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March 2008

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Building your carefree database in OpenOffice.org—made simple with forms
Tech Talk 6 by BrainStorm, Inc.

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Gathering the Data

As my database grows, I may find that I'd like to add additional tables; but my top priority now is to populate the tables I do have. One way to do this is to simply open the table and begin entering the data. You can certainly choose that option.

To do so:

  1. Open the database that contains the desired tables.
  2. Select Tables from the Database column at the left of the screen.
  3. Double-click the main table, or, alternately, right click the table and select Open.
  4. Begin entering your data, pressing Tab to move to each new field and Enter to move to the next record. (See Figure 4—Manually Populating Tables.)
  5. Click the Save button in the toolbar after entering each record.

Doing it this way works, but it can also be very tedious, not to mention fairly inefficient.

The most efficient means of filling those tables with data is to create data entry forms to help you along. At their most basic, forms are straightforward and can be quickly created with the Form Wizard. I recommend you start there.

Creating a Basic Data Entry Form

In our scenario, one of the more basic tables is the Employee/User table. If you use the Wizard to create a form, you could delegate the data gathering and have an intern quickly gather some information from Human Resources and enter it in the form, thus populating the table. To create the form:

  1. Open the database that contains the Employee/User table.
  2. Select Forms from the Database column at the left of the screen.
  3. Click Use Wizard to Create Form.
  4. Select the table you want to use (in this case the Employee/User table) from the Tables or queries field.
  5. Select the fields you want to appear in the form and move them to the Fields in the form pane. It's a good idea here to put the fields in the order you want them to appear in the form. Moving them around later can cause more trouble than you'd expect.
  1. Click Next to move to number 5 in the Steps pane at the left of the Wizard. (We'll cover Subforms in our next article.)
  2. Make selections for steps 5 through 8 as desired. These steps will allow you to design how the form looks— including how each record displays and the colors and visual effects used—and what it is named.
  3. Click Finish.

Entering Data in a Form

The next step is to enter your data, which is really quite straightforward: Enter the data in the first field, press Tab to move to the next field, enter more data, and keep tabbing and entering data until you've finished entering data for that record. One of my favorite features is that each new record is saved automatically when moving to the next record. Of course, you can also click the Save button on the Form Navigation toolbar at any time to make sure each record is saved.

Speaking of the Navigation toolbar, it's imperative that it be displayed whenever you're entering new data or even just looking at a form. Use the VCR-like buttons on the bar to move to the next record, find an existing record, delete an entire record, and so on. The toolbar is accessible by clicking View | Toolbars | Form Navigation. (See Figure 5—Form Navigation Toolbar.) You can also use the toolbar to sort data in a large form, filter data or to view the form as a table while entering the data.

Next

  • Figure 1

    This is the main table in our IT Inventory Database. Several of the fields in the table, such as those for the Serial Number, Vendor ID, Employee ID, and Condition, are linked to other tables.

  • Figure 2

    This table is a secondary table in the IT Inventory Database. It is linked to the main table through the Employee ID field.

  • Figure 3

    Like the User/Employee Table, the Vendors table is secondary to the main table. It is linked to the main table through the Supplier ID field, which shares common information with the Vendor ID field in the main table.

  • Figure 4

    If you have only a few tables in a database, with relatively little information needed in each table, you can easily populate your tables by opening them and entering the data by hand. Simply tab over from field to field. Remember to save your data before closing the table.

  • Figure 5

    The Form Navigation Toolbar employs VCR-like buttons to help you scroll through each record. It is also the place to go to save, delete, undo, or further control a record while entering data.

  • Figure 6

    Youll likely want to change the name of many of the labels on your forms. This is because the label names come directly from your tables, which require that a field be named with only one word.

  • Figure 7

    After creating a relationship, a line will display between the common fields, indicating the type of relationship. This is a one to one relationship.

  • Figure 8

    Selecting a field type for each field in your table will help you create tables that provide the specific information you want to relay,

  • Figure 9

    By selecting a field, right clicking, and choosing Control, the Properties box displays. Here you can make changes to improve data entry. This image shows that the user has made changes that will place a drop-down arrow in the field, add parameters for minimum and maximum date entries, and set the date format to MM/DD/YY.



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