Creating Tables and Relationships
Access 2007
Creating Databases Fundamentals
Database Design
Objectives of database design
Process of database design
Creating a New Database.............................................................................................................. 3
Tables ............................................................................................................................................ 4
Creating a table in design view
Defining fields
Creating new fields
Modifying table design
The primary key
Saving your table
Field properties
Calculated Field Properties (Access 2010 only)
Importing Data ............................................................................................................................. 14
Importing data from Excel
Lookup fields ................................................................................................................................ 16
Modifying the Data Design of a Table ........................................................................................20
Relationships ................................................................................................................................22
Creating relationships
Viewing or editing existing relationships
Referential integrity
Viewing Sub Datasheets
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Database Design
Time spent in designing a database is time very well spent. A well-designed database is the key to
efficient management of data. You need to think about what information is needed and how that
information is to be used.
Objectives of database design
The strategy of database design is to accomplish the following objectives:
To organise stored information in a timely, consistent, and economical manner.
To eliminate, or minimise, the duplication of database content across the organisation.
To provide rapid access to the specific elements of information in the database required by each
To accommodate the possible expansion of the database to adapt to the needs of a growing
organisation, such as the addition of new products and processes.
To maintain the integrity of the database so that it contains only validated, auditable information.
To prevent access to the database by unauthorised persons.
Process of database design
Planning your database
This should be done on paper.
Determine the purpose of your database. This will include deciding what information needs to be
stored and what will need to be retrieved. What ‘questions’ will you need to ask your data?
Decide what tables you need in your database:
A table should not contain duplicate information and information should not be duplicated
between Tables. If information needs to be updated, it should only need updating in one place.
This is more efficient and also eliminates the possibility of duplicate entries that contain different
information. Do not include any calculated data (data that is the result of an 'expression') as this is
effectively duplicated information.
Each table should contain information about one ‘entity’ or subject. This enables you to keep
information about each subject independently from other subjects.
Determine the fields you need in the tables:
Each field should relate to the subject of the table.
Each field should contain a particular type of information about the table's subject.
Create fields so that you can store information in its smallest logical parts (e.g., First Name, Initial,
last name, rather than just name). How small this part is will depend on how you will want to sort,
filter or query your records.
Primary keys
Identify which fields have unique values and decide which field(s) will be your primary key(s)
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Data types
Determine the appropriate data types for each of your fields (e.g. Text, Currency, Date, etc). Unless you
want to use the default data type (Text), you will need to assign a data type to each of your fields. All
data in a single field must consist of the same data type.
Identify associations between the tables (when you have more than one Table). You will need to define
relationships between your tables so that Access can bring related information from different Tables back
together in meaningful ways.
Implementing your design
The list below is a suggested step-by-step plan:
Create a small database based on your design.
Specify relationships between the tables
Enter a few records in each table.
Create rough drafts of your forms and reports to see if they contain the data you need.
Try running a few queries to see if you get the answers you expect.
Check your database for any unnecessary duplication of data.
Check your design with anyone else who will be using your database.
Decide who will be able to access the database, the tables, and the fields within the tables.
Finally, enter your data into your tables. Create any queries, forms, reports, etc. that you need.
Ensure all the data in your database is relevant and kept up-to-date.
Remember the Data Protection Act.
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Creating a New Database
Before you can create objects such as tables and forms, you must first create the database file in which
they will be stored.
On the File tab select New.
Click on Blank database.
In the File Name box, type a name for your database.
Click on the browse button to the right of the File name box to browse for a location for your
Click on Create.
A new database will be created with a new default Table.
Click on Design View to start working with this Table.
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Tables are the fundamental objects in a database. Without any tables, no data can be stored. To create
a table you need to follow these steps:
Create the table object
Define the fields in the table including their name, data type and description
Set the properties for each field
Create appropriate indexes
Set the primary key
Save the table
Creating a table in design view
1. On the Create tab, click on Table Design.
A new table will appear in design view:
The table design view
There are three main parts to
the design view window.
Upper pane
Upper pane
For defining fields by name, data
type and description (optional).
Field properties (bottom
For defining specific properties
for a field.
Help (bottom right)
As you move around the
design view window, contextspecific help is provided here.
