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Chapter 3. Navigating the Access User In... > Understanding Access’s Table Display

Understanding Access’s Table Display

You’re probably familiar with the terms for many of the components that comprise the basic window in which all conventional Windows applications run. The presentation of Access windows varies with each basic function that Access performs. Because Part I, “Getting Acquainted with Access 2003,” of this book deals almost exclusively with tables, the examples that follow use Table Datasheet view. Figure 3.4 shows Access 2003’s display for run-mode operations with tables; Table 3.1 describes the window’s Access-related components.

Figure 3.4. Access uses the multiple document interface (MDI) to display all database objects except code in modules and scripts for pages. The VBA editor and Microsoft Script editor are separate applications.

Table 3.1. Components of the Access Display for Tables
 Menu barA bar containing Access main menu choices. The specific menu bar choices and the commands in the menus change depending on the object you select and Access’s mode. Menu bars and toolbars collectively are called command bars.
 ToolbarA bar containing command buttons that duplicate the more commonly used menu choices. The actual number and type of toolbar buttons depend on which basic function of Access you’re using.
Database windowThe window that selects the active document window’s current function. From the database components displayed in the Database window, you select the component (such as a particular table) to display in the documents pane.
 Database window toolbarThe toolbar that lets you open or design the currently selected database object, create a new object, delete an object, and control how icons display in the Database window.
 Objects barAn Outlook-styled bar with shortcuts to lists of database objects.
Mode buttonsTwo buttons that determine the operating mode of Access. Open places Access in run mode. Design puts Access in design mode, where you can create or edit tables.
New objectA drop-down list of eight shortcuts to create a new database object.
Current record buttonsA button that indicates a single selected record in the table. When you’re editing the current record, the button icon displays a pencil rather than a triangular arrow. The Current Record button also is called the record selector.

Record navigation buttonsButtons that position the record selector to the first, next, previous, and last record number in the table and show the number of the currently selected record. If the table has a key field, the record number reflects the sequence of records in the primary key’s sorting order; if there’s no primary key in the table, the record number corresponds to the order in which records were physically added to the table.
New recordA button with an asterisk that indicates the location of the next record to be added to a table. Typing data in the new record appends the record to the table and creates another new record. This book calls the new record the tentative append record, because the record isn’t added until you enter data.
 Field scroll barThe scroll bar that lets you view table fields that are outside the bounds of the document window. Record scroll bars provide access to records located outside the document window.
Open subdatasheetA click on the plus sign in the square box opens subdatasheet(s) for each record if the table has subdatasheets. Another name for this button is the subdatasheet expand indicator.
 Status barA bar, located at the bottom of the application window, that displays prompts and indicators, such as the status of the Num Lock key.

The Toolbars in Table Datasheet View

The buttons that appear in Access’s toolbar, and the number of toolbars displayed, change according to the function that Access is currently performing. When you’re working with tables in run mode, Access 2000 displays the Table Datasheet and the Formatting (Datasheet) toolbars (see Figures 3.5 and 3.6 in the following sections). The next two sections describe the toolbars that appear in table run mode (Datasheet view). Click the Tables shortcut on the Database window and double click one of the table shortcuts—such as Customers—to follow the text in the next few sections.


This chapter concentrates on the toolbars that apply to Table and Query Datasheet and Table Design views. Chapter 14, “Creating and Using Access Forms,” describes the toolbars for Form and Form Design views. Chapter 16, “Working with Simple Reports and Mailing Labels,” explains the elements of the Report Design and Print Preview toolbars.

The Table Datasheet Toolbar

The Table Datasheet toolbar appears whenever you open an Access table in Datasheet view. Figure 3.5 shows the Table Datasheet toolbar, and Table 3.2 describes the buttons that appear on the toolbar, except those buttons that are common to all Office 2003 applications.

Figure 3.5. Access’s Table Datasheet toolbar has the buttons shown here when you open a table in Datasheet view.


Toolbar buttons provide shortcuts to traditional selection methods, such as choosing menu commands or selecting command or option buttons in a particular sequence. The Menu Sequence columns of Tables 3.2 and 3.3 list how you can duplicate the effect of clicking a toolbar button by using the menus or the command buttons in the Database window.

