Microsoft Access Databases – Learning the Fundamentals

The Access database application provides a rich set of powerful tools ranging from a simple database design model to the multi-user network version using Access’s administrative tools at all levels which include the Relationship Window, Database Splitter, Linked Manager Tool and Access Security module to name but a few.

If you have wondered where you start to learn about Microsoft Access the quickest and simplest way, then welcome as I will step you through and guide you to learning Access the easy way!

Access beginners sometimes find this application overwhelming as there are a lot of objects and components to an Access Database. I am going to start by de-mystifying some of these objects and introduce you to Access Terminology first and foremost.

Getting to grips with some of the Access terminology will serve as a useful glossary for learning and mastering this application and any supporting resources you may use.

So what’s a database? A database is a collection of information that has been organised so that the information is easy to access and display in different ways. Databases are used everywhere: at work, in the home, in schools, and leisure facilities. Examples of a database would be a telephone directory, a mailing catalogue, or even a CD music library.

Within Access, a database simply refers to a collection of different data sets known as Tables which are potentially related and therefore joined together.

The process of relating and joining tables together is what makes Access a Relational Database Management System (RDBMS) and on the whole provides more flexible reporting and richer functionality within this application.

Heard about the Primary Key? An Access field in a table can be assigned a primary key and is highly recommended. This field acts as the responsible field when joining to other related tables. It’s a field that must be unique, mandatory and it prevents any duplicate values being stored.

Recordsets also known as dynasets simply refer to the results of a collection of records from one or more tables normally produced by a query.

What’s a Query then? Probably, this is the most important object from the human point of view. Access Queries are the answers to your questions! When you want to run a report, you don’t want to produce all records each time. Instead, you will narrow down the search by setting criteria (asking that question) to produce the recordset.

At this point, I have now covered the essentials regarding the data processing terms and some of the objects. Together, all this adds up to what is generally referred as the ‘Back-End’ of the database system.

Next, I’m going to quickly run through the ‘Front-End’ part of the database system starting with creating user-friendly screens known as Forms.

A Form is a document layer that points to either a table or query providing recordsets that users can view and manage. Remember, you don’t want to work in the ‘backroom’ or ‘cupboard’ of a database so you create a Form instead.

A Report is simply a rich formatted report layout based on either a table or query and is read only (print preview mode). The rich set of tools makes this object the obvious choice for document presentation and therefore does not require any additional software.

When you are designing objects, you will come across types of Controls which is another word for a component in a document namely Labels, Text Boxes, Combo Boxes and other types of components. Each Control will have many Properties that define the attributes or characteristics of a Control and when mixed together, change the look, feel and behaviour of that Control from basic formatting, setting an Access field to creating high level links and expressions.

The final item to mention and to conclude the Access terminology article is a more technical design term which pops up from time to time known as Database Normalisation.

When creating an Access RDBMS system, the process of Normalisation should be understood so that you take advantage of the rules in place and create a solid and well structured database.

Now, you should feel a little more comfortable with the basic Access terminology so as and when you use Access help files you will have some idea of the definitions.

?By Ben Beitler

Access Database Icon

Access Database Icon

This entry was posted in Database Theory, Forms, Macros, MS Access, Queries, Reports, Tables, Utilities and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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