Access Basics:
Open Access

Title: Jan's Illustrated Computer Literacy 101
Did you want: Working with Databases: Access 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016

You have several choices of how to open Access and then the database that you need. You will not use all of these in these lessons. But you may need to use one of these alternate methods sometime.

Choices to Open Access:

You have several methods to open Access itself without opening a database.

  • Start Menu: Access iconsStart Menu:
    Work through the Start menu to find the shortcut.
    The shortcut is either in the Programs/All Programs list or is hiding in a folder on the menu, Microsoft Office
  • Explorer:
    Find the file MSACCESS.EXE in Explorer and double-click on it.
    Explorer window: MSACCESS.EXE
  • Run: On the Start menu, open the Run box, type in msaccess, and click on OK.
    Dialog: Run - msaccess

Where you are:
JegsWorks > Lessons > Databases

Before you start...

Project 1: Intro

Project 2: Access Basics Arrow: subtopic open
    InterfaceTo subtopics
    Getting Started Arrow: subtopic open 
    Icon: StepOpen Access
    Icon: StepSettings
    Icon: StepUsing Help
    Access ObjectsTo subtopics
    RelationshipsTo subtopics
    ExercisesTo subtopics

Project 3: Tables & Queries

Project 4: Forms & Reports


Open an Existing Database:

There are many ways to open a database. You won't actually have to use all of these choices, but you should be aware of the possibilities.

Open database from outside Access

These methods open Access and then the database.

  • Start Menu - recent files: Open the Start menu and select My Recent Documents and then click on a recently opened file.
  • Explorer: Use Windows Explorer to find the database file and then double-click it. Access will open and then open the database.
  • Open Dialog:
    • Shortcuts for Office documentsIcon: Access 2002Start Menu: Select the Open Office Document icon to see the Open dialog.
      (not available in Office 2003 unless you upgraded from a previous version)
    • Office Shortcut bar Icon: Access 2002Office Shortcuts Bar: Click on the icon for Open Office Document to open the Open dialog.
      (not available in Office 2003 unless you upgraded from a previous version)

Open database from inside Access

When Access is already open, you can use these methods:

  • Recent Files:
    • Access Menu: At the bottom of the File menu, click on a recently opened file.
    • Icon: Access 2002 Access 2002 Task pane: New File: In the list Open a file, select a recently opened database.
    • Icon: Access 2003 Access 2003 Task pane: Getting Started: In the list Open, select a recently opened database.
  • Open Dialog:
    • Access Menu File  |  Open... 
    • Access Toolbar button:  Button: Open Open button
    • Icon: Access 2002 Access 2002 Task pane: New File: More files... Link: More files...(2002)
    • Icon: Access 2003 Access 2003 Task pane: More... Link: More files (2003)

TipHow to have more than one database open at a time:
Open a new blank Access window and then open the database from inside that window. Double-clicking the file name in a My Computer window will also work.

If an Access database is already open, trying any of the other methods for opening a new database may replace the current database instead of opening a second Access window.

Icon: TroubleProblem: Computer slows down with two copies of Access open
If your computer responds very slowly with a second copy of Access open, you may not have enough memory to handle two copies at once.

Creating a New Database

In other Microsoft Office programs, when you first open the program, you see a blank document, ready for you to begin typing. Not so with Microsoft Access. You must deliberately create a new, blank database.

  • Access New File Task Pane File  |  New...  opens up the New File task pane.
    Click on the link Blank Database. Link: Blank database (2002)  Link: Blank Database (2003)
  • Shortcuts for Office documentsIcon: Access 2002Start menu: Select the New Office Document icon and then choose Blank Database.
    (not available in Office 2003 unless you upgraded from a previous version)
  • Office Shortcut bar Icon: Access 2002Office Shortcuts Bar: Choose New Office Document.
    (not available in Office 2003 unless you upgraded from a previous version)

Security Warnings

There are several security warning dialogs that you may see, depending on whether you have turned on sandbox mode or not and on whether your version of the Jet engine, which is necessary to Access, is up-to-date.

