Before you use Microsoft Access to actually build the tables, forms, and other objects that will make up your database, it is important to take time to design your database. A good database design is the keystone to creating a database that foes what you want it to do effectively, accurately, and efficiently. The first step in designing a Microsoft Access database is to determine the purpose of the database and how it s to be used. You need to know what information you want from the database. Form that, you can determine what subjects you need to store facts about (the tables) and what facts you need to store about each subject (the fields in the tables).

Talk to people who will use the database. Brainstorm about the questions you d like the database to answer. Sketch out the reports you d like it to produce. Gather the forms you currently use to record your data. Examine well-designed databases similar to the one you are designing.

Determining the tables can be the trickiest step in the database the reports you want to print, the forms you was to use, the questions you want answered don t necessarily provide clues about the structure of the tables that produce them. You don t need to design your tables using Microsoft Access. In fact, it may be better to sketch out and rework your design on paper first. A table should not contain duplicate information, and information should not be duplicated between tables. After you have designed the tables, fields, and relationships you need, it s time to study the design and detect any flaws that might remain. It is easier to change your database design now, rather than after you have filled the tables with data.

(see figure 1-2 on page 4) Use Microsoft Access to create your tables, specify relationships between the tables, and enter a few records of data in each table. See if you can use the database to get the answers you want. Create rough drafts of your forms and reports and see if they show the data you expect. Look for unnecessary duplications of data and eliminate them. When you are satisfied that the table structures meet the design goals described here, then it s time to go ahead and add your existing data to the tables. You can then create any queries, forms, reports, macros, and modules that you may want.