Complete Idiot's Guide to Microsoft Access 2000

Complete Idiot's Guide to Microsoft Access 2000

by Joe Habraken
Doe the thought of creating a database with Access 2000 fill you with the same dread as entering a crowded interstate? How do you maneuver through the traffic? How do you backtrack from the compound mistakes? The Complete Idiot's Guide to Microsoft Access 2000 promises a smooth course. Here, you will explore some of the new features related to queries and


Doe the thought of creating a database with Access 2000 fill you with the same dread as entering a crowded interstate? How do you maneuver through the traffic? How do you backtrack from the compound mistakes? The Complete Idiot's Guide to Microsoft Access 2000 promises a smooth course. Here, you will explore some of the new features related to queries and reports, the areas that often seem mysterious for new and casual users. You will learn the relationship between the software and the World Wide Web and be able to utilize it confidently. Pick up the book that makes Access 2000 extremely accessible—this one!

Product Details

Alpha Books
Publication date:
Complete Idiot's Guide Series
Product dimensions:
7.36(w) x 8.80(h) x 0.97(d)

Read an Excerpt

Complete Idiot's Guide to Microsoft Access 2000 - Chapter 3 - Help, I Need Somebody...

[Figures are not included in this sample chapter]

Complete Idiot's Guide to Microsoft Access 2000

- 3 -

Help, I Need Somebody...

In This Chapter

  • Using the Office Assistant for help when you get in a jam

  • Looking up information by using the Access Help Contents, Answer Wizard,and Index

  • Getting context-sensitive help with the What's This?pointer

Sometimes things just don't seem to work the waythey are supposed to, and computer software is no exception. No matter how hardyou try, there are going to be times when you throw your hands up in the airand holler for help, especially if you misplace this fantastic book under apile of dirty laundry. Access is great about throwing you the help lifelinewhen you're going down for the third time. And you'll find that there is morethan one approach that you can use to get help in Access. It's all up to you.

Your Faithful Servant--The Office Assistant

Youmight be asking, "Who or what is the Office Assistant?" Well, whether it's awho or a what depends on you. The Office Assistant is a fantastic Help featurethat provides great tips, context-sensitive help, and the capability to searchfor help on a particular topic.

The Office Assistant uses Microsoft's IntelliSense technology, giving it thecapability to almost anticipate your problems and help you out when you are sstuck. It really makes other ways of getting help obsolete. The Assistant wasfirst available in Office 97, and Microsoft has improved the Assistant'scapability to anticipate your needs in the latest Office 2000 version, whichincludes Access (which is great for you because you're trying to learn thissuperb database software application).

The Office Assistant appears as soon as you open Microsoft Access, and itsits in the Application window. You can drag the Assistant to any place in theAccess workspace. If you don't see the Assistant, click the Microsoft AccessHelp button on the Database toolbar (or the current toolbar).

The Office Assistant is always ready to help you.

The Office Assistant is kind of like the Shell Answer Man (sorry,Person), but dresses better (boy, did I date myself with that one). Thegreat thing about the Assistant is that you can find help in a couple ofdifferent ways. You can get Suggested Help, which gives you info on thetask you're currently tackling (a little light bulb appears over theAssistant's head, letting you know that help is available), or you can searchfor help by typing a question or topic in the What Would You Like to Do?box.

The Assistant is even smart enough to move out of your way if it is tooclose to where you are currently working. To take a look at all these greatpossibilities, click the Microsoft Access Help, and theAssistant's balloon will appear. (If you inadvertently click the OfficeAssistant while you are working in Access, click the assistant a second time toclose the assistant balloon.)

The Assistant's balloon is where you find the help you need.

Take a Guess--Suggested Help

TheAssistant's balloon gives you two ways to get help. First, it provides a listof suggested Help topics that are germane (no, not Michael Jackson'sbrother--I mean pertinent) to the activity that you are currentlydealing with in Access. For example, when you start Access, you will want toopen, create, or import a database; the list of Help topics that the Assistantprovides addresses these database issues.

This type of help--Suggested Help--can be very timely; if you work on atable and become stuck, the Assistant provides a list of suggestions that helpyou troubleshoot your problem with tables--exactly what you're doing at thetime. This type of immediate help can be, well, very helpful!

Whenever you have difficulty with a particular feature, keep an eye on theAssistant. If a light bulb appears over the Assistant's head, you know that youcan click the Assistant to receive a list of help related to the current task.

What Would You Like to Do?

"Nothing."That's the answer you always get from children under the age of 11; fiveminutes later, they're screaming that they are bored (offspring older than 16won't even bother to answer...but I digress). Another great way to get helpusing the Assistant is the What Would You Like to Do? box in theAssistant's balloon. All you have to do is click in the box and type aquestion. You can even type the question in English--no geekspeak necessary.

