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Data menus at your fingertips: how to make a challenging information application easy to use.

If you wish to follow along with the step-by-step instructions in this article using the database created in the earlier articles, download it from And if you want to download the completed database, including all the functions created in this article, download it from

To use this database, you must be running a version of Microsoft Access as recent as the 2000 edition.

Databases are not the most user-friendly applications. They contain so many complex functions--in addition to functions within functions--that even experienced users find them quite challenging. Fortunately, most database applications allow you to set up push-button menus that make even the most difficult tasks easy to complete.

This article focuses on how to set up those convenient menus, demonstrating how to create an array of push buttons designed to do jobs such as opening forms and providing reports. We also describe how to seal off certain parts of the database so they are accessible only to selected users.

To demonstrate the functions, we will continue to use the database we created in our earlier articles.


We'll start by creating a button to open a form, which we will build. Begin by launching the existing database file Then click on the Forms tab and double-click on the option Create form in Design view (see exhibit 1, above) to produce a new blank form (see exhibit 2, at right).


To modify this form, you will need to use the Forms Toolbox.

If the toolbox is not already displayed, click on View and Toolbox (see exhibit 3, at right).


You also will need to use the Formatting Toolbar.

And if this toolbar is not already displayed, click on View, Toolbars and the Formatting (Form/Report) option. To add a title to the form, click on the Label icon Aa to evoke this formatting toolbar.

Select a font size that is easy to see; we will use a font size of 24. To do that, click on the drop-down arrow to the right of the font-size box. Next, click on the form where you want to place the label (top center) and type Start Menu (see exhibit 4, at right).


Now that we've created the new form, we'll make a launching button with Control Wizards. Click on the icon with the wand and stars. Since it toggles on and off, click on it to be sure it's activated--as indicated by a recessed appearance. Now, select the Command Button icon from the toolbox (it, too, should appear recessed), move the cursor to the form you created and you should see the cursor turn into an icon with a plus sign and a button. Left-click below the title Start Menu in the form, and the Command Button Wizard form will appear, as shown in exhibit 5, below.


From Categories, select Form Operations, and from Actions, select Open Form and click on the Next button. When asked What form would you like the command button to open? highlight the Customers form (exhibit 6, page 32) and click on Next. You will be given two options; select Open the form and show all the records and click on Next.


The Next window lets you transform the button into a picture or text. To do this, click on Next and select the Text option. Then change the text in the corresponding box to Customers and click on Finish.

Your button will now appear on the form as displayed in exhibit 7, page 32. It can be resized as needed.


Now we'll make a button to open the previously created mailing labels report. To do that, click on the Command Button icon in the toolbox.

And then click on the form to the right of the Customers button we just created. When the Command Button Wizard appears (exhibit 5), from the Categories window, select Report Operations, and from the Actions window, select Preview Report window (exhibit 8, below). These options allow you to view the report on the screen and either print or cancel the job. Click on Next and select Label Customers. When asked What report would you like the command button to preview? click on Next, select the Text option on the following form, change the text in the corresponding box to Preview Customer Mailing Labels (as shown below) and click on Finish.


Your new button now should appear in the form as shown in exhibit 9, page 34.


You now have a form with two buttons. To resize them so they are uniform, click on one, hold down the Shift key and click on the second button. Then click on the Format option on the toolbar, select Size and click on To Tallest, as shown in exhibit 10, page 34. To finish resizing, repeat the procedure, but this time click on To Widest.


If your buttons overlap, select only the Preview Customer Mailing Labels button by clicking anywhere else on the form. Then click on the Preview Customer Mailing Labels button and drag it to the right until the buttons no longer overlap. Your buttons now should be the same size, but they may not be horizontally aligned. To line them up, click on Format on the toolbar and select Align and Top, as shown in exhibit 11, page 34.


Both buttons Should line Up. Save the form by clicking on Save, naming it Start Menu and clicking on OK. Now close the form by clicking on File from the toolbar menu and selecting Close.


You can open Microsoft Access forms by using the standard navigation buttons at the bottom of the form.

These buttons allow you to steer through the data. The buttons enable you to go to the first or last record. The buttons let you go to the previous or next one and the button allows you to add new records to the form. But, while they are functional, they're not as easy to use as customized buttons. To make the data-input forms more efficient, use the Command Button wizard to create buttons within forms. To do that, open the Customers form in the design view by clicking on the Forms tab, highlighting the Customers form and clicking on Design View. Place the command buttons just above the Orders box. To make room for these buttons, select the Orders subform and the Orders Detail subform (select both subforms by clicking on one of them, then holding down the Shift key and clicking on the second one) and drag them down about a half-inch. If the toolbox is not already activated, see directions for exhibit 3. Make sure the Wizard Tool is active, and then click on the Command Button icon. Click on the Customers form just below the Phone Number field; the Command Button Wizard will appear. From Categories, select Record Operations, and from Actions, select Add New Record (exhibit 12, below) and click on Next.


