Using a Database To Become an Information Superpower

Using a Database To Become an Information Superpower

By the End of This Tutorial, You’ll Be Able To:
 Tell the difference between a database and bouillabaisse
 Create a fill-in-the-blank form that you can use to shovel information into your database
 Sort your database entries and make your computer hunt them down
Picture this. It’s the year 2020. Frank Gifford has moved to FOX TV and is color man for Super Bowl LIV. It’s the Cowboys against the Bills (yes, again), and you’re in the booth with Frank. You purchased exclusive rights to the only sports trivia database on the planet, making you the most powerful (and highest paid) data broker in history. The Gif turns to you and says, “What was the last team to have lost 4 consecutive Super Bowls in a row?” You overlook the mild redundancy, type Losses = 4, and press the Enter key. A list of all the teams that lost 4 Super Bowls pops up on your screen, showing the dates of the losses. You say, “The Buffalo Bills, Gif! Super Bowls XXV through XXVIII.”To place an order for the Complete Project Material, pay N5,000 to
GTBank (Guaranty Trust Bank)
Account Name – Chudi-Oji Chukwuka
Account No – 0044157183
Then text the name of the Project topic, email address and your names to 08060565721.  

You have instant access to the most valuable information: pass completions, interceptions, and third down conversions. Ahhhh, power!
A database gives you such power by placing information at your fingertips. With a simple command, a database can search through thousands of records in a matter of seconds (no matter how useless and insignificant the information) to pick out just the data you need. In this tutorial, you’ll learn how such a database works and how to create a database to manage your own information.

The Making of a Database: Behind the Scenes
Before you get mired in all the gory details of what it takes to create a database, take a look at the overall process. It consists of two steps:
1. Create a fill-in-the-blanks form. Forms simulate, on the computer screen, the paper forms you fill out with a pen or pencil, for example, an insurance claim, a tax return, or a Rolodex card. To create a form, you must enter field names to indicate where each piece of information should be typed. These names are equivalent to what you see on paper forms: Last Name, First Name, MI, SSN, and so on.
2. Fill-in-the-blanks. Once you have a form, you can fill in the blanks with information (or place an ad in the paper for a data-entry operator). The blanks, in this case, are referred to as fields. By entering information into the fields, you create a record, as shown in this picture. A database file is a collection of records.
By the Way… I bet you’re dying to know the difference between a database and bouillabaisse. Bouillabaisse (pronounced boo-ya-base) is a highly seasoned fish stew made with at least two types of fish. A database has no fish, but it can list all the types of fish you might find in a bouillabaisse.

Step 1: Designing the Perfect Form
The best way to start designing a form is to follow the paper system you’re currently using your Rolodex, phone book, calendar, list of employees, accounts receivable, inventory list, or whatever. Think up field names for each piece of information you’ll need (or just lift the field names from the existing paper form). Weed out any unnecessary information you don’t want to turn your database into a junkyard. When you’re designing the form, keep a few guidelines in mind:
 Use form numbers. If you’re using the database to store information such as invoices or purchase orders, include a field that gives each record a unique number. This lets you find records easily.
 Be logical. Your form should present information in a natural flow, from left to right and top to bottom, in the order that you use it.
 Leave space to the right. Leave blank space for entering data to the right of the field name, not below it. Leave sufficient space for your entries. (Many database programs allow you to make a field expandable, so it will automatically stretch to accommodate long entries.)
 Use brief field names. Keep field names just long enough to explain the entry that follows. Long field names take space away from your entries.
 Use examples. If an entry can be typed a number of ways, include an example of how you want it for example, Date (mm/dd/yy). It is likely that someone besides you will enter information into the database. By giving an example of how to format entries, you’ll ensure that they are consistent.
 Break certain entries into parts. If you place each piece of data in a separate field, it will be easier to pull individual pieces of data from your database later. For ex¬ample, if you need to record a name, create separate fields for the person’s title (Mr./Ms./Mrs.), first name, last name, and middle initial.
Newer, top-of-the-line database applications can help you create your own database. For example, when you start Microsoft Access, a dialog box appears, asking if you want to create a new database using the Database Wizard. The wizard leads you through the process of entering your field names, and even allows you to start with an existing form (for example, an address book, recipe list, or home inventory record).
As shown here, the database may display your fields as a form or as a table (sort of like a spreadsheet). In most database applications, you can switch between form and table view and use whichever view is easiest for you to type your entries.

