Pocket PC Access Database Alternatives (Missing Apps Part II)

by Todd Ogasawara

I blogged last week about why I'm glad Microsoft didn't provide Pocket PC versions of their Access database and PowerPoint presentation applications(The "Missing" Pocket PC apps: Access & PowerPoint). So, what do you do if you need a database for the Pocket PC?

I noticed that Wei-Meng Lee has two articles on O'Reilly's OnDotNet site about Microsoft's high-end Microsoft SQL Server 2000 Windows® CE Edition (Developing Pocket PC Apps with SQL Server CE and Using Remote Data Access with SQL Server CE 2.0). But, SQL Server can be a bit daunting to non-programmers. Fortunately, there are a range 3rd party Pocket PC database applications that can fit the needs of everyone from non-programmers to expert programmers. Here's the list of Pocket PC database applications that I know about:

BioHazard Software Data-on-the-Run

DDH Software HanDBase

KaioneSoft SprintDB

Pocket Innovations Pocket Database

PocketSoft abcDB

Software 4 CE HandyDB

Syware Visual CE

I've used HanDBase quite a bit since it is simple to use it to create a database applet right on the Pocket PC with no programming required (even when using features like populated drop-down menus). However, it is not a fully relational database (as far as the version 2.75 I use goes. I have not tried version 3 yet). So, while it fits my needs for building small fast personal databases, it may not fit everyone's requirements.

Unforunately, I do not know of any free or Open Source Pocket PC database applications.

Note: Although all of these third party applications can deal with a database created using Microsoft Access on the desktop, none of them (to my knowledge) can bring over the existing relational links or macros/VBA-scripts. And, the ActiveSync MDB to CDB translation has a 65,000 record limit.

Am I missing any Pocket PC databases (commercial or Open Source)? Got a favorite Pocket PC database app? Let me know!


2003-06-23 04:28:43
Probably a good reason for it not being included..
I've been a PDA owner for quite a few years now, and have owned a variety of devices. I've been pleased to see CPU speeds rising, and applications getting generally faster. However, I am still not convinced that "real" databases that run on the PDA are ready for prime time. My most recent test proved that yes, you could actually support a database with 5,000 records in it, but the speed of processing to run a simple filter made it essentially a non-starter. OTOH, a database held remotely and accessed via wireless is a completely different proposition, and my largest database of 20,000 records queried via wireless is easily accessible. So in effect I don't need a real database package on my PDA - just a dumb front end. Personally I feel that this is why the software is not included..
2003-06-23 14:12:39
Probably a good reason for it not being included..
Interesting observation. Couple of useful (I hope) comments. It looks like the Pocket PC 2003 is faster than 2002 on similar devices. This should help a bit with queries on a reasonably large dataset like your 5,000 record db. I agree that query over wireless (WiFi, Bluetooth, GPRS, CDMA1xRT) to a database server makes a lot of sense. However, there are those times when some (many) of us are in a disconnected state. And, it is during those periods that an on-device database app is important to provide a workable disconnected experience.
2003-06-24 02:41:15
Probably a good reason for it not being included..
Oh, diversity in requirements is always there. I use Thinkdb on the Palm IIIc - it is rich enough but on 16Mhz chip, less than 8Mb of total RAM, it suffers from applying filters to say 100 records.

I have now the Viewsonic V37 PocketPC which runs at 400Mhz but it does not feel fast at all, some ops are not much faster than the Palm's 16Mhz.

You have to take the perspective of do you want complexity of app but lite data load or do you want sheer data load / performance.

There are a lot of Personal PocketPC users who are quite happy with some complexity (richness) at the expense of number of records - synch to Access .mdb however rates very high in many cases which are non corporate.


2003-06-24 02:56:59
Probably a good reason for it not being included..
"However, there are those times when some (many) of us are in a disconnected state."

Me included as I can't afford my telco's GPRS rate for too long :-) You are right though - I think it's very important to have access to offline data, especially when trying to business with it. I suppose one answer would be to remove some of the feature bloat in the PDA database package and make the DB engine more efficient.

