New XML Features in Microsoft Office Access 2003: I’ve talked before about how Access would make a handy client-side publishing tool, a la Radio or CityDesk. Just this week, I’ve been doing some Access user interface programming, and I’ve been impressed with how good it is in that regard.
However, I’ve been struggling with how to get good-looking HTML data out of it. Access has Data Access Pages, but they’re crude and can’t generate fine-tuned HTML. (In fact, I have a posting out on an Access site asking if anyone knows of a good templating system to VBA / VBScript like Smarty for PHP or Velocity for Java.)
Anyway, it looks like Access 2003 has just the thing:
“…you can now transform XML data into another format with Extensible Stylesheet Language (XSL) files during both import and export operations. In addition, you can now include related tables when exporting XML from a database.”
Take a look at the example at the top of the page. With a little client-side VBA, you could easily automate the transformation of database tables into HTML. Use a COM object (here’s a free one) to programatically push it to a server (or even just a batch file), and then you really have something.
What, you say, only one person can work on an Access database at a time? Rubbish! Apparently you’ve never heard of using linked tables to make Access client-server, or even using Access replication to periodically sync multiple copies of Access into a master copy.
My regard for Access as a desktop database has skyrocketed this week. I’m still leery of using it on a server, but for the desktop, it has my vote.