A Quick Microsoft Access 97 Tutorial

By Charles W. Neville, © Charles W. Neville, March 2001

Verbatim copying and redistribution of this tutorial are permitted in any medium provided this notice and the copyright notice are preserved.

This tutorial is intended for computer science students who need a quick introduction to Microsoft Access, but it will be useful to anyone needing such an introduction. To get the full benefit of this tutorial, you will need a computer running one of Microsoft Windows 95 or higher, Microsoft NT 4.0 or higher, or Microsoft Windows 2000. You will also need to have a copy of Microsoft Access 97 installed.

An Access 97 Database Open And Ready For Use
an Access 97 database open and ready for use


Though Microsoft Access is NOT synonymous with database systems, there are more copies of Microsoft Access in use than any other database system. It therefore behooves computer science students to be at least superficially familiar with MS Access. This tutorial will guide you through some of the basic point-and-click stuff, and will even show you how to issue complex SQL (Structured Query Language) queries. You will open the Northwind Microsoft sample database and query it in various ways. This is a HANDS ON tutorial; it gives you step-by-step directions for carrying out simple tasks in Access. As you read, you should have a copy of the Northwind database open in Microsoft Access 97, and you should carry out the tasks yourself, exactly as directed.

First, a few words about what Microsoft Access 97 is and isn't. People who don't really understand what a relational database system is, and some people who don't actually understand what Access 97 is, will tell you that Microsoft Access is not a fully relational database system. In the database world, not being fully relational is very bad. Don't worry, the people who tell you that are like the people who try to tell you that linux is not a 32 bit operating system. Access 97, and its predecessor Access 95, are excellent fully relational database systems.

But Access 97 does have a few shortcomings. The principle shortcoming is that it is almost impossible to enforce reasonable security restrictions with Access 97. So if you want a variety of users to interact with a database, you should move up to Microsoft's SQL Server, an Oracle database above the level of Oracle Personal Edition, or the wonderful, and FREE, MySql. (And let us not forget to mention the higher levels of FileMaker Pro as good possibilities.) As a certified Microsoft hater, I would naturally prefer that you move up to Oracle, MySql, or FileMaker Pro, but I have to be fair. Microsoft's database products are extremely good, easy to develop for, readily accepted by the outside world, and always good choices.

This tutorial is divided into chapters. You probably should go through the chapters in sequence, starting with chapter 1. Click on a chapter to go to it


  1. GettingStarted.
  2. Adding and Changing Data.
  3. Simple Queries.
  4. Creating QBE Queries.
  5. Multi-table QBE Queries.
  6. SQL Queries.

If you want to learn more about Microsoft Access 97, especially from a developer's point of view, the best single source is Roger Jennings' excellent book, Using Access 97, published by Que Press.