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How to Make an Inventory Database in Microsoft Access

Microsoft Access makes it easy to build an inventory database to keep track of your inventory numbers. Thankfully, there are prebuilt inventory databases to take advantage of. Templates save time and money, but it’s possible that you might not find what you need. If this is the case, you can purchase a premium template or hire a database company like Arkware to build one for you. 

If you’d like to try and build your own inventory database, here are the steps to follow. 

Consider the needs of your business. 

Before creating a database, think about what it will need to be useful for your business. Consider who will be using the database and plan accordingly. This means you’ll need to brainstorm what aspects of inventory are most important such as part or product names, quantities, vendors, locations, etc. 

Also determine how to implement your inventory database, such as by using an SaaS or cloud product. You’ll also want to consider how your MS database will interact with other programs. Your IT staff should be able to provide this information to you. 

Create your database.  

Once Microsoft Access is installed on your computer, you can get to work creating your database. You can create your own database or choose a template like the Goods web database that lets you manage inventory, ship effectively and cut costs. If this template fits your needs, you can save a lot of time using it. All you have to do is enter the following: 

  • Company information
  • Employee information
  • Products, categories and suppliers
  • Inventory levels
  • Orders 

If you plan on creating your own database, start with a blank database. You can add fields, tables or application parts like ‘units ordered’ or ‘units received.’ You can also create queries, forms, reports or macros. Once the database is set up, you’ll need to move data into your database by entering, pasting or importing the information. 

Fine tune your database to fit your needs.

Whether you use a template or build a database from scratch, you’ll need to fine tune it according to your notes. Link or establish relationships between the fields and determine which values you’ll need to have returned when using the database. Also create a way to store these values. This will help you avoid duplicate data in multiple fields. 

The final step is to populate your inventory database with information. You might also want to use additional technologies to structure queries for databases. If you decide to do this, we recommend delegating this work to a database expert. This way, you can ensure everything is set up appropriately. 

Schedule a Consultation with Arkware

Arkware can help you build an inventory database that will help your business run efficiently. Contact us today for a consultation and let’s chat about your new database and what you hope to see from it. 

 

Microsoft Access – The Basics

Microsoft Access – The Basics

Easy Development for Non-Developers

As is typical of the many applications developed by Microsoft, MS Access has been designed to be intuitive for the user.   With many in-program wizards, help screens, drag and drop features, and even online training tools provided by Microsoft, it is easy to get started in MS Access.

Access Video Training

What you need to start: MS Office Versions with MS Access

Microsoft Access is a low-cost and easy-to-use database development application that is included with specific versions of Microsoft Office.   Modern MS Office packages where MS Access is included are 2019, 2016, & 2013 in both the Professional and Professional Plus editions.   For MS Office 365, the minimum licenses that include MS Access are Business Standard and Microsoft 365 Apps.

Free, Runtime Use

To do development, or to make alterations to an existing database, a full version of MS Access is required.   However, the free, MS Access runtime package allows an MS Access database to be distributed to users who do not have the full version of Access installed.  See Run Time Download 1; Run TIme Download 2

Start with a Template

To give you a jumpstart, Microsoft has many free MS Access database templates available for download so you can quickly begin customizing your first database to meet your needs.  There are many options to pick from, but one of them is certain to help you hit the ground running.  

Perhaps a few simple modifications could get you the outcome you desire.  

Not seeing what you need?   Arkware is your answer. 

Arkware has provided MS Access services to many different industries.   If you need a full, low-cost package from start to finish, or if you are stuck in one of the finer details of MS Access, please let us know and we would be glad to help. We are your MS Access experts!! 

 

Poor Practices in Database Design

A program like Microsoft Access makes it easy to build a database that is fast and optimized. You can choose from the available templates or create your own. If you use a template, all you need to do is plug in your information and voila! If your needs are more complex, you can hire a database expert like Arwkare to build a personalized database. 

However what happens when you’ve already paid someone to build your database and they didn’t do an adequate job? Unfortunately, this happens. If your database isn’t running as well as it should, it’s possible that it has a poor design with one or more of these practices. 

Poor Normalization 

Database normalization is the process of structuring a database to avoid redundant or duplicate information. Unfortunately, some databases are designed on the fly without following the rules of normalization. 

