seem to just do what I have already done with VBA.

    I am also unfamiliar with the terminology -- "analyze" is kind of vague, "learn" doesn't seem right, reverse engineer isn't accurate but seems more correct.

    Thnks!!!

  2. #2
    orange's Avatar
    orange is offline Moderator
    Windows XP Access 2003
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    What tools have you built for yourself? What kind of organization runs
    ....very complex layered apps that are years and years old, have gone through 1/2 dozen revisions, teams,....
    and ...there is no documentation. Never, none.....
    without some form of dba/data admin group?

  3. #3
    ssanfu is offline Master of Nothing
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    Maybe "Document"??

    Have you seen Crystal's site?
    My Favorite Power Tools by Crystal
    http://www.accessmvp.com/strive4peace/MyTools.htm

    or Allen Browne's
    Database Issue Checker Utility
    http://allenbrowne.com/appissuechecker.html


    The tools help, but it is just a lot of hard work

    And welcome to the forum.....
    HTH
    -----
    Steve
    --------------------------------
    "Veni, Vidi, Velcro"
    (I came; I saw; I stuck around.)

  4. #4
    orange's Avatar
    orange is offline Moderator
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    Further to steve's list, and I strongly agree with Crystal's materials and her Learn Access guide, I recommend the free utility MZTools
    (http://www.mztools.com/v3/download.aspx). This tool assists with documentation; error handling; procedure callers......

  5. #5
    Dorkula is offline Novice
    Windows 7 64bit Access 2010 64bit
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    Thanks so much, all very helpful.

    What kind of organization runs"
    ....very complex layered apps that are years and years old, have gone through 1/2 dozen revisions, teams,....
    and ...there is no documentation. Never, none..... "
    without some form of dba/data admin group?

    My thoughts exactly, just replace the question mark with a few exclamation points and obscenities. More money for me, anyhoo.

  6. #6
    orange's Avatar
    orange is offline Moderator
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    Is it a retail or service company - or is it government? Is it profitable?
    Can you identify the owners of specific applications/databases?

  7. #7
    Dorkula is offline Novice
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    Thanks for all the responses.This is something I see all the time, and with 1 or 2 exceptions all my clients have been the big mega corps you see in the Wall Street Journal regularly (I am not naming any for confidentiality/paranoia reasons).
    I think what happens is as desktops and MS OFFICE became more powerful and easier for non techs or semi techs to use small depts developed apps off the grid, not wanting to get involved with the rigid IT bureacracy that these corps tend to have.
    So over time they come to rely on a desktop app that grows and warps and mutates and at some point it breaks or there is some major shakeup (like Sarbanes Oxely, ACA, The Dodd and whatever laws) and these apps suddenly need be put on the grid.
    This is the 4th contract in 3 years I have done that is the same thing -- we have this access or excel app that needs to be whipped in to shape, documented, streamlined, migrated to an enterprise platform. The developers are either long gone or power users who made what power users make. No docs, no comments, nothing you would expect in best practices because of the hodgepodge development. And it is everywhere, these corps are riddled with them. On one contract we reviewed the app the died because the devs desktop got turned off and we found the dept had 3 other similar apps that needed to be fixed or in three months they would have the same issue.

    I smell money. And no one can steal the title of my forthcoming autobiography: "21st Century Technology Meets the Bronze Age; You're Doing What?"

  8. #8
    Dal Jeanis is offline VIP
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    Dorkula - What I didn't see in any of your lists of what you do is the first critical thing: interview the users to determine what the database is actually used for. Often, I have found that a skunkworks database full of arcane items contains only about 16%-33% of forms, screens and queries that are functional requirements. The remainder is Might-Have-Been's and Thought-I-Once-Wanted's and Programmer-Needed's and Whoops-Never-Mind-I'll-Do-It-Another-Way's.

Please reply to this thread with any new information or opinions.

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