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Microsoft Access: what's it used for?

(15 Posts)
marialuisa Mon 01-Sep-03 17:52:17

I know this is a sort of database package, but can anyone give me some examples of how they use it? I use Hemis and Excel at work but i'm about to start working with another university and my counterpart keeps saying "oh, we can just bung it into Access," what does he mean??

SoupDragon Mon 01-Sep-03 18:03:08

Um... I use it to keep my addresses so I can print labels off at Christmas!

Unfortunately I've never been taught how to use it (used to use Lotus Approach) but I know it can be used for more in depth applications than mine!

codswallop Mon 01-Sep-03 18:53:47

Soupy stop it with the technical wizardry! think that you are Tech really,

bunny2 Mon 01-Sep-03 18:54:29

Access is great for putting info into order and for sorting it. For example - if you had a database of each Mumsnetter you could order us by age or alphabetically, list married Mumsnetter only or Mumsnetters with more than one child etc. you could also send us all a letter by mail-merging the address data onto a standard letter so we all recieve a personalised copy of it. I know it can do alot more but this is what I use it for.

boyandgirl Mon 01-Sep-03 21:05:28

When I was a boring single person with no kids and more time than sense, I used Access to make a database of all my videos (title, stars, genre, length, etc) then printed out lovely labels and a couple of lists, one ordered by title and one by genre. I never got around to sticking the labels on, and I've lost both lists, so I still don't know what I've got!

sprout Tue 02-Sep-03 08:10:53

Soupy - same! Except that I only use it once a year for Christmas cards, and then it takes me about 3 stressful evenings to remember how it works, and to get the labels to print off properly ... longer than if I did them all by hand

easy Tue 02-Sep-03 15:07:38

Access is actually a very powerful database application. It can be used just as an address book (a la soupy), but a lot of organisations use it to keep very complex data, such as stock control, customer contacts management, stuff like that.

It is very 'programable', and a few years ago (pre ds) I wrote a whole accounting application in it.

Why do you ask

ps Soupy, I do my addresses & stuff in Word, much simpler,

pps Sprout, every christmas I spend an hour on the phone talking my sister thru printing her address lables for her cards. It would be much quicker (for me) if she did them by hand.

BigBird Tue 02-Sep-03 15:25:40

same as easy can use it for allsorts.
There's the beginner end where you can put basic details in and sort, order, query etc and do reports up. A bit like Excel with other features...
...but you can go right the way through to an avanced level and you can programme it with VBA (visual basic) and do fairly complex systems - like payments, stock control, order processing, call logging etc etc. The list is endless.

People often use it to store and tidy up data which is what your colleague might mean....for example if you got a file with student details you might 'bung it into access' and then you can query it and report on it for anything really - like :
how many students do course x and are from y and are over 35 yrs old
OR give you a list of all students who owe money including what they owe and what that figure is as a percentage of the total owed by all students in that course....
- its incredibally easy and quick to run off stuff like that.
Also - it integrates easily with Office (Word, Excel etc).

SoupDragon Tue 02-Sep-03 15:32:45

My addresses are in Access rather than Word as I tansferred them across from Approach which I used to manage my wedding guest list. The original list was created pre children in work time!! Now it's done, it takes no time at all. Printing the lables is easy as I have a formatted query to print them out.

To satisfy my curiosity I'd love to know how to use it to its full potential but I really have no need.

M2T Tue 02-Sep-03 15:38:32

The company I work for use it for accounts purposes and keeping track of manhours booked to projects etc. The residnet techy geeks redesigned and specialised it to work for our specific industry purposes. Fantastic if it works okay and the people programming it put in the correct formulas!! I've never had any need to set up a Dbase in Access, but I have used it and it's great when it works.

A lot of highly specialised professional computer software is based on Access.

I still like to throw everything into excel though...

easy Tue 02-Sep-03 15:45:26


lots of people could use excel for stuff they put into access, and save themselves time.

My rule is, If it works, then fine. very few people on a domestic level will ever get the potential out of access.

If ever you want something more complicated however, give us a shout.

jamsy Tue 02-Sep-03 16:14:56

I'd agree with M2T and easy - Access is really powerful and a good database can do amazing things. However it's quite a skill creating an effective database, and they are impossible to 'correct' if you want to change the basic set up later. There are a lot of useless Access databases out there! Unless you've got an effective database already set up and working how it needs too, I wouldn't try and create anything new without a lot of help and or training!

Metrobaby Tue 02-Sep-03 16:30:22

I work as an Access & Excel progammer where I create lots of customised Access databases and Excel spreadsheets.

Generally Excel is great for creating charts and doing calculations. Access is a database and a good way of organising your data, and provides an easy way to query your data. Here are the differences (generally)

First theres a lot more to learn (compared to Excel)
Lots of people can look at your access database at once. If one person makes a change to the data, everyone will see the change.
Your data is centralised and stored in tables
You can query the data (eg for a mumsnet database you could find out mumsnetter will more than 2 children, or children over a certain age).
You can produce customised reports
You can export the data (either from tables or queries), to Excel, Word, or plain text
You can also bring in data from Excel or text files or even other databases
Through the use of forms (ie screens), you can determine what data you want to see. In this way sensitive data can be hidden from view.
Also when people update the database, Access can validate the data (eg make sure the data entered is correct and not due to typing errors, or out of a particular range).

Only one person can update a spreadsheet at a time.
There is a danger of creating lots of spreadsheets about the same thing. Eg If we created a new spreadsheet for every new project we started, and then say the project manager name changed, then you would have to go through each of those spreadsheets and change the name. This has a real danger potential as some spreadsheets may inadvertantly not be updated, and then you'd have a discrepency in the data ! In Access (if the database is set up properly), you would change the project manager name once, and this would be reflected across all projects.
Hiding data is not as secure as Access
Validating data again is not as good as Access
Good for creating charts, what-if scenerios etc

This is really just the tip of the iceberg. If you have any specific questions I'll be happy to help. FWIW there are loads of introductory books to Access around - you should find one in your local library. However you only need to read these books if you are planning to set up a database or if you plan on doing your own queries and forms. The Access databases I produce for my users have no knowledge of Access at all but mearly press the relevant buttons to run reports, run in data and see specific results. HTH

marialuisa Tue 02-Sep-03 17:31:18

Thanks guys, that's helpful. I think it will be used to get info to do with student retention and things, will be suggesting that Birmingham Uni set the thing up though, esp as the thought of programing makes me feel quite faint, I'm a technophobe at heart

easy Tue 02-Sep-03 17:34:39


If your company need someone to help, I'm a professional freelancer doing such things (my company is SpencerGate Ltd). contact me thru mumsnet "contact another talker" at the top of this screen if I can be of service.

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