Access Tutorial

If you have used the Microsoft Office suite of programs you may be familiar with Word and Outlook for example. Two other components are Excel and Access. Both of these have the greatest learning curve and it takes a while to become competent. Many become familiar with the workings of Excel, but Access brings a new set of challenges.

In the early versions of Access a number of big glossy manuals were supplied with the package. These proved to be a valuable resource when looking for an Access tutorial. The manuals are no longer supplied and the user is expected to go online or use the build in help system. This is not always the best way to learn. What is needed is a step by step approach to designing and creating a database.

What should one look for in an Access tutorial? To begin with it is important to understand exactly what a database is. We can summarise that a database is used for storing and retrieving large amounts of information. All that information gets stored in what are known as tables. To create a table you would go into the table designer and create columns. For instance if you were creating a table of names and addresses you would have columns called first name, surname, address 1, town, city and postcode. Once the table is saved the data can then be entered. A table should represent a fact and should hold information relating to that fact. Another example of a table fact is invoice. Here you would have columns for invoice number, invoice date, invoice amount etc.

A better more user friendly way to enter data is by using a form. To create a form you would go into the form designer and select your data source. For example an invoice entry form could have the invoice table as the data source. You would then drag onto the form the fields or columns from the table. These provide the data entry boxes used to enter the data. Any data entered into an Access form is automatically saved to the table.

You might be thinking, I have the data in the table, but what if I want to get the data out. This is easily done in MS Access. You may have a situation where you want to know how many cars were sold in France in July. To do this you would use what is known as a query. A query is designed in the query designer and the first thing you do is select the table you wish to query from. You then drag the required table columns to the query grid and then run the query. Queries can get complex if you wish to join tables and create grouping or sum data.

It is important to know why you should and how to relate tables together. One reason is to eliminate duplicate data from the tables. You really want to store information about each fact only once. Relational database theory is worth learning in order to create robust Access databases. It would be very dangerous for instance to put customer and invoice information in the same table. A good Access tutorial will spend some time teaching the correct way to design your system.

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