Jet 4.0 SP8: You must have installed Service Pack 8 (SP8) or later of Microsoft Jet database engine 4.0 in order to have a sandbox mode at all.

To install Jet 4.0 SP8: You can download and install Jet 4.0 SP8 Icon: Off site or later. Or, install all the critical Windows updates, which will automatically install the latest version of the Jet service pack on your computer

Sandbox mode: This is a higher level security setting that blocks certain commands, which can be used to damage your computer or your data. Unfortunately only the Help articles talk about "sandbox mode". This name does not show up in any of the dialogs!

Security Warning: Unsafe expressions are not blocked - Yes, No, HelpTo enable sandbox mode:  Open a new file. A security dialog appears that asks if you want to "block unsafe expressions." Choose Yes. You will be prompted to restart Access.

To disable sandbox mode: From the menu, select  Tools | Macro | Security  and set the security level to Low. This is not recommended, of course! You will have to restart Access.

Warning message Why it appears
Security Warning: Unsafe expressions are not blocked. Jet 4.0 SP8 or later is not installed and sandbox mode is not enabled.
Blocking unsafe expressions affects all users on this computer. Do you want to block unsafe expressions? Jet 4.0 SP8 or later is installed on the computer, but sandbox mode is not enabled.
This file may not be safe if it contains code that was intended to harm your computer. Do you want to open this file or cancel the operation? Access cannot verify that the file is from a trusted source and that it has not been tampered with since you received it or last worked on it.
Access cannot open the file due to security restrictions. Security settings restrict access to the file because it is not digitally signed. The macro security level in Access is set to High, but the file you are attempting to open is not signed.


Icon: Step-by-Step 

Step-by-Step: Open Access & Database

 Icon: Step-by-Step

What you will learn:

to open Access from Start menu
to open a database from a disk
to close a database
to download and open a database from the Internet
to create a backup copy of a database Icon: Access 2003
to create a new blank database and save it

Start with: Monitor with Desktop (Windows Desktop with no applications open.) 

Start Menu: Microsoft Access

You need to find the shortcut for Access on the Start menu.  There will be such an icon if you have installed the whole Office suite of programs or if Access was installed by itself. The shortcut can wind up in different places on the Start menu, depending on the version you installed.

  1. Start menu with Access installed alone Click on   Start  |  Programs  |  Microsoft Access .

    Icon: WinXP Start | All Programs |  Microsoft Access 

    Icon: TroubleAccess shortcut not on Programs list: The shortcut may be tucked away in a folder named Microsoft Office in the Programs list. Open that folder and you will see shortcuts to all of the Office programs that have been installed.

    Access will open without a database opening.

    Icon: Access 2002Access 2002: The New File task pane is showing.

    Access open but no database is open. New File task pane is showing.

    Icon: Access 2003 Access 2003: The Getting Started task pane is showing.

    Access open but no database is open. Getting Started task pane is showing.

Open Database: from disk

Start with: resource files installed and Access open with no database open yet.

Icon: TroubleHave not downloaded the resource files yet: You can just read this section and then do the section that follows, Open Database: download from Web using Internet Explorer to download just the one file that you need right now. Or you can install the resource files.

  1. With Access open, click Button: Open the Open button on Access's toolbar. The Open dialog appears. 
  2. In the Open dialog, in the box for File name, type the path
     C:\My Documents\complit101\databases\starwars.mdb
    or the location where you stored the resource files.
  3. Click on Open.

    Security Warning: Unsafe expressions are not blocked - Microsoft Jet 4.0 Service Pack 8You may see one or more of the following messages.
    If you see a Security Warning message
    that "Unsafe Expressions are not blocked", then click on No.
     Security Warning: Unsafe expressions are not blocked - Yes, No, HelpAnother warning message will appear. Click on No.
    You need to install an update for Access.
    Security Warning: This file many not be safe it it contains code that was intended to harm your computer.If you see a Security Warning message, click on Open. This one is just a standard warning for any database. Annoying!
    The database finally opens, showing the Database Window. The object that is selected is the one that was selected when the database was last closed.

