Microsoft Office Tutorials and References
In Depth Information
Why Use a Database?
Why Use a Database?
Many people use Microsoft Excel, another Office program, to manage their
databases. Excel works for storing lists of things — up to a point. Go ahead
and start with Excel if you’re already comfortable with it, but you’ll know
that you’re ready to move up to Access when
✦ You need to store the same pieces of information in several places.
You can use Excel formulas to duplicate data around a spreadsheet,
and you can use the cut-and-paste technique to make copies, but both
methods lead to errors.
✦ You don’t want to look at your data as columnar tables. Excel’s
database features (such as they are) require your data to be laid out in
rows and columns. But what if you need a report in some other format?
Displaying data in lots of formats is where Access shines.
✦ Your information consists of more than one list of records. If your
database includes information about several types of things — such
as customers, orders, and products — you’re ready for Access. Excel
doesn’t give you an easy way to connect and combine information from
different columnar tables. Access, however, is a relational database that
enables you to create forms and reports that include information from
✦ You want to check your data to ensure that it’s correct. Access allows
you to validate data in far more rigorous ways than Excel does. Avoid
“garbage in, garbage out”!
Plan, Plan, Plan
Databases are very different from spreadsheets and word processing
documents. With spreadsheets and documents, you can just start typing, putting
information where you want it to appear when you print the thing.
Databases don’t work like that. If you just start typing information into a
database, you’ll have a total mess. Not to lay a major downer on you, but a
database requires planning so that you put the right information in the right
place. It’s not rocket science, but it’s necessary.
The first step is finding out what makes up an Access database, which is
what this chapter is about. Chapter 2 of this minibook gets you into the
Access program, clicking around and seeing what’s there, and Chapter 3 is
where you make your plan, designing your own database.