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Best platform to port vba application to?

Posted on 2016-09-07
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Last Modified: 2016-09-11
The time has come to port a vba repair shop management system  (vba front end, sql express backend) to a platform with an executable which does not require installation of access or access helper files.  My initial thought was vb.net since it seemed closest to vba,  but upon investigation it seems the learning curve is a little more than I thought.  Before I invest the time I would like to get some "experts" opinions on how I should proceed.  vb.net, c++, etc?  This is not a web application, it is multiuser with generally around 5-10 concurrent users.
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Question by:cmccurdy
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by:SStory
SStory earned 500 total points
ID: 41788126
Will you be supporting Windows only?  Do you want it to be a web application? Does it have reporting features?

If you are a VBA/Access programmer, then vb.net will be the simplest transition, but there is a quite a bit to learn. If you are happy with SQL Express, then keep it. If not, there is MariaDB and Postgres which are both free and uninhibited by financial constraints that limit functionality.

If you want to allow it on mobile platforms in the shop you might offer it as a intranet web app to users or additionally write your own mobile app (a lot more difficult).

C++ unless you already know C++ or are trying to create some sort of cross platform application using QT or some other set of widgets, I can't say that I'd recommend you go from vba to C++ in a Windows only shop. However, if you do wish to broaden the pond and already know C++ well, it might be worth it to have that possibility.  So the real question is where do you want/need to go from here in terms of supported platforms/devices, etc in the next 5 to 10 years with it and which method will get you there.

If just desktop PCs running windows only... vb.net with any of the aforementioned back end RDBMS's.  If a website to them, then IIS with ASP.NET, or Apache with PHP.  
If you want  free, then Linux server/MariaDb or Postgres (RDBMS)/Apache web server.  There is also Java, which does allow for cross platform capabilities.
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by:EddieShipman
EddieShipman earned 500 total points
ID: 41788132
If there is access to a centralized server for all users, I would suggest writing this as a web app, anyway.
It is the easiest way to publish and distribute to everyone and easier to maintain because you only have one set of code and a single deployment spot.

Using VB.Net MVC5 would be my option since VBA is closest to it. Although VBA to VB.Net would require a learning curve, it may not be as large as moving to C# or F#.

If you need more info on the conversion, here's an article for you:
Converting Code from VBA to Visual Basic .NET
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LVL 25

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by:SStory
ID: 41788146
I agree the webapp is easier to keep up to date. The only exception to that is if it needs to run on PCs that will be taken off site for some reason and won't have network connectivity back to the intranet...example: truck breaks down in the field and guy goes out to work on it and needs to use your app in the field on a laptop where there is no cell service. That happens where I live.
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LVL 26

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by:EddieShipman
ID: 41788242
Then you get a wireless card for the laptop. We use laptops off-site and they have access to all our web apps. If there is no cell service, you're out of luck either way but in the case you outlined, you'd need a briefcase model, anyway so that the app could work disconnected to the main server.
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Scott McDaniel (Microsoft Access MVP - EE MVE ) earned 1000 total points
ID: 41788592
I'm not sure what a "VBA Frontend is", so you'd have to give more details on that. VBA is Visual Basic for Applications, so you would be using that in a specific application (like Word, Access, etc).

Assuming you're dealing with Access, the quickest path is a desktop VB.NET application.

Since you specifically mentioned it's not a web-based app I'd certainly not go with any sort of web language like Java, PHP, ASP.NET etc. You'd find yourself in the weeds fairly quickly with those, and since your focus is rewriting your desktop app I'm not sure why anyone would suggest any of those platforms.

SSE is probably the best database for .NET, especially since you're already familiar with it.

With all that said: I've done exactly what you seem to be doing (porting an Access app to .NET) and I consider myself a very advanced Access developer ... and I still struggled mightily. In reality there was no "porting" ... it was a full, ground-up rewrite that was based loosely on the Access version. There are some similarities in the languages - a loop is a loop, after all - but that's about where the similarities end. You'll find the Visual Studio IDE to be daunting at first, but after a while you'll almost hate to return to the VBA editor!

Of course that's just my .02 worth (which is probably not worth quite that much, actually)
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LVL 25

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by:SStory
SStory earned 500 total points
ID: 41788664
Scott, I think I suggested it because it WILL be pretty much a complete rewrite and the OP should consider whether or not, since he has to do a rewrite, if he might want to change directions, offer more, offer over a website, support mobile, etc.  it is correct however, that none of that comes without pain and learning. If based solely upon what he knows then obviously vb.net/sqlserver express would be the easiest path for him. Though he might switch from SSE to MariaDB or PostGre, which, to me are easier to install on a server. If he is using an instance of SSE on each machine, then perhaps it is understandable. I just wanted to make sure that the OP thinkis of the options and considers not just the short term conversion, but long term goals.
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Author Closing Comment

by:cmccurdy
ID: 41793469
Ok, I'll bite the bullet and dive into using VB.NET to create a desktop app.  Although the code won't port directly , the logic is already there so it's not quite like starting over.  Thanks for the input, it was helpful.
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