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Although Microsoft Access is a powerful platform for database development, it takes considerable time to fully grasp its capabilities and unlock its power. Like any other learning process, you must first understand the fundamentals of database design, so you can build a solid foundation on which to build.

This book does not intend to be comprehensive. Even the more advanced books covering Microsoft Access development would not dare to assume to cover everything there is to know about Access. What it does intend to do is give you a “jump start” into the database development process. How can this be accomplished? We intend to give you clear-cut, easy-to-understand examples; and yes, you will learn a great deal about Access in the process.

Why By Example?

It has often been said that “a picture is worth a thousand words.” It’s one thing to talk about golf theory, for example. You can talk about your grip, your stance, and the fundamentals of the swing. These are all necessary. But when you see someone walk up to the ball and knock it down the fairway, much can be learned from observing the swing fundamentals “by example.”

Most people are visual learners. Of course, you will have many images of dialog boxes and other graphics to help you visualize the techniques involved, but you also will have “real-world” examples of situations that often are encountered in a business or home environment. Other computer books claim to have real-world examples. But most of our examples will come directly from the business world—the world of everyday computing. In other words, you won’t find much “theory” here, except when we talk about fundamentals.

This means that after a new concept is introduced, you immediately have a hands-on example of how to implement the concept. Using the learning-by-example approach, we try to start with the simple and then gradually introduce the more complex. This way, you should never feel overwhelmed. You tackle each topic a little bit at a time. Each chapter is an entity in itself; yet, you will be building on a foundation with each new technique you learn.

What This Book Should Accomplish

What I hope to accomplish by writing this book is simple. I want to present a book that is easy to understand and easy to put into action. This is where the rubber meets the road. I am well aware of the fact that there are other Access books out there, but many of them are difficult to understand and even harder to put into action. Others have many techniques but no cohesiveness to help you fit the pieces together. This book will help you discover the “why” behind the techniques, so that you will understand which situation is best for what technique, and how various techniques relate to each other. Comparisons are used extensively to help you understand the distinctions between various Access terms.

I also hope to give you the tools that are important. The beginning programmer can encounter many obstacles and pitfalls. An experienced programmer might say, “Had I known then what I know now, I could have accomplished so much more.” I want to give you those tools now, so you won’t have to fumble through Web sites and help menus looking for answers. It becomes very logical when you know what you are doing. Even if one of the tools doesn’t seem to be useful or relevant at first glance, just wait. Sooner or later, you will run into a situation that will require the exact technique that you learned in this book.

What I Assume You Know

It is assumed that you are a novice developer. It is helpful if you have some basic knowledge of Microsoft Access and a familiarity with Windows, but even that is not absolutely necessary because the book covers some Access basics as well. It is also assumed that you are serious about learning to get the most out of Microsoft Access in every way. This book will take you from a beginner to an intermediate (and in some cases, advanced) user of Access.

What I Assume You Don’t Know

You certainly don’t need to be an expert in Microsoft Access. No knowledge of macros, Visual Basic for Applications (VBA), or programming in general is required. I assume that you are a complete novice. Therefore, any knowledge that you might have in any programming language will be a plus, but it certainly will not be required.

Source Files and How to Access Them

To take advantage of the many examples presented in this book, first create a folder on your C drive called AccessByExample. Then, visit www.QuePublishing.com and download AccExamp.exe to your AccessByExample folder. Several compressed databases are included in the download, so it might take some time, depending on the type of Internet connection you’re using. These databases and files are used throughout the book as a hands-on way of teaching you by example.

Conventions Used Throughout the Book


Notes clarify or expand a concept in each chapter.


A tip provides a shortcut or solution that either relates to a problem or offers an alternative to the common approach. Tips are time-saving and practical.


Cautions give you warnings about potential problems or pitfalls that can arise as you complete the many hands-on exercises and examples throughout the book.

Naming Conventions

Some people follow the Reddick VBA naming convention for naming Access objects. For example, all tables would have a tbl prefix, whereas all queries would have a qry prefix. So, the Customer table would become tblCustomer. This is handy from one aspect. Access does not allow you to have a table and a query with the same name. In addition, you can tell at a glance what kind of object is in view. You are certainly free to use this naming convention. This convention is often used in this book, especially in procedures.

Another popular naming convention is to use capital letters to distinguish words while avoiding spaces in object titles. For example, instead of Last Name for a field title, you would instead use LastName. This avoids having to use brackets in query criteria as well as in VBA. Instead of typing [Customer]![Last Name] for the expression criteria, you just type Customer!LastName and the brackets are automatically inserted for you. Access allows spaces in field, table, form, report, and query names. However, except in rare instances, you will use this convention.

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