So, what is Microsoft Access?
For anyone that has found him/herself under the gun who needs to
consolidate, store, gather, isolate or manipulate information then
report against it to a group of stakeholders, Microsoft Access is
the application to use. It can be purchased as an add-on to the Microsoft
Office Professional package. If you foresee yourself managing a neighborhood
contact list or downloading information from a company’s mainframe
system, you can use Microsoft Access.
Upon opening Microsoft Access, there is the option to open a blank
database or a number of templates. When you open the application,
either using a template or a blank database, you will see a menu on
the left side of the application which is the "Objects"
menu. This menu will provide the category of functions that you need
in order to use the database. The general concept of Access, using
the "Object" menu is as follows:
- Tables: are used to store your raw data. For example, the administrator
can upload information from Excel (*.xls), Text (*.txt), or non-Access
database (*.dbf) files.
- Queries: are used to manipulate the data in the tables. They can
be used to add, update, or remove information from the tables. They
can also be used to create tables. There are several types of queries
that can be created. To add information, use an "append"
query, to update information, use an "update" query, to
remove information, use a "delete" query, to create tables,
use a "make table" query.
- Forms: are used to enter information into the tables. In addition,
they are designed for end-users to navigate the database.
- Reports: provide a layout in order to share the raw data and/or
data analysis with others.
- Pages: provide an interface with the internet.
- Macros: are used to automate database tasks. They can be used
to upload information into the database, automate functions within
the database, to providing the end-user warning and/or informational
- Modules: allow you to program the database using Visual Basic.
Across the top of the database window is another menu with the "Open",
"Design", "New", "X", and several icon
display options. These menu options are available regardless of which
category chosen in the "Objects" menu. The menu across the
top of the database window provides the following functions:
- Open: the database administrator can open any highlighted object
(table, query, form, etc.)
- Design: allows the administrator to change the inherent/design
functions of any database object. For example, if the administrator
goes into the design view of a macro, s/he can change the operations
of the macro.
- New: the programmer can create any new object within the database.
- X: deletes any object within the database.
- Icon displays: change how the objects appear within the database
window. This function is similar to how Windows provides various
As you delve into the world of Microsoft Access, there are wizards
to assist with any function needed. Based upon what needs to be created,
the questions will change. If the database is for personal use, department-wide
use, or for use across the organization, ensure that the following
foundation questions are answered prior to building the database:
- Why is the database needed? Is it to store information on a long-term
basis or will the information be updated on a daily basis?
- Where are the information sources? Is it from a pre-existing spreadsheet
or will it be entered manually? Who will need the information from
- Who will be using the database? Are there many end-users or just
- Where will the database be housed? Will it be on a network server
or a personal computer?
- When does the database need to be operational? Build testing time
into the project plan.
With this general overview of Access and by answering these foundational
questions, any administrator is well on the way to effectively handling
any information that comes his/her way.