Database Utilization, i.e., Access: Fastest and Easiest (hey, can we throw in Best?) Ways to Learn it?

I have had a particularly useful idea for the development of my own personal software database to not only capture data [I would input it], but to sort it in ways that may involve algorithm's {I'm not sure??} to basically, spit out a specific answer after weighing numerous "categories" and "values."  

I hope that makes sense.  If you're following me, then I'm hoping you can give me some direction.

Please note that I have no experience writing or reading code, nor have I used Access.  I tried it years ago, and found it ridiculously challenging.  I figure they would have made it more user-friendly by now, or perhaps another database software would better serve me in achieving some semblance of my first paragraph?  

What say ye?  Can it be done?  Is there something out there that can do that for me?  And, is there training available so that I can jump in quickly and achieve quick results in the manipulating my data to calculate a multitude of answers based upon the data that I've stored within it, and in very specific ways?  Maybe this is programming, in a sense, but I shouldn't need to know code to do that, should I?

I'm pretty clueless on this stuff, at this point, just flying by the seat of my pants.  Thanks for any input, much appreciated, I look forward to what I hope are some encouraging responses!
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wrmichaelConnect With a Mentor Commented:
I would start by documenting your database structures.  that is really the core of the system.  How you input data and generate reports is really just a matter of programmer opinion and it changes as often as socks...

The actual database you end up with may or may not be what you start with.  

If you have access just put the structures together in it so you can make your prototype to help you sell your idea to your local programmer.
wrmichaelConnect With a Mentor Commented:
Check out file maker or bento.

Also quicken as an online database.

If you had more developer experience I would say SQLite is for you but you replace that with MySQL or even SQL express.  

Visual studio express is free and you can build with that using some tutorials.  

Really depends on your target audience and how secure, available you need the data.

Online tutorials on you tube are great to watch and learn.   Google access tutorial if access is what you are looking for.

Good luck!
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Scott McDaniel (Microsoft Access MVP - EE MVE )Connect With a Mentor Infotrakker SoftwareCommented:
I don't think you limitation would be in the actual DATABASE you use to store your data.

Your limitations would be in the programming language you'd use to manipulate that data. Any of the databases mentioned here would store your data fine.

Maybe this is programming, in a sense, but I shouldn't need to know code to do that, should I?
This is most definitely programming. Storing data in a database is not (although it can be) - using external resources (like Access Forms, .NET, PHP, etc) to pull that data out and present it to the user is most definitely programming, and you'll certainly need to learn coding at some level in order to do this.

If you found Access challenging, then you would most definitely not like .NET (or Visual Studio). It's much more challenging than the Access environment.

Given your self-acknowledged limitations and lack of experience, the best thing you can do is start learning a programming language. I personally think Access is the best choice for this, but of course others have different experiences with this. Access has a HUGE user base, which means there are many, many avenues you can pursue for assistance. It's easy to learn (if you have any sort of database/programming background at all), and is very powerful.

And remember that Access is really a compilation of several different things - it's a database engine, a Forms designer, a Report designer, Macro Designer, etc etc. MSFT just put it all in a single package and made them work together. In order to do that with, say, SQL Server, you'd need to learn SQL Server, a UI platform (like .NET, perhaps) and a Reporting platform (like Crystal or SQL Server Reporting). Access does all those things in a single, tightly coupled package - which makes it much easier to learn quickly.

With all that said:

Please note that I have no experience writing or reading code, nor have I used Access.
That is your single biggest obstacle. You cannot write a complex program using "drag-and-drop" programming and macros. If your needs are simple, you could perhaps do this, but from what I read your needs aren't simple, and applications like this can get very complex very, very quickly.

Here's some MSFT training for Access:

There are many others around, but the best way to learn is to do, so grab some of the templates at the sites below and play around with them:
JeffereenerAuthor Commented:
Ok, wait, I just need to be clear.  You think Filemaker or Bento (never heard of) would be "better" than Access, based on what I want, wrmichael?  And you suggest Quicken as an online database.... presumably that it would be more ideal if I need mobility?

And, I could use some clarification around your SQLite/MySQL/SQL Express statement.... "you replace that with...." I'm not sure what you mean by this part of your comment.  Probably NOT for me, because of no developer experience, but I just want to be clear about my options, if I did want to go down that road.

Is Visual Studio Express capable of giving me what I want?  (You mentioned that I "can build with that," - but does that mean a fairly steep learning curve, or that it would be stretching the limits of this particular program?

Now, your depends on question:  Security no issue at first, but could be down the road, when I get into data that I wouldn't want "out there."  As for how "available" I would want it, that could change.  Begin having it only available and secure, for my own use.  But I may wish to expand to offer some of it's capabilities to friends, if it works, potentially make it available to them, where they enter parameters into my database and get the information they need.  That would be cool, and I can think of several situations -- and friends -- where this could work well.  So, I guess I would want it secure from anyone getting in, unless I ALLOW them limited access.  

And, I will check out the YouTube tutorials, thanks!
JeffereenerAuthor Commented:
LSMConsulting - I think you've clarified a great deal for me, here, thank you.  I've resisted the urge to learn code in the past, guess that if I want to create this program, I'll have to toss aside that resistance, or partner with someone who already has it.

Nice to know, also, that Access may be the easiest to learn, that's certainly where I'd want to go -- the least painful of the scenarios -- although it sounds as if it may also be one of the most useful and feature-rich options, as well.  

It's sounding like Access may, indeed, be my best option.  I'm almost willing to shut the question down now and award the points, but I think I'll leave it open just a little longer....the responses so far are extremely valuable to a wretch like me, I'd like to see if I can learn more!!
wrmichaelConnect With a Mentor Commented:
Filemaker can become complex if wanted but its expensive.

Bento is an ipad and Mac only solution.   But it's cheap, really cheap.   I needed a database to track my hosting clients and I started with with bento on the ipad.  I can sync it with my Mac.  

Filemaker is similar but considered "professional" and with a few clicks you can setup users and make you machine a "web server" that others can use.   Setting that up for the public internet would be out of scope of this question and more complex but it could be done with port forwarding.

Visual studio is for developers.  Some people have minds for programming and others struggle.  I have a mind for it.  SQLite has a great Firefox plugin that allows you to create and manage SQLite databases.   But in general SQLite, MySQL,SQL express all would assume you know SQL Language or would learn it and most likely write a program around it.

A database solution like filemaker or the quicken online are tools that are ready to start using with point and click.

I am sure 100's of other options exist.   Since I have an iPad I wanted mobile and bento works.

If you decide to get into programming rapid tools exist like Spring roo for java, ruby has similar rapid tools.   I even saw a .net tool that would be a code gnerator for databases.

If you find a specific solution post it and ill tell you if I ever dealt with it and the pros or cons.
wrmichaelConnect With a Mentor Commented:
Other options like this exist:

I used this one about 6 years ago for an asset management system.

It speeds things up with the thought process being all tables relate and need functions CRUD


Pick a platform (win/Mac/web) then pick a database and language/ framework and IDE.

I think net beans 6.5 had a tool to build a java app from a predefined database too.  But they dropped support for the framework.

Do you have any programming experience?
JeffereenerAuthor Commented:
wrmichael, thanks for your second response as well!  These answers are precisely what I was looking for: a better understanding of the environment and options, so that I can make decisions regarding some of my ideas.  The array of options is obviously extensive, so having experts like yourselves narrow them down for me?  Priceless.  

It's all about maintaining forward progress, at this stage...thanks everyone, will check out some of your links, next....
JeffereenerAuthor Commented:
I have zero programming experience, think I did a little DOS back in around 1990 when computers started becoming predominant, but that training was minimal and poorly presented.
wrmichaelConnect With a Mentor Commented:
I have always believed in the KISS philosophy.
Keep It Simple Stupid.

It was taught at my second job and it stuck.

The second thing I always get tossed into are the low or zero budget jobs.  Open source is a poor mans friend.

Good luck!
wrmichaelConnect With a Mentor Commented:
Learning the basic first would be good.

Vb .net is pretty simple to learn.

Java and c# at the core are very similar and harder to learn.

HTML / JavaScript is more complex because the architecture is different.  You have server side/client side.  
Might find free online courses at
JeffereenerAuthor Commented:
Couldn't agree more, I think KISS is vital for something as complicated as this can get.  It will ALWAYS get more complicated, so the simpler the beginning, the better the foundation to develop the rest of the framework!

Would you agree with that statement, and if so, this would suggest starting at the very rudimentary parts of the equation and building from there, yes?  (I have no experience in the development of programming, but I'm creative and solution-driven, and can see the big picture.)  

I suspect I may be looking at a partnership endeavor with someone who already knows how to write code.  This may be a business opportunity, actually, if done right, so I further suspect that I should enlist the aid of a local programmer if I want to get this up and running sooner rather than later.  Open source may be my friend, too, then, since I have no budget, LOL.
Dave BaldwinConnect With a Mentor Fixer of ProblemsCommented:
KISS won't get you thru this.  If this is for the web, SQL database, either Microsoft or MySQL, is a must.  If you start your education now and really want to do this, I'd say you could have something working in 3 to 5 years.  LSMConsulting makes very good points.  All this requires programming and programming requires attention to detail.  There is no 'casual' way to accomplish what you have described.
JeffereenerAuthor Commented:
Wow, I can't tell you guys how much you just helped me understand this.  Suffice it to say that there's not enough points to go around.  Highly useful responses, just can't say enough about what several of you have told me here, except to say, "thanks" for giving me a grasp of what I'll be facing to pursue this concept of mine.  Tons of thanks!
JeffereenerAuthor Commented:
Every single comment was valuable.  wrmichael's at the end, wrapped it up nicely by giving me a progression of how baby steps should look -- for me -- so I gave it as the best solution.  But everything was valuable, I'm only sorry for it being so few points.
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