Bring back the Database Window
The Nav Pain is thoroughly unsuitable as a UI for very large, well-established projects. Small, user-created files with 10's of objects are suitable for the Nav Pane, but large, professionally developed files with thousands of objects are most certainly not. The Nav Pane lacks the visual differentiation to make finding objects simple -- and no, search is not a substitute for a good visually-oriented UI design.
The Nav Pane is a drag on developer productivity
We have heard from customers who have been using the database window for a long time that they would like us to bring it back, as it is superior to the Nav Pane.
At this point we have no current plan to bring it back.
However, if you have specific suggestions on how to improve the Nav Pane, please submit them as separate items.
As a professional Access developer (amongst other things, .NET etc) since 1995, I still use Office 2003 for all my development today, in 2020. When Office 2003 was still available, I bought three licences just to ensure I never have to use the later versions of Access for development. My databases still work fine on the later versions, but each release has been a massive leap backwards for usability, to the point where I feel I can't actually do my job any more in the newer versions - they are just SO dysfunctional, and it take 10 clicks to achieve what could have been done with two.
I would advocate having a choice of UI, a 'dummy' mode like what's there now, which it is true is probably better for rank beginners who have no idea what they are doing, and a 'power user' mode like Access 2003.
Check out the Access Extension Framework at: https://arrow-of-time.com/AXF_Core.aspx
Well, you asked for ideas on making the Nav Pane better. Easy. Look at Access 2003. Multi columns. Like an explorer window.
About your note of April20. We get it. You don’t care about us getting work done.
Why should you?
Access is not a profit center. And the money rolls in from the cloud and games and “Office inertia”. For a while longer.
No one at MS has needed to care for user productivity in decades.
And as workers you are just passing through the Office group.
Why stick your neck out?
Unlike the revolt over the insane GUI of Win8 there aren’t enough users here to push you into rational productive behavior.
And Access 2016 LOOKS REALLY COOL
To bad it works less well than 2003.
You are too young to remember when MS *WAS* the computer industry.
Why should you care that the IE coders and team leaders in 2002 made the same mistakes you make today? (because it pushed me to Mozilla, perhaps?)
Why care the phone team in 2006 tolerated the same unstable anti-productive junk code as you do? (because it pushed me to Blackberry and then Android?)
Why care the abandonment of VB6 against hundred of thousands of protests alienated a generation of programmers against MS? (because it pushed me to Java and PHP?)
Why care about the time I wasted with BI two years ago?
Why care about the mediocrity of Edge? Bing? About WE searches that don’t work? About my client driven mad with unwanted failing forced updates in Win10? About the insanely counterproductive “apps” in Win 8 that have no business on a desktop? (but they look real cool! Well – no they dont)
We all know this is now the essence of MS’s corporate culture. I stay as far away from MS as I can.
Access is the last MS program I need. God willing not long.
What happed to MS? It wasn’t “overtaken”; it trashed itself by bad decisions taken and obvious good ones not,
- all driven by the same mentality you demonstrate.
You made a website to ask US - experts, users, of Access what we want then you ignore us. How MS of you. God how annoying. I so look forward to MS’s end.
We all know MS pushes out junk that interfere with our productive work – except my clients – who I have to work to educate on the danger of MS’s products.
Well, again, you asked for ideas on making the Nav Pane better. Easy. Look at Access 2003. Multi columns. Like an explorer window. Easy to sort by various criteria. It would help us all get work done. What a dysfunctional corporate culture there must be where you people work for you not to see this. Or not to care.
'However, if you have specific suggestions on how to improve the Nav Pane, please submit them as separate items.'
1. Make the Nav Pain respect the dev's wishes that it be hidden. If it was opened from hidden it must return to hidden, not minimized.
2. The Nav Pain MUST NOT open for any reason except hotkeys or VBA written by the dev. This flying open when tables are refreshed has to end.
3. If the dev has coded the Nav Pain to be hidden, it MUST NOT start as minimized, or worse OPEN the first time a user opens a newly revved and distributed file.
4. If the Nav Pain is widened enough to present like the Details View of the Database Window did, it should do so auto-magically. At present there is no point in widening the Nav Pain beyond ~3 cm.
5. When the Nav Pain displays as a Details View,There should be column heads and the dev should be able to pick, choose and order the columns that display and one-click sort by clicking the column head.
6. When displaying as a Details View, the icons should scale down so more objects become visible.
7. The dev should be able to convert the Nav Pain to a Database Window style list view, with as many columns as the width of the Nav Pain makes possible, and if that view is selected, that choice and width should be remembered.
That's a start.
Do you need them as seven new suggestions?
Argyris Kalamaras commented
Unfortunately the only improvement I can think for the Nav Pand is to have it replaced with the database window or at least give the option of having either the Nav Pane or the Database window, You see providing options is what improves a product not imposing some marketing person's or developer's idea of what is a step forward. In this case many of us think that it is NOT a step forward and I would actually question the judgement of Microsoft's HR dept to still have them as active [if they still are] when all they have managed is to downgrade the quality of the product and impose their development ideas on us users so that they can justify their position. This is what I think.
Restore the Database Window circa 2003; it was far more efficient than the navigation pane.
Imagine a Windows Explorer window with only one column of data; this would be analogous to the current nav pain. The prior ability to move quickly between tables, forms, queries and reports and sort each by various criteria is clearly more efficient.