On the following screen, select the Text option, label the button Add New Customer and click on Finish. To view your report, select the Form View icon. Your button appears on the form and you can add a new customer easily by clicking on it.

Return to the design view of the form by clicking on the Design View icon.

We now will demonstrate how to add the remaining navigation buttons as shown in exhibit 13, page 35.


Click on the Command Button on the toolbar and then on Customer form below Contact Last Name; that will open the Command Button Wizard. From Categories, select Record Navigation, and from Actions, select Goto First Record as in exhibit 14, page 35, and click on Next. On the following screen, select Text, label the button First Customer and click on Finish.


Repeat the instructions in the paragraph above to add three more navigation buttons. Where you selected Goto First Record in the Actions box, now select Goto Last Record, Goto Next Record and Goto Previous Record. Label each of the buttons Last Customer, Next Customer and Previous Customer, respectively. Follow the steps outlined earlier in the article to resize your buttons so they're uniform in appearance and placement.

Rather than use the close button to quit the form, we'll add a custom button to do the job. To do that, add another command button by clicking on the Command Button icon in the toolbox and click on the Customers form. When the Command Button Wizard form appears, from Categories, select Form Operations, and from Actions, select Close Form and click on Next.

Once again, select Text, change the text to Return to Start Menu and click on Finish. Switch back to the form view by clicking on Form View.

Test your Return to Start Menu button by clicking on it and save the form when prompted. Open the Start Menu form and click on the Customers button. Then click on the Return to Start Menu button. You should be able to easily maneuver back and forth between the two forms. Close the Start Menu form when you're ready to proceed.


The default Navigation Buttons and Close Out Box can be removed from the Customers form to improve its appearance. To do that, high-light the Customers form and click on Design View. View the Properties of the Customers form by selecting Edit from the toolbar menu and clicking on Select Form (exhibit 15, at right).


Now click on View and select Properties (exhibit 16, below).


That should display the Properties menu (exhibit 17, page 37).


Click on the Format tab and change the Navigation Buttons line to No and the Close Button option to No. Also, change the Min Max Buttons to None. This will disable these options and force users to rely on the new custom buttons. Close the Form properties by clicking on. Click on the Save button and then close the Customers form by clicking on.

Test your changes by reopening the Customers form. Note there still are navigation buttons in the Orders and Order Details subforms but not in the main form. We have disabled only the navigation buttons in the Customers form. Adding custom buttons to the subforms is possible but beyond the scope of this article. Close the Customers form by clicking on the Return to Start Menu button.


We now will improve the efficiency of the database by making your Start Menu form open automatically whenever you evoke it. Click on Tools on the toolbar menu and select Startup (exhibit 18, page 37).


The Startup window will appear (exhibit 19, below). Edit the Display Form/Page option by clicking on the drop-down-box arrow, selecting the Start Menu from the options and clicking on OK. Now test your Start Menu by closing the Cust_Track_2002 database and then reopening it. When the database opens, the Start Menu should automatically appear.



To prevent users from changing the structure of the database, we will limit their use to only the newly created buttons by editing the other Startup Options to match exhibit 20, below. To do this, uncheck the box labeled Display Database Window. This prevents others from accessing the database unless you have included a button to open a specific form, table or report on your Start Menu. Also, uncheck the boxes labeled Allow Full Menus, Allow Default Shortcut Menus, Allow Built-in Toolbars and Allow Toolbar/Menu Changes.


If you need to open the database to make changes to your application or just to change the settings, hold down the Shift key while you open the database. This enables you to access the database, menus and toolbars. You can then go back in and modify the start-up options or other forms you have created.

Congratulations, you have just automated your database to be more efficient and .user friendly. Using the instructions in this article, you now can add more preprogrammed features--such as queries, forms and reports--to your databases as the need arises.

This is the fifth in a series of tutorials on creating and using databases. The previous articles were

* "Building a Database From Scratch" Nov.99, page 63.

* "Working With Databases," May00, page 70.

* "When Querying Databases, You've Got to Ask the Right Question," Feb.01, page 35.

* "Put a Database to Work" Jan.02, page 69.

Key to Instructions

To help readers follow the instructions in this article, we use two different typefaces.

Boldface type is used to identify the names of icons, agendas, URLs and application commands.

Sans serif type indicates instructions and commands that users should type into the computer.

DAVID C. HAYES, CPA, PhD, is an assistant professor at Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge. His e-mail address is JAMES E. HUNTON, CPA, PhD, is the Trustee Professor of Accounting Information Systems at Bentley College, Waltham, Massachusetts. His e-mail address is ROBERT D. SLATER, CPA, is an accounting doctoral student at the University of South Florida at Tampa. His email address is
COPYRIGHT 2003 American Institute of CPA's
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2003, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Author:Slater, Robert D.
Publication:Journal of Accountancy
Date:Jun 1, 2003
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