Aloha! I’m heading on vacation to Hawaii today, but I thought I would get this blog started. I can’t tell you how much fun I’m having re-inventing Access. When we started this release two years ago, the team did lots of research about how people used the product, what they accomplished, and how it impacted business. It was amazing to me the types of applications people created – time cards, sales leads, even refugee tracking. What was also interesting was the number of applications customers weren’t able to create. This release is all about enabling many more people to create applications that track information. Before I tell you about me—let me explain why I’m excited about Access 12.

As a prelude to Access 12, a few months ago I became frustrated with the quality of templates that were on Office Online.  We hired a contractor to quickly facelift 12 templates and create a new Issues Tracking database. The templates were published on August 17th, and since that time they have had over ½ million hits, 130,000 downloads, and an average rating of 4.1. Last year we had over 1.4 million template downloads from Office Online.

From this experience, we learned there is a tremendous interest by Office users to quickly start using an application. Access 12 will offer new templates in the Getting Started experience. We will also create a bunch of new templates that are completely re-designed with easy to extend schemas that people can use to quickly start tracking data.

Office "12" Access Screenshot.
Office "12" Access Screenshot.
High-res version.

The process of building these templates has been one of the best things that ever happened to the team. Early on, Tim (our Einstein coder PM) spent almost two months flushing out a really good template for issues tracking—far better than what was on Office Online. We refined the design and user experience and analyzed all the areas were people had to write code. Kelly (our usability guru) tested the template with lots of new Access users. The user experience and design of this template drove priorities on the team so that we could build that template without having to write a line of code. Out of that design, we came up with a date picker, rich text control, behavior for typing a new item into a combo box, extensions to macros, attachments to a record, appending comments to a notes field, control anchoring, and many other features.

The templates we have in the works—are really coming along. End users will find them easy to use while developers will appreciate how much more quickly they can build powerful applications.

Little about me—I’m from a small town and grew up on a pig, goat, and mink farm. By the age of 16, I’d learned the value of hard work and that farming wasn’t my gig. After grad school, an entrepreneurial venture in instructional software, and design work on a sales automation application, I joined Microsoft in early 1998 as a ship PM for Access 97 SP 1 (that was a great release). I was the lead UI designer for the Data Access Page designer—yeah, DAPs weren’t the most popular piece of code written at Microsoft, but I learned a lot doing it.  In Office 2003 I was a lead program manager on the web part framework team. We built the web part infrastructure and page customization in Windows SharePoint Services (WSS).  After shipping WSS, I have been totally focused on making Access a great platform for developers and easy to use for end users – a project that I’ve discovered is in many ways like goat farming.   

It is a privilege to work with such a talented group of people on the Access team. If you haven’t looked at Access for a while—the work we are doing in 12 is worth a second look.