Author: Curtis D. Frye
Publisher: Microsoft Press
Aimed at: Novice users
Pros: Some well described concepts if you’ve not used a database befor
Cons: lives up to its name and doesn’t go beyond what you’d expect from a basic manual
Reviewed by: Kay Ewbank
Can a database ever be plain and simple? Probably not, but this book tries its hardest to make it so.
As you’d expect from the title, it is aimed at relative novices, but it would be useful if you were moving to Access from another database.
The book starts with a whizz through what’s new in Access 2010 before going through an intro to Access skimming through creating a database, fields, tables, forms, queries and reports. There’s a chapter on beautifying forms and reports, another on charts. All cover the basics in a step by step fashion, none go much beyond the straightforward. There’s a relatively lengthy chapter on interacting with other programs - importing data from Excel, XML, saving database objects as web files, analysing data with Excel, publishing to Word, and collecting data from e-mail messages. There’s a chapter on administering a database - encrypting, locking, and setting startup options, and another chapter on customising Access by changing the commands and options on the Quick Access toolbar and Office ribbon. Finally, the book ends with a look at how to present table and query data dynamically using pivot tables and pivot charts. Whether anyone who needs to know how to use the form design wizard would be able to cope with pivot tables is another matter.
The layout of the book works very well for those situations where there’s a lot to see. For example, on the page describing creating a form using the form wizard, the screen shots are legible, and because they’re in full colour, you get a direct comparison to what’s on your screen. The steps are linked to the shots by use of numbered arrows, so when you’re told ‘click the Tables/Queries down arrow’, you can see exactly where you’re meant to be clicking - not always obvious from icons. In other situations, the layout results in a lot of white space on the page as there are few if any pages with more than a single paragraph of text and a set of step by step instructions.
Access 2010 Plain and Simple seems to me pretty good on the basics. It doesn’t try to do more than that, so that referential integrity (for example) gets a single page on how to do it, with the ‘why’ limited to a couple of sentences. The section on queries covers the wizard, simple criteria, calculated values, parameter queries, duplicates, unmatched records, update and crosstab queries, but there’s not even a mention that the SQL view exists or how it can be used and why it’s useful. There are similar omissions in all the sections, but they’d probably scare off the intended audience anyway. If you need a book to help someone through the initial stages of learning how to use Access 2010, this is a reasonable choice.