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Creating database tables

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Documentation note.png In a database, a table stores information for a group of things we call fields. For example, a table might hold an address book, a stock list, a phone book or a price list. A database can have from one to several tables.

To work with tables, click the Tables icon in the Database list, or use Alt+a. The three tasks that you can perform on a table are in the Task list (see Figure 2).

Figure 2: Creating tables.

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Using the Wizard to create a table

Documentation caution.png Every table requires a Primary key field. (What this field does will be explained later.) We will use this field to number our entries and want that number to automatically increase as we add each entry.


Since none of the fields we need for our Automobile database are contained in any of the wizard tables, we will create a simple table using the wizard that has nothing to do with our database. This section is an exercise in explaining how the Wizard works.

The Wizard permits the fields of the table to come from more than one suggested table. We will create a table with fields from three different suggested tables in the Wizard.

Click Use Wizard to Create Table. This opens the Table Wizard.

Documentation note.png A field in a table is one bit of information. For example, in a price list table, there might be one field for item name, one for the description and a third for the price. More fields may be added as needed.

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Step 1: Select fields.

You have a choice of two categories of suggested tables: Business and Personal. Each category contains its own suggested tables from which to choose. Each table has a list of available fields. We will use the CD-Collection Sample table in the Personal category to select the fields we need.

  1. Category: Select Personal. The Sample Tables drop down list changes to a list of personal sample tables.
  2. Sample Tables: Select CD-Collection. The Available fields window changes to a list of available fields for this table.
  3. Selected Fields: Using the > button, move these fields from the Available fields window to the Selected fields window in this order: CollectionID, AlbumTitle, Artist, DatePurchased, Format, Notes, and NumberofTracks.
  4. Selected Fields from another sample table. Click Business as the Category. Select Employees from the dropdown list of sample tables. Use the > button to move the Photo field from the Available fields window to the Selected fields window. It will be at the bottom of the list directly below the NumberofTracks field.
  5. If a mistake is made in the order as listed above, click on the field name that is in the wrong order to highlight it. Use the Up or Down arrow on the right side of the Selected Fields list (see Figure 3) to move the field name to the correct position. Click Next.
Figure 3: Order of fields.
Documentation caution.png Below the Selected Fields list are two buttons: one with a +, and one with a -. These buttons are used to add or to remove fields from the Selected Fields list. Be careful when using these buttons until well acquainted with how to create tables (Figure 3).


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Step 2: Set field types and formats.

In this step you give the fields their properties. When you click a field, the information on the right changes. You can then make changes to meet your needs. (See Figure 4.) Click each field, one at a time, and make the changes listed below.

Figure 4: Changing field types.
Documentation note.png If any of these fields requires an entry, set Entry required to Yes. If Entry required is set to Yes, this field must have something in it. For example if FirstName has Entry required set to Yes, having an entry with the first name missing will not be allowed. In general, only set Entry required to Yes if something must always be put in that field. By default, Entry required is set to No.
  • CollectionID: Change AutoValue from No to Yes.
  • AlbumTitle:
  • Entry required: If all of your music is in albums, change Entry required to Yes. Otherwise, leave Entry required as No.
  • Length: Unless you have an album title that exceeds 100 characters in length counting the spaces, do not change the length.
Documentation note.png In Base the maximum length of each field must be specified on creation. It is not easy to change this later, so if in doubt specify a greater length. Base uses VCHAR as the field format for text fields. This format only uses the actual number of characters in a field up to the limit set. So, a field containing 20 characters will only use space for 20 characters even if the limit is set at 100. So, two album titles containing 25 and 32 characters respectively will use space for 25 and 32 characters and not 100 characters.
  • Artist: Use the Default setting. And since music has authors, set Entry Required to Yes.
  • Date Purchased: Length: default setting. Entry required should be No. (You may not know the date.)
  • Format: Only change the Entry Required setting: from No o Yes.
  • Notes: No changes are required.
  • NumberofTracks: Change the Field Type to Tiny Integer[TINYINT]. Your allowable number of tracks will be 999.
  • Photo: Use the default settings. When you have finished, click Next.
Documentation note.png Each field also has a Field Type. In Base the field type must be specified. These types include text, integer, date and decimal. If the field is going to have general information in it (for example a name or a description) then you want to use text. If the field will always contain a number (for example a price) the type should be decimal or another appropriate numerical field. The wizard picks the right field type, so to get an idea of how this works, see what the wizard has chosen for different fields.

