Create your table structure

You are ready to begin creating the table or tables upon which your database will be built. Here are some tips you will
appreciate later in the design process.

Using descriptive names
Alpha Five and Access allow you to give tables and fields long names. Why be cryptic when you can be descriptive about what you want users to put in a field? It's best, however to avoid using spaces. Use the underscore _ instead.

Separating data
Break data apart into many fields for greater flexibility. For example, by having separate First_Name, Last_Name and Greeting fields, the same person can appear on a report as Dyer, Laura, on a mailing label as Laura Dyer and in a form letter, "Dear Ms. Dyer:"

Anticipating needs
Make your fields long enough to hold the realistic maximum you expect to store there. For instance, what is the longest company name you can think of? In Alpha Five, all fields (except memos) use the space you allot them regardless of whether you fill them with data, but disk space is cheap these days. Access does not store unused spaces.

Using numeric fields appropriately
Alpha Five and Access have a separate type of field for numeric data as opposed to alphanumeric (character) data. Generally, only amounts and values you might wish to use in a calculation should be stored in numeric type fields. Phone number, zip code and part number fields should be character fields.

Tracking changes
Consider adding a "last updated" field to keep track of when you've made changes to a record.

Test your table as you go along. Enter 10 or 15 records that represent a cross-section of the data you plan to use. A good exercise is to step through the processes you have created from start to finish, scrutinizing the results as if your business already depends on it. When testing for speed you should try to work with the maxium number of records you expect to have. To add a lot of test records, append the table to itself several times.

Backing Up
Make backup copies of your hard work! Backing up is easier when you've put your database files in a separate folder (directory) instead of mixing them in with the program files or sample data.

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