What’s a Record? A record is a collection of information about a single person, animal, or other animate or inanimate object; it may contain the specifications for a gear, or the name, address, and accounting information for a client. A collection of records makes up a database.

Step 2: Filling in the Blanks
When you start filling out your forms, you’ll feel as though you’re spending eternity in a doctor’s office. Here’s where you enter all the information that you want to include in the database: names, addresses, company contacts, part numbers, prices, and inventory lists. Try to get some flunky to do this for you…maybe a relative who owes you a favor. If you have to do it yourself, here’s what you do:
1. Type an entry in the first field.
2. Move to the next field, usually by pressing Tab or clicking inside the field with the mouse pointer.
3. Type your entry. (Some programs allow you to import pictures in fields. If you have a picture field, you won’t type in the field. Instead, you must enter the Import Picture command and choose the desired picture file.)
4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 until you’ve typed an entry in each field. (Although you can leave a field blank, doing so may make it more difficult to search and sort records later.)
5. Enter the command to go to the next record or to display a new record. The program saves the record you just entered and displays a blank form for your next record.
6. Repeat steps 1-5 until you’ve entered all your records.
7. Save the database file when you’re done.

Drag-and-Drop Data Entry
Most Windows applications allow yon to drag data from one document into another. So, if you already have typed the data somewhere else (for example, if you created a list of addresses with your word processor). You can drag the data from that document into your database.
Ferreting Out Information in a Database
Now that you have this oversized filing cabinet sitting in your computer, how do you go about getting at those records? You have at least three options. You can browse through the records one at a time. You can list the information in every record according to field name. Or you can search for a specific record or range of records.

Just Browsing, Thanks
Browsing consists of flipping through the electronic pages of your database. Browsing is fairly slow and is useful for finding a record only when you don’t know what record you want to find. If you have even a vague notion of which record you need, you’re better off using one of the other two methods.

Gimme the List
Instead of displaying each record on a single screen, the List (or table) option displays each record on a single line (from left to right across the screen). Although some of the information for each record will be off the right of the screen, you will be able to see a small portion of each record.

In Search of a Single Record
The fastest and easiest way to search a database is to look for a specific record. You start by entering a command telling the database to search, and it responds by asking what you want to search for.
In most databases, you must specify the field in which you want to search and the information you want to find in that field. The entry you type is referred to as search criteria. For example, to find out how many sales your representative Alan Nelson made in March, you would ask your database to show you his March record by entering the following search criteria:
 Search the Month field for March.
 Search the Last Name field for Nelson.
 Search the First Name field for Alan.
Only one record matches the search criteria, so Alan Nelson’s March sales record appears on the screen. You can review it to determine his total sales for the month.

Searching for a Range of Records
In addition to searching for an individual record, you can tell the database to search for a group of records. For example, to search for purchase order numbers 10013 to 10078, or companies with outstanding invoices of $300 to $1500, you enter the specific range in the field you want to search. The following table shows some sample search entries.
Table 13.1 Searches Within a Specific Range
Search Criteria Finds
K>W Words beginning with K through V, but not A
through J or W through Z
<=50 Numbers 50 or less
>=3/16/1991<=3/31/1991 Any record from March 16th to March 31st of

Don’t Know What You’re Looking For?
After you’ve entered a hundred or a thousand records, no one can seriously expect you to remember the exact spelling of every entry in every field. You’ll forget a few, and you need some way of finding these records. That’s why most database programs let you use wild cards to search for records. (Wild cards stand in for characters you can’t remember.)
There are two types of wild cards. One kind represents any single character in the same position. This wild card is usually represented as a question mark (?). The other kind represents any group of characters in the same position. This wild card is usually repre¬sented by either asterisks (*) or ellipses (…), depending on the program. For example, to search for any entry that ends in “age,” you might type …age.