What's All This Nonsense About IntelliSense?
IntelliSense technology is the programming genius behind the capability of certain Access features such as the menu system and th e Office Assistant to anticipate your needs and provide you with a certain amount of personal accommodation on-the-fly. The new adaptive menus show only the menu choices that you've recently used--they adapt to your use of the commands. The Office Assistant, on the other hand, is programmed to detect the features you are currently working with and to provide you with context-sensitive help.

Say that you want information on creating a form. A question you might poseto the Assistant would be "How do I create a form?" After you type inyour question, click the Search button.

The Assistant will search the Help database for you and return a list ofSuggested Help topics such as Create a Form, Create a Form with Multiple Pagesor Tabs, and other topics of this particular ilk. Click the topic that bestfits your need. As soon as you click the topic, the Access Help window willappear with help related to the question you asked the Assistant.

Type your question and then click the Search button. The Helpwindow will come to your rescue!

After the Assistant has helped you find your way to the appropriate Helptopics, all you must do is a little additional clicking in the Help window tofind the information that you need. You will find that the various Help topicsin the Help window take the form of hyperlinks (yeah, just like on the WorldWide Web). All you have to do is click the appropriate highlighted text, andyou will be taken to the appropriate help section.

Appearances Are Important

TheAssistant can take on several different personalities, including Clippit, ananimated paper clip (which is the default Assistant); Rocky, a happy dog;Links, a purring kitty; F1, a helpful little robot; and the Genius, an AlbertEinstein lookalike. Choosing a particular assistant is quite easy. Click theOptions button in the assistant's balloon, and you are well on your wayto customizing both how the Assistant looks and the kind of help the Assistantoffers.

The Office Assistant's dialog box has two tabs: Gallery and Options. Use theGallery tab to select the Assistant you want to work with. There arenine Assistants, and I'm sure one will suit your personality and frame of mind.A set of Back and Next buttons makes it easy for you to peruse the differentpossibilities. After you make your selection, click OK.

Cheap Thrills!
If you are ever totally bored and your coworkers won't talk to you, put the mouse pointer on the Assistant and right-click. A shortcut menu appears. Click Animate, and the Assistant will provide you with some cheap entertainment.

What Are My Options?

TheOptions tab of the Office Assistant's dialog box enables you to decide how theAssistant will interact with you. You can decide on several options, includingwhether the F1 function key (the usual key for Help) makes the Assistantappear, whether the Assistant will help you when you work with the variousAccess wizards, or whether the Assistant will guess at a list of Help topicswhen you run into trouble. All these features and several others are controlledby check boxes in this particular tab. After you make your selections, clickOK. If you find that you don't understand a particular option or part ofthe dialog box, clic k the Help button (the ?) in the upper-right cornerof the dialog box. The mouse pointer becomes a question mark; when you clickthis help pointer on a part of any dialog box, you are given specific help onthe item.

A ready and willing group of Assistants awaits your call.

When You've Had Enough of the Assistant

Theremight be times when you don't want the Assistant in the Access workspace. Don'tworry, the Assistant is well adjusted enough to handle a little rejection. Allyou have to do is point at the Assistant with the mouse and right-click. Ashortcut menu appears, and you can click Hide to remove the Assistantfrom view.

Feeling a little lonely? No problem. To bring the Assistant back onscreen,click the Microsoft Access Help button that resides on all the Accesstoolbars. You won't find a more loyal friend or anyone so willing to roll upher sleeves and give you a hand (unless you win the lottery, and then you willhave many friends, whether you want them or not).

If you are totally sick of the Assistant, you can easily turn it offcompletely. Click the Assistant and then on the Assistant balloon, clickOptions. On the Options tab, deselect the check box that saysUse the Office Assistant. It's that simple.

Getting Help Without the Assistant

Althoughthe Office Assistant might seem to be the answer to everyone's Access problems,you can obtain help in other, more conventional ways. One of these is to godirectly to the Access Help system and look up information in a table ofcontents and index; another is to ask questions of the Help system by using theAnswer Wiz ard. First make sure that you've turned off the Office Assistant onthe Assistant's Options tab.

Now you're ready to get help Assistant-free. Click the Help menu,then select Microsoft Access Help. The Help window appears and explainsdifferent ways to find help in Access.

On the left pane of the Help window are buttons that assist you in navigating the various help screens. The first button is the Hide button. This closes the entire left pane of the Help window (when you click the Hide button it becomes a Show button, which can be used to reopen the left pane of the Help window). The next two buttons allow you to move backward (Back) or forward (Forward) through the Help screens that you've already worked with during your help session. If you want to actually print a Help topic, click the Print button.

The left pane of the Help window also provides three tabs--Contents,Answer Wizard, and Index--each giving you a different way to lookup the help or information that you need.

