How To Work with Tables In Microsoft Access

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While there are four types of database objects in Access, tables are arguably the most important. Even when you’re using forms, queries, and reports, you’re still working with tables because that’s where all of your data is stored. Tables are at the heart of any database, so it’s important to understand how to use them.

In this lesson, you will learn how to open tables, create and edit records, and modify the appearance of your table to make it easier to view and work with.

Throughout this tutorial, we will be using a sample database. If you would like to follow along, you’ll need to download our Access 2013 sample database. You will need to have Access 2013 installed on your computer in order to open the example.

                                                                 Table basics
    To open an existing table:
1. Open your database, and locate the Navigation pane.
2. In the Navigation pane, locate the table you want to open. Tables are marked with the icon.
3. Double-click the desired table. It will open and appear as a tab in the Document Tabs bar.
Screenshot of Access 2013
        Understanding tables
All tables are composed of horizontal rows and vertical columns, with small rectangles called cells in the places where rows and columns intersect. In Access, rows and columns are referred to as records and fields.

Screenshot of Access 2013

A field is a way of organizing information by type. Think of the field name as a question and every cell within that field as a response to that question.

Screenshot of Access 2013

A record is one unit of information. Every cell on a given row is part of that row’s record. Each record has its own ID number. Within a table, each ID number is unique to its record and refers to all of the information within that record. The ID number for a record cannot be changed.

Screenshot of Access 2013
Each cell of data in your table is part of both a field and a record. For instance, if you had a table of names and contact information, each person would be represented by a record, and each piece of information about each person—name, phone number, address, and so on—would be contained within a distinct field on that record’s row.

  • Click the buttons in the interactive below to learn how to navigate a table.

labeled graphic
     Navigating within tables
To navigate through records in a table, you can use the up and down arrow keys, scroll up and down, or use the arrows in the Record Navigation bar located at the bottom of your table. You can also find any record in the currently open table by searching for it using the record search box. Simply place your cursor in the search box, type any word that appears in the record you want to find, and press the Enter key. To view additional records that match your search, press Enter again.

Screenshot of Access 2013

To navigate between fields, you can use the left and right arrow keys or scroll left and right.

           Adding records and entering data
Entering data into tables in Access is similar to entering data in Excel. To work with records, you’ll have to enter data into cells. If you need help entering data into records, you might want to review our Cell Basics lesson from our Excel 2013 tutorial.

To add a new record:
There are three ways to add a new record to a table:

1. In the Records group on the Home tab, click the New command.
Screenshot of Access 2013
2. On the Record Navigation bar at the bottom of the window, click the New record button.
Screenshot of Access 2013
3. Begin typing in the row below your last added record.
Screenshot of Access 2013
Sometimes when you enter information into a record, a window will pop up to tell you that the information you’ve entered is invalid. This means the field you’re working with has a validation rule, which is a rule about the type of data that can appear in that field. Click OK, then follow the instructions in the pop-up window to re-enter your data.

Screenshot of Access 2013
To save a record:
Access is designed to save records automatically. After you enter a record, you can either select a different record or close the object, and Access will save the record. However, in certain situations you may want to save a record manually. For example, if you needed to edit an existing record, you could save the record to ensure your changes are saved.

Select the Home tab, and locate the Records group.
Click the Save command. The record will be saved.

Screenshot of Access 2013

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