Organize! Sort Your Records
As you enter records into your database, the database stores the records in the order that you enter them. If you entered a stack of records in no particular order, your database is a mess. Whenever you call up a list of records, they appear in no logical order. Luckily, the database can sort your records in whatever order you specify and present you with a neat, orderly stack.
Like the Search feature, the Sort feature requires you to enter criteria that tell the program how to sort your records. You have to specify two things: the sort field and the sort direction.
When you specify the sort field, you are telling the database the field by which you want the list arranged. For example, if you want your list sorted by postal code, you must tell the program to sort the records according to the entries in the Postal Code field. You can also specify a second sort field that the database would use if the first field was the same for two records (a phone book is sorted by last name and then by first name). The sort direction tells the program whether to sort in ascending order (A B C… or 1 2 3…) or descending order (Z Y X… or 10 9 8…).

Creating Form Letters and Mailing Labels
You’ve seen how much power the field names give you in searching and sorting your records, but that’s not the half of it. You can also use field names to yank information out of your records and to consolidate it in a single location. This allows you to create form letters, reports, invoices, mailing labels, and much more.
For example, to create a form letter, you would use your word processing application to type a generic letter. In place of a specific name and address, you type field names such as:
<Title> <FirstName> <LastName>
<City>, <State> <Zip>
Then, you merge your letter with your database. The merge process looks up information in your database and inserts it in the form letter, creating a separate letter for each selected record in the database.

Analyzing Data with Queries
In addition to pulling data out of a database, you can combine data from two or more database files to show trends and analyze the data. For example, say you have one data¬base file that contains a list of products, their ID numbers, and their prices. You have another database file that contains a list of customers and the quantity of each type of product they ordered each month. You want to find out which product is bringing in the most money.
Using a query, you could combine the data from the two database files. The query would add the number of each item ordered, multiply it by the price of each item, and then list the totals from largest to smallest.
You can also use queries, to simply pull data from various database files into a single file. The next example shows a query that pulled the product name out of one database file, and the supplier and phone number from another database file. This created an alpha¬betical list of products with the names and phone numbers of their suppliers.

Choosing the Right Database for You
Database programs vary in how they structure the database and in the special features they offer. That’s not to say that one is better than another. You just need to find the one that’s right for your needs and budget. Following is a list of popular full-featured databases:
 Act! is a specialized database designed for keeping track of business contacts and contracts. If you’re in sales, you manage contract workers, or you are in some other field in which you have to keep track of people, Act! is the database for you.
 Approach is Lotus Corporation’s award-winning relational database applications. (Relational means that the application lets you combine data from two or more databases.) Approach is powerful, easy to use, and (as of the writing of this book), the least expensive full-featured database application on the market.
 Access is Microsoft’s relational database program. Like Approach, it is both full-featured and easy to use.
 askSam (are you wondering why the names of all database applications start with “A”?) is a free-form database. It mimics the random pile of notes you might find cluttered on a desk. When you search for data, the program searches the entire database—not just a specified field.

Maybe You Already Have a Database!
Many nondatabase programs contain a primitive database program or a way to create a database. For example, your word processing program may allow you to type names and addresses into a document file and then use it as a database. Spreadsheet programs, including Excel and Quattro Pro for Windows, allow you to create databases using the basic spreadsheet structure, Microsoft Windows 3.1 comes with an address book that you can use for phone numbers and addresses (this program was left out of Windows 95). Don’t go out and buy an expensive database program if you don’t need one.

The Least You Need To Know
A database can be a complicated tool that takes a long time to master. Fortunately, you don’t need to know very much to start and take advantage of basic database features. To sort it all out, keep the following information in mind:
 A database consists of several records containing field entries.
 To create a database, you create a form and then fill out the form to create records.
 When you save a record, you’re storing information in your database.
 You can search your database by browsing page by page, by displaying a list of records, or by entering search criteria for a specific record or range of records.
 Field names give you the power to pull information from your database and insert it into a document. This lets you generate comprehensive reports, personalized letters, and mailing labels.
 Knowledge is power. Power is corrupt. Therefore, knowledge is corrupt. —Socrates

To place an order for the Complete Project Material, pay N5,000 to
GTBank (Guaranty Trust Bank)
Account Name – Chudi-Oji Chukwuka
Account No – 0044157183
Then text the name of the Project topic, email address and your names to 08060565721.  

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