Versatility is one of the biggest benefits of Microsoft Access. When you are able to take advantage of all of the different features, it can perform a variety of different functions which ultimately improve your business. Microsoft Access can be used to create custom accounting applications which, in some cases, can help your business improve efficiency and save money. However, Access is not always the best tool to use for accounting. This guide will help you understand when you should consider Access for your accounting needs and take you through the basic steps to help you get started.


Is Microsoft Access good for accounting?

You may be wondering why you should use Access to create an accounting software when you could just buy an accounting package already on the market instead. This is a very good question and you’d be right in thinking that it is better to purchase accounting packages instead of creating your own, in most cases. Modern accounting software is excellent and it is more cost-effective to simply purchase an off-the-shelf solution, rather than investing a lot of time and money in a custom-made solution on Access.

For basic accounting tasks, there is no need to use Access. However, if you are managing large data sets and you need to complete specific niche accounting tasks that are not catered for by existing software, Microsoft Access can offer an excellent solution.

Microsoft Access is a perfect solution for production, inventory, sales, accounting, etc.   If you think that Microsoft Access is the best fit for your needs, follow these basic steps:


Step 1: Create a table

Before you can import and manipulate your data, you need to create a table. Do this by clicking ‘Create’ on the toolbar on the left hand side, and then click ‘Table.’ You will then be given options for naming fields and choosing the field type. Fill out the information and add the field, repeating as many times as you need to until you have the right fields in your table.


Step 2: Select the right data type

The data type determines the format that data displays in once you start populating your table. It is important that you select the right data type for each field so the information displays correctly and you can manipulate it in the way that you need to. The data type options that you are likely to use for accounting applications are: 

  • Short text 
  • Long text
  • Number 
  • Large number
  • Date/time
  • Currency
  • Calculated
  • Attachment
  • AutoNumber

Most of these options are self-explanatory and it will be clear when you need to use text to title fields or numbers to input data, and which fields need to be displayed as dates or currency. The AutoNumber data type will automatically number data entries when you move to the next row (Customer 1, Customer 2, etc.) The attachments data type allows you to attach documents to certain fields. This may be used to attach financial documents like invoices from other sources, but may not always be needed.


Step 3: Customize your fields

Once you have a basic table and you have selected the right data types for each field, you need to start customizing those fields to meet your specific needs. At the top of the table, you will see all of the different fields. If you need to add another one, simply click the ‘Click to Add’ button on the right hand side.

Click on the field title to change the name of each field. This is where you will start organizing the table ready for your data to be imported. Common field titles for basic invoicing software might look this:

  • Invoice ID
  • CompanyName
  • FirstName
  • LastName
  • StreetAddress
  • City
  • County
  • Postcode

Depending on what you are using your Microsoft SQL server for, these headings will be different. For example, you may have headings for each month and fields for your revenue and outgoings in each month. You could then add a seperate field to calculate overall profits. The beauty of MS Access is that it’s completely customizable, so you can build production, order tracking, inventory and any software to do whatever you need it to.


Step 4: Categorize your data

Custom software performs a lot of different functions, like invoicing, production, order tracking,  inventory, cash flow management, taxes, etc. So, you need to categorize your data to split the database into separate sections for each function. 

You can automatically categorize data in Access using basic categories but for the best results you should create your own custom categories. To do this, go to the navigation pane and click ‘Navigation Options,’ then go to categories and click ‘Add New Item.’ A new category is created and then you simply need to name it.

Right click on an item and then select ‘Add to Group.’ Pick your custom category and that data is now in that category. Once all data is categorized in this way, it is easy to go to the navigation pane and then group data into different categories.


Step 5: Set up a key differentiator

It is likely that you will have pieces of data with duplicate content, e.g the same company name or address. You need to set up a key differentiator so you can organize these pieces of data without confusing them. 

The easiest way to do this is to assign customer ID numbers to each customer in the database. Attaching invoices also solves this issue.


Step 6: Design your database

At this stage, you should have a functional database with data organized into the right categories. Now you need to design it and make some adjustments so it displays well and is simple and intuitive to use.

Click ‘View’ on the toolbar and you will be able to modify the structure of the tables. Here you will find options for adding and removing columns, assigning default values to certain fields, and renaming the fields. You can also change the data type and edit the character size and data format. By making these changes, you can ensure that data is displayed in the correct way and the tables easy to read and navigate.

Bear in mind that if you have a large dataset and you change the data type, you may be presented with an error message.


Step 7: Share your database

Now that the design is finalized and your new database is ready to use, you need to share it with your colleagues. Microsoft Access allows multiple users to access the database at the same time, so it can be used by all of the relevant departments in your business. 

The easiest way to share a database is to store it on a shared network drive. Other users simply need to access the file and they can use the database. You can also share a split database. When you do this, the database is split into two parts; a back end containing all of the data and a front end that can be accessed by the user. Each user interacts with the database using a local copy of the front end, but they are unable to manipulate the back end data. This is a more secure option for large businesses that need to control access.


When should you use Microsoft Access?

There are certain situations where Access is the best choice and some industries use it more than others. When you are managing large data sets and you need to query them, it is often easier to use Access rather than excel. It is also useful for creating reports because it has more flexible options for relational databases. 

Common uses for Microsoft Access include: 

  • Financial reporting
  • Collating regional sales data
  • Auditing (with large data sets)
  • Inventory management
  • Production

Before deciding to build an application from scratch, consider carefully whether existing software can fulfil that need. 


Need further assistance?

These basic steps will help you create software using Microsoft Access. However, if you need more assistance and you want to unlock the full potential of this great application, you need the help of experienced Microsoft Access consultants

Here at Access Experts, we have a team of Microsoft Access professionals who can help you build the perfect database for your business, and assist with any other Access-related issues you are having. Contact us today to discuss how we can help you use Access to improve your business.


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