2003-06-26 01:10:27
Probably a good reason for it not being included..
Your comments make sense to a point. However, not every is always connected to a network from their Pocket PC. So, a native database application is important to create a bridge between the connected experience and the disconnected experience. The new Pocket PC 2003 platform seems to run more effeciently than 2002 on the same hardware. So, perhaps we are at or nearing the point at which databases of significant size (say the 5000 records you mention) can be processed at a reasonable speed.
2003-06-26 01:13:55
Forgot one: FileMaker Mobile 2.1
I was told that I neglected to include FileMaker Mobile 2.1 in my list of Pocket PC database applications. It also runs on Palm OS devices.
2003-07-22 11:25:53
Have you looked at SprintDB?
I'd be interested in your opinion of SprintDB/SprintDB Pro by KaioneSoft. The "reviews" appear to be very good but I'd appreciate your unbiase opinion!
2003-07-24 21:01:51

You have got to try version 3 of HanDBase. It is as relational as you need it to be and the forms app allows you to build your own interface. E-mail me and we can discuss.


DDH Software

2003-08-19 12:00:02
Have you looked at SprintDB?
In my opinion, I have found SprintDB to be the best general purpose Pocket PC DB tool available so far. I had numerous problems with some of the other tools. SprintDB is fast and allows full development on the PDA itself. They also provide good tutorials for gettings started. Support also seems good. My basic inquiries on the product were answered quite quickly. Future plans for the tool also look quite good.

Some issues I have with SprintDB:
1) They do not currently provide runtime components for independent application development.
2) I wish there were better debugging tools.
3) The expression composition tools lack a few handy shortcuts that require workaround input.
4) Sometimes the expression tools seem to create odd output or functions that do not appear to work. This might be an issue with PocketAccess.

Hope this helps,

2003-09-18 22:06:38
instant cure for database misery on PocketPC
Install Linux. Yes.
I own a Zaurus, but there are Linux versions available which run nicely on PocketPC.
Advantage: you can use fully fledged powerful free relational databases such as MySQL, or powerfull embedded database engines such as BerkeleyDB along with a cornucopia of free database interface design tools.
I have used the Zaurus now for 6 months, and will never look back to WinCE or PalmOS, even if I might buy different hardware one day (but only hardware that will run Linux, that is)
2003-10-05 17:50:26
Filemaker Mobile 2.1 incompatible with Pocket Pc 2003
Thought I'd let you know that Filemaker Mobile 2.1 is not compatible with Pocket Pc 2003. I purchased it (Without reading the fine print) and was very disappointed to find out the it will not work. Filemaker has not been able to give me an answer as to when it will work. I have moved on and am now working with SprintDB Pro and love it.
2004-01-13 19:17:21
Filemaker Mobile 2.1 incompatible with Pocket Pc 2003
When you said it didn't work, can you please let me know a bit more about it and what didn't work?


2004-02-11 01:46:35
Access for Pocket PC
I am looking at buying pocket PC's for a mobile sales force application, and I have always been led to believe that a version of the Access engine exists on the PC (accessible from VB application via ADO?) but only that there is no Access IDE like there is on the desktop. However, following this thread I would simply get the impression there wasn't even the engine on the PPC! - only mention is a few who questioned the fact that Access apeared in the activeSynch options. However, I am told by the software vendor that Pocket PC 2003/Phone edition no longer has the engine, and we will need to investigate using SQL Server CE or another Access compliant DB if we use the PPC we wan to buy (O2 XDA GSM/GPRS). SO , does Pocket PC have the Access engine or not, and if so have they removed it wit 2003/Phone edition??? Please clarify.
2004-03-30 03:53:21
Pocket PC databases
Good subject on which, I could know some scoop there. Anyway SQLSERVER CE is the best option,but unafforable.
Kindly let me know any of the proven relational databases on Pocket PC with which I can sleep comfortably
Better on Win ce operating system

2004-10-28 14:55:15
Access for Pocket PC
2005-03-15 01:51:22
Access for Pocket PC
Here are your answers.
If you use ActiveSync, go into the menu EXTRAS and activate entry "Database imports". You will be prombt for the name of the Acess Database (on the Desktop). As you have choosen it the Desktop Access Database is beeing automatically converted into a Pocket Access Database which is transfered to your PDA into the \MY Documents\ Folder. Thats all to create an Pocket Access Database. The database on the PDA will now be automatically synchronized with the one on the Desktop.
If you like to develop an application with .Net Compact Framework I propose to use the special ADO ActiveX "InTheHand". This is very cheap and works fine. Find it on Handango.com. Any More questions?

Good luck and regards from Germany
Günter Becker

2005-03-16 00:38:59
Missed one
I am currently working in Iraq as an HR rep for a military contract. I carry my employee database with me on my pocketPC. I have tried a couple of different database utilities and find BioMobilities "data on the run" to be of the most use to me. It easily handles large MSAccess files, is fairly easy to use, and its handling of individual records is top notch...


