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Introduction to Databases

Similar to a file cabinet...
...databases store and manage information related to a particular subject or purpose.

In its simplest form, a database is a collection of information that is organized into a list and stored in a manner similar to a file cabinet, as seen in figure. Whenever you make a list of information, such as names, addresses, products, or invoices, you are, in fact, creating a database. Technically speaking, you don't even have to use a database program to create a database. You can make a list of information in all kinds of programs, such as Microsoft Excel, Word even the meek and lowly Notepad program!

A database program, however, is much more powerful than a simple list you keep on paper or in a Microsoft Word document. A database program lets you:

  • Store Information: A database stores lists of information that are related to a particular subject or purpose. It could be a list of aunt Mildred's home recipes, or business information, such as a list of hundreds of thousands of customers. A database also makes it easy to add, update, organize, and delete information.

  • Find Information: You can easily and instantly locate information stored in a database. For example, you can find all the customers with the last name "Johnson" or all the customers who live in the 55417 zip code and are older than 65.

  • Analyze and Print Information: You can perform calculations on information in a database. For example, you could calculate what percent of your total sales comes from the state of Texas. You can also present information in a professional-looking printed report.

  • Manage Information: Databases make it easy to work with and manage huge amounts of information (see figure 1-2). For example, with a few keystrokes you can change the area code for hundreds of customers in the (612) area code to a new (817) area code.

  • Share Information: Most database programs (including Microsoft Access) allow more than one user to view and work with the same information at once. Such databases are called databases.

Databases usually consist of several parts. A Microsoft Access database may contain up to seven different database object types. The following table identifies the database objects you can use when creating a Microsoft Access database. Some objects you will use all the time (such as Tables), others you will hardly use (such as Modules). Table 1-1 lists various database objects and describes their uses.

Database Objects
Object Description

Tables store a database's data in rows (records) and columns (fields). For example, one table could store a list of customers and their addresses while another table could store the customers' orders. A database must always contain at least one table where it can store information all the other are optional.

Queries ask a question of data stored in a table. For example, a query might only display customers who are from Texas.

Forms are custom screens that provide an easy way to enter and view data in a table or query.

Reports present data from a table or query in a printed format.

A special type of Web page designed for viewing and working with Microsoft Access data from an intranet or over the Internet.

Macros help you perform routine tasks by automating them into a single command. For example, you could create a macro that automatically opens and prints a report.

Like , automate tasks but by using a built-in programming language called Visual Basic or VB. Modules are much more powerful and complex than macros.

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