All this is obvious, so the real question must be why does MS ruin productive user interfaces for junk? (think Win8) Why does MS deny user requests? Why does MS not give us a choice? Why does MS not care for user productivity?
MS, if you think there are no ramifications, you’re wrong; as I get frustrated with Access and damn MS, I think fondly on PHP, Java and MYSQL, not C#, ASP and SQL Server.
MS production supervisors: you may be so young as to not know what I’m talking about; USE Access 2003 and see what I mean. MS’s abandonment of enhancing user productivity as a company wide ethos was the cause of your decreasing relative importance in the computer industry. You can still turn this around!
Yes I agree.
The Nav pane is a bit limiting and was a backward step
@Brian. #3 with the scrolling jumping was HORRIBLE, I agree. It is fixed by 2016 (maybe 2013?). So that is good. My wish list:
1. Allow it to be moved outiside the access application window.
2. Customizable for us to add other columns (like modify date) the you can sort/reverse sort by clicking on the headers. Currently it takes 6 clicks to change the sort by and sort/reverse when it could be 1 click.
3. Keep the search feature
Bill Mosca commented
Maybe a better solution would be a dockable window so we have a choice of the pane or a sizable window.
I had to create my own form to resurrect the database window - works great except for drag/drop.
I couldn't stand the Nav Pane...
Dieter Schlosser commented
perhaps should not ask which is better, but, Why does not leave the user the choice of which one he prefers working
Rich P commented
The only benefit I have found while using the Nav Pane is the ability to search. I have NEVER had a problem using groups in the venerable Database Window of old. And sorting in the database window was a 1- or 2-click exercise!
I think that JeffK hit on a brilliant point in his comment regarding taking advantage of screen real estate afforded by multiple monitors!
I would like to add to JeffK's custom database window ideas by recommending the ability to display custom properties/fields about an object in the database window. For instance, assigning a revision number to an object, or a ModifiedBy column. I'm thinking of the sets of customized text/date/numeric fields available in the MS Project task tables that can be used for such flexible ideas and then displayed in customized views.
After all, this IS a database, isn't it?
Rachel Levine commented
I call the the Nav Pane the Nav Pain. It's carpal tunnel waiting to happen. I now have to scroll SO much that my wrist hurts. I build large, complex apps with hundreds of objects, like the other folks here. It's so silly that you can actually WIDEN the pane but it STILL DOES NOT WRAP! Whoever designed this obviously has never worked with a large app day after day after day....
Brian Pearson commented
Since posting my previous comment, I thought perhaps I’d better give the Nav Pane another try since it could not be as bad as my memory told me. And having tried it, I can confirm that it’s not; it’s much much worse.
Here are some of the things wrong with it …
1. It only shows one column of data. Wading through 600 forms in a single column is ridiculous.
2. It messes up the appearance of every full screen form by taking x centimetres off its left hand edge. I want to see my forms as my users will see them.
3. Most maddening of all, it doesn’t even scroll properly. When you scroll down and release, it jumps back, sometimes by hundreds of entries. It needs multiple scrolls and clicks to get to anything. This is beyond exasperating.
4. If you prefer to hide the ribbon (as I do), and then view a form in design mode, you have no option to close the form because the wretched Nav Pane has pushed its close button off the right hand end of the screen.
5. Once the Nav Pane has been displayed, you can narrow it but not hide it; you have to restart Access to get rid of it.
I’m genuinely baffled that this thing ever escaped from a development lab, let alone found a place in a flagship Microsoft product. I’m not asking for any new code to be written, just that the long established Database Window be restored, even as an option, for those of us for whom it is an infinitely preferred way of working.
Brian Pearson commented
I've worked on a couple of fairly sizeable Access systems - each with hundreds of forms and reports and over a thousand queries - and have found the Nav Pane to be an utterly unusable part of the interface. I cannot fathom why Microsoft removed a completely functional part of Access and replaced it with a cumbersome substitute that squanders vast amounts of screen space. It is almost as though they want to deter developers from creating large systems in Access. [Can that be the case?]
It is for this reason that I still choose to do all development work in Access 2003. There may be lots of nice features in subsequent versions but for me the loss of the database window ensures that they will remain undiscovered.
I agree that the navigation pane is almost unusable in databases with a large number of objects. When you have thousands of objects, a single column list is, frankly, horrendous to work with, even with search.
In response to this my team also took the time to develop a custom database window to work with Access 2007+. It looks and behaves almost identically to the database window from Access 2003, but with additional capabilities like filtering, the ability to select multiple object types at once, to flag objects as under development, to drag and drop objects into a fixed dock, and most importantly, to switch to pop-up mode so the window can be dragged outside the Access container window.
My point is that extending the old window would have been a much better alternative to dumbing it down. On the last point above, MS missed the boat in the sense that more and more people are switching to multi-monitor use. With the navigation pane stuck inside the Access window, immobilized, there is a huge loss of potential in not allowing developers to drag the window out of the development area. Every developer on our team that uses multiple monitors uses our custom window on a different monitor to interact with the object list.
Why would we need the navigation pane to be reverted if we already have a custom replacement? Our replacement uses a listview control, which is non-native to Access and does not work in 64 bit Office. I'd be happy with having the old database window back (with added features) or support for listview controls (native or otherwise) in future versions.
I have had to develop my own database window so I can see the logical flow of queries which I order using the comments. I find the nav pane painful.
The Nav Pain is infinitely superior to the outdated Database Window, starting with Groups that actually work ... and a LOT more :-)