Access is a database program that enables you to store information such as a client list, products, invoices, inventory, events, and other collections of data. In addition to entering the data in a database table, you have several tools for working with the data. You can create forms for simpler data entry. You can create a query to display a set of records (all customers with overdue balances, for instance). You can create a report. All these elements are Access objects and are stored together in the database.
To help you get started with Access, this book contains parts that explain the basics of using the program, steps on how to create and edit tables, and tasks on modifying the database design, as well as parts on creating and using forms, queries, and reports. Every process is broken down into easy-to-follow steps with illustrations (screen shots) of the process.
As you work through this book, consider key concepts:
You can work in two views for most objects:
Design view and Working view. Think of Design view as viewing the blueprint of a house, whereas Working view is the house itself. In Design view, you can see how the underlying structure creates that object, and you can make changes to the layout. In Working view, you can view and work with your data using the structure you created in Design view. Working view varies depending on the object type. For instance, when working with tables, the view is called Datasheet view. When working with queries, you see the results of the query.
Each element in a database table is called a field and has a field name and data type. One set of fields is a record. Although you can make modifications to a database design after you've entered records, you may lose data or encounter a few problems. Therefore, it's a good idea to carefully think about and plan your database structure. Which fields are needed? How do the fields relate? Do I need to break down a field into smaller elements? For instance, it's not a good idea to include one field for a person's name. Instead, include a first name field and a last name field. This setup makes sorting and searching easier.
When you are entering data, you do not need to save your work. Access saves the work automatically. When you create or modify an object such as a database table, form, or report, you do need to save your changes.
Rather than store all your data in one large database table, you can break down the information into separate tables and then set up relationships between the tables. For instance, rather than have a table that includes products, orders, and customer names, you can include separate tables for each and then link them. (Working with multiple tables is a topic of Part 8.)
Access is a high-powered tool and includes elements that enable you to create a customized database program. This book gets you started on the basics of using Access. To learn about some of the more advanced features, consider a reference book such as Using Access.