Many times, you will have to organize your data so that it would be easier for you to get or present the information the way you need. Let’s say you wanted to save all of your contact data for your clients in your computer. If you are not a technical savvy, then you might have kept a separate notepad or Word document with all information entered in it. But are you able to get the information you need easily and quickly? If you are using a Word document, then you might have to search the whole document to get the data you need. If you have saved large amounts of data, data management also becomes difficult as data is not that organized. This is where Microsoft Access can help you. Microsoft Access is a relational database management system which can be used to store, analyze, manipulate and present large amounts of data easily, quickly and efficiently.
Microsoft Access VS Microsoft Excel
Many computer users are more comfortable with Microsoft Excel tables and sums than with Microsoft Access. Though you can use Excel as well to store large amounts of data, it is mainly intended for calculations and reporting. On the other hand, Microsoft Access is a pure database application which is intended for managing large amounts of data. Thus, Microsoft Access has its own benefits when it comes to data management. Excel does not allow concurrent data access as it locks the whole application when it is accessed by multiple users whereas Access allows different users to concurrently access the data because it locks only specific records that are being accessed. In other words, Access can be accessed by many people at the same time, achieving the purpose of any information management tool.
Microsoft Access – Desktop Database System
Microsoft Access is mainly intended for home and small business users. Unlike many other database applications, Microsoft Access is a desktop database system. When database applications such as SQL Server is installed on a server and accessed from various client machines, MS Access application runs from the same computer where it is installed. You can create an Access database easily without much technical expertise. But, if you have to implement advanced features of Access, you need programming knowledge of Visual Basic and SQL. However, Access makes the whole process of data management easier with a very user friendly GUI (Graphical User Interface).
Create a Simple Contact Information Database using MS Access
Before creating the contact information directory, you should have a clear plan about which all fields you need to include to make your database easy-to-use. You obviously need Name, Address, Phone Number, e mail address etc. If you wish to make it a complete contact directory, you can have separate fields for mobile number, residence phone number and office phone number and home address and office address and also fax number. You can also have a date of birth field so that you can have your friends birthday details. You should consider your personal or business needs before finalizing the fields.
1. Open Microsoft Office Access application to get the screen as give below. There could be slight differences in the menu options with different versions of Microsoft Access. This tutorial uses Microsoft Access 2007 as reference.
2. Select “Blank Database” option and enter the name of the database in the space provided at the bottom right for “File Name:”. Enter the name “Contacts” and click “Create” button. You will get a screen as given below.
3. Double click “Add New Field” which will allow you to enter the name of the field. Enter “Contact Name” and click “Enter” key on the keyboard. You will get a new field to enter. Repeat the process to enter fields “Home Address”, “Office Address”, “Mobile Phone”, “Residence Phone”, “Office Phone”, “E-Mail”, “Fax” and “DOB”.
4. Click Microsoft Office button or go to Quick Access Toolbar and then click Save option to save your table. You will get the window to enter the name of your table. Enter “Contact Information” and click OK. You could find a field called ID which is primary key of your table.
5. Now, you need to set the data type for each field. Data type decides what you are allowed to enter to a specific field. For example, if you wish to make sure that the date is entered in the correct format in date of birth column (DOB), then you can set date of birth field to Date/Time data type. Data types ensure that data is entered correctly. Access sets the data type of every created field to text data type automatically.
6. Select the field “DOB” and go to Datasheet -> Data Type & Formatting and click the Data Type drop down and select the data type “Date/Time” as given below.
If you try to enter a text value in DOB field, you will get a warning saying that “The value you entered does not match the Date/Time data type in this column. Enter a new value”.
Now your Contacts directory or database is ready to enter data. You can enter data into each field as you need. You can have as many number of records as you want.
You could find many more options to deal with the data if you go to Datasheet ribbon. You can view your table in design view by clicking Design View from View drop down in Datasheets -> Views group. Then you will get a view as given below.
You can insert new fields in any position you need and delete or rename existing fields. You could find those options if you go to Datasheet -> Fields & Columns group. You can establish relationships between tables if you want. For example if you have a primary table named Employee and another table named Salary Details, then you can make sure that Salary Details table contains salary information of employees in the Employee table only by creating a foreign key relationship. You can perform all functions you completed using Datasheet view in Design view as well.