Defining fields
Before creating the fields in a table, the following information about naming, data types and descriptions
should be considered:
Field naming rules and conventions
The following conventions should be observed when naming fields:
Field names are mandatory. They may contain up to 64 characters.
Names may include embedded (but not leading) spaces and punctuation except full stops,
exclamation marks and square brackets.
You cannot assign the same field name to more than one field in the same table and it is good
practice to use a unique field name for each field in the entire database.
It is not good practice to include spaces in field names. Instead, use an underscore ( _ ) for spaces
to improve the readability of field names.
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Minimizing the length of field names conserves resources and saves typing when you refer to the
field name in macros, etc.
Avoid specifying a name for a field that could cause a conflict with a built-in Access function or
property names (e.g. ‘name’, ‘date’, etc.).
Data types
You must assign a field data type to each field in a table unless you want to use the text data type that
Access assigns by default. All data in a single field must consist of the same data type.
Data Type
Allows text and numbers to be stored. The default length of this field is 50 and is
limited to a maximum of 255 characters.
Memo fields are usually used for notes, descriptions, etc and can store up to 2
gigabytes of which you can display 65,535 characters in Forms and Reports. Font
formatting can also be applied to text in Memo fields.
Allows only numbers to be stored. Used for fields which contain numbers you may
wish to use for calculations.
Stores date and time formats.
Inserts the currency sign and decimal point.
Automatically inserts a sequential or random number. You cannot enter data into
this field – it is automatically filled in as you add records to your table. This data
type can be used to create unique numbers to identify records.
Is a logical field used when you only have either a Yes or No or a True or False
OLE Object
Stores pictures, charts, etc. Can be up to 1 gigabyte.
Stores a hyperlink address which is a path to an object, document, Web page, or
other destination.
Allows you to attach specific files to an individual record in a table.
Allows you to add a calculation based on values from other fields and/or other
values. It is also possible to use functions.
This is not really a data type as such but starts up a wizard which allows you to
create a field that looks up data either from a list of values you type in or from
another table. See page 16 for details on using the Lookup Wizard.
This is optional but can be useful for other users of the database. If you enter a description it will be
displayed in the status bar at the lower left of the Access window when you select the field for data entry
or editing in the datasheet view of a table or the form view of a form.
Creating new fields
1. In the first row of the Field Name column, type the name of your first field, following the naming
conventions listed above.
2. Press the Tab key to take you to the Data Type field.
3. Click on the drop-down arrow that appears in the box to display a list of data types (see below) and
select the appropriate one.
4. Press Tab to take you to the Description field. Type in a short message describing the current field.
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5. Press the Tab key to take you to the next row and back to the Field Name column.
6. Continue as above until you have entered all your fields as shown below.
Primary key
Row selector
Modifying table design
It is possible to modify the design of your table and fields at any time by going to design view and making
the required changes. However, any changes made after data has been added to the table may cause
loss of data. Changes to field names, data types and properties may also impact on other objects which are
linked to or based on the table.
Adding and removing fields
You can modify the structure of your table by adding and removing fields in design view. Note, however,
that using the cut, paste or delete functions will remove the field and any data in that field.
Selecting fields
To select a field, click on the row selector to the left of the field name. To select multiple fields, click on
the row selector and drag the mouse down the selector symbols to select additional fields. The screen
capture below shows a table with two fields selected.
Deleting fields
1. Select the field or fields to be deleted using the row selector.
2. Press the Delete key on the keyboard, select Delete Rows from the Design tab or right-click on
the row selector and choose Delete Rows.
Inserting fields
1. Click in the field above which you wish to insert a new row.
To insert multiple rows, select the required number of rows using the row selector.
2. Select Insert Rows from the Design tab or right click and choose Insert Rows.
Moving fields
1. Select the field or fields to be moved.
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2. Click on the selected field(s) and drag the mouse to the new location for the field(s). As you drag, a
bold black line will appear indicating where the fields will be moved to if you release the mouse
3. Release the mouse button in the appropriate location.
Helpful hint: Don’t use cut and paste to move fields if you have data in the table as this will delete the data.
Changing data type
1. If your table contains data, make a backup copy of the table before you change data types or field
2. Open the table in design view.
3. Click the data type column of the field you want to change, click the drop down arrow, and select the
new data type.