Icon: Access 2003 Access 2003: Avoiding security warnings: See Microsoft online article Icon: Off site

Close a Database

  1. Database open, Close buttonClose the database by clicking Button: Close the Close button at the upper right of the Database Window.  (Be careful to click the correct one or you will close Access instead of just the database.)

Open Database: Download from Web using Internet Explorer

If for some reason you do not have the resource files on your computer, you can download the database from the web site. But you need to know how to do this correctly, or all you will get is a series of message boxes and no database!

Start with: Icon: Internet Explorer Internet Explorer open. (You probably have it open to read these directions!), Connected to the Internet, Access open with no database open.

  1. Open a new browser window (Since you have a window open already, use the key combo CTRL + N to open a new window, which means to hold the CTRL key down while you press the N key).
  2. In the new window, type in the address text box:
    Or you can copy the URL above and paste it in the address box.
  3. Click Button: Go the Go button or press ENTER.
    The Status bar says that Internet Explorer is starting to download the file, but you will have to respond to some dialog boxes before the downloading actually begins.
    Status bar: Downloading from site

    You may not see all of the dialogs below, depending on your security settings and version of Windows and of Internet Explorer.

    Dialog: File Download - Security WarningIf a download or Security Warning dialog appears, choose Open.
    Message: Security Warning - opening from the web can be dangerousIf a security warning appears, choose Open.

    Note: Internet Explorer is storing a temporary copy of the file. You can have many such copies with different numbers in the brackets [ ] if you download more than once.

    You would choose Save if you want to choose the location of the local copy of the database.

    Dialog: Security Warning - publisher could not be verifiedIf a second warning appears about a security certificate, choose Run.

    Title bar for document in temp folder, starwars[1]Finally, the database opens in Access. The title bar will show the name of the file, which may have a bracketed number after it.

    TipUnlike Word and Excel documents, Access databases will not open in an Internet Explorer window.

  4. Close the Internet Explorer window but do not close Access yet.

WarningDownloading from inside Access: If you try to open a database that is on a web server from inside Access, Access thinks it is opening a data access page. It fails!

WarningSaving changes: Access can save changes automatically to a local copy of a database, but not to the original on the Internet. You would normally work with a data access page when you want to save you changes to the database on the Internet.

Icon: Access 2003 Save Copy of Database (database open)

Unexpectedly, the commands Save and Save As on the File menu and the Save button Button: Save do not save a copy of the whole database. They only save a copy of the currently selected object inside the database.

In  Access 2003, you can use the steps below to save a backup copy while the database is open.

  1. Menu: File | Back Up DatabaseIn Access 2003, from the menu select  File  |  Back Up Database... .

    The Save Backup As dialog opens.

    Dialog: Save Backup As

    This dialog offers to save the database with the date as part of the name. This is a common practice for backup copies. You do not need the date this time. You are really just trying to get a copy onto your Class disk.

  2. Icon: Class diskIn the Save Backup As dialog, navigate to your Class disk. Create a new folder database project 1, and save the database to that folder with its same name,  starwars.mdb .
    You may notice that the windows flicker as Access closes and reopens the database. You may see the security message once again.
    Icon: Full Floppy DiskHow to handle a full disk
  3. Close the database without closing Access.

Icon: Access 2002Icon: Access 2003 Alternate method when database is closed: Find the file in an Explorer window and  copy and paste your database file to the folder of your choice. The database must be closed.

Access Task Pane: Create New Blank Database

  1. If necessary, from the Access menu select  File  |  New... . The New File task pane opens.
  2. Click on the link Blank Database.Link: Blank Database (Access 2002) Link: Blank Database (Access 2003)
    A dialog opens, File New Database.
    Default location: My Documents
    Default file name: db1.mdb

    Dialog: File New Database

  3. Navigate to your Class disk to the database project 1 folder.
  4. Change the File name from db1.mdb to worldtravel.mdb.
  5. Verify that the box "Save as type" is still set to Microsoft Access Databases.
  6. Click on the Create button. The Access window reappears with a blank database.
    There are no tables or any other objects in this blank database.

    Database: World Travel (blank)

  7. Close the database. Any changes are automatically saved as you work!