Welcome to the first Access Wizard Newsletter. This monthly
newsletter will tackle one significant issue pertaining to databases
and the use of Microsoft Access. You'll also find tips (how to
efficiently use the program), tricks (undocumented features that
allow you to work faster and smarter) and traps (perils that await
you if you don't pay attention as you use the program.) In this
issue we'll focus on primary steps in building an application.
|Begin at the Beginning|
| I was taking a hike with one of my sons and we were on
a trail that we had never hiked before. The first leg of the
hike was a challenge with steep, rocky paths and treacherous
patches of wet ground; 2 ½ hours of hard climbing. After
resting and eating a snack we headed back. There were several
forks in the trail and as luck would have it we made one bad
decision that took us off in the wrong direction.
The further along we got on the hike the more it seemed
that things weren't quite right. After we crested a rather
steep hill it was clear we had lost the trail. We checked the
map and decided we had no idea where we were. We decided to
backtrack and eventually found our way to the trail and
completed the hike.
An analysis of the map showed that although poorly marked,
had we paid close attention we would have seen the ambiguity
of a certain fork, and carefully made the decision to take a
trail knowing that we should be on the lookout for a potential
Even with a map we made a error that cost us several hours.
Imagine how hard it would be to take a hike over new terrain
without a map.
|Why People Go wrong|
|Many times I've seen people developing database
applications by jumping in and starting to make tables,
fields, relationships and forms without taking the time to
develop a plan of what they're trying to accomplish, or how
the data should be arranged.
People take this approach because they get immediate
gratification. Within 10 or 15 minutes they have tables and
are able to get data in and out. However as they go further
into development things start going wrong. They take a wrong
turn here, they run into a situation that hadn't foreseen
there and before you can say Bill Gates the application is
being held together with band- aids.
A big clue that a database is improperly designed is that
the same data appears again and again. Another typical problem
that crops up when no plans are made is that a single field is
used for more than one purpose. This is an important trap to
avoid. Part of any application planning should include
analysis of how different pieces of data relate to each other.
The techies call this normalization - more about that in a
If you attempt to create a database application without
sufficient planning you're essentially taking a hike without a
map. You might be OK, but you've increased your odds of having
|Recommendation for First Steps|
|As Stephen Covey said in Seven Habits of Highly
Effective People, "Start with the end in mind."
If you know where you are and where you want to be the
intervening step is mapping out how you're going to get from
point A to point B. Spend time up front making your plan so
that your journey will be smooth and efficient.
|Trap of the Month|
| Trap of the Month: If you open a form or a report and
you get a box asking you to enter a Parameter Value (See
Figure 1) you likely have changed a field name and Access no
longer recognizes the new field. In this case Access is
looking for a field called TimeGatherID in a table called
To fix the problem, open the query (or SQL statement) that
the form or report is based on, and you'll get the same
prompt. In design view you'll see that one of your fields now
has a title on the order of Expr1:YourOldFieldName. Replace
this field with the newly renamed field and the immediate
problem will go away. Beware of changing field names, even if
they are misspelled, if your application works there is no
need to change what's working. If you really get unhappy that
you've misspelled a field there is a caption property in
fields that allow you to show on the screen something
different that what is in the table.
|Tip of the Month|
|To copy a table from Excel to Access highlight the
Excel table, copy it to the clip board, open your Access
application, go to the database window, and select the tables
tab, then paste. Access will ask if you're first row contains
column headings. If it does say yes and a copy of your Excel
table will show up in your database