A Quick Microsoft Access 2000 Tutorial
By Charles W. Neville, © Charles W. Neville, March 2001
Verbatim copying and redistribution of this tutorial are permitted in any medium provided this notice and the copyright notice are preserved.

Chapter 1. Getting Started

Copying the Northwind Sample Database

The first thing you need to do is make a copy of the Northwind sample database to avoid altering and perhaps permanently disabling it. You should use this copy instead of the original database while you go through this tutorial. Amazingly enough, you can copy the Northwind sample database by copying it to the clipboard using the Edit menu of My Computer, and then pasting it into a suitable folder. Where you want to paste it depends on your situation. If you are working on your own machine, a good place to paste your copy of Northwind is My Documents. If you are working in a shared laboratory environment, you may have disk space set aside for your exclusive use on a server. In some laboratories, this is known as the M: drive. This is also a good place to paste your copy of Northwind. Finally, if all else fails, create a folder with your name on it in the Temp directory, and paste Northwind there.

Step 1. Start or log in to your computer. Open My Computer at the upper left hand corner of the desktop. The Northwind sample database is usually in the folder C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office\Samples, and, just in case you need it, the full name of the database is Northwind.mdb. Browse until you find the folder containing Northwind, open the folder, and select Northwind by clicking on it once.

Selecting the Northwind sample database
selecting the Northwind sample database

Step 2. Click the Edit menu of My Computer and press Copy. This copies the entire Northwind database to the clipboard.

Copying the Northwind sample database to the clipboard
copying the Northwind sample database to the clipboard

Step 3. Using the back arrow or the address box of My Computer, move to the folder where you want to paste your copy of Northwind. Click the Edit menu of My Computer and press Paste. This pastes your entire copy of the Northwind database into the folder.

Pasting a copy of Northwind into a suitable folder
pasting a copy of Northwind into a suitable folder

Opening the Northwind Sample Database

Step 1. Open your copy of Northwind by double clicking it.

Opening the Northwind database
opening Northwind

Step 2. If all goes well, Microsoft Access will start up, and you will see the opening screen of the Northwind database. Press the OK button to get the Northwind Traders spash screen out of the way and start working with the actual Northwind database.

The opening screen of the Northwind database
Northwind opening screen

Moving around the Northwind Database

Once the opening splash screen is out of the way, you can see the database window. It consists of a number of tabs, each of which displays a different aspect of the database. Typically, the Northwind database opens with the Forms tab selected. In Microsoft applications, Forms are windows used to interact with the application. Later, after you have finished this tutorial, you might want to satisfy your curiosity about forms. If so, try selecting the Main Switchboard form, and then pressing the Open button. As is typical in Microsoft applications, you can close a form by clicking the small x at the top right of the form on its title bar. (Be careful not to click on the x at the top right of the Microsoft Access title bar, or you will close Access completely.) If you want to find out how to build your own forms and develop Microsoft Access applications, try reading Roger Jenning's excellent book, Using Access 2000, published by Que Press.

The forms tab of the Northwind database window
Northwind database window forms tab

We are mainly interested in the relational database aspects of Microsoft Access, so let us open the Tables tab and look at some of the tables in the Northwind database.

Step 1. Press the tab marked Tables under the list of Objectsat the left of the database window, and then click ONCE on Customers to select the Customers Table.

The tables tab of the Northwind database window with Customers selected
Northwind database window tables tab with Customers selected

Step 2. Press the Design button at the top of the database window to view the design (table definition) of the Customers Table. Notice the small key by CustomerID. As you have probably already guessed, this means that CustomerID is a key field.

The design of the Customers table
design of the Customers table

Move the small vertical scroll bar at the right side of the table description window up and down so you can read the names and data types of all the fields in the Customers Table.

Caution. Do not change any of the table field definitions, as you do not want to mess up the database. (Changing table field definitions without knowing what you are doing is one of the few really bad things you can do to a database. If you change the table field definitions, you will destroy a large part of the data in the table.)

Step 3. After you have inspected the Customers Table design, click on the small x at the top right of the Customers Table on its title bar to close the table definition panel and return to the Tables tab. Again, be careful not to click on the x at the top right of the Microsoft Access title bar, or you will close Access completely.

Viewing the Data in the Customers Table

Step 1. Be sure the Tables tab is visible in the database window. Open the Customers Table by double clicking on it. This will display the data in the table.

The Customers table opened
customers table opened displaying data

The Customers Table contains only 91 records, so it is easy to scroll through the opened table and view all the records. Move the vertical scrollbar up and down so you can inspect the data in some of the records. Move the horizontal scrollbar back and forth to view all the fields in a given record. Then close the table by clicking on the small x at the top right of the table on its title bar. Again, be careful not to close Access itself.

Getting Familiar with the Remaining Tables

View the definitions and data for each of the other tables in the database window. Note the large number of datatypes supported by Access. These include text fields of various sizes, memo fields which are text fields of unlimited size, number fields, autonumber fields, and even image fields. To actually see the images in the Picture field in the Categories Table, you have to double click them while the table is open. Those of you familiar with object technology will be able to see that Access 2000 is in part an object oriented database because access methods (to view images for instance) are bundled with the data. However, Access 2000 is not fully object oriented because (1) it does not support inheritance, and (2) you are not able to specify the access methods for fields in a table.

What's Next?

The next thing to do is to study how to Add and Change Data