Visual Studio LightSwitch for Microsoft Access,
SQL Server, and Visual Studio .NET Database Developers
The Visual Studio team has introduced a development platform
called LightSwitch which simplifies the creation of database
applications in Visual Studio. This rapid application development
environment lets you create solutions that can be easily deployed on
Windows or Mac platforms from a public web site or Intranet.
This article provides an overview of the benefits and limitations of
the LightSwitch platform for the Microsoft Access
Here are some examples of what can be created in
Sample LightSwitch User Interface
Dashboards Built in LightSwitch
LightSwitch Integration with Other Programs
Customization Using Visual Studio .NET
While LightSwitch can be used to create database
applications with limited coding, as part of the
Microsoft Visual Studio .NET family, LightSwitch
supports customization using C# and VB.NET programming
languages. This offers all the benefits of managed code
and the latest programming features.
not support Office/Access VBA.
Support for Microsoft SQL Server
LightSwitch works directly against SQL Server
databases. It understands table structures, referential
integrity, one-to-many relationships, and other database
architecture so that it can bind directly to your table,
fields, and records. It requires your database to be
properly designed with primary keys and other basic
requirements, so having a good database design helps
(and should be done anyway).
also supports databases hosted on SQL Azure, Microsoft's
Dramatically Reduced Development Time
LightSwitch provides the ability to deliver
incredibly rich, intuitive and easy to use applications,
all within a Windows, Mac or Browser client. It offers
affordable, reliable, and scalable custom solutions with
user-friendly views of your data. It dramatically
decreases the time it takes to build and deliver the
custom application compared to traditional Visual Studio
LightSwitch allows the use of extensible
application shells to provide users with the familiar
feel of popular Microsoft software, significantly
reducing learning curve and application adoption time.
Built-in authentication models simplify the
management of users with varying degrees of access and
authorization, especially when integrated with existing
Active Directory implementations.
Requires Silverlight on the Client Machine
Visual Studio .NET and LightSwitch are used by the
developer and are not installed on the users' machines.
However, LightSwitch applications require installing
Microsoft’s Silverlight on each user's machine.
This is a one time installation similar to installing Adobe Flash
to watch videos or Adobe Acrobat Reader to open PDF
files. Silverlight allows applications
to be easily run on desktops and browsers
through a one-click deployment, thereby dramatically
reducing distribution and maintenance efforts. The
Silverlight requirement makes a LightSwitch application
inappropriate for general Internet solutions.
Unlike Microsoft Access database applications,
you don't need to worry about what the user has
installed on their Windows desktop, the version of
Office/Access, and version conflicts on their machine.
Unlike installing Office which usually requires
physically updating each machine, Silverlight can be
installed by the user from their browser.
Platforms Supported by LightSwitch
LightSwitch runs as a Windows or Mac client
application, and supports multiple web browsers,
- Internet Explorer versions 7 or later, on Windows
Vista, Windows 7, or Windows 8
- Google Chrome version 12 or greater
- Mozilla Firefox version 3.6 or higher
- Apple Safari on Macintosh OS 10.5.7 (Intel-based)
These browsers can run on 32 or 64-bit operating
Does not Support iPad, iPhone, Android and Windows
Silverlight is not supported on mobile platforms such
as the iPad/iPhone, Android or Windows phone.
Silverlight Requirement Limits its Use for Public
By requiring the installation of Silverlight,
LightSwitch applications are not suited for public web
sites where visitors may not have it installed on their
machines (sites face the similar issue when using
Flash). However, for internal users and close external
contacts, this requirement may be perfectly acceptable.
Does not Support 64-bit Browsers
Silverlight is currently a 32-bit program that does
not run in 64-bit browsers. This should not be an issue
for most users. By default, on 64-bit PCs, the 32-bit
version of Internet Explorer is installed and extra
steps are required to intentionally install the 64-bit
version, which will have problems supporting other
common 32-bit components as well.
Limited User Interface Options
The LightSwitch architecture limits the user
interface to its structure. We find the structure
suitable for most database solutions but many Visual
Studio .NET developers find the constraints (or
potential constraints) too restrictive and uncomfortable
in the long-term. There is definitely a tradeoff here,
so it's important everyone understands the style of
solution LightSwitch offers and are comfortable with it.
LightSwitch doesn't offer reporting. You can display
data in a list, but you can't get the nice reports with
groupings, summaries, sub-reports, etc. that exist in
Microsoft Access. With SQL Server, you can use its
Reporting Services feature, but integrating it into a
.NET application is not the same as Microsoft Access where you can
share the same variable space as the application. There
are third party controls that can be added for
Since this paper was written, Microsoft has released
an update of LightSwitch with Visual Studio 2012 that
supports the creation of HTML5 based solutions. This replaces Silverlight and offers
true browser-based LightSwitch
application that can run on Windows, Mac, iPad, and
mobile devices with browsers that support HTML5.
However, the features are not identical to the
Silverlight platform which provides a richer end user
environment that can be locally installed and run. For
more details, visit our Compar:
Microsoft Access and
Visual Studio LightSwitch Comparison Matrix
Additional Resources from Microsoft
Here are some resources and sites that are helpful:
With our experience building Microsoft Access and SQL
Server solutions, we are very excited by the
functionality and productivity LightSwitch offers for
database application developers. LightSwitch fills a
niche that allows the creation of web
deployable SQL Server database solutions with .NET
extensibility. It's ideal for solutions where the users
are known either inside your organization or over the
web. Microsoft Access remains a viable solution for end
users, information workers, and applications that work
Visual Studio LightSwitch offers the Microsoft Access community the
opportunity to extend their platform beyond the Windows
desktop. It is the natural evolution of solutions which
start in Excel, evolve to Microsoft Access, grow into
SQL Server, and now to the Intranet and web. Compared to traditional
Visual Studio .NET applications, the learning curve for
LightSwitch is considerably shorter which means
solutions that were either too expensive or took too
long to build, can now be created profitably.
For more information on choosing the right platform
for your application, visit our page:
Comparison of Microsoft
Access, LightSwitch and Visual Studio Platforms for
If you're interested in learning how our Professional
Solutions Group can help you with Microsoft Access,
LightSwitch, SQL Server, and/or Visual Studio .NET,
Microsoft just announced the release candidate of
LightSwitch in Visual Studio 2013. We know some of
the limitations we cite are addressed in the new
version, so that's promising. We'll update this paper
when we gain more real world experience with it.
Meanwhile, please let us know what you think.