Getting Started with Access

Become familiar with the Access database environment, including Access help with the ribbon, navigation forms, and more.

Introduction

Video: Getting Around in Access 2013

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Whenever you're learning a new program, it's important to familiarize yourself with the program window and the tools within it. Working with Access is no different. Knowing your way around the Access environment will make learning and using Access much easier.

In this lesson, you will familiarize yourself with the Access environment, including the Ribbon, Backstage view, Navigation pane, Document Tabs bar, and more. You will also learn how to navigate with a navigation form, if your database includes one.

Throughout this tutorial, we will be using a sample database. If you would like to follow along, you'll need to download our Access 2013 sample database. You will need to have Access 2013 installed on your computer in order to open the example.

Getting to know Access 2013

Access 2013 uses the Ribbon to organize commands, just like in Access 2010 and 2007. If you've used these versions before, Access 2013 will feel familiar. But if you are new to Access or have more experience with older versions, you should first take some time to become familiar with the Access 2013 interface.

Click the buttons in the interactive below to become familiar with the Access 2013 interface.

labeled graphic

Document Tabs Bar

All open objects are displayed in tabs on the Document Tabs bar. To view an object, click its tab. Click the arrow to see more tabs, or click the X on the right to close the current tab.

Record Search Box

You can use the Record Search box to search for any term in the current object. The first result will be selected automatically. To navigate through additional results, press the Enter key on your keyboard.

Quick Access Toolbar

The Quick Access toolbar lets you access common commands no matter which tab is selected on the Ribbon.

The Ribbon

The Ribbon contains all of the commands you will need to perform common tasks in Access. It has multiple tabs, each with several groups of commands.

Navigation Pane

The Navigation pane displays all of the objects contained in your database. The objects are grouped by type. Double-click an object to open it.

If you'd like, you can hide the Navigation pane by clicking the double arrow in the top-right corner.

Record Navigation Bar

The Record Navigation bar allows you to navigate records one at a time. Click the arrows to navigate through the records. You can jump to a specific record by typing its ID number into the box.

Microsoft Account

From here, you can access your Microsoft account information, view your profile, and switch accounts.

Working with your Access environment

If you've previously used Access 2010 or 2007, Access 2013 will feel familiar. It continues to use features like the Ribbon and the Quick Access toolbar—where you will find commands to perform common tasks in Access—as well as Backstage view.

The Ribbon

Access 2013 uses a tabbed Ribbon system instead of traditional menus. The Ribbon contains multiple tabs, each with several groups of commands. You will use these tabs to perform the most common tasks in Access.

Screenshot of Access 2013The Ribbon

To minimize and maximize the Ribbon:

The Ribbon is designed to respond to your current task; however, you can choose to minimize the Ribbon if you find that it takes up too much screen space.

  1. Click the arrow in the lower-right corner of the Ribbon to minimize it.
    Screenshot of Access 2013Minimizing the Ribbon
  2. The Ribbon will be minimized. Click a tab to make the Ribbon reappear. It will disappear again when not in use.
    Screenshot of Access 2013The minimized Ribbon
  3. To maximize the Ribbon, click a tab, then click the pin icon in the lower-right corner. The Ribbon will appear at all times.
    Screenshot of Access 2013Maximizing the Ribbon

The Quick Access toolbar

The Quick Access toolbar, located above the Ribbon, lets you access common commands no matter which tab you are on. By default, it shows the Save, Undo, and Repeat commands. If you'd like, you can customize it by adding additional commands.

Screenshot of Access 2013The Quick Access toolbar

Note that the Save command only saves the current open object. In addition, the Undo command will not undo certain actions, like adding a record. Pay close attention to your information when using the Undo command to make sure it has the desired effect.

Backstage view

Backstage view gives you various options for saving, opening, and printing your database.

To access Backstage view:

  1. Click the File tab on the Ribbon.
    Screenshot of Access 2013Clicking the File tab
  2. Backstage view will appear.

Click the buttons in the interactive below to learn more about using Backstage view.

labeled graphic

Info

The Info pane will appear whenever you access Backstage view.

Here, you'll find information on your database. It also contains options that let you compact and repair your database to fix file problems and encrypt it with a password.

New

Click here to create a new database from scratch, or choose from a selection of templates.

Open

From here, you can open databases from your computer, including those you've recently edited.

Print

The Print pane contains options for printing the current object in your database.

Options

Here, you can change various Access options. For example, you can choose a form to automatically display when your database is opened or modify the default cell and font style.

Account

From the Account pane, you can access your Microsoft account information, modify your theme and background, and sign out of your account.

Close

Click here to close the current database.

Save and Save As

Use Save to save the current object. Use Save As to save a new version of the current object or even the entire database.

Back to Access

You can use the arrow to close Backstage view and return to Access.

The Navigation pane

The Navigation pane is a list containing every object in your database. For easier viewing, the objects are organized into groups by type. You can open, rename, and delete objects using the Navigation pane.

Screenshot of Access 2013The Navigation pane

To minimize and maximize the Navigation pane:

The Navigation pane is designed to help you manage all of your objects; however, if you feel that it takes up too much of your screen space you can minimize it.

  1. To minimize the Navigation pane, click the double arrow in the upper-right corner.
    Screenshot of Access 2013Minimizing the Navigation pane
  2. The Navigation pane will be minimized. Click the double arrow again to maximize it.

If you want to make the Navigation pane smaller without fully minimizing it, you can resize it. Simply click and drag the right border of the Navigation pane. When it is the desired size, release your mouse.

Screenshot of Access 2013Resizing the Navigation pane

Object sorting in the Navigation pane

By default, objects are sorted by type, with tables in one group, forms in another, and so on. However, if you want you can sort the objects in the Navigation pane into groups of your choosing. There are four sort options:

To sort objects in the Navigation pane:

  1. Click the drop-down arrow to the right of All Access Objects, then select the desired sort from the drop-down menu.
    Screenshot of Access 2013Selecting a new sort option
  2. The objects in the Navigation pane will now be sorted to reflect your choice.
    Screenshot of Access 2013The resorted Navigation pane

To further customize the appearance of the Navigation pane, you can minimize groups of objects you don't want to see. Simply click the upward double arrow next to the group name. To show a group, click the downward double arrow.

Screenshot of Access 2013Showing and hiding groups in the Navigation pane

Databases with navigation forms

Some databases include a navigation form that opens automatically when the database is opened. Navigation forms are designed to be a user-friendly replacement for the Navigation pane. They contain tabs that allow you to view and work with common forms, queries, and reports. Having your frequently used objects available to you in one place lets you access them quickly and easily.

To open an object from a navigation form, click its tab. The object will be displayed within the navigation form. Once an object is open, you can work with it as you normally would.

Screenshot of Access 2013Viewing the Orders form using a navigation form

Generally, navigation forms include only the objects a typical user will need to work with fairly regularly, which is why your navigation form may not include every single form, query, or report. This makes it easier to navigate the database. By hiding tables and rarely used forms, queries, and reports, it also reduces the chance of the database being damaged by users accidentally editing or deleting necessary data.

For this reason, it's important to ask your database designer or administrator before working with objects that are not available in your navigation form. Once you have the go-ahead, you can simply maximize the Navigation pane and open the objects from there.

Challenge!

  1. Open an existing Access database. If you want, you can use our Access 2013 sample database.
  2. Click through all of the tabs and notice how the options on the Ribbon change.
  3. Try minimizing and maximizing the Ribbon.
  4. Resize the Navigation pane to make it take up less room.
  5. Re-sort the objects in the Navigation pane.