Please recommend to me a MS Access guide.

I’ve been asked at work to create a database, but I really don’t have any experience at all with MS Access. I’m a quick learner when it comes to new computer software, but Access seems more complicated than most other programs I’ve taught myself. Can anyone recommend a good book to teach myself MS Access 2003? I checked out the Dummies and Idiot’s book, but they assume you already have a database to work with… I need a book that’ll help me build one from scratch.

Money is no object, as my company is paying for it. Thank you.

First off, what is the goal of the database? Are you going to be making built-in queries, reports, forms, macros, etc (all the sorts of things you can do with Access)…

Or are you going to be making a database that is strictly for data, and someone else will be using the data in a sort of “blind” way - hooked up to a dynamic Web site, for example. In that case, the data is just data and there’s not much difference between Access, SQL and MySQL (etc).

If it’s the former, I have no advice. If it’s the latter, I don’t really have advice either - except to look for resources on good DB design and not so much resources on how to use Access.

Does that make sense?

Good database design can come after I actually learn the basics of Access. Basically, I have been tasked to create a project tracker so that the boss can see what projects everyone’s working on. I know what fields I need and the design I want, but I just don’t know how to work with queries and such.

If I can’t find a good book, I may end up just building one with Java. :wink:

I taught myself, using trial and error. Probably not the best way to learn.
However, there are lots of good books out there if you want to learn the nuts and bolts, but it could take some time - and I believe I ran across some good online training courses but can’t remember where (this was about 6 years ago).

I built one from scratch for the law firm I was working with and built it slowly - first with some minimal data so I had something to work with (very important), and then started to put it together and add bits here and there. If you see that you need this to go there, and this to pop up here - and you have some data to play with - it makes it much easier and more logical to work with.

The firm was so impressed that they paid me to take some courses at a local training center - however, by that time, I knew pretty much everything they were teaching in this three level course, so it didn’t help much.

I guess what I am saying is, dive in and get your hands dirty - but maybe get a basic book that will help you get started. Once you get the hang of it, it all really starts to make sense in a logical kind of way. As a crossword/puzzle freak, it was actually fun to think, “Hmm…how can I do this?” and figure it out on my own. If you are a quick learner, you might even find this fun to learn!

Have you considered online project trackers? One example is There are dozens of similar competitors offering this type of service.

Might be cheaper than trying to re-invent the wheel.

First, I’d repeat what Ruminator said. For something as common as project tracking, it would probably be much cheaper, easier, and quicker to buy one.

I learned Access the hard way, way back when, just by reading the help files and redoing something until I got it working. I don’t really recommend that method, but it can be done.

I’ve not got any book recommendations because the stuff I use is way ahead of where you are. However, there are tons of resources online these days. Try googling for something like ‘ms access tutorial’. Also check out the Microsoft website. They’ll have demos, tutorials, sample databases, template databases, etc.

If you actually want your db to work consistently, for a long time, and through the changes you’ll inevitable have once you’ve got it in use - good database design is where you need to start, not something to try to tack on later. Learn something about it before you start, you’ll save huge amounts of time and have a much better product.

Have fun!

To answer the OP’s question, I’ll suggest any of the instructional books by Cary Prague. He has written many editions of “Access Bible”, updated with each new version of the software.

As others will say, Access is a very poor tool for a web based app, and it doesn’t handle multiple users in a useful way. Without some rudimentary understanding of relational databases, you’re going to find this an awfully challenging project. Wrong tool for the job, and there are most likely already off the shelf solutions available.

Edited to add: John Viescas also has a couple of good Access books.

Last summer, I built two Access 97 databases from scratch, having never even seen the software until then, and knowing only the most basic concepts from a terrible Intro to Computing course that covered some C and Fortran77. I think I did a pretty good job, if I do say so myself.

I used Google. I never did buy any books, and just followed a couple of simple tutorials from webpages until I understood the terminology, and then I started fiddling with Access and building what I wanted. I think I ended up with 3 or 4 versions at one point as I tried different things and learned how the tables and such could be most efficiently organized. I did my best to have some level of normalization; not having redundant info in multiple tables, allowing access to calculate dates/sums/values when appropriate, and generating ID numbers on the fly rather than storing them (I was generating DocumentID numbers from a combination of other fields in the database). I made a point of using prefixes, so all my tables were tblTableName and querys were qryQueryDescription and forms were frmFormName, etc, which made it very easy to read and understand my queries or other aspects of the database without getting confused (as opposed to having a table named Documents and a form named Document, which was actually the case on database I was asked to repair!)

I also became a Google-coder, since I didn’t (and still don’t!) really know how to code in VBA. Having a sense of what is possible helped, and just tossing in phrases in Google often found webpages with example code that I would take and modify to suit my needs. This page in particular was incredibly useful, but has a good Access section, and there are countless messageboards and articles out there as well.

In my case, the two databases were intended for internal use only, on a shared server drive, and although a webpage would have been useful, the company wouldn’t give me access to a test server to try and develop that… one guy did start it, and then stopped relpying to my emails, so I suspect it never went further after I left!

Thanks for the advice and recommendations, everyone. This database actually won’t be web-based, despite the fact that I said I may program it in Java. I’m looking to create a self-contained database that will be opened directly off of the network sharedrive.

That’s actually not true. Creating fields and tables in Access is really easy. But the tough part is to decide which fields to put in which tables, how people are going to be asking for the data, etc.

Designing the database is the tough part. Building it in Access is the easy part. But if you don’t start with a good design, you’re going to be building it again and again and again.

Bolding Mine. This cannot be stressed enough. A bad design will lead to much pain and suffering down the road.

I highly reccomend signing up at UtterAccess. There are many tutorials and the folks that read/post on the boards are always willing to help you work out any issues you have. Tons of VERY smart folks over there.

Do You Know Excel? If so the best way to play with Access is to make your database in Excel and then import it into Access.

The real issue I’ve seen working with databases is they are often poorly planned, it’s really difficult to go back once a database if full of data and reconstruct it. So that is why so many people stress planning in the first place. When you first make the database you really have to anticipate every angle otherwise your “rational database” won’t really be rational and the workarounds will tie up the data when you make a query to get the info back out.

But if you’re just starting and want to see how Access works, input simple things onto an Excel spreadsheet, then import that sheet. Then you can see how Access is going to use that data and how you can better structure the data