4. Click the Save button on the Quick Access toolbar.
Helpful hint:
If the data type conversion would result in lost values, Access displays a message telling you that errors
occurred during conversion before it actually saves the changes. Click Cancel to cancel the changes. Click
OK to continue and save the changes anyway.
In large tables, changing a Data Types might take a long time. If you want to cancel the conversion process
at any point while it is running, press Ctrl+Break, and then click OK.
Changing field size
If you convert a large field size setting to a smaller one in a field that already contains data, you might
lose data in the field. For example, if you change the field size setting for a text data type field from 255
to 50, data beyond the 50 characters will be discarded.
If the data in a number data type field doesn't fit in a new field size setting, fractional numbers may be
rounded or you might get a null value. For example, if you change from single to integer data type,
fractional values will be rounded to the nearest whole number and values greater than 32,767 or less
than -32,768 will result in null fields.
The primary key
A primary key is a single field or combination of fields in a table that uniquely identifies each record in
that table. No two records can have the same value in the primary key field or combination of fields.
It is advisable to create the primary key before entering data in a table because Access will prevent
duplicate values being created in the designated field.
It is particularly important to set a primary key when creating relationships between tables as Access uses
it to link tables together.
Helpful hint: Records are displayed in primary key order by default.
Setting a primary key
1. Click on the appropriate field name and click the Primary key button on the Design tab.
2. The primary key symbol will appear on the button in the row selector box on the
appropriate row (see the screen capture on previous page).
Setting a multiple field primary key
With a multiple-field primary Key, the combination of the contents of all fields included in the key
must be unique. For example, for a primary key based on the CourseID and CourseDate fields, the same
CourseID and CourseDate combination cannot appear in more than one record.
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1. Click and drag across the row selector of the appropriate fields.
2. Click on the Primary Key button on the Design tab.
Indexing a field speeds up data access when running queries, sorting, and grouping. If you regularly
sort or search on certain fields it is a good idea to create an index for this field. However, indexes can
slow down some processing activities such as adding or deleting records as the Indexes for many fields
need to be updated while performing these operations. For this reason, indexing should be limited to a
few important fields.
Indexing can also be used to prevent duplicate entries in a field.
The options in the Indexed text box are:
(Default) The field is not indexed.
Yes (Duplicates OK) The field is indexed with duplicates allowed.
Yes (No Duplicates) The field is indexed with no duplicates allowed.
If the primary key for a table is a single field it is automatically set to Yes (No Duplicates).
Helpful hint: You can't index Memo and OLE Object fields.
Creating a multiple-field index
A multiple-field index can be created when you wish to be able to sort or filter records by more than one
field and where one or more fields may contain the same value and you need an additional field or
fields to enable you to distinguish between records.
A good example of this might be a two-field index using the first name and surname fields – records
could then be sorted quickly by last name and then by surname in a multiple sort.
1. Click on Indexes on the Design tab.
A list of all current indexes (single and multiple field) will be displayed.
2. Type a name for the index in the Index Name column of the next blank row. (It is
advisable to choose a name that includes the names of the fields to be indexed or a
similarly descriptive name.
3. In the Field Name column of the same row,
choose the name of one of the fields you
wish to include in the index.
4. In the next row, leave the Index Name column
blank and in the Field Name column choose
another field to include in the index from the
drop-down list.
5. Repeat this last step (above) until you have
included all the fields you want.
The screen capture above shows indexes for a table with the following indexes:
A single-field index on the Dept field
A single-field index on the ID field that was automatically created by setting the
primary key to be the ID field.
A two-field index on the Last_Name and First_Name fields.
Helpful hint:
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You can use the Indexes window shown above to view and edit all Indexes in a table, both single and
multiple field.
Saving your table
1. Click the Save button
on the Quick Access toolbar.
2. Type in a name for your table. This can be up to 25 characters long and can include spaces,
although these are not advisable. It is a good idea to use the naming convention tbl_Tablename,
replacing Tablename with the name of the table.
Entering data in your table
To enter data into your table, switch to Datasheet View and enter data as normal.
Switching to datasheet view
From the Design or Home tab click on the View button.
Field properties
Each field has property settings that
you can change to alter the way the
field looks and behaves. Field
properties are optional and can be
entered after a field has been
created. There are different
properties available for different
data types.
The properties for a particular field
are displayed at the bottom left of
the design view window when you
click in the field and the General tab
is selected as shown on the right.
