Access as a Client-Side CMS

By Deane Barker on June 24, 2003

How about Microsoft Access as a client-side content management tool? After playing around with Radio UserLand and CityDesk, I’m finding more and more utility in a client-side apps. They’re responsive, they don’t need to be connected (great for laptops or dial-up), and you can do a lot more with a client-side user interface than a browser-based interface.

So, I got to thinking the other day, how about hot-rodding Microsoft Access into a client-based CMS? Microsoft VBA is a very competent langauge, and it essentially gives you a fully-functional Windows interface inside of an Access file.

You could easily develop a set of VBA forms that allowed WYSIWYG entry, category assignment, publishing management, etc. These forms would just modify underlying Access tables in that same file. Everything would be self-contained and it could generate and FTP files to a remote server (or file-copy, if you were on the same network as your server).

For all its faults, Access is an extremely mature data storage app, so you get all the functionality of a true, relational database backend with the full functionality of a Visual Basic application interface.

I’m not going to write this, but I wish someone would.



  1. I agree, but Access and VBA are a lot more accessible than a compiled VB/MSDE app would be. The development environment for VBA is built right into Access, as is the data layer. I was kind of pushing for ease of development, though I can see your point.

  2. What’s the cost/licensing model of the MSDE? One strength Access always had was a pretty low cost – which you have to figure on smaller projects. Being able to quickly make changes while on-site without the whole recompile process was great.

    Using Access as a website generator isn’t a bad idea…after years of trying to shoe-horn everything into the browser the idea of developing a client-side application sounds….fun! ;)

  3. Has anyone tried building such application? I wish that could be offered free open source. Look forward to see my wish coming true one day. :)

  4. I did it in 2000 with Access 2.0 for a retail website of about 7k computer books. Worked like a champ, too, spitting out nice clean static HTML page ready to upload to server. Three cautions: 1. I had a lot of interface design experience already. 2. I was really fast with Access in those days, and 3. MS hadn’t really figured out the Web in a big way — so while Access v2.0 didn’t mess with my HTML, a more modern version might — the same way it’s impossible to export a template from Word without Word getting in there and “improving” your HTML.

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