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Chapter 3: Designing Your Database the Relational Way
Chapter 3: Designing Your
Database the Relational Way
In This Chapter
✓ Designing the tables in which you’ll store your data
✓ Streamlining your design to make it truly relational
✓ Linking your tables with joins
✓ Choosing the right data types for your fields
✓ Ensuring compatibility among Access versions
Relational database design? Yikes! It sounds like a serious programming
project. But what is it, exactly? Designing a database means figuring
out how the information is structured — that is, which information should
be stored in each table of the database and how everything connects. Unlike
the case when you work with a spreadsheet or word processor, you have to
design a database before you use it; you can’t just start typing information
in it. (Well, sure, you can, but we don’t recommend it; the result is usually a
mess.) How easy it is later to enter and edit information and to create useful
queries, forms, and reports depends on how well your database is designed.
A good database design can streamline your work in Access.
This chapter takes you through the process of designing the table(s) you
need in your database, including the relationships among them. Book II,
Chapter 1 contains instructions for creating the tables in Access.
What Are Tables, Fields, and Keys?
In Access, you store your data in tables — lists of records that work like the
index cards that make up an address file. Each record contains information
in the same format, in fields — specified places for individual pieces of
If you want to keep track of the customers of a small bookstore, you make
a table of customers, with one record per customer. Each record is made
up of the same set of fields, including fields that store the following types of
data: customer’s last name, first name, street address, city, state or province,
zip or postal code, country, and phone number (as shown in Figure 3-1).