Building an Access Database in Office 365

Access databases use tables, queries, reports, and forms as building blocks

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Ladiwayne Grafix / pxhere

Microsoft Access—a part of the Office 365 office suite—offers a robust desktop-class relational database that doesn't require a server to use. Access databases work from a fixed file on your hard drive or a network share. The tool offers sophisticated tools for creating tables, queries, forms, and reports.

Getting Started

Microsoft Access new table

Launch Microsoft Access. From the Create menu item, select Table. A table is the basic unit of storage within a database. A database consists of a series of well-defined objects connected by relationships. Within an object like a table, information stores in attribute/value combinations. Each element of data within a table—called an attribute or a field—relates to a discrete unit of information. A collection of attributes related to the same "thing" is called a record.

Access Objects

Objects within Access include:

  • Tables: A table is a structured, well-defined collection of individual attributes organized into a series of records. In a spreadsheet, an attribute is column-level information while a record is row-level information.
  • Queries: A query distills some subset of one or more tables to arrive at a unique on-the-fly set of information.
  • Forms: Enter data into an Access database through a form. A form is a graphical front-end to support easy access of new information into a table.
  • Reports: Use a report to list, in a form printable to the screen or to a printer, the contents of a table or the results of a query.

Access Relationships

access relationships

All tables relate to one another through a series of relationships. Microsoft Access is a relational database management system, which means that it enforces rules that govern how data in one table relates to data in another table.

Access Forms

Screenshot of using the Search field in an Access form

Use a form to facilitate the orderly inputting of records into the database. Forms are graphical tools optimized to support data entry.

Access Queries

The results of a query don't perfectly match the results of a table. Instead, a query draws from one or more tables, using advanced filtering and sorting rules to return a table-like result that feeds a report or a structured export file.

Access Reports

Use a report to take the results of a query or the contents of a table and transform it into a visual arrangement suitable for display on screens or on paper.

Special Data Sources

Use Microsoft Access as a front-end reporting tool that draws data from test files, Excel spreadsheets, SQL or Azure databases, Microsoft Outlook, or dozens of other sources of information. By importing linked tables or imported data sources, you're free to use Access as a querying tool and reporting agent. In addition, Access supports publishing of reports and data to other databases and the Microsoft SharePoint platform.

Output Formats

For the most part, information within an Access database stays within it. However, queries and reports export cleanly out of the database in Excel, plain text, XML, PDF, or XPS formats. In addition, Access feeds Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft Word distribution lists.