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Setting Up a Database in Excel 2010
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Understanding design concepts for setting up large lists


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Setting Up a Database in Excel 2010

with Dennis Taylor

Video: Understanding design concepts for setting up large lists

Excel has no hard and fast rules about how you build data in worksheet, and if you're setting up a database, whether it's about people, like the one we see on the screen here, your inventory or orders or shipments, regardless of the environment, a few basic concepts are going to make your use of that data much, much more efficient. In many respects this particular worksheet here embodies the basic principles of what good design should look like. Keep titles in a single row, they don't necessarily have to be in row one.

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Setting Up a Database in Excel 2010
43m 27s Appropriate for all Oct 21, 2011

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In this course, author Dennis Taylor shows how to use Excel for creating a simple database. The course explains the limits of Excel as a data management tool and spells out the design considerations for creating a database. It also demonstrates using tables to simplify database creation as well as the Form and Data Validation tools to manage data.

Topics include:
  • Understanding database design concepts
  • Using the Text to Columns feature
  • Creating fields
  • Using tables
  • Adding total fields
  • Formatting tables with the Design tab
  • Using the Form tool to build and view data
  • Using data validation to restrict data entries
Subjects:
Business Databases
Software:
Excel
Author:
Dennis Taylor

Understanding design concepts for setting up large lists

Excel has no hard and fast rules about how you build data in worksheet, and if you're setting up a database, whether it's about people, like the one we see on the screen here, your inventory or orders or shipments, regardless of the environment, a few basic concepts are going to make your use of that data much, much more efficient. In many respects this particular worksheet here embodies the basic principles of what good design should look like. Keep titles in a single row, they don't necessarily have to be in row one.

If you need to have the company name here, put an empty row above row one, separate it from the rest of the data. In the data itself, don't have any empty rows, don't have any empty columns, that's probably unlikely anyway, don't put in spacing. We're going to see some other worksheets here that violate some of these rules. If you have other date on this worksheet that's necessary to have, for example, we will be using that TaxTable, for example. We need that here, but we don't want a part of our list, and the reason is that many, many times when you're working with large list, your database, you want to do Sorting and Filtering, possibly Subtotals, and use some of the other features available on the data tab.

You might also want to use a Pivot table, found on the Insert tab. To use all of those features most efficiently, keep your data together, single, title row on top, row after row with no empty rows, column after column, no empty columns. Any data off to the right have at least one column to separate that from the data. Notice that you can have empty cells, column J has empty cells and it's totally appropriate based on the description of what's in there that's going to happen, that's not going to be a problem.

And what this means too, if you stick to these rules, is that when you do sorting and filtering and use some of the other features on the data tab, you don't have to constantly highlight all the data before proceeding into those commands, just click on the single cell here. If we start the sort process right now, in the background you can see the data is automatically being highlighted. Now we can't see at all, and so there's one more suggestion I would make here too before using a lot of these different commands, and particularly if you're not too familiar with the data.

A good little step ahead of time with the active cell in your data, press Ctrl+A and then to see how big this entire list is, press Ctrl+Period a few times. Now this seems like strange thing to do, it simply moves the active cell around the corners of the range, and that verifies the data that will be used when you click a single cell and start to do sorting and filtering and the other features. Now the next sheet in this workbook Interim Totals has totals put in here and that's all well and good, and that's interesting information, but if we want to do sorting and filtering and all those other things, these are in the way, we need to get rid of them.

So you will see worksheets like this, and again, many, many times worksheets that don't work so well on Excel in terms of commands we're talking about, have been designed for appearance if for printing reasons or display reasons, and that's not always in sync with the actual need that you have to manipulate the data. The next worksheet over same basic idea really, but here the rows are empty. And the example here is that just brings out the data better, it is much easier to read, that's good. But on the other hand if we want to work with our data efficiently, this is not so good.

So we need to get rid of the empty rows here, quick way to do that, manually select all the data and just sort it and then the empty rows will end up at the bottom. Multi-row titles, we mentioned that's not a great idea either. Fortunately, over the years excels has clean this up a bit, and we've seen cell A2, how the data should look, not Employee, and then Name, take a look what we've got in column D here, Social Security Number and Number. A quick fix here, by the way, if you did see data like this, would be to double-click right in front of the N in Number, type SS and press Alt+Enter, that introduces a line break.

And once you get used to that concept, when you are putting in titles and you don't want the column to be wide, but you don't mind the data stacking up like this, type an entry, press Alt+Enter for a line break, and you can do it multiple times. So ideally you'd be doing that for these other cells over here too, and then get rid of row one, you want to have your titles on a single row. And sometimes you'll see data like this on this sheet here, this is based on a real-life example from a city that I did some work with, I've changed all the pertinent data really, but this is the basic layout in the way this looks.

Again, it's good information but it laid out in such a way that you can't do sorting on it, you can't do filtering. What if we need to add data for the year 2012? How we're going to do that efficiently? You see the way that data is laid out here in column B for the year? Probably this was design for display reasons, people can look things up, that's again, all well and good, but if you want to work with this data efficiently, you have to go through some serious restructuring. And in this example here, probably what you're going to have to do is maybe put in a new column.

For example, imagine in this section, if this data gets bumped to the right, take this data and then put it in here multiple times, then get rid of rows like this, and you get the idea here, we've got some work ahead of us, if we want to turn this into something that's going to be useful in Excel. And so all these different ideas will come together and the worksheet that we first saw here, and even though this is simply an HR list, it could certainly cover the basic idea that we want to see in all worksheets that we're going to be using the data commands.

Titles on a single row, no empty rows, no empty columns on our data.

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