The Contents tab supplies a list that will take you to majorgroupings of information such as what's new in Access, an introduction toAccess, and how to do specific tasks such as create a database or table.

Take a look at how the Contents tab supplies you with information onworking with tables. Scroll down through the alphabetical Contents listing.Each main topic is represented by a book icon. Because you want to learn abouttables, scroll down and double-click the Creating and Designing Tablesbook. The Help book icon opens up and displays a sublist of more specifictopics--some in the form of books, others in the form of chapters. Double-clickthe Creating and Opening Tables book to get to more specific levels ofinformation. Then click the Create a Table topic in the sublist.

On the right pane of the Help window, you are provided with some generalinformation on creating a table, and then several hyperlinks to topicsspecifically related to creating a table appear under the heading "What Do YouWant to Do?"

The Help window enables you to look up information in the Access Helpfile.

Click one of the topic hyperlinks provided in the right pane of the Helpwindow to view specific instructions.

Say you want information on creating a table from scratch. Click thehyperlink Create a Table from Scratch. The Access Help system jumps to aseries of steps and additional informational hyperlinks related to creating atable on your own. To get information specifically on creating a table fromscratch, click the Create a Table from Scratch Using Design View link.If you find that you want to return to the previous window and click adifferent link, click the Back button at the top of the Help window.

Besides hyperlinks to different Help topics, you will find that certain keywords are also highlighted in a different color. For example, on the Create aTable from Scratch in Design View help screen, the words primary keyare in a different color than the text around it. Words presented in thisfashion are glossary terms. Clicking them gives you a definition of theword or words.

Give it a try. Click the words primary key. A definition boxappears and defines primary key for you. When you finish viewing t hedefinition, click anywhere in the Help window, and the definition disappears(isn't this cool?).

Glossary terms are a great way to find a quick definition of a specificitem in the Help system.

Using the Answer Wizard

Anotherway to get help in the Help window is to use the Answer Wizard. The AnswerWizard works almost exactly the same way as the Office Assistant does; you askthe Wizard questions, and it supplies you with a list of topics that relate toyour question. You click one of the choices provided to view help in the Helpwindow.

To use the Answer Wizard, click the Answer Wizard tab in the Helpwindow. Type your question in the What Would You Like to Do? box. Forexample, you might type the question How do I create a form?

After typing your question, click the Search button. A list of topicswill appear in the Select Topic to Display box. Select a particulartopic, and its information will appear in the right pane of the Help window.

The Answer Wizard answers your question with a list of topics. Click atopic to see specific help in the Help window.

Using the Index

Anotherway to get help from the Access Help Topics window is to do keyword searches inthe Help system's Index. To access the Index system, click the Index tabin the Help window. The Index enables you to type in a keyword or keywords,select from a list of existing keywords, or select from a list of topics thatappear, based on your keywords or keywords you choose from the keyword list.

For example, suppose you want to find information on forms. Typeforms in the Ty pe Keywords box. Notice that the Indeximmediately starts moving down through the list of keywords in the Or ChooseKeywords box and even attempts to complete the keyword you are typing. Asyou type f, the Help system automatically adds acing to makethe keyword facing. As you continue to type form, otherpossibilities also pop up in the keyword box. After you have completed typingyour index terms, click the Search button to find topics related to yourindex term.

You can view different Help screens by selecting different topics from theChoose a Topic box. If you decide you want to start the search fromscratch, click the Clear button and type a new index term in the keywordbox.

Type keywords in the Type Keywords box and then clickSearch to view related Help topics in the topic list.

When you finish using the Access Help window, click the close (×)button to remove it from the Access workspace. Now you're probably thinking,"Wow, Access really gives me great ways to get help." And you'd be right. Buthold on to your mouse, Access newbie, because there's more!

What You See Is What Gets You Help

Youmight be one of those visually oriented people who like to pick up their cuesfrom what they see around them. Well, this is your lucky day. You can actuallyuse the mouse to click a part of the Access window and get help. All you haveto do is click the Help menu and then select What's This?

The What's This? menu selection turns your mouse into an informational helpprobe, sort of like those satellites NASA is always throwing at Mars and Venus;when they touch down, they gather information and beam it back to Earth. Well,that's how the mouse works when you activate the Help button. Boldlyclick where you've never clicked before (pretty much anywhere in the window),and Access provides you with some help on the item you selected.

Give it a try. After you arm your mouse pointer with the What's This?question mark, click the Office Assistant. A box pops up and provides you witha sentence or two of help on the item you clicked. In this case, Access tellsyou that the Assistant provides you with help and tips to accomplish yourAccess tasks.