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Field size
You can use the Field Size property to set the maximum size of data that can be stored in a field set to
text or number data type.
Number field size
The default setting for a number field is Long Integer. The Field Size property settings and their values
are related in the following way:
Stores numbers from 0 to 255 (no fractions).
1 byte
Stores numbers from -32,768 to 32,767 (no fractions).
2 bytes
(Default) Stores numbers from
-2,147,483,648 to 2,147,483,647 (no fractions).
4 bytes
Stores numbers from -3.402823E38 to 3.402823E38.
4 bytes
Stores numbers from -1.79769313486232E308 to
8 bytes
Text field size
The default setting for a text field is 50. You can reset the Field Size for anything between 0 and 255.
Helpful hint:
Use the smallest possible Field Size properties setting for number fields because smaller data sizes can be
processed faster and require less memory.
You can't use Undo to undo changes to a table's design after saving it in Table design view.
The Format options also vary depending on the Data Type set. The format of a field only affects the way
the data is displayed: Access will still store the data in the same way.
Formatting dates and numbers
Click in the Format box and select an appropriate format from the drop-down list:
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Formatting text
There is no drop-down list for fields with a data type of Text. However, you can type in formatting
For example:
Less than [<]:
converts all text in the field to lowercase
Greater than [>]:
converts all text in the field to uppercase
Decimal places
For Number or Currency fields, you can specify the number of decimal places allowed for a field between
0 and 15.
Input masks
An input mask is used to provide some control over what values can be entered. They are primarily
used in Text and Date/Time fields, but can also be used in Number or Currency fields. Input Mask are
used when data is entered in a fixed pattern of numbers, letters, spaces etc., such as a National
Insurance number but is unsuitable where the pattern varies (e.g. postcode or telephone number).
When you click in the input mask area, a build button
appears on the right. Clicking this button will
enable the Input Mask wizard, which will help you select an appropriate input mask for your field.
Build button
You can use the following characters to control data entry:
0-9 only
Digit or space
Not required
+/-, digit or space
Not required
Letters A-Z
Letters A-Z
Letter or digit
Letter or digit
Any characer or space
Any characer or space
All following characters converted to uppercase
All following characters converted to uppercase
Displays the following characers as type
For example: an input mask for an NI Number would be: >LL000000>L
Entry will be restricted to two letters, followed by six numbers, followed by one letter. The > symbol
converts the letters to uppercase.
To find out more about how to create input masks, click in the Input Mask area and press F1.
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This is an optional label that can be used to replace the field name in forms and reports. The caption
will also appear as the column heading in datasheet view in place of the field name.
Default value
If you type in a default value, this is automatically entered in the field for each new record. When new
records are added, the default value can be kept or changed.
Helpful hint:
You can enter Date() in the Default Value box of a date field to enter the current date automatically when
data is entered.
Validation rules
Validation rules will automatically check for any particular words or phrases that are being entered into
a field. If the match is not exact to that specified in the validation rule, then the information will not be
accepted into the field and an error message will appear explaining why the data could not be accepted.
When you add words in the validation rule area that you want accepted, separate them with OR. For
example: Mr OR Mrs OR Ms OR Miss OR Dr.
Another example, to force entry of Exeter, Exmouth or Sidmouth:
Helpful hint:
You can use symbols and words such as <, >, =, OR and AND or refer to other field names when creating
validation rules. Validation rules can also be set for tables and records, as well as fields.
Example to restrict values to lower than 500:
Example to restrict values to between 1 and 10 inclusive:
Between 1 and 10
Or the following would also work:
>=1 and <=10
Validation text
This property is only relevant if you have set a validation rule. In the Validation Text area, type in the
message you want to appear for the user if the validation rule is broken.
This can be set to Yes or No to specify whether or not the field is compulsory (i.e. whether a value must
be entered in the field).
Text Align (For Memo fields - only in Access 2007)
This determines how data is aligned horizontally in a cell. By default this is set to General which will
align text on the left and dates and numbers on the right. Changing the Text Align value will affect the
alignment of text in all Objects based on the Table (Forms, Reports etc.).
Text Format
This is only available in Memo fields and allows you to choose whether you store data as Plain Text
or Rich Text. The Rich Text option allows you to format text using bold, underline etc. Text is
stored as HTML.
