Monday, February 05, 2007

The mysteries of Microsoft Access: Built-In Functions

I rag on Microsoft all the time, but my dark secret is I'm a power-user of many of their products. Only a true geek can know the darkness at the heart of Microsoft software.

The darkness varies. Word is bad to the bone. Outlook is a complex mix of hacks and insights, kludges and cleverness, a slouching beast with thwarted aspirations to nobility. Excel has kept its pure Mac heart in the company of demons. PowerPoint is simply dumb. And then there's Microsoft Access ....

Access is the most complex of all, a broken veteran of too many wars, too many gunfights, too many shady deals, too many dark betrayals ... and yet ...

Access can still do yeoman's work. If you learn its twisted paths, where to go and where to fear, it can chew through gigabytes of data, transforming strings, exposing relationships ... There's a fierce engine behind a tinsel town facade. It is also very strangely documented -- not the least because it's a house of cards and mirrors built upon a half-dozen dead "strategic" technologies. There are vast amounts of information buried in the peculiar not-quite standard help files, but it's all piecemeal. The web resources are often little better.

Take Access Built-In Functions for example. You can write some very fast and powerful tranformations of text strings using these, none of my 3 books on Microsoft Access discuss them in any detail. A web search turns up a few references, but nothing definitive. Microsoft's site has almost nothing.

Almost, but not quite nothing. Here, at long last, is the Alphabetic List of Microsoft Access 2003 Build-in Functions. Here's the list by category. Here's a discussion in the context of expressions.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

the 'Access built-in functions' link (Univ. of Calgary site) shows 'page not found.'
Any chance you fix it?
Thanks for your articles.
melnicmar @at@ fibertel .dot. com .dot. ar