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> Easiest And Cheap Tool To Build A Web And Mobile App    
post May 19 2020, 10:05 AM

Posts: 0
Joined: 9-March 20

Hello everyone smile.gif
so let me tell you something about me related to my question....

first let's say that I am over 50 ;P so be patient with me smile.gif I was old school coder, LM, Pascal and then Basic (almost any version of it) lucky me I was hired in a big company and I did stuck for almost 20 years programming in MS Access.
Using that platform I can do almost anything, or at least anything that is related to a database on-premises.

Now i need to go back on the field, but where to start? I did look into Visual Studio, I also own the license, but the tool is confusing. I can't really get it. The time I will spend to learn how it works I will be without a job.

I need to do a mobile app (ios and android) and a website for p2p car rental.
So where do I start? What do you suggest?

I did check the new Microsoft PowerApps but you can't use to build and publish a commercial app/website (can you?)

So what are my option nowadays? does it exist something that let me build easily a frontend web and mobile app without coding? or at least use vba?

I need something with a very fast (or none) learning curve, that can interface to my hosted MSSQL/MySQL database and look absolutely cool to the user.

...and naturally cheap !!!!

thanks to everyone
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post May 19 2020, 10:37 AM

UtterAccess Administrator
Posts: 10,557
Joined: 7-December 09
From: St. Augustine, FL

Hi, welcome to UA.

It's a tough nut to crack. Traditional (coded) web development has a learning curve, not much of a way around it. Visual Studio as an IDE is capable of many things: web, mobile apps, serverside, desktop, etc, so there's a lot to take in with that.

PowerApps is intended to be used on the Azure platform to quickly create low/no-code mobile apps (which, I think, can also be used as web pages). That's one avenue.

Other low code solutions include Oracle's Apex platform: https://apex.oracle.com/en/platform/low-code/

Those would probably be your easiest entry points, yet even with low/no-code solutions, there's still the platform and tools to learn (not to mention the task of determining if and how it would integrate with your existing data sources, etc)


Jack D. Leach
Founder & CEO
Dymeng Services Inc.
Business Software Solutions
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post May 19 2020, 12:08 PM

Posts: 1,119
Joined: 26-January 14
From: London, UK


There are just loads of options. Google Firebase is one popular way to get started (firebase.google.com). AWS Amplify is another (aws.amazon.com/amplify).

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post May 20 2020, 01:09 PM

UtterAccess VIP
Posts: 3,101
Joined: 12-April 07
From: Edmonton, Alberta Canada

Ok, I’ll bite!

First, the difficult part is that web technologies involves a BIG set of tools.

They are
SQL server. (or MySQL or whatever).
Web server.
New event models and approaches to writing software.
Browser side software.

So, there is 3-4 “major” technologies you have to learn, or at least deal with.

So, you have to quite much get conformable with using SQL server, or whatever flavor of SQL server from MySQL, Oracle, Postgress etc.

Now, some web frameworks will “generate” a whole set of classes for you. So, in fact you not having to write ANY SQL at all.

But, then again, this usually means you have a “team” of developers, and the database folks and part of the team will build and generate those classes for you. So, then the rest of the development teams works from those generated objects to interact with the data – the other developers thus don’t write much if any SQL. They only deal with a set of objects that do all the updates for you.

.net has had the above feature for years (the data set designer). And now they replaced the data set designer with what is called Entity frame work (it really is VERY much the same if you used the data set designer in .net).

I not convinced that I would use “data sets” or the new entity frame work for dealing with data. But, this approach can really reduce your SQL code you have to write.

In my case, I was lucky. Started using Access. So, learned about SQL, using the SQL designer etc. Then I had some chance to move data from Access to SQL server. So now, I done lots of SQL server + Access. So, when jumping to the web?

The learning curve was “less”, and more flat since SQL server was something I had experience with.

So, you need to get comfortable with some kind of SQL server based system. If you worked with some kind of SQL server, then that is just one less system to learn if you going to jump to the web.

does it exist something that let me build easily a frontend web and mobile app without coding? or at least use vba?