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Calculated Field Properties (Access 2010 only)
This is where you enter the expression which determines the value in this field. This can include values
from one or more fields, operators, functions etc. For example you could create an expression that
works out the length of time someone has worked for a company by calculating the difference between
the date they were employed and today’s date.
Click on the Build button
to create the expression using the Expression Builder.
Result Type
This is only available for Calculated fields and this is where you choose the data type for the value in
the calculation field. Additional field properties will be available for the Calculated field depending on
which data type is chosen.
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Importing Data
If you have existing data in an acceptable form, you can import it into Access using the Import wizard.
This might be a text file, a spreadsheet or another database. For example, data can be imported from
an Excel spreadsheet to create a new table in your database or to append data to an existing table – the
columns become the fields and the rows become records in the new table.
Importing data from Excel
Preparing to import from Excel
The spreadsheet data should be organised in the following way:
The first row of the worksheet should contain the column headings that will become your field names.
You should therefore ensure that these observe Access field naming conventions. See page 4 for more
There should be no blank rows in the dataset, particularly between the column headings and the
first row of data.
There should be no other data on the worksheet apart from the dataset.
To append records to an existing table, the field names and data types must match the fields in the
table to which you wish to append the record. Appending records is not covered in this workbook.
Importing data to create a new table
1. Go to the External Data tab.
2. Click on the Import Excel spreadsheet button
3. Use the Browse button to locate the folder that contains the file with the data you want to import.
The option to Import the source data into a new table in the current database is selected by
4. Click OK.
5. The wizard will automatically select the first worksheet to import. If necessary, select a different
6. Click Next.
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7. If not already ticked, tick the First Row Contains Column Headings to enable Access to set up
the field names for your table and click Next.
8. You now have the option to add indexes to fields, change data types or to choose not to import a
specific field by selecting each field in turn and changing the Field Options above. However, these
can be changed once the table has been created.
9. Click Next.
10. You can now allow Access to add a primary key field with an AutoNumber data type or to use an
existing field. Whether you have a suitable field will depend on the specific data you are using.
11. Click Next.
12. The final step is to name your table. Access will offer the name of the Excel worksheet by default,
but this can be changed if you wish.
13. Click Finish. The table will now be created.
Helpful hint:
On the last screen there is an option to Save Import Steps. This allows you to save the process so that it
can be repeated in future. So for example, you could repeat the above process when new wards are created.
Click on Saved Imports on the External Data tab to access any previously saved processes.
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Lookup fields
A lookup field is a field which ‘looks up’ its values from a particular source. This might be a set of values
from a field in another table or query (a record source) or a set of values which you type in (a value list).
When entering data in datasheet view, the values appear in a drop-down field known as a combo box.
Creating a lookup field from a record source in another table automatically creates a relationship
between the two tables in a similar way to creating relationships between tables in the Relationship
Window. However, no referential integrity rules will be applied.
Advantages of using a lookup
Lookups make data-entry easier and reduce the chances of errors caused by mistyping. They can also
be used to restrict the data that can be entered in a field by limiting data-entry to the values on the
drop-down list. Using a table or query as a lookup is particularly useful, because when you change the
values in the table upon which the Lookup is based, the values in the drop-down list in the lookup field
are also updated.
Lookup tables
A lookup table is a table which is created with the specific purpose of being used to create values for a
drop-down list in another table. A lookup table will have a One-to-Many relationship with the related
table. For example, a lookup table might contain a list of wards which will appear as a drop-down list
in the patients table.
A lookup table may also contain additional fields with further information about the records. For
example, the ward lookup table mentioned above might also contain information about number of
beds, location etc. of each ward.
More than one field can be added to the drop-down list that displays for the user in the Datasheet view
of the table. However, only the value in the linked field from the lookup table will actually be stored in
the related table (e.g. the field containing the ward name). This field should be unique and will usually
be the primary key field in the lookup table.
Using the lookup wizard
The easiest way to create a lookup field is to use the Lookup wizard. This appears as a Data Type option
in Table Design view but isn’t a data type as such. Choosing this option invokes the lookup wizard
which guides you through the process of
creating your Lookup field.
In the Data Type column for the relevant
field, select Lookup Wizard. The first page
of the Lookup wizard will appear as shown.
