Five tips for getting started with Access 2010

Access has a reputation for being a little intimidating to new users (and some veteran users, as well). See how Access 2010 simplifies database creation so that even novices can reap the benefits.

Now, don't swoon. Access 2010 is easier to use than ever -- really. If you haven't tried using it to create organize, sort, and manage your information, you're in for a treat. You don't have to be an expert or an egghead to benefit, either.

1: Let Access 2010 be your guide

If you've been dreading creating your first Access 2010 database, fret no more. Because of the addition of dozens of Access templates, you can now find ready-made databases -- complete with data tables, reports, and more -- that you can use as the basis for your own data.

Simply delete the sample information and plug in your own, then use the built-in features to analyze and manage your data. If you don't find the template you want, just click in the Search box on the New tab in Backstage View and type a word or phrase describing what you're looking for. When you press Enter, Access searches for additional templates that are closer to what you need.

2: Go to the Web and back again

Access 2010 enables you to create Web databases so you can gather, update, analyze, manage, and report on your data from any point you have Web access. Just use the Blank Web Database template to get started (click Blank Web Database in the New tab), create your data tables, forms, and reports as usual, and then publish the database to a server so you can access it using a Web browser.

3: Get your database pieces a la carte

One reason non-programmers dread creating databases is that they often think they have to do everything themselves: If you need a form, you have to create it; need to add a task list, ditto. But Access 2010 lets you sidestep all that creation time and know-how by plugging in ready-to-go modules for common elements. This new feature, called Application Parts, makes it simple for you to add functionality to your data tables and reports without all the hassle of creating new tools from scratch. You'll find Application Parts in the Templates group in the Create tab.

4: Use Quick Start fields to create your tables

In Access 2010, you can add a collection of common fields with one click of the mouse button. Quick Start fields add the fields used regularly -- for example, Address, Category, Name, Payment Type, Phone, Priority, Start and End Dates, Status, and Tag -- to your data tables. You'll find these fields by clicking the data table you created, clicking the Table Tools Fields tab, and clicking More Fields. When you scroll down to the bottom of the list, you'll see the Quick Start category, which lists the various types of field collections you can add.

5: Use themes to create attractive reports

Your reports don't have to be boring and colorless, even if your data is. Access 2010 offers you the choice of applying your favorite Office 2010 themes to your data reports. This means that if you used one theme to create documents in Word, worksheets in Excel, and presentations in PowerPoint, you can carry that theme forward so that your reports look like the other files you create using Office 2010 applications. The Themes tool is in the Themes group of the Report Layout Tools tab. Just click the arrow and choose the theme you want to use. Pretty simple for Access, hmm?

Katherine Murray is the author of Microsoft Office 2010 Plain & Simple (Microsoft Press, 2010), Microsoft Word 2010 Plain & Simple (Microsoft Press, 2010), and Microsoft Word 2010 Inside Out (Microsoft Press, 2010). You can reach Katherine through her blog, BlogOffice or by emailing

By Katherine Murray

Katherine Murray is a technology writer and the author of more than 60 books on a variety of topics, ranging from small business technology to green computing to blogging to Microsoft Office 2010. Her most recent books include Microsoft Office 2010 P...