Native mobile apps? How long of a post here do you want!!!

Mobile applications work VERY different from web based ones. A whole new set of ideas and coding approach has to occur. To be fair, the Android apps I done were LESS learning then that of doing web stuff!

You could avoid writing mobile apps if you go 100% web based. But, native mobile applications are OH SO MUCH nicer.

I am using B4A right now for Android. It is very nice, and I high recommend it. I could write 5+ more pages, but suffice to say that a new set of ideas and how you write software needs to occur.


This is especially in the area and concept of a “activity”. An activity is a process that runs and launches your form. And it takes time to figure out if you are to start another activity to launch another form, or not. And actives can be blasted out of memory and stopped just about any time by the Android OS (especially if that activity does not have the focus). So, now, how do you return from your current form back to the previous one - but that one is not in memory anymore? Hum? (as I said, we can leave this discussion for another day). But some “strange” new concepts have to be learned when doing phone software. And again the REASON for this?

Well, the “OS” is attempting to solve a set of problems that phones have. Most of this centers around limited memory, limited processing.

So, just like event driven programing came along to allow easy windows development? The concepts and ideas for mobile software again exist.

So, just like the consideration for seats in a car are MUCH different then a Helicopter – same goes for Android. Now big puffy big seats in a luxury car for comfort makes sense. However, in a plane, then lightweight, saving fuel, space etc. means a 100% different set of ideas will be used to create something oh so simple as a seat you are to sit on for a given trip.

Same goes for phones – there are new concepts, because the platform has a whole new set of limitations and goals that don’t exist for web, or even for the desktop.

If you want to avoid JavaScript, avoid HTML like markup for forms (XMMAL), then B4A is without question the best choice from a Access developers point of view.

But, phone development means again that long time simple concepts in coding will have to be dumped. It is a WHOLE new world of things that work VERY different from desktop (and in fact from the web for that matter!!!).

Now, back to the web:

It is unfortunate that no real easy web development platform exists. I mean, everyone can quite much drive a car, and then we could ask:

How come there is no easy Helicopter I can jump into and fly then ??? Why is flying a helicopter so hard?

Now, eventually I do think some web technologies WILL come along that give an Access like ease of use. And we also seeing some “drone” technology morph into personal flying machines that may well result in you having a personal helicopter and it will be just as easy (in fact easier) to fly then it is to drive your car.

So, the “web” right now?

It really is VERY much like jumping from driving your car to that of jumping into the aviation industry, and wanting to fly a plane, or say a helicopter. There is simply no easy solution to flying a helicopter, and there is none for the web.

Right now? I think the only game in town for those that came from an event driven IDE like Access? Adopt Visual Studio. And that means asp.net net and asp.net web forms. And that also means vb.net. Again, this is the SHORTEST path for an existing Access developer.

And asp.net + web forms is in its “sun-set” phase. In other words, everyone is moving towards MVC. But, asp.net still has good life in it. And asp.net is easier to learn BECAUSE it was designed as a transition technology for desktop folks to make the jump to web. The WHOLE idea behind asp.net + web forms was EXACTLY what Microsoft had in mind. (a transition from desktop to web). The “idea” of how it works, and what group of people asp.net + web forms was targeting was those desktop folks.

Now that “most” new developers in general start out with web based technologies and not desktop? Then a transitional technology like asp.net + web forms is not all that of a big deal. And thus the big trend is to use the newer .net MVC approach. However, once one learns asp.net/web forms? Then learning MVC (Mode,View,Controlers) will be far easier. Just keep in mind that with MVC you do NOT get a visual designer (yes, you read that correct – no drag and drop development onto a form!!!!). I think now this clear up why I am still suggesting to use asp.net + web forms – you at least get a drag + drop form designer. And you have events, and a proptery sheet – all just like you do in Access.

What, for MVC and “most” systems? Now you do NOT have a drag and drop forms designer? Are they crazy?

Now to be fair? When we started out in this crazy desktop computer revolution? You did not have screen designers for the green screen applications. So, you just hand coded up the screen and with code created the form for display.

