Database or other solution?

  MrNewName 17:07 14 Oct 2009

I need to create a means of recording information from about 50 people so assume that a database is what is needed.

What I need is a way of recording:

Name / Surname / DOB / Weight / Height / Medical History / Education History / etc.

It needs to be possible to find any one of the 50 people and update some of the fields as required.

Can anyone suggest what is the best way of doing this and creating what is necessary on MS Windows?

I have MS Access 2007 if that is any help but as I have never used it, I am really not sure how to go about it or it it is the best solution.

Will Access 2007 create a file that can be used as a standalone application?

Any help greatly appreciated and please feel free to offer a dummies guide to what I need as I don't know the terms.

Many thanks, Kevin

  Woolwell 19:08 14 Oct 2009

The first thing is to decide what information you want to retrieve from the database. Do you want to pull from it those who have weight range for example.

Access is a relational database which allows you to relate to different tables. You seem to require only one table and Excel may well do what you want using the search and/or filter. If you haven't used Access before this may be the best approach as setting up Access can be time consuming although wizards do allow you to produce acceptable reports, etc.

Also consider the number of entries you need. If there is more than 1 entry per person then Access may well be the way ahead.

  MrNewName 19:53 14 Oct 2009

Thank you for that comprehensive reply.

What I need is a means of keeping records; some will not change (name, date of birth etc) while others will need to be able to have more information added as time goes on.

Looking around the net, an example like the one at this click here link is what I need, I believe.

The area to the right can be used for the data which changes as time goes on. Am I out of my depth (I know nothing about programming, databases etc) and better to get someone to create the initial file into which I can add the data?

  Woolwell 19:58 14 Oct 2009

I think that waht you want is a database with several names and data about them which will not normally change (but could be edited) and a series of different entries relating to one at a time from the list of names. This is suitable for Access.

Have a look at some of the sample templates and follow a tutorial. It depends on how much time you have.

  skeletal 20:10 14 Oct 2009

Access is, in my view, the most powerful tool in Office. Given enough time and effort, you can do almost anything with it. For its full range of abilities, it is useful to get into VBA (Visual Basic for Applications) as well; e.g.; my favourite tricks are dynamic forms i.e. forms that alter dependent upon the information you enter.

However, back to basics!

To try to show the difference between Excel and Access from your example:

You say you want to include Name / Surname / DOB / Weight / Height / Medical History / Education History / etc. The etc. is important. This could be anything from one more field, or 1000! (A field is Access terminology for a “holder” of information. Think Excel; the rows are “records” the columns are “fields”. Thus a record is a collection of fields).

Your requirement looks, at first, simple, and could be done by a “flat” database and the quick and dirty way would be Excel (unless the etc. is 1000).

But look at “Medical history”. If the person’s details have only one piece of information, life is easy. You have the name etc., and when you come to “medical history”, you put “hay fever”. And that’s it. But what if the medical history for one person has 100 things you need to record, and another 20. And you want to update this information every time you see the person. This will also be true of “Education history”. Perhaps you want to put a date for each change in this information. Then you may wish to query the whole thing to find everyone who has hayfever, born in 1960, with a GCE in woodwork.

IF, this is the sort of thing you are thinking of, then go for Access.

IF you only want a simple flat list, go for Excel.

Now, if you are new to Access, I would suggest you buy a simple book to get you going. The downside to it is that it is close to impossible to understand the concepts of relational database design by playing around. All the other parts of Office can be made to, sort of, work by fiddling about, but that won’t work in Access (unless you are a genius!).

There are vast numbers of books on the subject, but you need to start at the beginning and one that is worth a look is click here

You can make stand alone apps from Access, but I’ve only done it from Access 2003. Although I’ve got 2007 as well, I’ve not got round to trying to make a stand alone.


  skeletal 20:19 14 Oct 2009

A quick look at the book suggests it has not been updated to Office 2007 (I thought it had). The principles will be the same, but the layout in Office 2007 is a bit different from 2003.

Looking at your more recent post (I cross posted) makes me think you would be better off with Access. You will just have a steep learning curve.


  MrNewName 06:54 15 Oct 2009

Thanks Woolwell and Skeletal. It looks to me that this is beyond what I have the time or interest to try doing and I will try to find a custom made solution.

Skeletal: the "etc" is a little vague for me - for some it will be one or two records, for others maybe 20. Similarly, for some it will be updated only bi-annually while for others it could be every week.

  Picklefactory 08:09 15 Oct 2009

Woolwell and Skeletal have given some great advice. Access and Excel, indeed all MS Office software are vast programs that can do achieve a huge amount of varied tasks and functions, but don't be scared off by that, many people with little or no knowledge of the more complex parts still happily use them daily.
Your database looks relatively simple and you might well find that one of the in-built samples that ship with Office would be easily modified to your needs.
Have you looked at the sample student database in Access? It's a free download from MS. If that looks a little too big, why not have a go at creating one? I'm sure you would get plenty of support here, and I do believe your needs are relatively simple based on what you mentioned in your first post.

  MrNewName 07:00 17 Oct 2009

Thanks for the replies; it's beyond my interest to try this so I've outsourced it to someone who will do it properly.

  skeletal 18:00 17 Oct 2009

Like all things, it is up to the individual to decide how much time and effort they will put in to sorting something out. If you have an interest in such things, you can spend many happy(??!!) hours designing an application that exactly meets your needs and learning about databases. You can’t do something like that in five minutes.

On the other hand you may wish to use your time for something else!

I hope you end up with a good solution.


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