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Highlighting important data with conditional formatting

From: Access 2010: Real-World Projects

Video: Highlighting important data with conditional formatting

Here's the challenge. You have lots of data. That's what you're storing it in Access 2010. And yet, the more data you have, the harder it is to represent that data in ways that make it understandable, particularly for people who only work with the data set infrequently. Most people cannot look at a table full of numbers and understand what those numbers mean. Conditional Formatting was one of the most exciting enhanced features in Excel 2007. Access 2010 includes some of those same data visualization features.

Highlighting important data with conditional formatting

Here's the challenge. You have lots of data. That's what you're storing it in Access 2010. And yet, the more data you have, the harder it is to represent that data in ways that make it understandable, particularly for people who only work with the data set infrequently. Most people cannot look at a table full of numbers and understand what those numbers mean. Conditional Formatting was one of the most exciting enhanced features in Excel 2007. Access 2010 includes some of those same data visualization features.

So we're going to use our Order Summary report to see how some of these features work. As you can tell, we have lots and lots of data in this report, every order that's been placed since we began in business. In order to apply Conditional Formatting, we need first to switch to Layout View in our report. We get four new tabs Report Layout Tools. We're going to switch to Format and then we're going to apply some simple Conditional Formatting to the Order Total column. There are two types of Conditional Formatting. The first type, simple Conditional Formatting, provides highlights for the value that we've selected.

The second type of Conditional Formatting, Data Visualization, is used to compare one record to another. So we're going to apply some simple Conditional Formatting by creating some rules to apply to our Order Total. So we're going to say when the Field Value for Order Total is greater than or equal to 500, that would be what we call a large order, we're going to apply some formatting. We're going to bold the font, we're going to change the color from the standard Black here to a Blue, that's actually out of our theme palette, and we're going to change the Background color.

That's what it will look like. You can see it would look different than our standard text here in the reports. So let's say OK. Here's our rule. Let's click Apply just to have a preview of how that looks. It's fairly clear that those values now, that are over $500, stand out quite nicely from the other Order Totals. We can create another rule now for orders that are our midrange orders, orders that are less than 500, but more than 300, and we don't have to close the dialog box, we can simply say let's create a new rule when the field value is greater than 300.

Let's choose that same Blue font and let's choose a lighter color in the Background and let's make it Bold. Say OK and apply it. Both the orders over 300 and the orders over 500 stand out apart from the orders that are smaller, but I don't think there's enough of a visual distinction between the $300 orders and $500 orders. So let's go back and edit this rule and just tone it down a little bit by unbolding that font.

Let's say OK and apply it and notice now that we can easily tell orders that are below 300, 300-500, and above 500 all standout. If we wanted even more distinction, we could go back and make this back color even a little bit lighter. There's some nice formatting. So that's simple Conditional Formatting allows us to create rules and apply it to this set of values in this column, so that we can tell one value from another very easily.

Let's take a look at how this will look when we switch back to our Report View. Make sure that we like our formatting. It looks good. Let's now take a look at that second kind of Conditional Formatting, called Data Visualization. We'll switch back to Layout View and we're going to use Data Visualization to help us take a look at our product spread. If we take a look at this very first order, you'll notice that this order, which was close to $500, had 35 items, 35 things pulled off the shelf off in the warehouse or placed into this order bucket, but that those 35 things were only 10 total products.

So we might if we had five of one thing, seven of another. If we take a look at this order, 19 items, but only 4 total products. So what we'd like to do is to start to get a handle on our product spread on the number of different kinds of products that customers are including orders. Particularly, in large orders, because this will help us better understand what we should make available online and whether we are actually carrying the right product mix. So we're going to choose the Total Products column here and we're going to move back into our Layout View, on the Format tab, choose Conditional Formatting and on the Item Count column here, we're going to create a new rule.

Now, we don't want it simply highlight each of the values that meets a particular condition, we want to look at how these records compare to each other, so by choosing a Compare to other records rule type, we get access to the Data Bar format settings. A Data Bar creates a small bar in a column that has a low value and a very large bar in a column that has a high value. So we can choose whatever color we wish for the Data Bar, and I think we'll use a color similar to the colors that were already using and click OK and let's now Apply this and see how it actually looks.

So notice that we get very large bar here where 10 products were ordered, a very small bar here where only two products were ordered. We could actually edit this rule and say I don't even care about the number anymore, I just want to see the Data Bar and if we apply that, notice that the numbers are hidden and only the bar shows. Let's go back and show the number as well and let's see what this will look like in our Report View.

So in our report now, our managers can easily take a look at orders, they can pick out the largest orders, and the midsized orders based on the amount that a customer spent. They can then do some ad hoc analysis about the product mix that was ordered in each of the individual orders. By using Data Bars and the simple Conditional Formatting, we've made our reports more accessible, particularly for folks who don't engage with this data on a day-to-day basis. Use the new Data Visualization Features and Conditional Formatting in Access 2010 to make all of the data in your reports and tables easier for all your users to comprehend.

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Access 2010: Real-World Projects

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Gini Courter
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