Overview of Microsoft Access 2010

Microsoft Access has three major components: tables, queries, and forms

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Any company that is overwhelmed by large quantities of data that need to be tracked or by a system that uses paper filing, text documents or a spreadsheet to keep track of critical information can benefit from making the switch to a data management system. A database system like Microsoft Access 2010 may be just what the company needs.

What Is a Database?

At the most basic level, a database is an organized collection of data. A database management system (DBMS) such as Microsoft Access provides you with the software tools you need to organize that data in a flexible manner. It includes facilities to add, modify and delete data from the database, ask questions about the data stored in the database and produce reports summarizing selected contents.

Microsoft Access 2010 Components

Microsoft Access 2010 provides users with a simple and flexible DBMS solution. Regular users of Microsoft products appreciate the familiar Windows look and feel and the tight integration with other Microsoft Office family products. 

Three of the major components of Access that most database users encounter are tables, queries, and forms. If you are just starting out with Access and don’t already have an Access database in place, learn how to create a database from scratch.

Tables Are the Building Blocks

Tables are the fundamental building blocks of any database. If you're familiar with spreadsheets, you'll find database tables are similar. A typical database table might contain employee information, including characteristics like name, date of birth and title. It might be structured as follows:

  • Employee ID
  • Last Name
  • First Name
  • Title
  • Salutation
  • Birth Date

Examine the construction of a table and you'll find that each column of the table corresponds to a specific employee characteristic — or attribute in database terms. Each row corresponds to one particular employee and contains his or her information. That's all there is to it. If it helps, think of each table as a spreadsheet-style listing of information. 

Queries Retrieve Information 

A database that only stores information would be useless; you need methods to retrieve information as well. If you simply want to recall the information stored in a table, Microsoft Access allows you to open the table and scroll through the records contained within it. However, the real power of a database lies in its capabilities to answer complex queries. Access queries provide the capability to combine data from multiple tables and place-specific conditions on the data retrieved.

Imagine that your organization requires a simple method to create a list of those products that are currently selling above their average price. If you simply retrieve the product information table, fulfilling this task would require a large amount of sorting through data and performing calculations by hand. However, the power of a query allows you to request that Access return only those records that meet the above-average pricing condition. Additionally, you can instruct the database to list only the name and unit price of the item.

Forms Insert Information 

So far, you've read about the concepts behind organizing the information in a database and retrieving information from a database. You still need mechanisms to place information into the tables in the first place. Microsoft Access provides two primary mechanisms to achieve this goal. The first method is to bring up the table in a window by double-clicking on it. Then, add information to the bottom of the table, just as you would add information to a spreadsheet.

Access also provides a user-friendly forms interface. The interface allows users to enter information in a graphical form and have that information transparently passed to the database. This method is less intimidating for the data entry operator but requires a little more work on the part of the database administrator.

Microsoft Access Reports

Reports provide the capability to produce attractively formatted summaries of the data contained in one or more tables and queries. Through the use of shortcut tricks and templates, knowledgeable database users can create reports in a matter of minutes.

Suppose you want to produce a catalog to share product information with current and prospective clients. This sort of information could be retrieved from the database through the judicious use of queries. However, the information is presented in a tabular form — not exactly the most attractive marketing material. Reports in Access 2010 allow the inclusion of graphics, attractive formatting, and pagination.