However, in sort time screen designers DID start to appear (even in this TEXT screen based era). So the new FoxPro “power tools” and the screen builder was really nice (as opposed to hand writing all those @get or whatever it was for dbase).

To me, the only real one HUGE sore point of asp.net and Visual studio? And the one big shortcoming?

It takes way too much work to make and get a great “look and feel”. This is the #1 down falling of using Visual Studio.

To be fair? Well, the default template is all bootstrap, so they got that choice 100% correct (fantastic choice by Microsoft – go with open source bootstrap – best decision they EVER made!!!)

However, I just think the ease of extending a theme to the designer should be part of the deal!

So, for buttons, grid views etc.? You should be able to choose a nice theme and off you go. So for gridview, listview, buttons, the navigation buttons? They all should have a really nice look and feel theme right out of the box.

It took me WAY too much effort to get things looking just right, and just nice.

Such efforts should be FAR more automatic.

So, VS needs more love and attention in this “theming” area. The form designers etc. should be better.

But, right now? The whole industry is fast moving away from the “form designer” and using MVC. So, what you get now in VS for web forms is all you going to get!!!

Remember, MVC does NOT have a visual form designer approach - - you don’t drag + drop controls on to a form designer, and you don’t’ even have a form designer with MVC!). Yikes!!!

And MOST NEW systems do not use a visual GUI approach.


I still think VS is the only game in town if you are a developer in “transition” from desktop systems to the web.

And those wanting to make this jump? Better do it now, since asp.net forms are starting to go away fast.

All of the form VS design concepts were built in mind for this transition group. So, just like we don’t see books on event riven programing? The changes and things we USE for this target transition group are FAST going away!!!

It means that the transition to web development is getting HARDER not easier for those that not made the crossing!

Do keep in mind that this transition for .net and this approach occurred in 2004-2005. And over 10+ years for ANY technology these days is a good run. So, asp.net + web forms is on the down path right now. However, for those that did not jump onto the web in the last 10-15 years when the crazy web thing took off? It still the best play for desktop folks – but I do suggest jumping on now.

You wind with that strange feeling:

Gee, just as I get used to this new system, the whole industry is changing on me!!! (and that occurred about 10 years ago!!!).

I remember when windows came along. There was a truckload of FoxPro, dbase, Pascal etc. and a good number of systems that many of my industry acquaintances where using.

When windows came along?

Many did not jump or cross the bridge into windows. Part of the reason was that the change took a LOT of effort.

Even looking at the free book included on the office/access 97 disk?

A chapter talked about the newfangled fancy programming approach called “event driven” programming.

Now this seems rather trivial if something like Access was your FIRST programming system.

And event driven programming is a simple concept. But, for traditional developers with years of experience?

It was a BIG CHANGE for those developers working with text based interfaces (so called green screens).

So, books in that time frame attempted to “address” this big change and “Help” these people along.

In BASIC, original FoxPro, or these older systems? You tended to create a large “main” program It would have some main menu, and you choose options say 1-8. So, you hit a key, and the code was “waiting” for that key press. So some kind some “input(1)” to get the ONE keypress was the starting point. Then the code would jump to or call some subroutine from that big main program. After all, you did not have “windows” here.

With event driven programming? Well, you all of a sudden did not have that big main program, and you did not create or write that main menu that was a bunch if/else subroutine jumps based on that keypress.

With event driven programming?

You placed a button on the screen, and WHEN you click on it, it would call some “little” routine attached to that button. So, now, all of a sudden “years” of habits and how one created programs was to be changed. You did not have some big huge start up routine that would load up a truckload of variables and then print/draw out that main menu.

And the “required” change was not REALLY because that older way of coding was bad, but with the “rise” of the GUI and mouse? Well, then a new way of coding was developed, since the old way of a main menu with some choices simply did not support using a mouse and ESPECIALLY that of windows – windows with things that responded to a mouse click. So, some main program and that of branching out to other routines did not exist anymore. You code did not wait at some input command or point. You now write little tiny routines in place of one big routine.

