If you’re looking for a handy guide to working with Microsoft Access, check out Tech Toolshed’s Access reference charts.
Three of the charts target the basics of working with tables, queries, and reports.
A fourth chart provides tips and shortcuts for performing various Access tasks.

Microsoft Access isn’t in every user’s software repertoire.
Those who rely on it for their day-to-day work tend to know it very well. But a
lot of users work with Access only occasionally, maybe for a special project or
when their manager suddenly needs a slice of data presented in a slick-looking
report. Those users are likely to spend as much time trying to get back up to
speed on a certain feature or capability as they do actually producing the
desired results—and they may tie up coworkers and help desk staff along the

A basic understanding of how to build a table, run a query,
and generate a report will give such users a head start in tackling the
occasional Access-based project or task. Here’s a bare-bones look at what they
need to get underway.

Easiest way to build an Access table

For less-experienced Access users, the Table Wizard probably
offers the best starting point for creating a table. The wizard isn’t necessarily
more efficient, but it gives novices an edge because specific knowledge about
data types and field properties isn’t required. The user just needs to identify
the type of data the table will store, and the wizard will make most of the
decisions. To execute the Table Wizard:

  1. Press
    [F11] to display the Database window.
  2. Click
    the Tables button on the Database window’s Object bar.
  3. Double-click
    the Create Table By Using Wizard option.

The wizard will launch and present the first screen (Figure A), which lets the user specify
a table, such as a mailing list or a list of employees or orders, and select
from a list of fields relevant to that type of data. The wizard will then guide
the user through the process of naming the table, assigning a primary key, creating
any desired relationships to other tables, and entering data.

Figure A

Query-building with wizards

Queries allow users to populate forms and reports and
display only the data they need. Queries can be based on a single table, multiple
tables, or on another query. Access offers a number of wizards to simplify the
process of creating a query:

  • The Simple
    Query Wizard
    creates a simple select query, with one limitation—you
    can’t conditionally limit data.
  • The Crosstab
    Query Wizard
    walks you through the process of creating a crosstab
  • The Find
    Duplicates Query Wizard
    locates duplicate entries and records.
  • The Find
    Unmatched Query Wizard
    locates orphan records—child values (or foreign
    key values) in related tables that don’t relate to any parent value (or
    primary key value).

Choose one of the following methods to launch a query wizard:

  • Click
    on the Queries shortcut in the Database window and then double-click the
    Create Query By Using Wizard shortcut. This launches the Simple Query Wizard
    (Figure B).
  • Click
    on the Queries shortcut in the Database window and then click the New
    button on the Database Window toolbar.
  • Choose
    Query from the Insert menu or from the New Object button’s drop-down list.

Figure B

Fastest way to design a useful report

Although Access provides an arsenal of reporting options in
its Design View, users who haven’t created many reports will probably find that
a wizard is the best way to go. As they get a little more experience, they can
use Design View to fine-tune the format of their reports. Sorting out the
various types of report wizards can be a little tricky. Here’s a look at what
Access offers:

  • AutoReport—The AutoReport Wizard
    bases a report on the specified data source and requires no further information.
    It’s the simplest but most limited choice. The result is a columnar report
    that uses all of the fields and data in the report.
  • Report Wizard—The Report Wizard is
    more flexible than any of the others, allowing users to limit both the
    fields and the actual data that make it to the finished report. It also lets
    users retrieve data from more than one data source and enables them to
    specify groups, to sort, and to summarize numerical data.
  • AutoReport: Columnar—The
    AutoReport: Columnar wizard creates a columnar AutoReport from one data
  • AutoReport:Tabular—The
    AutoReport:Tabular wizard generates a tabular AutoReport from one data
  • Chart Wizard—The Chart wizard
    creates a report that contains a chart.
  • Label Wizard—The Label Wizard
    creates labels from data.

Using the Report Wizard

The Report Wizard requires a bit of interaction from the
user, but since it’s the most flexible of the wizards, it’s probably the most
useful one. To execute this wizard:

  1. Press
    [F11] to display the Database window.
  2. Click
    the Reports shortcut on the Object bar.
  3. Double-click
    Create Report By Using Wizard. The wizard will then launch (Figure C),
    presenting a series of options for identifying the report’s data sources,
    selecting the fields to be included in the report, and specifying sorting,
    grouping, formatting, and summarizing functions.

Figure C

Shortcuts worth remembering

As with most applications, Access offers tons of shortcuts
for performing various tasks. And even though no user wants to memorize a list
of obscure keyboard combinations, some are genuinely worth mastering in the
interest of efficiency. Here are some shortcuts users may find handy.


[Ctrl];—Inserts the current date

[Ctrl][Shift];—Inserts the current time

[Ctrl][Alt][Spacebar]—Inserts the default value for a field

[Ctrl]’—Inserts the value from the same field in the
previous record

[F2]—Switches between Edit mode and Navigation mode

[F5]—Jumps to the record number control in the Navigation
bar; type the record number and press [Enter]


[F6]—Switches between the upper and lower panes (in Design

[Shift][F2]—Opens a criteria expression in the Zoom window
(in Design View)

[Alt][Enter]—Displays the Query Properties window (in Design

[Ctrl][F4]—Closes the Query Design window (prompting to save
changes first)


[Shift][Enter]—Opens the selected report in Print Preview (from
the Database window)

[Ctrl][Enter]—Opens the selected report in Design View (from
the Database window)

C or [Esc]—Cancels Print Preview or Layout Preview

S—Opens the Page Setup dialog box (in Print Preview or
Layout Preview)

P—Opens the Print dialog box (in Print Preview or Layout

Z—Zooms in or out of a page (in Print Preview or Layout