You can also use this little trick on the parts of the various windows thatyou work with in Access and on the buttons of the various toolbars found inAccess. Click the Help menu. Select What's This? and then clickthe Spelling button on the toolbar. Access gives you information on whatthe Spelling button does.

Hey, this is great--a quick way to find simple information on a specificarea of the Access workspace. You will find that these mouse-click Cliff notesare often just what you need to stay productive in Access.

Okay, take a deep breath because you're still not finished exploring all thehelp possibilities in Access. Join me now in an exploration of Microsoft on theWeb.

Getting Help on the Web

TheInternet, and particularly the World Wide Web, have drastically changed theway everyone works using computers. The days of the isolated personal computerare over; users are now hooked into a giant network that spans the globe. Youcan take advantage of this by going directly to Microsoft for help, tips, andinformation on its software products.

Access and all the components of Microsoft Office 2000 can directly connectyou to help on the Web. The great thing about using the Web pages related toAccess and the other Office applications is that you can continue to work inAccess while you check out the information on the Web. The fact that Microsoftkeeps these Web pages full of information means that with Access, you getin-depth help that is regularly updated.

Access on the Web
When you install Access and any of the other Office 2000 applications from compact disc, you also have the option of installing Internet Explorer 5.0. You should definitely install this powerful Web browser because it has been fully integrated with the Office applications.

Connecting to Microsoft's Web pages is easy. Click the Help menu;then choose Office on the Web. The Internet Explorer window will openand take you to the Microsoft Office Update Web page. (If you want to visitthis Web site when you are not working in Access, type the address default.htm in the InternetExplorer Address box and then press Enter to go to the site.)

The Microsoft Office Update page offers you product assistance and linksto product enhancements.

Surfing the Web with Bill Gates

Whenyou're on the Office Update home page, you can easily connect to pages that canprovide you with more specific help related to Access. The Office Update Pageenables you to surf for information, program fixes, and additions. All thelinks that you need are provided on this one page.

If you want to get specific support on Access, click the Access linkon the left side of the Office Update page.

All About Access

Whenyou click the Access link, you are taken to a Welcome page that contains linksto important software updates associated with Access. You will also find thatfour new links--Welcome, Updates, Downloads, and Assistance--now appear underthe Access link on the left side of the browser window. You can click any ofthese links to view additional information related to Access:

  • Welcome--This page opens as soon as you click the Access link.You are provided with the most important information about Access updates andother technical issues.

  • Updates--This page gives you information and links to fact sheetsthat cover software updates and bug fixes for Microsoft Office. When updatesspecific to Access are available, they are also listed on thispage.

  • Downloads--This page contains links to all sorts of softwaregoodies related to Access (and in some cases Microsoft Office). You candownload additional sample databases, as well as more fonts and other toolsthat help you get more out of your Access installation.

  • Assistance--This page provides links to white papers and othertechnical documents related to Access. It also includes a link to the mostcommonly related questions asked about Access.

Usingthese different Access online resources is really a snap--or should I sayclick? Just point to the link that you want to follow (such asAssistance), and then click. You will be taken to that particular pageand can then peruse the various items that ar e provided.

The Office Update page lets you follow links specifically for MicrosoftAccess.

When you have completed your Access research on the Web, click the InternetExplorer's close (×) button to close the application. If you plan on doingmore Web browsing while you work in Access, click the Explorer's minimizebutton, and Explorer will be ready the next time you need it.

As you can probably see, you could nearly drown in all the information aboutAccess that Microsoft provides on the Web. A good rule of thumb is to use theHelp system and the Office Assistant first to solve problems and find answerson Access; then turn to the Web if you need more in-depth information.

There are really many ways to get help in Access. And don't be afraid orembarrassed to seek help; better to pause for a moment and get some help thanto create a database that doesn't work for you. Besides, during those lonelynights when you are banging away at the keyboard entering data, Help can bejust like having a conversation with a good friend.

The Least You Need to Know

  • The Office Assistant provides a one-stop-shopping approach to finding help in Access. Simply click the Assistant, and you'll get help for what you are currently working on.

  • When you need an answer to a simple, plain-English question, use the Assistant's What Would You Like to Do? box, and then click Search.

  • The Help menu is a good place to go for help if you like browsing a table of contents or viewing an index for the Access Help file.

  • Use the Contents tab when y ou're not totally sure what you need help with; it divides the information into broad categories and lets you look up information by subject.

  • If you like the flexibility of asking the Help system questions, but can't stand using the Office Assistant, take advantage of the Answer Wizard.
  • When you know exactly what you're looking for, the Index and Find tabs are the way to go.

  • You can click up some quick help with the What's This? choice on the Help menu; it arms your mouse pointer with a Help icon that gets you help wherever you click.

  • Surfing the various Microsoft Web pages involving Access is a great way to build up your own mental database.

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