Microsoft Access Fundamentals

excel spreadsheet

Note: This article provides an introduction to Microsoft Access 2000. If you are using a later version, you may wish to read Microsoft Access 2010 Fundamentals or Microsoft Access 2013 Fundamentals

Are you overwhelmed by the large quantities of data that need to be tracked in your organization? Perhaps you're currently using a paper filing system, text documents or a spreadsheet to keep track of your critical information.

If you're searching for a more flexible data management system, a database might be just the salvation you're looking for.

What is a database? Quite simply, it's an organized collection of data. A database management system (DBMS) such as Access, FileMaker Pro, Oracle or SQL Server provides you with the software tools you need to organize that data in a flexible manner. It includes facilities to add, modify or delete data from the database, ask questions (or queries) about the data stored in the database and produce reports summarizing selected contents.

Microsoft Access provides users with one of the simplest and most flexible DBMS solutions on the market today. Regular users of Microsoft products will enjoy the familiar Windows "look and feel" as well as the tight integration with other Microsoft Office family products. An abundance of wizards lessen the complexity of administrative tasks and the ever-present Microsoft Office Helper (you know… the paper clip!) is available for those who care to use it.

Before purchasing Access, be sure that your system meets Microsoft's minimum system requirements. To further our discussion, let's first examine three of the major components of Access that most database users will encounter - tables, queries, forms. Once we've completed that we'll look at the added benefits of reports, web integration and SQL Server integration.

Tables comprise the fundamental building blocks of any database. If you're familiar with spreadsheets, you'll find database tables extremely similar.

The table above contains the employee information for our organization -- characteristics like name, date of birth and title. Examine the construction of the table and you'll find that each column of the table corresponds to a specific employee characteristic (or attribute in database terms). Each row corresponds to one particular employee and contains his or her information. That's all there is to it! If it helps, think of each one of these tables as a spreadsheet-style listing of information.