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Understanding Access 2013 Databases

Navigating the user interface

There are two key components in navigating the Access user interface. The first is the Navigation pane, which lists all the objects in your database. This can also be changed to display either all your objects or objects of a specific type. The key to productivity with this part of the interface is the search bar, which allows you to quickly locate an object and then click to change or activate the object.

There are several useful features in the Navigation pane.

  • Search. When you enter words in a partial pattern, the Navigation pane will filter results.
  • All Access Objects. This drop-down list allows you to quickly change what is ordered in the pane.
  • Shutter bar open/close option. This allows you to minimize the Navigation pane to the left.
  • Navigation options. These options permit much finer control of the behavior of the navigation bar.

Working with the tabs

The second and complementary approach to navigating the Access interface is to use the ribbon. Although you will quickly become familiar with the options on the ribbon to create new objects, after an object has been opened, the ribbon Home tab allows you to quickly change the design of an object.

The File tab is often called the Backstage view—a behind-the-scenes set of choices for configuring Access and performing general operations, such as opening a database or saving a database in a different format. One of the most important menu choices in the Backstage view is the Options choice, because this choice contains a very large number of settings that can be used to control the behavior of the database.

One of the great strengths of Access is that you can do the same thing in more than one way. At first, this may appear confusing, but as you gain familiarity with the product, it is a very useful feature. Access is a powerful development tool. You may find that when you decide to make certain changes in the environment, some paths to features are no longer available. As a simple example, you could choose to hide or fully customize the ribbon, in which case you would then be relying on a right-click to provide you with features that would otherwise associate with the ribbon.

Access has five key ribbon tabs, although, as you open different objects, additional tabs will become available, depending on the context. Following is a list of the tabs and their usage.

  • File. The File tab provides general options and settings for working in the product.
  • Home. This tab is used principally for formatting, filtering, and selecting data while you view the data.
  • Create. This tab is used to create new objects.
  • External Data. This tab is used to import, export, and link to external data.
  • Database Tools. This tab is associated with general operations in maintaining your database.

The File tab has the following features:

  • Info. Allows you to compact and repair your database and encrypt the database with a password.
  • New. Allows you to create a new database.
  • Open. Provides a path to opening recently accessed databases.
  • Save. If you have a design object open, this will save any changes.
  • Save As. This has two functions. If you have an object open, you can save any changes to the object, but more importantly, it allows you to save the database in an alternative format.
  • Print. Allows you to print an object that is open and active.
  • Close. Closes the database.
  • Account. Displays helpful information for connecting to online services.
  • Options. The Access options have been described earlier in this chapter, and are used to configure both the Access installation and database-specific options.

In this exercise, you’ll use the Navigation pane to open an object and then switch to Design View.

  1. Double-click the Companies table in the Navigation pane.

    This will then display the two tool tabs, Fields and Table. The Fields tool tab will allow you to add or alter the design of the table, and the Table tool tab allows more advanced macro programming for the table. Notice the View drop-down list on the left, which allows you to quickly switch between the Datasheet View and the Design View for changing the design of a table.

  2. In the Navigation pane, double-click the form frmCustomers. Then, on ribbon, click the View arrow and select Design View.

    The tabs now change as shown below. The Form Design Tools have three tabs for assisting in the layout of a form: