Best strategy when moving from a flat file "database" to an Access 2016 relational database?

Posted on 2016-09-24
Last Modified: 2016-09-24

At the moment we are running our member "database" in Excel (yeah, I know!)... But as the members keep piling up, the member management part becomes very time consuming. Now someone told me to, instead of importing these csv-files to Excel, doing so into a new MS Access 2016 relational database. I am quite familiar with formulas in Excel to manipulate data and to clean up the data in the fields after importing the files into Excel, but I am a bit hesitant of learning a completely new software as I do not know how difficult this might be?

The current flat file version is rather simple. It consists of fields for the parents and their children.  The main focus should be the child. As it is now I have the parents and one child per row, which means that parents who have registred several children, will be on several rows, ("records"). I guess it would make much more sense if I had one table for the parents data and one table with the "children data", as a child can have one or two parents and one or two parents can have on or several children. Whats gets a bit complicated is that we have divorced parents with several children in our current file, which means that we might need to set up some more tables as well such as "household table"???

Anyway, I just wanted first to get some input into if you think it would be feasible for me to make this transition with a good book on Access and maybe some kind help from you guys!? Or should we just stick with the Excel file?


Question by:Dag Wolters
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LVL 19

Expert Comment

ID: 41813840
I have successfully used Excel for years as relational databases. For convenience, you need the table for parents and the children on separate sheets.

However, Access is built specifically for this. You can import your existing data from Excel into a new database or use a template and modify it.

If you are building from scratch then there are special fields from the More Fields button called Quick Start. These are in the Table Tab displayed when you add a Table. So, if you select Name from these it will add  First Name & Last Name Fields

Author Comment

by:Dag Wolters
ID: 41813883
Thanks, Roy! I will give it a try.
LVL 19

Expert Comment

ID: 41813888
Post back if you need help. I am just getting into Access myself so I will help where I can, or depending on the amount of data that you have you can stick with Excel. I can help you with forms, etc for Excel.
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LVL 20

Accepted Solution

crystal (strive4peace) - Microsoft MVP, Access earned 500 total points
ID: 41813897
First, set up Tables, Fields, and Relationships (data structure) in Access. Then, after you know what the data structure should look like, import data from Excel*.  As you import data, you will probably need to modify the structure to accommodate items you didn't previously consider.  Structuring data is an iterative process.

* It is often best to import to different tables than the structure you designed. Start import tables with "import" so you can easily tell them from the rest. Learn how to create APPEND and UPDATE queries in Access.

To help you design the data structure, here is a playlist on YouTube that would be beneficial:
Learn Access playlist

and here is a short book that is version independent you can read:

Access Basics
free 100-page book that covers essentials in Access
LVL 19

Expert Comment

ID: 41813899
That looks useful Crystal
LVL 20
ID: 41813902
thanks, Roy. The biggest mistake that beginners make is not enough planning.  It is common to make an Access database look like Excel because that is the easiest way to get the data in.
LVL 19

Expert Comment

ID: 41813910
I've been working with Excel & VBA for many years now, but never gotten around to Access. I've just started developing a database for work using Access so I'll check out your videos.
LVL 20
ID: 41813921
Roy, great! I hope they help you.

Dag, here is a free download for Access that will give you some ideas on how to keep track of your member information.  On the download page are also 2 videos explaining how to use it:

Contacts -- Names, Addresses, Phone Numbers, eMail Addresses, Websites, Lists, Projects, Notes, Attachments

To relate children and spouse to a head of household, treat the head of household like a company and the children as company contacts.

Your organization would be a List. Contacts can be members of one or more lists.

This example is elaborate as I spent hundreds of hours building and refining it over the years. Don't let its complexity scare you off from Access! Even seasoned Access developers would need to spend a lot of time to understand it all.

Author Closing Comment

by:Dag Wolters
ID: 41813960
This is a very good starting point!
LVL 17

Expert Comment

by:John Tsioumpris
ID: 41813968
Access is Access and Excel is Excel...
Access is RAD platform which includes a true relational database and excel is a spreadsheet that you just input whatever you need where you like and almost no restrictions...(except maximum columns-rows)
On the other hand Access needs design ...the better one the best it performs and most resilient to every future demand.Just think that getting the employees that have 2 kids with age greater than 15 years where the one is a boy and the other is a girl it is just a matter of a simple query....
LVL 20
ID: 41813973
Thank you ~ happy to help

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