Access is a tool for managing databases—carefully structured catalogs of information (a.k.a. data). Databases can store just about any type of information, including numbers, pages of text, and pictures. Databases also range wildly in size—they can handle everything from your list of family phone numbers to a ginormous product catalog for Aunt Ethel’s Discount Button Boutique.
Access can help you organize all your information, but it can also be intimidating. Even though Microsoft has spent millions making Access 2007 easier to use, most people still see it as the most complicated Office program on the block—and they’re probably right.
Access seems more daunting than any other Office program because of the way databases work. Quite simply, databases need strict rules. Other programs aren’t as obsessive. For example, you can fire up Word and start typing a letter straight away. Or you can start Excel and launch right into a financial report. But Access isn’t nearly as freewheeling. Before you can enter a stitch of information into an Access database, you need to create that database’s structure. And even after you’ve defined that structure, you’ll probably want to spend more time creating other useful tools, like handy search routines and friendly forms that you can use to simplify data lookup and data entry. All of this setup takes effort, and a good understanding of how databases work.
In the next several chapters, you’ll learn how to design ...