Microsoft Access Database: What is… Some Popular Questions

Microsoft Access Database: What is… Some Popular Questions

Here are some questions I’ve been asked over the years regarding Microsoft Access databases which I thought you may want to review. 

Q: What features make Microsoft Access a valuable tool over say the more popular Excel spreadsheet or any other desktop software?

A: The key feature is the ability to “ask questions” and perform actions with large amounts of the data via Queries which is its real strength.  For the common MS Office user who doesn’t know anything about MS Access databases, this application can seem fairly user-friendly and most users tend to lean to a more comfortable environment, namely Excel.


Q: What’s the best way to start learning Microsoft Access?

A: It all depends on how you best absorb information and learn new technologies. Some people prefer a book but that can be quite time consuming and hard to follow as most books tend to be a front to back method to study and therefore, I’ve found books to be more useful as a reference resource rather than teaching oneself. A good start if you decide on a book is the Access for Dummies series.

Others prefer the more traditional classroom training environment and in most cases, can engage with the trainer but depending on the level of the class can be a little fragmented especially if it’s only a single day as opposed to say four days of intensive training.

The more modern methods are actually using ‘easier’ smaller reference books or dedicated MS Access modular based eBooks and studying short 10 minute bursts of video tutorials along with useful blog posts and articles as it provides a good balance with real-world examples and keeps the attention span optimised for learning.

Microsoft Access Database: What is… Some Popular Questions

Q: Can you have too many relationships between your tables?

A: What is considered too many? The key question is your database really Normalised? For now, indexing is an important key when linking to other tables and if each table is going to adopt this, then there is a limit of up to 32 indexed tables in your Access database. A good database plan should not really exceed this number and if so, can be linked without using the formal indexing technique but one side-affect of perhaps impeding on performance.

Q: ‘Die hard Excel users’: Can Access’s table relationship do something like VLookup?

A: By default, creating queries with joined or related tables will behave the same way as the VLookup function in Excel and is actually better, more reliable and faster to execute. Even a Access has a non related DLookup function which can extract data from other tables and could be deemed the equivalent  to get you started – that is!).

Q: Excel Pivot Tables versus MS Access Pivot Tables – which is better?

A: Difficult one to give an overall winner here. Excel is easier and more intuitive with simple steps to generate a pivot table which has richer features than Access to allow users to interact better. Microsoft Access databases uses pivots in the same way but require more design time supported by probably having to use queries to intercede first to gather the correct relational data-sets.

Personally, I would use Access and Excel together by using MS Access to fully secure and take advantage of the data integrity it has over Excel and then link an Excel pivot table to the Access query – best of both worlds!

You can also view an article about Microsoft Excel versus Microsoft Access for more information.

There are of course many, many questions users tend to ask and I just wanted to give you taster of how I can help support you, introduce you to my eBooks and offer utilities for any level of user.

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