Table 3.2. Appearance and Functions of Access-Specific Buttons and Other Elements of the Table Datasheet Toolbar
IconToolbar ButtonMenu SequenceFunction
Design ViewView, Design ViewChanges the table display to design mode, in which you specify the properties of each field of the table.
Insert HyperlinkInsert, HyperlinkOpens the Insert Hyperlink dialog, which lets you add a URL or UNC address to a Hyperlink field in a table.
Sort AscendingRecords, Sort, Sort AscendingSorts the records in ascending order, based on the current field.
Sort DescendingRecords, Sort, Sort DescendingSorts the records in descending order, based on the current field.
Filter by SelectionRecords, Filter, Filter by SelectionFilters records based on the selected text in a field.
Filter by FormRecords, Filter, Filter by FormLets you type criteria in a datasheet to establish how records are filtered.
Apply/Remove Filter/SortRecords, Apply/Remove Filter/SortApplies or removes a filter.
FindEdit, FindDisplays the Find dialog to locate records with specific characters in a single field or all fields.
New RecordEdit, Go To, New RecordSelects the tentative append record.
Delete RecordEdit, DeleteDeletes the active (selected) record.
Database windowWindow, 1Displays the Database window.
New ObjectInsert, ObjectTypeDisplays a drop-down list from which you choose the type of new object that you want to create: tables, forms, reports, pages, queries, macros, modules or class modules. The first object type in the list is your most recent selection.
HelpF1Activates the Access online HTML help system.
 Toolbar OptionsView, Toolbars, CustomizeDisplays a drop-down list from which you can add or remove buttons from the toolbar.

The Datasheet Formatting Toolbar

In addition to the Table Datasheet toolbar, you can display the Datasheet Formatting toolbar whenever you open a table in Datasheet view. Choose View, Toolbars, Formatting (Datasheet) to add the toolbar. The buttons in the datasheet formatting toolbar provide shortcuts to various text-formatting commands. In Datasheet view, the text-formatting commands apply to the entire table; you can’t format individual cells in Datasheet view. Figure 3.6 shows the Datasheet Formatting toolbar, and Table 3.3 summarizes the action of each button on the toolbar.

Figure 3.6. Settings you apply from the Datasheet Formatting toolbar apply to all fields and records of the table. Unlike Excel worksheets, you can’t format individual cells, rows, or columns.

Table 3.3. Appearance and Functions of Buttons and Other Elements of the Datasheet Formatting Toolbar
IconToolbar ButtonMenu SequenceFunction
Go To Field Displays a drop-down list from which you can jump quickly to any field in the table
FontFormat, FontLets you select the font (typeface) for text in a table
Font SizeFormat, FontLets you select the size of the text in a table
BoldFormat, FontTurns bold text formatting on and off for the text in a table
ItalicFormat, FontTurns italic text formatting on and off for the text in a table
UnderlineFormat, FontTurns underlining on and off for the text in a table
Fill/Back ColorFormat, DatasheetDisplays a palette of colors from which to choose the background color for the table’s data cells
Font/Fore ColorFormat, FontDisplays a palette of colors from which to choose the color of the text in the table
Line/BorderFormat, DatasheetDisplays a color palette from which to choose the color of the gridlines that surround rows and columns in the table
GridlinesFormat, DatasheetDisplays four buttons that let you choose which gridlines are shown: horizontal and vertical, vertical only, horizontal only, or none
Special EffectsFormat, DatasheetDisplays three buttons that let you select the cell display style: flat, raised, or sunken

Toolbar Customization

Access uses the resizable, customizable, floating toolbars that have become standard in Microsoft productivity applications such as Excel and Word. In Office 2000 and later, menu bars and toolbars have been combined into a single object, called a command bar, and share many features. The primary characteristic that distinguishes a menu bar from a toolbar in Access 2003 (and other Office 2003 applications) is that every application has at least one menu bar, and the menu bar can’t be hidden. In all other respects, menu bars and toolbars are the same.

The Toolbars command on the View menu lets you select which toolbars are currently visible. The Toolbars submenu lists those toolbars pertinent to Access’s current operating mode. Figure 3.7 shows the Toolbars submenu for Table Datasheet view. A mark at the left of a menu choice indicates that specific toolbar is now displayed. To display or hide a toolbar, click its name in the submenu.