Creating your own value list
1. Select I will type in the values that I want
and click Next.
2. Enter the number of columns you want in
the list in the Number of columns box.
3. Click in the first row of the Col 1 column
and type in your first value.
4. Press the Tab key to move down to the next
row and type in your next value.
5. Continue until all your values have been entered and click the Next button.
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6. Ensure the correct field name is displayed for your lookup column and then click Finish.
The lookup field will be created as shown in Datasheet view on the right.
Helpful hint: The Data Type for the field is set to Text by default.
Creating a lookup based on another table
1. Invoke the Lookup Wizard as described
2. Select I want the lookup column to
look up the values in a table or query
and click Next.
3. Select the table you wish to use as your
lookup table and click Next.
4. Select the fields you wish to include in
your drop-down list by clicking on the
field and then clicking on the
Helpful hint:
The first field you select should always be the
field you wish to use to link to the related table
(usually the primary key field). You can also add
additional fields to be displayed in the drop-down
5. Click on Next.
The data in the field(s) you selected will be
displayed in columns as shown. You can
re-size the columns as you would in a
table in Datasheet view. Bear in mind that
additional records added to the lookup
table will need to fit the columns.
6. The Hide key column check box appears
above the columns if the first column is
the primary key field in your lookup table.
Tick this column to hide the primary key
value in the drop-down list. If, for
example, the primary key is an
AutoNumber and therefore not meaningful
when entering data, you may wish to hide
it. Only the other selected fields will
appear in the drop-down list in Datasheet
7. Click on Next.
8. Ensure the correct field name is displayed for your lookup column and then click Finish. The
lookup field will be created.
Helpful hint:
The data type for the field is set to the same data type as the linked field from the lookup table by default.
The values will appear in the drop-down list sorted in the order of the linked field by default.
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Editing the lookup properties of a field
Once a lookup field has been created you may
want to make changes to it. For example, you
may wish to change the width of the columns
in the drop-down list or restrict the user to
entering only values which appear on the list.
1. In Table Design view, click on the relevant
lookup field to select it.
Build button
2. Click on the Lookup tab in the Field
Properties pane:
Changing column widths
The Column Widths box lists the widths of the columns displayed in the combo box drop-down list
separated by semi-colons. If there is a primary key column and it is hidden, this is displayed first with a
size of zero.
To display the hidden column:
Click in the box and change the value to something appropriate greater than zero.
To increase or decrease a column width:
Click in the box and modify the size of the appropriate column.
Note that the combined width of all the columns is dictated by the List Width property so you may
need to alter this as well.
Modifying the row source
If the Row Source Type is Value List, the Row Source Field Property box will list the values you typed in
separated by semicolons. You can modify the value list by adding new values (always followed by semicolons) or editing existing ones.
If the Row Source Type is Table/Query the Row Source Field Property box will contain the code that Access
uses to define which fields are included in the lookup field.
To modify the row source:
1. Click in the Row Source box.
The Build button
will appear.
2. Click on the Build button.
The query that the lookup field is based on will appear.
3. Modify the query as required.*
4. Click on the Close button to close the query
5. When prompted, click Yes to save the changes you have made.
*For example, to change the sort order of the drop-down list:
1. Click in the Sort row for the relevant field.
2. Select Ascending or Descending from the drop-down list.
Limit to list
This indicates whether the user can enter their own values in the lookup field or whether they are
limited to those on the drop-down list. This is set to Yes by default if the bound column of the lookup
field is a primary key and No by default if the bound column is not a primary key or if the lookup is
based on a value list.
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For example, a lookup field in tbl_nurse which looks up Ward information from tbl_ward would, by
default, have the Limit to List property set to Yes if the bound column is WardNumber (the primary
key in tbl_ward).
You can change the Limit to List property if required.
Helpful hint: You cannot change the Limit To List property to Yes if the bound column is hidden.
Allow Value List Edits and List Items Edit Form
Set Allow Value List Edits to Yes to allow users to make changes to the values on the drop-down list
whilst they are entering new records. If the drop-down list is linked to a table or query, you can specify
a form under List Items Edit Form which can be used to add new items (in the example above this
would be a form based on the Wards table). When the user right-clicks on the lookup field they will be
offered the option to Edit List Items which, if selected, will bring up the appropriate form.
