While there are four types of database objects in Access 2010, tables are arguably the most important. Even when you're using forms, queries, and reports, you're still working with tables because that's where your data is stored. Tables are at the heart of any database, so it's important to understand how to use them.
In this lesson, you will learn how to open tables, create and edit records, and modify the appearance of your table to make it easier to view and work with.
In this lesson, we will work with the tables in our sample database. If you would like to follow along, download our example and use it to follow the procedures demonstrated in this lesson.
If you're new to Microsoft Access, you'll need to learn the basics of working with tables so you can open, navigate, add information, and edit them.
All tables are composed of horizontal rows and vertical columns, with small rectangles called cells in the places where rows and columns intersect. In Access, rows and columns are referred to as records and fields.
A field is a way of organizing information by type. Think of the field name as a question, and every cell within that field as a response to that question.
A record is one unit of information. Every cell on a given row is part of that row's record. Each record has its own ID number. Within a table, each ID number is unique to its record and refers to all of the information within that record. The ID number for a record cannot be changed.
Each cell of data in your table is part of both a field and a record. For instance, if you had a table of names and contact information, each person would be represented by a record, and each piece of information about each person—name, phone number, address, and so on—would be contained within a distinct field on that record's row.
Click the buttons in the interactive below to learn how to navigate a table.
The Records command group on the Home tab contains a handful of commands for working with records, including New Record, Save Record, and Delete Record.
The Find command allows you to search for any term in your table.
The Replace command allows you to search for any term in your table and replace it with a new one. For example, you could replace the word Fall with the word Autumn.
These formatting options allow you to make your table easier to read by adding an alternate row color or modifying the gridlines that separate individual rows and columns. You can access even more formatting options by clicking the arrow in the bottom-right corner.
In Access, columns are referred to as fields. When you organize your data by entering it into different fields, you are organizing it by type. Each field contains one type of data. The type of data contained within a field is described by the title at the top of each field.
In Access, table rows are referred to as records. A record is a unit of data that includes every piece of information in a given row.
The Record Navigation bar allows you to navigate through records one at a time. Click the arrows to move from record to record, and navigate directly to a record by searching for it with the record search box. You can also use the Record Navigation bar to add a new record to the current table.
To navigate between fields, you can use the left and right arrow keys or scroll left and right.
Entering data into tables in Access is similar to entering data in Excel. To work with records, you'll have to enter data into cells. If you need help entering data into records, you may want to review our Cell Basics lesson from our Excel 2010 tutorial.
There are three ways to add a new record to a table:
Occasionally when you enter information into a record, a window will pop up to tell you the information you've entered is invalid. This means the field you're working with has a validation rule, which is a rule about the type of data that can appear in that field. Click OK, then follow the instructions in the pop-up window to re-enter your data.
Be sure to save any unsaved records before closing a table. Access will not prompt you to save them when you close the table.
To quickly edit any record within a table, simply click it and type your changes. However, Access also offers you the ability to find and replace a word within multiple records, as well as to delete records entirely.
You can edit multiple occurrences of the same word by using Find and Replace, which searches for a term and replaces it with another term.
While you can use Replace All to replace every instance of a term, replacing them one at a time allows you to be absolutely certain you edit only the data you want. Replacing data unintentionally can have a negative impact on your database.
The ID numbers assigned to records stay the same even after you delete a record. For example, if you delete the 34th record in a table, the sequence of record ID numbers will read ...32, 33, 35, 36... rather than ...32, 33, 34, 35, 36...
Access 2010 offers several ways to modify the appearance of tables. These changes aren't just about making your table look nice; they can make the table easier to read too.
If your fields and rows are too small or large for the data contained with them, you can always resize them so all of the text is displayed.
If you have a field you don't plan on editing or don't want other people to edit, you can hide it. A hidden field is invisible but is still part of your database. Data within a hidden field can still be accessed from forms, queries, reports, and any related tables.
If you decide you would like the field to be visible again, you can unhide it. Simply right-click any field title, then select Unhide Fields. In the dialog box, click the check boxes of any fields you would like to be visible again, then click Close.
By default, the background of every other row in an Access table is a few shades darker than the background of the rest of the table. This darker alternate row color makes your table easier to read by offering a visual distinction between each record and the records directly above and below it.
Another way Access makes your tables easier to read is by adding gridlines that mark the borders of each cell. Gridlines are the thin lines that appear between each cell, row, and column of your table. By default, gridlines are dark gray and appear on every side of a cell, but you can change their color or hide undesired gridlines.
To view additional formatting options, click the Datasheet Formatting arrow in the bottom-right corner of the Text Formatting group.
The Datasheet Formatting dialog box offers several advanced formatting options, including the ability to modify background color, gridline color, and border and line style. It even includes the ability to view a sample table with your formatting choices, so play around with the various formatting options until you get your table looking the way you want it.