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Step 3: Set primary key.

  1. Create a primary key should be checked.
  2. Select option Use an existing field as a primary key.
  3. In Fieldname drop down list, select CollectionID.
  4. Check Auto value if it is not already checked.
  5. Click Next.
Documentation note.png A primary key uniquely identifies an item (or record) in the table. For example, you might know two people called "Randy Herring" or three people living at the same address and the database needs to distinguish between them. The simplest method is to assign a unique number to each one: number the first person 1, the second 2 and so on. Each entry has one number and every number is different, so it is easy to say "record ID 172". This is the option chosen here: CollectionID is just a number assigned automatically by Base to each record of this table. There are more complex ways of doing this, all answering the question "How do I make sure that every single record in my database can be uniquely identified?"

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Step 4: Create the table.

  1. If desired, rename the table at this point. If you rename it, make the name meaningful to you. For this example, make no changes.
  2. Leave the option Insert data immediately checked.
  3. Click Finish to complete the table wizard. Close the window created by the table wizard. You are now back to the main window of the database with the listing of the tables, queries, forms, and reports.

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Creating a table by copying an existing table

If you have a large collection of music, you might want to create a table for each type of music you have. Rather than creating each table from the wizard, you can make a copy of the original table. Each table can be named according to the type of music contained in it. Possible names could include Classical, Pop, Country and Western, and Rock among others.

  1. Click on the Tables icon in the Database pane to see the existing tables.
  2. Right-click on the CD-Collection table icon. Select Copy from the context menu.
  3. Move the mouse pointer below this table, right-click, and select Paste from the context menu. The Copy table window opens.
  4. Change the table name to Pop and click Next.
  5. Click the >> button to move all the Fields from the left window to the right window and click Next.
  6. Since all the Fields already have the proper File Type formating, no changes should be needed. However, this is the time and place to make these changes if they are needed. (See Caution below for the reason why.) Click Create. The new table is created.
Documentation caution.png Once tables have been created using the wizard, editing them is limited. The Primary key can not be changed in any way. It is possible to add new fields and remove fields. It is possible to change the field type when creating the field as well as later as long as it is not the primary key. Once data has been added to the database, deleting a field will also delete any data contained in that field. When creating a new table, it pays to create the fields with the correct names, length and format before data is added.


Documentation caution.png Tables can be deleted in a very simple way. But doing so removes all of the data contained in every field of the table. Unless you are sure, do not delete a table.
To delete a table, right-click it in the list of tables. Select Delete from the context menu. A pop up window asks if you are sure you want to delete the table. Once you click Yes, the table and its data are gone forever unless you have a backup.


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Creating tables in Design View

Design View is a more advanced method for creating a new table. It allows you to directly enter information about each field in the table. We will use this method for the tables of our database.

Documentation note.png While the Field type and formatting are different in Design View, the concepts are the same as in the Wizard.

The first table to be created is Fuel. Its fields are FuelID, Date, FuelCost, FuelQuantity, Odometer, and PaymentType. FuelCost uses currency and two decimal places. FuelQuantity and Odometer uses the number format with 3 decimal places and 1 decimal place respectively. PaymentType uses the text format.