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Modifying the Data Design of a Table
To modify any changes to the design of a table, you need to open the relevant table and click on the
Design button.
In Design view you can add new fields, change the properties of existing fields and delete fields that are
no longer required.
If you make changes to thr properties of fiels which already contain data, upi will to consider whether
he existing daa meets the nw settings. Access will display warning messages to ndicate that your data
could be changd with the new properties.
With changes to the field information, whither data types or properties, ensure that you save your
updates. If you have made changes to certain fields, for example changing or adding a validation rule,
you will see the following messages when you have saved your changes:
If you click Yes, then Access will check if any existing records do not meet your validation rule criteria.
It will not tell you which ones or how many.
You will see the above message if any of your records do not meet the criteria specified in your
validation rule.
1. If you click Yes then Access will keep your new setting and continue testing
2. If you click No then the new setting will not be kept
3. Click Cancel, to keep the new setting, but stop testing
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If you make changes to the field size, then the following message will appear:
If you are sure that your existing data will meet the new settings, then you would select the Yes option.
The default is No so if you hit the Enter key, no changes will be made.
Be careful! If you change to a shorter field size, some of the existing text may be deleted.
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If your database contains more than one table, it is necessary to define how the tables are related.
Tables can be related by linking a field in each table. The links or relationships are used to define how
the tables interact with each other when being searched.
One-to-many relationships
The most common relationship is a One-to-Many relationship. A record in one table is linked to one or
more records in another table. This is done by storing a value from a particular field (usually the Primary
Key field) of the record on the ‘One’ side of this relationship in a field in the related record on the ‘Many’
side. This field is known as a Foreign Key. A foreign key will not be unique in a One-to-Many
relationship. The table on the ‘One’ side of the relationship is known as the Primary Table.
In a hospital database, one ward may have many nurses but each nurse is assigned to only one ward. In
this scenario, information relating to wards is stored in one table with one record for each ward. The
primary key for each ward might be WardNumber. Information about nurses is stored in a separate
table. In addition to fields containing nurse data, such as their name and address, job title, etc., the
nurse table also contains a Foreign Key field which stores the ward number value for the ward for that
particular Nurse.
One-to-one relationships
This would be created when data relating to one subject is split across two different tables but each
record in the first table would only link to one record in another. This is done where particular fields
are only required for some of the records in a table.
If the tables are linked using the Primary Key value from the first table, this value could be stored in a
field in the second table which is also the primary key for that table because there will be no duplication
of values. One-to-One relationships are created in the same way as One-to-Many relationships (see
Creating relationships on page 23).
Some (but not all) patients are included in a particular research study. Rather than creating additional
fields in the primary table which would be empty for most patients, an additional table is created to
store records for just those patients in the study. Both tables might have a field for the patient’s
hospital number (the primary key) and these would be linked to form the relationship between them.
Many-to-many relationships
In this situation a record in one table needs to be linked to several records in another table and each of
these records might link to several records in the first table. In order to create these relationships, a
table known as a Junction Table is created which links the two Primary Tables. In addition to any other
fields the junction table may contain it will have two Foreign Key fields to display the data from the
primary key fields of the tables it is linking. Each of the primary tables is on the ‘One’ side of a One-tomany relationship with the junction table.
Over time, one Patient might be admitted to many wards and each ward might admit many patients.
The same patients might be admitted to the same ward at different times. These could be linked by
having an additional table for admissions in which each record would include a field for the PatientID
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from the patient table and a field for the WardNumber field from the ward table as well as the date of
that particular admission and any other relevant information relating to it. The diagram below
illustrates this relationship:
Creating relationships
Preparing to create relationships
In order to create a relationship between two tables the following rules must be observed:
Both the tables must be in the same database.
Both fields you wish to link must have the same data type (AutoNumber fields are regarded as
Number fields in this regard).
If the matching fields are number fields, they must also have the same Field Size Property settings.
Creating relationships between tables
1. Close all tables which are to be linked. You cannot create or modify relationships
between open tables.
2. On the Database Tools tab, click on the Relationships button.
The Relationship Tools Design tab will appear.
3. Click on the Show Table button. The Show Table dialog
box will appear:
4. In the Show Tables dialog box, ensure the Tables tab is
5. Select the tables to be related and click on Add to add them to the
Relationships window.
