Top 5 Tips for beginners using Access

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Although Access is not as widely used as some of the other applications in the Microsoft Office suite like Word, Excel or PowerPoint, it is an effective database tool that allows the storage and management of data. Here are top five tips for beginners using Access.

1. Don’t start from scratch if you don’t need to

If you are a proficient Excel user or already have data stored in an Excel workbook, you can import this into Access which can save lots of time. In order to do this follow these steps:

a. Create a new database as you would if you were creating one from scratch
b. Click on the External Data on the ribbon
c. Double click the Excel icon to start the import
d. On the Get External Data window that pops up, select the spreadsheet using the Browse button
e. By default the Import the source data into a new table in the current database option is selected and if you are a beginner, it is easier to keep this option selected.
f. Once you have clicked OK to continue select the row that contains your field names – usually this is the first row of your Excel worksheet in which case you can tick the First Row Contains Column Headings box at the top.
g. Click Next and create any desired indexes. An index in a database is a way to increase the speed at which Access can find data however, it can cause the file to require more storage try not to select too many indexed columns.
h. Click Next and select your Primary Key – this is the field that will uniquely identify each record. The easiest way is to allow Access to generate the Primary Key for in which case select the relevant option.
i. Click Next and now name your Table. A Table in a database is a container for data and you can create multiple tables.
j. Click Finish

You can now view your data straight away in the Access table.

2. Choose the right Primary Key

Selecting the primary key for each table is one of the most important decisions you will make when creating a database. Its function is to uniquely identify each record and doesn’t work if there is any chance it could be duplicated.

3. Use Templates

Access provides a range of templates with already set up tables, relationships, forms etc which can be a huge timesaver. Simply select the template the most closely matches your database and amend as necessary. It is a great way for beginners to explore Access without investing lots of time with the set up only to realise that they have made mistakes at the beginning stages that affect the operation later on.

4. Validation Rules

When setting up your tables and forms, using validation rules is a great way to ensure that your database maintains its integrity. These rules enable you to control the format of the data that is entered into the database which in turn, reduces the chances of errors and inconsistencies.

5. Use the Tab Order function

When users complete computerised forms, they expect to be able to navigate through using their tab key. You should mirror this expectation on your form by setting the Tab Order from top to bottom.

Bio – Hollie Miller

Hollie provides Microsoft Access training for Acuity Training. In her spare time she loves to go to the gym and dress making.

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