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Displaying subtotals, grand totals, and otherwise
summarizing data is a common report feature. You can display a running total in
a report simply by setting a property. A running
is a cumulative sum that evaluates the previous rows and the current
row. In other words, each row’s running total is equal to itself plus the
previous total. Unfortunately, not every object handles a running total as
easily as a report.

The expression

There’s no built-in property or function for generating a
running total in a query. For that, you’ll need a rather complex expression in
the form

SELECT fieldlist,
(SELECT Sum(valuefield) AS Total
FROM datasource
WHERE datasource.sortfield <= T1.sortfield) AS Total
FROM datasource AS T1

Table A explains
the statement’s arguments.

Table A




The fields you want the query to return


The field you’re summing


The table (or query) that contains the values you’re


A field of unique and ascending values

Although this expression works well, there’s an unforgiving catch:
The table must have a column of unique values in ascending order. That’s sortfield in the above syntax statement.
An AutoNumber field gets the job done, but a numeric field of unique values in
ascending order will also work. Sorting by the actual values you want to total works
only if those values are unique and happen to be in ascending order. You should
avoid using the actual values for this reason. Even if they start out that way,
it’s unlikely they’ll stay that way.

An example query

Let’s build a query that generates running totals for the
values in the table shown in Figure A.
(OrderID is an AutoNumber field and OriginalValue is
a Number field.) You can use any table, but it must have the two numeric fields
we’ve already discussed: a field of values to sum and a field of unique values
in ascending order.

Figure A


With the select query in Design view, choose SQL View from
the View button to open the SQL window. This window displays a query’s SQL
statement. (You can’t enter this SQL statement via the QBE grid.) In the SQL
window, enter the following SQL statement:

SELECT OrderID, OriginalValue,
(SELECT Sum(tblOriginalValues.OriginalValue) AS Total
FROM tblOriginalValues
WHERE tblOriginalValues.OrderID <= T1.OrderID) AS Total
FROM tblOriginalValues AS T1

When you run the query, the Total field returns a cumulative
sum for the values in the OriginalValue field, as shown in Figure B.

Figure B


Because the OrderID value (the
AutoNumber field) is in ascending order, the WHERE clause’s condition is always
True, which forces a new sum for every record. This SQL statement works
similarly to an aggregate domain function, but it’s much faster.

Worth noting

You might have noticed that the AutoNumber values in the example’s
sortfield (OrderID) skips values.
Gaps between values won’t affect the results. In truth, it isn’t necessary for sortfield to be in ascending order. The
only absolute is that the field contain unique values. If sortfield isn’t in ascending order, add an ORDER BY clause in the

ORDER BY T1.sortfield

Doing so will most likely change the running totals, so if
order matters, rely on an AutoNumber field.

Finally, this solution will slow down when evaluating large
amounts of data. The good news is that it should still perform faster than
using an aggregate domain in either a query expression or a report or form

Keep totaling

Generating a running total isn’t intuitive to a query, but you
can get the job done using a subquery. You’ll need an extra numeric field with
unique ascending values, which you can accomplish by simply adding an
AutoNumber field to the table, if necessary. Once you’ve generated the running
total in the query, you’re free to view the list in any format you like.

Susan Sales Harkins is an independent consultant and the
author of hundreds of articles and several books on database technologies. Her
most recent book is Mastering SQL Server
, with Mike Gunderloy, published
by Sybex. Other recent books are
Automating Microsoft Access 2003 with VBA
and Upgrader’s Guide to Microsoft office System 2003. Currently, Susan volunteers
as the Publications Director for Database Advisors.
You can reach her at