  1. Click Create Table in Design View.
  2. FuelID entries:
    1. Enter FuelID as the first Field Name.
    2. Select Integer[INTEGER] as the Field Type from the dropdown list. (The default setting is Text[VARCHAR].)
    3. Tip.png Shortcut for selecting from the Field Type dropdown list: use the key for the first letter of the choice. This might require using the letter more than once to get the choice you want. You can cycle through the choices for a given letter by repeatedly using that letter. After typing the name of the field in the Fields column, use the Tab key to move to the Field Type column. This will enter the field name and highlight the dropdown list. You can then use the key for the first letter of your choice to select the field type. Just remember to use it the correct number of times if necessary.


    4. Change the Field Properties in the bottom section. Change AutoValue from No to Yes (Figure 5).
    5. Figure 5: Field Properties section (AutoValue).
    6. Set FuelID as the Primary key.
    7. Right-click on the green triangle to the left of FuelID (Figure 6).

      Figure 6: Primary key field.

      Click Primary Key in the context menu. This places a key icon in front of FuelID.

    Documentation note.png The primary key serves only one purpose. Any name can be used for this field. It is not necessary to use FuelID as the name of the primary key field. We have used it so we know to which table it belong by its name.
  3. All other entries:
    1. Enter the next field name in the first column (Field Name column).
    2. Select the Field Type for each field.
      • For Date use Date[DATE]. (Use the D key once to select it.)
      • PaymentType uses Text[VARCHAR], the default setting.
      • All other fields use Number[NUMERIC]. (Use the N key once to select it.)
    3. Select the Field Properties (Figure 7).
    4. Figure 7: Field Properties section.
      • FuelCost, FuelQuantity, and Odometer need changes in the Field Properties section (Figure 7).
        • FuelQuantity: Change Length to 6 and Decimal places to 3. (Many fuel pumps measure fuel to thousands of a gallon in the USA where I live.)
        • Odometer: Change the Length to 10 and the Decimal places to 1.
        • FuelCost: Change the Length to 5 and Decimal places to 2. Click the Format example button. This opens the Field Format window (Figure 8).
        • Figure 8: Field Format options.
      • Use Currency as the Category and anything in the Format list with two decimal places.
  4. Repeat these steps for each field in the table. To access additional formatting options, click the button to the right of the Format example panel (Format example button).
  5. Description can be anything, or can be left blank. (Figure 9 is an example of this.)
  6. To save and close the table, select File > Close. Name the table Fuel.
  7. Figure 9: Example of Description entries.

Follow the same steps to create the Vacations table. The fields and their field types are listed in Figure 9. Make sure you make Date field the primary key before closing, naming the table Vacations, and saving it.

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Creating tables for the list box

When the same information can be used in several fields, design a table for each type of information. Each table will contain two fields: the information field, and ID in this order.

  1. Follow the directions in Creating tables in Design View. In the table we will create, the two fields can be Type and PaymentID. Make sure that the AutoValue is set to Yes for the PaymentID field. Set the PaymentID field as the primary key. (See Figure 10.)
  2. Save the table using the name Payment Type.
Figure 10: Table in Design View.
Documentation note.png If you have several tables to create with the same fields, design one table and produce the other tables by cutting and pasting. (See Creating a table by copying an existing table.)

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Adding data to the list table

List tables do not require a form. Instead, add their data directly to the table. In this example, use the names of the two people with a bank card and cash for cash purchases.

  1. In the main database window, click on the Tables icon (Figure 2). Right-click on Payment Type and select Open from the context menu.
  2. Enter Dan in the first row. Use the tab key to move to the second row.
  3. Enter Kevin in the second row.
  4. Enter Cash in the third row.
  5. Save and close the table window.
Tip.png The Enter key can also be used to move from field entry to field entry. For this example, enter Jan. in the first Name field. Enter moves the cursor to the ID field. Enter then moves the cursor to the second Name field. The Down Arrow key can also be used to move from row to row.


Documentation note.png The PaymentID field contains <AutoField> until you use the Enter key to move to the second row. Then it becomes a 0. As you add the entries to each row, the rows of the PaymentID field change to consecutive whole numbers. For example the first three numbers in this field are 0,1,2.

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