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By Bonnie Bills | Thursday, July 08, 2010

Office 2010 for Business: Focus on Access

lynda.com has been rolling out courses on Office 2010 since the suite launched in May, and there are already more than 50 hours of Office 2010 training in the lynda.com Online Training Library┬« covering all the core applications and SharePoint! I have been talking with our incredibly talented and enthusiastic group of Office 2010 authors about their experiences with this latest version. Today’s Q&A, the last in the series, features Alicia Katz Pollock, author ofAccess 2010 New Features, Access 2010 Essential Training, and Access 2010 Real World Projects.

Q: Access 2010 is touted as a simple product that you can use even if you’re not a database expert. What features can inexperienced users take advantage of to get up and running with Access?

A: While getting started with Microsoft Access isn’t as easy as sitting down and typing a document in Word, Access provides you a variety of tools to get started building your own database solution. First, take advantage of the sample database templates, such as the contact management tools. If you’re starting from scratch, Access’s Application Parts and Quick Start menus have predesigned tables and forms to provide the most common fields and configurations. And last, a new feature is that field data types and validation options are now available right on the Ribbon so you can easily see them and take advantage of proper database techniques.

Q: An issue most businesses wrestle with is how to get data out of databases and into the hands of busy managers in a format they can use and understand. What kind of tools does Access 2010 have for presenting data to the decision makers who need to act on it?

A: It’s easy to create an attractive, modern-looking report just by clicking a few buttons. Click on a table or a query containing the information you want on the printed report, and click the Report button. Voil├á, a report ready to send to the printer. And if you want more control, including subtotals or your logo, click on the Report Wizard and answer its questions. Once you’re done, you can further refine the appearance by dragging the reports table cells to rearrange and resize them. Last, if you need the data moved into another data reporting tool, it’s easy to export into .xls, .csv, .txt, .xml, and .html using the Data ribbon.

Q: For users migrating from Access 2003 to Access 2010, they’ll have a new interface experience. What can you tell folks who might be nervous about the Ribbon interface? How has the Ribbon improved from 2007 to 2010?

A: The Ribbon is one of the best things to ever happen to Microsoft Office. In fact, when Microsoft polled users about what features they wanted to see, 90 percent of them were already in the program, but buried three menus deep. The Ribbons give you instant access to just about every feature in the program, yet are nice to look at and easy to understand.

One of the best Ribbon improvements from 2007 to 2010 is that they unburied all your table-building tools, so that you don’t have to go into Design view to use techniques like data types and validation rules.

Q: What’s your favorite feature in Access 2010 and why?

A: My favorite feature in Access 2010 is the new Record Validation tool. You’ve always been able to determine if acceptable data was entered into one field, but now you can compare data within two fields in a record to make sure your data was entered correctly. For example, you can now confirm that the “End Date” is after the “Start Date.” For us nitpicky data analysts, that brings comfort and security.

But on second thought, my favorite feature may just be the new and improved Macro builder interface. You no longer have to know code to build macros!

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