Now, the above was not a HARD change, but books back then did often have to spend time explaining how developers had to change their ways, and adopt a new way of coding. So, no more big main program, and no more needing to wait for a keypress, and THEN do some action or code.

Does ANYONE here remember writing Apple Mac event loops in MPW? (the pascal system for developing early Mac software). Again, a perfect example of “transition” software. You had to write a main programming loop, and in that loop, it would wait/heck for a mouse click and then fire off the correct subroutine – VERY near the same as how the old green screen menus worked!!!).

Sadly? A good number of those people I knew back in the green screen days did NOT make the jump to windows and the “new way” of doing things. As a result, they simple left this industry!

The same change of “ideas” is required for Web development. While many (in fact near all) web systems support the event driven coding model?).

Well, you have now several new ideas.

The first concept:
This one you can “hold off” on learning. That is the concept of client side code (code that runs in the browser). And then you have server side code (the web server code). Again, not a hard concept, but a VERY different way of coding.

And on top above, there is the concept of a “round trip”. Now this concept is even MORE important then client vs server side code.

Want to read a spectacular question and answer that is the result of NOT grasping the above round trips? Read this question and my answer here when you have a few minutes.


The user is wondering why when simple code to update or change a value of a text box on the web form does NOT work! And yet, this developer no doubt had good experience here, but was bitten by not grasping this simple concept. Now, the user introduced a AJAX control, so his “world view” of how code works simply blew up in his face. So, his server side code was running, and changing values of controls was in fact running just fine. But you would NEVER see the controls update! And all changes would in fact be always lost!!! The reason was due to the client side web page never making the trip to the server side. And when the web page does/did make the trip up? Then all the values of the controls that the server side code changed were being over-written.

But, I do stress that this client side browser copy vs server side copy can for the most part when starting out can be ignored. (you just live with lots of round trips). But, as your skill set grows, and you want better software? You have to grasp how and why this client side vs server side of the browser concept works. And as you get even better? You do less round trips. And you do less round trips because then your software will respond better – in fact so good, you can give users a BETTER experience then what you get with desktop software.

So, new web systems are so fantastic, that the results are now EVEN better then desktop software!

I never in a million years thought that I would admit this could or would even occur (that web is now better then desktop for users experience). Again, I said web is now better then pure desktop software for most types of business software!!! Who would have thought that? But then again, some old timers stated that mouse and windows software would never be as good a green screens for data entry!

The other new concept? Web forms are assumed to be stateless.

All this means that code you write for a web form does not retain it code variables “between” each event. You in effect don’t have global variables, or even variables that retain their values “between” events. So, you have to think of your code “starting over” each time. So, for any mouse click, or even after update events for text changed in a combo box, or even a plane jane text box?

Well, each thing you do is “separate”.

The web event model is VERY similar to Access, but you don’t have variables that retain their values from one event to the next event that gets fired.

To be fair, in a typical Access form due to “events”, you tend to not have VBA variables that “retain” the values. But, you do have the “option” of using form level variables, and that of global variables with Access/VBA.

In web land, you don’t have either choice!!!

So, you have to “think” different when you write code.

To be fair coming from Access and desktop? Well, I do use “session()” variables a lot in web land – likely too much because I came from the desktop land first!!! So, if users are to be logged in, then you can use session() variables in place of what some simple variables in Access one often uses to hold some values between events for that form.

Again, this just simply means you have to change how some of your code that you wrote for years without thinking about will NOW work and have to be written differently.

Anyway, give the above question and my answer a read. In fact I recommend anyone who has recent started doing web work reading that post + answer of mine.

Now the above concepts are NOT hard, but they are “different”.

And, thankfully, most controls will keep their state on round trips. However, grasping this round trip concept, and the state (or stateless) of a web page is really new and can be strange at first.

Right now? There is simply no great IDE for web development. I think the best choice (for a Access developer) is asp.net + vb.net. (and that means asp.net forms – not MVC).

The only BIG downside and gripe I have with Visual Studio? It takes WAY TOO much work and effort to get a nice look and feel. This is my #1 gripe.

