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MS Access

An Introduction


Relational Database Management Systems (RDBMS) allow users to define and use data stored in tables for a huge variety of purposes. Microsoft Access is one of many products that allows the creation of commercial relational applications that integrate data, forms and reports with a 'friendly' GUI (Graphical User Interface).

Users of Microsoft Windows will no doubt recognise that Access adopts many of the robust methods inherent in Windows applications, whilst allowing the designer a flexible development tool to cope with a wide variety of data and ways of presenting it.

This sub-web is not meant to be a definitive guide (indeed, even the thousands of pages of manual that comes with the package fail to completely describe all situations the designer may choose to pursue). Rather, it is meant as a beginning for students - to point out some features, and more generally, ways in which the system works. This, hopefully, will provide the basis for exploration and informed decision making.

Application Development

Although complex in nature, the process of application development remains fairly predictable. This is largely regardless of the tool used in implementation. There are a wide variety of conventions and command structures inherent in each application development tool - this document shall concentrate on Microsoft Access.

  • Table design (including keys and inter-table constraints) and data dictionary
  • Database and Table definition based on the above
  • Table instantiation (at least to prototype levels)
  • Query formation - reform complex facts and present relevant data ordered as required
  • Form creation - displays to present data from queries on-screen
  • Report formation - design of output reports the system will generate
  • Interface creation - tying it all together with some user interface
  • Testing and modification of the above
  • Full population and release

Some Microsoft Access Fundamentals

Database Window for the music database

Most actions in Access are begun from the Database Window. From here it is possible to create, edit and use the six basic types of database objects available: Tables, Queries, Forms, Reports, Macros and Modules).

An Access Table is a container for data - functionally identical to an SQL Table. A Table is comprised of Tuples (records, rows) each of which is made up of fields.

An Access Query is a data retrieval, manipulation or modification request. Queries in Access can be composed or graphically constructed using the QBE (Query By Example) Grid.

A Form in Access is an on-screen layout format designed to display and present data from tables, queries and other forms. They provide the User-Computer Interface for most processes in an Access database system.

A Report provides hardcopy facilities for the database allowing output reports to be generated on printers than include standard wordprocessor features.

A Macro is an automated process in Access. They provide the facility to 'record' actions and 'play back' at will.

A Module is a section of code (in this case Access BASIC code) that is written to externally operate on Access databases.

Each database object type has construction, viewing and storage options, along with custom tools specific to that object type. This booklet will only concentrate on tables, queries, forms and reports.

It is possible to perform most actions using pull down menus, custom buttons and Wizards (automatic processes). Much of the power of this product, however, lies behind the database objects you create. You will probably choose to develop many of these objects manually because of the extra control you have over them when doing so.


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