Figure 3.7. Choosing View, Toolbars lets you display or hide toolbars quickly.

The Customize choice on the Toolbars submenu opens the Customize dialog (see Figure 3.8), which lets you display as many toolbars as you want or hide toolbars that Access would otherwise display automatically. To display a toolbar, click the Toolbars tab to display the Toolbars page (if necessary) and then click the box to the left of the toolbar name so that the check box is marked. To hide a toolbar, click the box again to clear it.

Figure 3.8. The Toolbars page of the Customize dialog lets you add or remove toolbars, but not the main menu bar.


When an Access toolbar is in docked position, it has a fixed width, anchored at its left edge. If you reduce the width of Access’s application window by dragging either vertical border inward, the buttons at the docked toolbar’s extreme right begin to disappear beyond the application window’s right edge. Operating Access in a maximized window with docked toolbars is usually best because you can then easily access all toolbar buttons when you use the default inline horizontal toolbar.

You also can use the Customize dialog to change the viewing options for toolbars. The Options page let you select various toolbar viewing options (see Figure 3.9). If you’re using XGA 1,024 × 768 or higher screen resolution on a small monitor, you might want to mark the Large Icons check box to cause the toolbar button icons to approximately double in size, making them easier to discern and easier to click. The Show ScreenTips on Toolbars check box governs whether Access displays ScreenTips (formerly known as ToolTips), that is, hints on the mouse pointer for toolbar buttons. The Show Shortcut Keys in ScreenTips check box determines whether Access displays the keyboard shortcut (if there is one) as part of the ScreenTip text.

Figure 3.9. The Options page of the Customize dialog controls the Intellimenu, icon size, font display style, ScreenTips, and menu animations.

The List Font Names in Their Font check box, if checked, displays each font name as a sample of the font in lists of fonts. If you clear the check box, font lists use the standard font and display faster. The Always Show Full Menus check box, if cleared, displays only the menu choices that you use on a regular basis, a feature Microsoft calls Intellimenus. The Show Full Menus After a Short Delay check box governs whether the full Access menu is displayed after you hover your mouse on the menu. The Reset My Usage Data button resets menu, menu usage, and toolbar settings.

Finally, the Menu Animations drop-down list lets you select how Access draws menus onscreen. You might select None (for no special effects when drawing menus), Random (Access randomly chooses an animation effect each time you open a menu), Unfold (the menu unfolds like a fan), Slide (the menu opens like a roller-shade) or Fade as the technique for displaying Access’s menus. The entertainment value of the Menu Animations feature is minimal, to be charitable.

In addition to displaying multiple toolbars, you can reshape or reposition the toolbars to suit your own taste. Click a blank area of the toolbar and hold down the left mouse button to drag the toolbar to a new location. The toolbar turns into a pop-up floating toolbar, similar to the toolbox that you use to add control objects to forms and reports. Pop-up toolbars always appear on top of any other windows open in your application.

Figure 3.10 shows three floating command bars: the Table Datasheet toolbar, the Formatting (Datasheet) toolbar, and the Menu Bar. Command bars in their fixed position are called docked command bars, whereas command bars in their pop-up window are referred to as floating command bars. Floating command bars display the Toolbar Options button as part of the title bar. After you change a command bar to a floating command bar (or dock it), Access displays the command bar in that location until you reposition it.

Figure 3.10. You can position command bars anywhere on the screen that suits you.


You also can dock command bars (menu bars and toolbars) at the bottom of the Access application window or at the left edge or right edge of the application window. You can quickly redock a command bar by double-clicking its title bar.

Right-Click Shortcut Menus

Another feature that Access 2003 shares with other Microsoft applications, as well as with Windows 98 and Windows 2000/NT, is the shortcut menu that appears when you right-click an Access database object. Shortcut menus (also called pop-up or context menus) present choices that vary depending on the type of object that you click. Figure 3.11 shows the shortcut menu for a field of a table selected by clicking the field name header.

Figure 3.11. Context menus let you choose from a list of actions applicable to the object you right-click.


Context menus are useful and provide shortcuts to many common tasks. If you’re not sure what you can do with an object onscreen, try right-clicking it to see what context menu commands are available.

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