At the very least, all databases should be normalized to third normal form. With this setup, each column of a table will be dependent on the primary identifier. If your database doesn’t comply with first, second or third normal form, consider redesigning these tables. We promise – it will pay off in the long run! 

Improper Naming 

We’re not going to get into the details on how to best name things as this is a topic in itself. What we want to stress is the need for consistency. The names you choose for your database are not just for identifying objects but also to allow future programmers, users, etc. to quickly and easily understand your database. In other words, no one should have to read an exhaustive manual to find out what a name means.

Lack of Documentation 

When you carefully name your objects, columns and so forth, it makes it clear to everyone what your database is modeling. Follow a consistent naming standard as well as definitions on tables, columns, relationships and default and check constraints. Poor design tends to have a lack of documentation, and this makes it difficult for users to understand your database. 

Not Using Stored Procedures 

Stored procedures refer to SQL code that is saved to be used over and over again. While procedures might take a bit more effort at first, they’re worth it in the long run. Stored procedures offer the following advantages: 

  • Quick response times because the procedures are created and stored 
  • Option to group all the required SQL statements in a procedure and execute them at once
  • Avoid repetition of code 
  • Use additional SQL functionalities 
  • Use the code in any number of applications 

Lack of Testing 

When it comes to testing, we recommend having a strict testing plan in place. This plan should go through every part of the development process to identify bugs and diagnose and fix problems that would otherwise lead to corruption. Good databases are frequently tested and end up running optimally because of it. 

The best way to ensure a functional, efficient database design is by working with the right team of database development experts. Arkware has decades of experience building, repairing and optimizing databases and we always follow the best practices. Contact us today to discuss your database needs. 

 

Microsoft Access Tips and Tricks Part 2 – Forms

In our previous blog, we highlighted some tips and tricks within Microsoft Access. In this article, we highlight some additional tips and tricks when using Access forms. The below features are available in Access 2016 and higher.

Viewing a form in Layout View

When using Access forms, the user tends to either be in the “Form View” or “Design View”.  The design view allows for physical layout changes of the form.  The form view is primarily used to enter data or run reports via command buttons.  

However, there is another viewing option within Access called the “Layout View”. The layout view is only available for use with tabular forms.  The tabular view is a combination of design and form view. As noted in Figure 1, a nice option is that the user can select a form control while seeing the actual data.  The user can then resize or move a control while viewing actual live data.  This saves time by not having to keep switching between the form view and design view.

Figure 1

Conditional Formatting Option

Conditional formatting is often dominated in use in Microsoft Excel.  However, Microsoft Access also has this feature within Access forms and reports.  The idea behind conditional formatting is that a field or fields meets some condition(s) and then some sort of formatting can be done on the control.

For example, in Figure 2, if the quantity field in the form is greater than 100, the control color would be set to bold with the color red.  Another option, and there are several, is if the field has the focus on the form, the background color can be changed to a certain background color.  This condition is beneficial when tabbing through a form to know which field has the focus.    

Figure 2

Setting the Default Formatting for a Specific Control

Changing form control formatting can be time consuming.  When creating form after form, you may tend to use the same formatting features.  Access has default settings, but these are set at the program level. Altering the field properties may involve making many changes to that specific control.  Having to do this repeatedly, can be time consuming if the form has several controls to change.  

An option buried in the formatting bar as noted in Figure 3 is the “Set Control Defaults” option.  The process to use this feature is first formatting a control to the way the user wants it to look.  For example, you may want to have a field that has the sunken affect, using the arial font and is bold.  

Once the control is formatted the way the user desires, select the control and then select the “Set Control Defaults” option.  Then, going forward all field controls that are added to the form are then formatted in the with the same features, reducing the steps of formatting itself.

Figure 3

These are just a few time saving tips when using Access Forms.  If you are having trouble knowing how to get started with Microsoft Access, reach out to Arkware today for any database needs. 

 

How to Repair a Corrupted Access Database

Is your Microsoft Access database giving you problems? If your database has become corrupt, is having trouble opening or is prone to errors, rest assured that there are ways to get back on track with an efficient, reliable database. 

