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Introduction to Database programs


Databases allow you to:
1. Store data, or information
Tables and Forms ("screens")
2. Maintain data (keep that information up to date) by making it easy to:
  • add new information;
  • edit (change) existing information;
  • delete existing information
Tables and Forms ("screens")
3. Retrieve and evaluate data
List just the information that's desired,
Sorted in a certain order,
In an easy-to-read format 
Tables, Queries and Reports

Small to medium companies usually have one database for all their needs; larger companies may have several databases, each for a different use.

PC databases generally include the following components to make this possible, each of which is described below:

Queries, and 


Tables are the heart of a database because they are the containers that actually store the information. Each type of information is stored in a different table. For example, a typical company might have separate tables for Customers, Orders, Inventory, etc.

Tables in a database

Within a table, fields are set up to store the information appropriate for that table. For example, the "Customer" table normally include fields for Company Name, Street Address, PO Box, City, State, Zip Code, etc.

Fields have different data types - for example, dates, currency, text and number. This allows the database to do checks to make sure the information meets general rules (for example, it won't let you put the date "2/31/03" into a date field). This also allows the use of special "functions", such as the ability to subtract one date from another to tell how many days are between them.

Forms (commonly called "screens")

Usually databases allow you to "input" new information into a table in "spreadsheet" format (rows and columns, like the example below).

Data entry into a table without a screen, or "form"

This format isn't very easy on the eyes. Most PC database programs have tools that make the creation of data entry screens fairly easy. Following is an example of "form" that allows a user to do data entry and data maintenance for the same table:

Data entry "Form"
This form took only a couple of minutes to create using Microsoft Access.

It automatically gives you the ability to:

  • Insert new customers,
  • Edit existing customers, and
  • Delete existing customers

Click here for details on how easy it is to create a data-entry form using Access.


A query is a request sent to the database to get specific information from it, usually for a specialized use such as:

Total sales for each of the last six months, or
Customers who haven't ordered anything in the last three months, or
Names and phone numbers of all the customers in Connecticut

Following are some sample queries: 

     Get certain fields only, all customers
  Sample Query Explanation
SELECT CompanyName, Phone
FROM Customers
List the Name and Phone#
for all Customers

     Get only certain customers
  Sample Query Explanation
FROM Customers
WHERE State="CT"
List all information
for Customers
who have an office in Connecticut

     Display in alphabetical order
  Sample Query Explanation
FROM Customers
ORDER BY CompanyName
List all information
for Customers
List alphabetically by Company Name


Queries return information in the spreadsheet format (rows and columns), which isn't that easy to read.  A "report" lets you store instructions as to how to print the "raw" information so it's easy to read and understand, and includes options such as:

Select Run a query to select the desired information
Format Set size, font, color, spacing, column width
Display order List alphabetically, in date order, by increasing or decreasing quantity, etc.
Groups Put information in groups - for example, all the orders for one customer, or all the customers in one state
Totals Calculate and print totals for one row of information, a group, and/or the entire report
Headings Print descriptive names for each column, group, the report overall, etc.



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