Microsoft Access is a database application that is often bundled with its Office product. It is a Database Management System (DBMS) similar to Oracle or SQL Server. Due to its relative ease of use and familiar “Windows look and feel,” it’s a popular choice in organizations across the world.
While fairly straightforward to use, it’s often useful to undertake an access tutorial or three to really get to grips with the system. Access is large and complex once you scratch the surface. One of its most popular features is that it’s easy to get going, but incredibly powerful once you get into it.
The system is built up of three main components, tables, queries, and reports. To understand Access, you need to understand these fundamentals. We’re not writing a complete Access tutorial here, but we will cover the basics. The data, which makes up the database is dealt with separately, as it will be here.
A table is the basic framework of any database. It is an organized collection of statistics, in columns and rows, which make up a grid. This grid will contain names, labels, data and cells. Tables use the X and Y axis, much like standard mathematical graphs, so are easy to use once you know how. X is the row and Y is the column. Where X and Y intersect is the cell.
The name is the name of the table, labels are names of columns and rows. A column is generally the type of information stored. A row is an individual record, and a cell is the box in which they intersect.
These are the requests for information stored in database. Any database can display a table, but the real power comes from being able to process much more sophisticated requests. They offer the ability to extract specific information from a table, or multiple tables across a database.
Tables and queries are powerful tools and provide the data you need quickly and efficiently. However, they aren’t particularly user-friendly, which is where reports come in. They are forms that have specific criteria set in them to display particular data. The report queries the database, collects the data, then formats into readable form.
Reports can be run manually, from templates, completely automatically, or a combination of all three.
The data in a database fits into the table using a predefined schema. That schema could be literally anything, which makes Access so powerful. From a shop inventory to the tax returns of the entire country, the database can store it all. It can be input manually, or collected automatically.
Access can integrate with many other systems such as SQL server, Oracle and many others. There is no real limitation of what data can be stored, as long as it’s under 255 characters long.
As we mentioned at the beginning, this isn’t a complete Access tutorial but an overview of what it is and what it does. It is hoped that we have given you enough information to give the system a try, or created enough of a hunger to make you want to find out more.