The Arkware team has extensive experience recovering MS Access databases. We’ve recovered many databases for our customers and can likely do the same for you! We have some tips to help you recover your database on your own, but if you’re unsuccessful, give us a call and we’ll be happy to assist. 

What Causes Database Corruption? 

Despite all of the advantages to Microsoft Access, it’s not uncommon for databases to become corrupted. This means that you could lose or damage data at any point in time. The most common causes of lost or damaged database files are: 

  • Hardware failure 
  • Improper shutdown 
  • Virus infection 
  • Interruption in changing data 
  • Third-party plugins
  • Software bugs 

Ways to Fix a Corrupted Database

Digital assets can get corrupted over time, so there are a number of ways to deal with this headache. It’s important to know your options because you can’t use just any tools. It all depends on the reason for the corruption, if you have a backup saved and how comfortable you are at recovery. 

Here are some of the most common ways to repair a corrupted Access database: 

  • Access your backups. The best way to secure yourself against database loss is to create a backup copy. This way, you can restore all of your lost data in one simple step. To do this, open your database, go to the File tab, hit Save As and choose Save Database As >> Backup Database >> Save As.
  • Compact and repair tool. You can also use the Compact and Repair tool to compress your database and restore damaged files. Go to the File tab and choose Compact Repair Database. This is a built-in feature of Access. 
  • Use a professional tool. You can also try a professional tool to repair a corrupt database. Many companies offer them, though not all are created equal. And, because you have to pay for these tools, you don’t want to invest in something that doesn’t work. Contact Arkware for a list of approved tools to help with database repair. 

If your database isn’t working the way it should, it’s possible that it’s corrupted and needs to be repaired. These tools are effective, but it helps to know what’s wrong with your database in the first place. To have your database analyzed and repaired, contact Arkware today. 

 

Building A Microsoft Access Database

Where do I Start?

A general rule for creating a database (or a database feature) is to envision the minimum solution needed to satisfy the goal.   Keeping it simple applies especially to beginners.   If you want to build a system for Tracking Sales Leads, don’t add in building a Customer Service database or Billing System at the same time.   Then, once your new application is working well, you can add new features and integrate other business aspects into the design.   

Before you start, it is good practice to plan out your development so you can always envision your goals and avoid unnecessary hurdles.    Getting your team members involved will also help to define the project as well as increase buy-in to use of a new system.  

MS Access database designs should always begin with some simple concepts related to your organization:

1. Define the Goals

What challenge(s) will the database resolve? 

  • How will the organization benefit?   i.e., streamlining process, enforcing strict paths of work, single source recordkeeping
  • How will the users benefit?   i.e., organized data, quicker retrieval of data, less redundant data entry
  • How will the customers benefit? i.e., comprehensive/consistent reporting, faster customer service, better tracking of history

2. Define the Workflows on Paper

  • Write down the steps necessary in your ideal workflow.  For example, in a system for Tracking Sales Leads, write down the full list of the ideal steps from a sales lead all the way through to closing a sale.  There may be exceptions to the ideal path that need to be addressed.  It is often a good idea to address these exceptions once the new system is proven to work well for a majority of the cases. 

3. Design Tables and Data Fields on paper

  • Tables are the building blocks of the database and should include all the data you are hoping to manage in your new system.  Typically, all the data points that are included in your forms and reports will be represented in a field within a table.  In a Sales Lead Tracking database, you might include tables and fields such as:
      1. Organization – Including Organization Name, Address, Address2, City, State, Zip, Phone, etc.
      2. Contact – Including First Name, Last Name, Phone, Email, etc.
      3. Lead Source – Including Source Name, etc.
      4. Lead Status – Including Status, etc.
      5. Lead Details – Date of Lead, Product or Service of Interest, Notes, etc.
      6. Team Member – Initials, First Name, Last Name, etc.

4. Design Forms and Reports on Paper

  • Your forms and reports are going to be your gateways to putting data into the system, managing the data that is in the system and pulling data out of the system.  Gather all the applicable forms and reports that you already use or sketch up the ones you will need.  Ensure that all your essential data is captured on these documents.

In our next article, we will discuss how to create your tables in MS Access.