2005-03-19 15:17:05
missed one more
I like DB Anywhere: http://www.pocketgear.com/software_detail.asp?id=1190
I use it pretty much on a daily basis on my Dell Axim and it works well as a Pocket Access replacement.
2005-07-03 02:01:35
Download/Upload data from PC to Pocket PC

I would like to ask your insights on how to go thru with this.

I developed simple VB.NET applications using mySql as database. I would like to download data from Pocket PC and vice versa.

How can i achieve this? are they companitble since i am using mysql as my db on PC? how about on Pocket PC?

I am hoping for you quickest response.

Thank you,


2005-08-16 09:17:49
Darren DDH
Well, I did and it failed.

sorry to say, HanDbase 3 for Pocket PC (at least the demo) does not work as acknowleged by their customer service agent.

details: DDH claims a fully functional demo, just time limited.
I downloaded it and tried it. It crashed my PPC. I then spent several hours to discover whether my hardware or my software and what crashes it. It is the software. I wrote to customer service and received a rather non-encouraging reply suggesting if I pay for registration it will work, that they know that the demo is faulty (at least when used with security passwords)

  • something that only affects the demo version, and I do not have a pre-release
    copy of the demo version of the next update available (nor a beta version of the
    next next version that acts as a demo).

why would a responsible company release a defective demo and expect you to trust them enough to pay money for another.

why should time limitation on a "fully-functional demo" affect a password, except on a poorly designed piece of code.

I guess that I am saying that one ought to wait until they have something to demonstrate before committing cash, as well as investing in a more responsible developer.

2005-08-16 09:34:10
Darren DDH
I haven't tried a demo version of HanDBase. However, I have used the full version on a variety of Pocket PCs since its release for Windows CE in 2001 (in fact I used a pre-release version to write the review for Microsoft's PocketPC.com back then). It has never crashed any of the devices I owned. You might want to check in on some of the Pocket PC focused newsgroups and provide a more detailed description of your problem (including model of your PPC) to see if you can get detailed assistance online).
2005-12-29 08:10:27
I have been using Handbase for 3 months now as my main DB for customer and call records the handheld software is ok it functions as expected.
The desktop is another story if you have a lot of records it is really slow to load. One of my biggest gripes is for some reason that I can’t find every once and a while all the links between db's don’t work and you have to shut down the program and restart. As for the form designer what you draw on the desktop doesn’t look the same on the device you get a lot of overlap and its really not that intuitive to work with.
Bottom line it would be good for those who want a small db type program
2006-01-06 16:01:02
XS Forms - freeware
I've just downloaded and tried the Grandasoft XS Forms which is a very useful piece of software. It can be used for collecting data on a Pocket PC, after designing the input forms on a desktop. It uses an XML database backend, and can import/export to CVS, Text and XML. Site is www.grandasof.com
2006-01-07 00:10:10
XS Forms - freeware
Thanks for the pointer. I'm sure others will benefit from it!...todd
2006-01-07 00:13:54
I use DDH's HanDBase quite often and agree with you that it is works well for what it was designed for: Small (mostly flat file) databases. Anyone looking to implement a large database application should look at: (1) Syware's VisualCE (plus a few add-ons from Syware) and (2) Microsoft SQL Server Windows 2005 Mobile Edition.
2006-01-07 12:14:56
I have use HanDBase for the past 5 years and I am very happy with it.

That is to say until I recently switched from my Sony Clie with Palm OS to Axim X51 with WM5. Now I cannot open up my older databases larger than around 1500 records....

Anybody with good experiences on Windows Mobile 5??

2006-04-03 11:43:44
My company (MTS Inc) has been using HanDBase3 for the PalmOS for a couple years now. The semi-relational nature, easy to create forms, synchronization with MS Access on a desktop via a HotSync conduit, the ability to create royalty-free "run-time" versions (doesn't require the installation of HanDBase on the handheld), etc made it a great option for our needs. However, when installing our "run-time" applications on a PPC they are EXTREMELY slow, and therefore unusable. I'm not sure if this is the same with all PPC's but we tested it using a Garmin iQue M5 with Windows PocketPC 2003 Second Edition.

I believe our next step would be to create a .NET (CF) application for the PPC and use Windows SQL Server CE as the back-end database.


2006-04-06 07:38:43
Can anyone suggest a db program that will allow me to create forms on my desktop then send them to a MobileMapper CE running Windows CE version 4.20. I don't need access to the database data, just want to have the ability for students to enter research data in the field and then come back to the office and upload that data into the database on a desktop. Would HanDBase work? I cannot load the trial version - it says the file is corrupted. Is there something better I can try?