Ok, final thoughts on the web deal:

I think for a Access developer, asp.net/vb.net is the shortest curve. However, the main shortcoming of asp.net is that “lack” of a nice look and feel for the given efforts.

I am simply un-aware of any easy to fly helicopter that you can rent for a few hours to fly out and visit your relatives. You would think that after 100 years of aviation, there would be a easy to buy and fly helicopter. But, there is not.

And, unfortunately in regards to web development? Well, it much like the helicopter, and I not really found any great IDE that allows web development with similar learning curve to Access.

There was/is a number of systems I was “looking” at. But, they recently dumped their code base and started over (they used bootstrap, and number of newer framework to get thing just right and a better user experience).

I wish I could give you better advice, but the state of affairs in web development is quite much stuck like how it is to start flying a helicopter.

Helicopters are not easy to fly – and there is no real good web IDE I am aware of.

We are all waiting for someone to build that killer IDE that makes web development oh so easy like access. The reason why this has not yet occurred are several reasons.

One big reason is the multiple layers of technology required.

The other? The technology is a moving target –it hanging REALLY fast!!!

Now that some fantastic frameworks are being adopted? (bootstrap, CSS, HTML5). (or bootstrap + jquery-UI).

Then I think all the bits and parts are finally coming together in our industry that will result in someone creating an access like IDE for web stuff.

So, we just had to wait for the “dust” to settle down in terms of what technologies are becoming mainstream for the web, and that of a set of standards for that development.

The other issue? Well, just like some of the “fake” systems that converted text screens into a windows screen? The results were poor, and they were not really windows like. The reason of course is that the architecture of a green screen system is NOT like windows.

And this same issue applies to windows desktop. How the web works is different, so if you make a 100% desktop like system for the web, the result is a non-web like experience. The same applies to Android phones. You can’t take or use 100% desktop ideas for a system that works vastly different. If you do then the result is a non-phone like experience. I evaluated several phone systems, but they all produced VERY poor results because they used a desktop approach for a phone, and that don’t work well (you got some forms on the form – but they worked like [censored], and you did not get a great phone experience).

So for web or phones? Well, if you don’t use the correct architecture, then the results you get are poor. And that was the case for those green screen “converts” to windows – they kind of worked, but it was fake and did not really work like a real windows program.

I thus cannot stress that things for a given platform work the way they do because of HUGE numbers of decisions in regards to the platform, the os and how such systems works. That’s much why an easy to use desktop system don’t work well for the web – because they ARE different. And that is why big comfortable seats designed for a car or say your living room don’t work well in a commercial airliner. The design criteria will force many design decisions to produce the desired outcome.

CSS is the most incredible thing since sliced bread in terms of web development. It use is endless, and the framework is now so large that a single developer really can’t learn it all.

It has become so massive that you only can use + learn a SMALL part. So, a great CSS design system is desperately needed in our industry. I see some type of GUI coming along for CSS – since it oh so badly needed these days.

A seamless drag + drop, and use of nice looking bootstrap UI parts (dialog boxes, popup forms, nice buttons etc.), is a killer app waiting to happen.
It will occur and the last 10 years saw TOO MUCH rapid change, and at a rapid pace.

Apple cased the desktop publishing industry, and for that matter the WHOLE print industry to stand on its head when they development PostScript. They single handed created the whole desktop publishing industry. The “simple” arrival of PostScript hanged everything.

The same is occurring in the area of CSS for web (CSS = cascading style sheets). It is a beyond stunning part of web development, and I continue to be stunned on a daily basis as to what CSS can do. It really is the glue for UI and look and feel. Just like PostScript was for the print industry.

Right now? I think as an access development jumping to web based? Vb.net + asp.net is the smallest learning curve. And yes, I am talking about using Visual Studio.

Remember VS and asp.net forms is/was a "transitional" system desinged to move desktop folks to the web. If you going to leverage your existing skill set, then that is the best course of action.

Or you can start 100% from scratch - adopt some other system, and you not use much of any of your existing skill sets.

Albert D. Kallal (Access MVP 2003-2017)
Edmonton, Alberta Canada

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