6. Click on Close to close the Show Table dialog box.
7. The Relationship window displays the tables to be linked.
The Primary Keys are marked with a key symbol.
8. To create a relationship between two tables, click and
drag between the two common fields in the table. The
Relationship dialog box will be displayed as shown
Helpful Hint:
Always drag from the primary table to the secondary table i.e.
from the table in which the field you are linking is the primary
key. In this example, drag from tbl_ward to tbl_nurse.
It is necessary to define the type of relationship for each link:
1. Click Enforce Referential Integrity if required (see Referential integrity on page 24 for further
2. Click on Create.
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3. A line now joins the fields and the two tables are linked between the common fields.
4. Close the Relationships window to return to the Database Window.
Viewing or editing existing relationships
On the Database Tools tab, click on the Relationships button.
2. Double click the relationship line (see above) to display the Relationships dialog box. A thick
line indicates referential integrity (see Referential integrity on page 24).
1 – indicates the one side of a one-to-many relationship.
∞ – indicates the many side on a one-to-many relationship.
Helpful Hint:
You can modify the structure of a table from the Relationships window by right-clicking on the table and
selecting Table Design from the menu.
Removing relationships between tables
Close all tables which are to be linked.
On the Database Tools tab, click on the Relationships button.
Right-click on the line linking the two tables you want to unlink.
Select Delete from the shortcut menu.
Confirm by clicking on Yes.
Referential integrity
Referential Integrity is used to ensure that records in related tables are valid and that you don’t
accidentally delete or change related data.
In order to be able to enforce referential integrity between two tables, the matching field from the
primary table must be a primary key field or have a unique index (no duplicates).
If the Enforce Referential Integrity option is selected the following rules will apply when creating or editing
When entering a record in the related table, the value on which the link is based must already exist
in the primary table.
For example, if you are adding a new patient record to the patient table (which is related to the
ward table), the patient can only be allocated a ward name if it already exists in the ward table.
You cannot delete a record from a primary table if matching records still exist in the related table.
For example, you could not delete a ward record if a patient record still exists for that ward.
You cannot change the value in the primary table linking field if a matching record exists in the
secondary table.
For example, you could not change the value in the Ward_Name field of the ward table after you
have already created a patient record and entered that Ward_Name in the foreign key field for the
If you try to break any of these rules, Access will display an error message.
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Enforcing referential integrity
1. Double-click on the Relationship line to display the Relationships dialog box.
2. Tick the Enforce Referential Integrity check box.
3. The following options are also available:
Cascade Update
Related fields
Select this option to ensure that when you change the primary key value of
a primary record, the related records are also changed. For example, if you
change a Ward Number in the Ward Table then any related Ward Number
in the Nurse Table would be updated.
Cascade Delete
Related Records
Select this option to ensure that when you delete a record in a primary
table, that the related records are also deleted. For example, if a Ward was
deleted from the Ward Table, then any related nurse in the Nurse Table
would automatically be deleted.
Join Properties
A relationship created between two tables can have one of three join types. The type of join can
determine which records are shown when queries are run. By default, Access chooses the first join type
shown : This option will not display records that do not have a matching record in both tables.
In the example shown above, a relationship between the Ward Table and the Nurse_table has been
created. The results of each join type are explained below:
1. Inner Join: Shows records where the Ward Number field has matching values in both table ie
will only shown Ward Numbers for which there are nurses.
2. Left Outer Join: Shows all records from left side of join (Wards) and only the matching
records on right side (where contents of the joined fields are equal).
3. Right Outer Join: Shows all nurses, even if no ward has been assigned to some of them yet.
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Table: Wards
Table: Nurses
1. Inner Join: Shows records where the
Ward Number field has matching
values in both table ie will only shown
Ward Numbers for which there are
2. Left Outer Join: Shows all records
from left side of join (Wards) and only
the matching records on right side
(where contents of the joined fields are
3. Right Outer Join: Shows all nurses,
even if no ward has been assigned to
some of them yet.
Viewing Sub Datasheets
When a relationship has been created between One to One or One to Many tables, Access will
automatically create a sub datasheet. This information is useful for navigating to specific records in
related fields.
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Click on the + or – symbols to expand and collapse and view the related records from the ‘Many’ table.
Data can be amended in either the table originally opened or the related data being viewed as a sub
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