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Creating a New Database

When you first start Microsoft Access, you see a blank work area on the left and the Home task pane on the right as shown in Figure 4-1. If you’ve previously opened other databases, such as the Northwind Traders sample database that is included with Access, you also see a most recently used list of up to nine database selections under Open in the top part of the task pane.

Figure 4-1. When you first start Access, you see the Home task pane.

Using a Database Template to Create a Database

Just for fun, let’s explore the built-in database templates first. If you’re a beginner, you can use the templates included with Access to create one of several common applications without needing to know anything about designing database software. You might find that one of these applications meets most of your needs right off the bat. As you learn more about Access, you can build on and customize the basic application design and add new features.

Even if you’re an experienced developer, you might find that the application templates save you lots of time in setting up the basic tables, queries, forms, and reports for your application. If the application you need to build is covered by one of the templates, the wizard that builds an application with one of the templates can take care of many of the simpler design tasks.

When you start Access, you can access the built-in templates by clicking More under New on the Home task pane and then clicking the On my computer option under Other Templates on the New File task pane. You can also open the New File task pane by clicking the New button at the far left of the toolbar or by selecting New from the File menu. You can see the New File task pane in Figure 4-2.

Figure 4-2. You can access the built-in templates by clicking On my computer in the New File task pane.

When you click the On my computer option, Access opens the Templates dialog box. Click the Databases tab of this dialog box to see a list of the 10 available templates, as shown in Figure 4-3. You work with all the templates in the Database Wizard in the same way. This example will show you the steps that are needed to build an Asset Tracking database.

Figure 4-3. Choosing one of the Database Wizard templates.

Inside Out: Where to find database templates

In addition to the 10 templates supplied with Microsoft Access, you can find dozens of database examples at http://officeupdate.microsoft.com/templategallery. You can go directly to this Web site by clicking on the Templates home page link on the New File task pane shown in Figure 4-2 or by clicking the Templates on Microsoft.com link shown in Figure 4-1. To find all the database examples, perform a search on the word Access on this Web site.

Note that the examples you find on the Web site are completed .mdb files, not template files that require the Database Wizard to build a sample database.

Scan the list of available templates on the Databases tab of the Templates dialog box. When you click a template icon, Access shows a preview graphic to give you another hint about the purpose of the template. You start the Database Wizard by selecting a template and then clicking OK. You can also double-click a template icon. Access opens the File New Database dialog box and suggests a name for your new database file. You can modify the name and then click Create to launch the wizard.

The wizard takes a few moments to initialize and to create a blank file for your new database application. The wizard first displays a window with a few more details about the capabilities of the application you are about to build. If this isn’t what you want, click Cancel to close the wizard and delete the database file. You can click Finish to have the wizard quickly build the application with all the default options. Click Next to proceed to a window that provides options for customizing the tables in your application, as shown in Figure 4-4.

Figure 4-4. Selecting optional fields in the Database Wizard.

In this window, you can see the names of the tables the wizard plans to build. As you select each table name in the list on the left, the wizard shows you the fields it will include in that table in the list on the right. For many of the tables, you can have the wizard include or exclude certain optional fields (which appear in italic). In the Asset Tracking application, for example, you might be interested in keeping track of the vendor for each asset. When you click the optional Vendor ID field in the Asset information table, you’ll be able to specify from which vendor you acquired the asset. Click Next when you finish selecting optional fields for your application.

In the next window, shown in Figure 4-5, you select one of several styles for the forms in your database. As you recall from Chapter 1, “Microsoft Access Overview,” forms are objects in your database that are used to display and edit data on your screen. As you click each style name, the Database Wizard shows you a sample of that style on the left. Some of the styles, such as Expedition or Ricepaper, are quite whimsical. The Standard style has a very businesslike gray-on-gray look. In this case, I chose the Sumi Painting style that has a bit more character but is still businesslike.

Figure 4-5. Selecting a style for forms in the Database Wizard.

After you select a form style, click Next to proceed to the window to select a report style. You might want to select Bold, Casual, or Compact for personal applications. Corporate, Formal, and Soft Gray are good choices for business applications. Again, you can see a sample of the style on the left as you click on each available style on the right. Select an appropriate report style, and then click Next.

In the next window of the Database Wizard, you specify the title that will appear on the Access title bar when you run the application. You can also include a picture file such as a company logo in your reports. This picture file can be a bitmap (.bmp), a Windows metafile (.wmf), or an icon file (.ico). Click Next after you supply a title for your application.

In the final window, you can choose to start the application immediately after the wizard finishes building it. You can also choose to open a special set of help topics to guide you through using a database application. Select the Yes, Start the database option and click Finish to create and then start your application. Figure 4-6 shows the Main Switchboard form for the Asset Tracking database application.

Figure 4-6. The Main Switchboard form for the Asset Tracking database application.


Once you use one of the built-in templates, Access lists that template under Recently used templates on the New File task pane in case you want to use that template again.

Creating a New Empty Database

To begin creating a new empty database when you start Access, go to the New File task pane (as shown in Figure 4-2) and click Blank Database. This opens the File New Database dialog box, shown in Figure 4-7. Select the drive and folder you want from the Save in drop-down list. In this example, I selected the My Documents folder on my computer. Finally, go to the File name box and type the name of your new database. Access appends an .mdb extension to the file name for you. (Access uses a file with an .mdb extension to store all your database objects, including tables, queries, forms, reports, data access pages, macros, and modules.) For this example, create a new sample database named Kathy’s Wedding List to experiment with one way to create a database and tables. Click the Create button to create your database.

Figure 4-7. Defining the name of a new database in the File New Database dialog box.

Access takes a few moments to create the system tables in which to store all the information about the tables, queries, forms, reports, data access pages, macros, and modules that you might create. When Access completes this process, it displays the Database window for your new database, shown in Figure 4-8.

Figure 4-8. The Database window for a new database.

When you open a database (unless the database includes special startup settings), Access selects the button under Objects that you last chose in the Database window for that database. For example, if the last time you were in this database you worked on queries, Access highlights the Queries button on the left and shows you the last query you selected in the pane on the right the next time you open the database. Each button under objects displays the available objects of that type.

Because this is a new database and no tables or special startup settings exist yet, you see a Database window with no objects defined. The items you see under Tables are simply shortcuts to three ways to create a table. The following sections show you how to use each of these.

Troubleshooting: Wait a minute! Why do I see “(Access 2000 file format)” at the top of the Database window? I thought I was working in Microsoft Access 2003!

Microsoft Access 2003 fully supports two different file formats to provide you maximum flexibility if your organization still has some users who have Microsoft Access 2000 (version 9) or Microsoft Access 2002 (version 10) installed. By default, any new database you create is in the “lowest common denominator” format—Access 2000. See the section, “Setting Table Design Options,” page 133, for information about how to change this default.

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