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I'm currently looking at upgrading our office machines from Office XP to Office 2010. For most users the standard edition is fine but just a few of us use Access. There are only a couple of standalone Access databases but the program is used fairly extensively (mostly by myself) as a front end to MySQL.

As the cost different between standard and pro versions of Office 2010 is about $170 (AUD) I'm looking at possible alternatives to Access. I'm no huge fan of Open Office but could be convinced to use it if I can find a way to migrate the many reports we currently have in Access. The data is not a problem. So far I've found nothing to suggest this is even possible/practical but perhaps someone here knows otherwise.

I'm also open to suggestions for other alternatives to Access but it must be able to produce flexible reports easily. That is the one real strength of Access in my view.

Because of its subjective nature I'm making this community wiki.

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As a report generation tool, take a look at JasperForge's iReport. It can do drag and drop creation of reports based on data from various sources (including MySQL obviously). It is a little more complicated than Access reports, but much more powerful too.

The main output of the tool is supposed to be a report you can use in JasperReports/JasperServer, but you can just use the preview tool as a report viewer and/or export the reports as PDF or HTML files.

The downside - I think the only way to migrate your existing reports is to recreate them. I'm not aware of any "import" functionality.

By the way, if you are distributing the reports to a lot of people in your organization, look at implementing JasperServer - it is a web based front end to the reports that is pretty slick.

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As you noted, it doesn't address my desire to migrate Access reports, although I expect that to be a problem with any product, but it certainly does appear very worthy of further investigation. Thanks you. – John Gardeniers Jun 9 '10 at 22:06

Nobody can really answer your question without knowing what your users are using Access to do.

Are they just using full Access to run an existing Access app, or are they using Access interactively to query date, create their own reports, etc.?

For the former case, the Access runtime will work just great, and starting with A2007, it's free (used to cost $300 for the runtime license).

For the latter case, whether or not they really need Access depends on which parts of Access they are using. It could be that much of what they do could be done in Excel, but that depends on what the users are doing. You don't say how many users are involved here, but $170 doesn't seem like much in terms of productivity for end users who actually do real work. It's a lot less than a couple day's wages for anything but entry-level employees.

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the question title in conjunction with the first paragraph provides more than enough information to tell anyone what we require. The Access runtime is no good to us because it cannot be used as a front end to MySQL, which is our primary need. Also, Excel is not and never will be a substitute for Access. – John Gardeniers Aug 30 '10 at 22:16
Of course the runtime can be used as a front end to MySQL, just as the runtime can be used as a front end to any data source that the non-runtime can be used for. No, you can't do ad hoc reporting with the runtime, but I'm pretty sure I covered all the bases in that regard in my answer. – David W. Fenton Sep 1 '10 at 3:08
And I agree that Excel can't replace Access, there are many things that Excel can do that you might be using Access for. Whether it's a good fit or not depends entirely on what you're wanting to do, but for some purposes it will do the job. Again, nobody knows enough about your circumstances to say precisely what the best answer is. – David W. Fenton Sep 1 '10 at 3:09
up vote 0 down vote accepted

Having tried a number of possible alternatives and finding nothing completely suitable I've settled on the following solution:

  • As the majority of users only need to access the reports, not the data itself, I have Office Pro on my machine. I create the and run the reports and print them to PDF using PDFcreator, with the PDF files saved to a suitable network share.
  • Those few users who need to actually manipulate the data, as well as run reports, have Access XP installed along side their Office 2010 Standard (or whatever Microsoft is calling it this week).

The advantages with this setup is that I can continue to use Access as a front end to MySQL, creating reports as required. I must say that doing this in Access 2010 is not as intuitive as it was in version up to and including 2003.

Financially this has also proven to be a good tradeoff, as we have saved a significant ammount of money without unduly sacrificing functionality.

For those looking at possible alternatives for the reporting side of things the nearest thing I've found is Navicat, which has a report generating system that has clearly been copied from Access, making it a fairly easy transition.

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