Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Oracle Application Express 3.0 a credible alternative to Microsoft Access?

I hope most people know by now that Oracle Application Express (APEX) 3.0 has gone production, is available for download from OTN and our hosted instance, had also been upgraded to 3.0. There has been some positive reviews in the press recently, here are links to a number of them:

Oracle Updates Application Express Tool
Oracle updates free Web development tool
Oracle has big ambitions for Application Express
Oracle improves free tool for building Web Applications
Oracle Application Express 3.0 Touts Access Migration

Most customers I talk with have problems with Access and are looking at alternatives, which I guess is the reason I am talking with them in the first place. However, Microsoft Access is a popular desktop database and was updated recently as part of the Office 2007. That said, it is desktop centric and more suited (optimized?) for productivity applications used by individuals or small groups.

On our OTN page about the Application Migration Workshop we have published a high level feature comparison of Access and Oracle APEX.

Is Oracle Application Express 3.0 a credible alternative to Microsoft Access?

What do you think?


Dimitri Gielis said...

I love APEX ;-)

I promote it every single day! And it's correct that APEX got the news. Scott Spendolini and myself blogged about it too.

Thank you for this post Donal.

Partha said...

NO! It's just much much more than that!.

I can't understand why APEX undermines itself by comparing to Access. By continuing to promote APEX as an alternate to MS Access it is restricting itself to a very small segment. (ok, not exactly a small segment but restricted applications segment - small inhouse projects). We are promoting and planning to have it in the mainstream applications, but our detractors keep pointing to all these press releases and publicity claiming that is good ONLY for small applications and business critical applications should not be in APEX. We have worked in APEX, know the power of APEX and know that it is quite capable of delivering what is required for the business.

I know this sounds more like a rant, but sometimes I think Oracle is as confused as its customer on where to place its products with APEX, ADF/JSF, Forms, so they're trying to place it safe and not committing on suggesting which tool to use. It would really be very nice if there are a standard set of guidelines on tool recommendations based on their strengths and what the target audience for those tools are!!

This is just to show that Iam passionate about APEX and Love it :)

Donal said...


Thanks for you feedback. We talk about APEX and Access as APEX is very suited for opportunistic applications that Access is often used for. Secondly, as I mention, we have discussions with customers who have issues with Access and see APEX as a credible alternative. You are correct in that APEX can be used for a wide range of applications, and hopefully it is obvious from our customer stores and community page on OTN, that is in fact what is happening.

I know we are considering a paper which discusses our supported development tools (Forms, JDeveloper/ADF, APEX), but I think there isn't always a "black and white" answer. For a wide range of applications,.could be developed successfully using of the tools mentioned. Sometimes, it comes down to a developers experience, background and personal preference!

Anonymous said...

Oracle short sells APEX I think because j2ee middleware for Oracle is a big business with a large customer base. telling customers to pitch their 30 app servers in favor of a few instances of apache running mod_plsql would offend lots of the JEE folks.

Donal said...


I don't think Oracle short sells APEX. It is not an either or decision. Some times, it depends on the type of application you are building or the skills or experience of the application developer. There was a recent blog entry" This post makes the case for JDeveloper. Hopefully you also have had a chance to review the new material we have posted on OTN.

MarkB... said...

I recently posted a question on both the ApEx and Forms forums asking peoples opinions of using either Forms or ApEx as a solution. Responses were mixed, so I'd be interested in the paper that Donal mentions regarding use of Oracle's development tools. Could this be the paper that Grant Ronald mentions?

My question to the forum can be found here on the Forms forum:

or here on the ApEx forum:

Donal said...


Yes, I am referring to the same paper as Grant Ronald refers to. Don't have a date when it will be published on OTN, but I believe that is the intention.

Colin Sheppard said...

If you are comparing Apex and Access, I think you should formally start with the price them, both Oracle XE and Oracle 10g.

Beyond that, empathise with the end owners or users, who would exist in a home, small business or within a department of a large organization. so consider commerical argument as well, not just a technical one alone. For example: Cost, how can they do backup and recovery (in access they copied a single file for the most part), how can they convert their skills from Access to Oracle, etc.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone find building an app difficult in APEX? I have heard a number of comments regarding the difficulties compared to access.

Anonymous said...

Access is several things ... a noddy database creator (by wizards), a desktop client only, and a client server. On top of that it can have the whole gamut of references. To give an example, I am maintaining a 6 site GUI with back end data database, reading from oracle & calling Excel, Word and Charting packages; 1000's of lines of complicated code, all supporting 100+ users. To position APEX as something that can migrate that (it can't, packs up with error 76), or with the quality of functionality (user interface) is naive in the extreme. Sure APEX may get a few UI forms with a few tables on the web, and it seems good for that., But not a serious app.

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