If you're new to using Access 2010 one of the first tasks to carry out will be to create one or more tables to hold your data. When you add, amend or view data the table is in Datasheet View. You can change to Design View make the changes, and then switch back to Datasheet View to add or amend fields, but the easy way is to stay in Datasheet View. You always could create and edit fields in Datasheet in previous Access versions but Access 2010 makes this task particularly easy, allowing you to create a table and then add or modify fields, all within Datasheet View, so you can see instantly the results of your work. There are new field templates which are particularly useful, so it has never been easier to create a table in Access. This article describes how to do this.

Creating a new blank database complete with new table

To start the process, launch Access 2010 and then create a new blank database. Choose a location to save the file if necessary, give the file a name, then click the 'Create' button to create and save the database file. When you create a new blank database Access 2010, obligingly creates a new table for you which opens in the right hand side of the display. If you want to create another new table later, choose the 'Create' tab and click the 'Table' button. However we'll stick to the table Access has started for us.

It's a good idea to save the new table design right at the start and then save it regularly as you build it, so click on the Save icon in the top left Quick Access Toolbar. You could accept the offered name 'Table1', and click OK to save it. You'll then see Table1 in the left hand navigation panel and the table still open in the right hand part of the display. Remember that in Access you are only ever saving the table design changes rather than actual data which is auto saved as you go along.

The new table Access has created has an ID field which is set to be the primary field with autonumber data type. Most tables do need to have a primary key so it's a good idea to keep this setting. If you want to change the name from ID just click into box under ID, then select the Fields tab in the upper Ribbon navigator. In the Properties group click on Name & Caption and change the name to, for example, Ref, and click OK to finish. The autonumber filed type means that Access will automatically add the values 1,2,3 etc. to successive records in your table as you enter the data.

Adding a new field in Datasheet View

Next we'll add a new field to the table using the 'Click to Add' label to the right of your Ref field, still in the right hand display. If you click the pop down, you'll see all the data templates available.

Try choosing 'Text', and a new field called 'Field1' is added with text data type, next to your ref field. To change the field name, click the box under Field1, choose the 'Field' tab and click 'Name & Caption' as before, and give the field a name, for example, Firstname, and click OK to finish.

Whenever you add a new field to your table, a new 'Click to Add' label appears at the right hand end of the table so you can add a further field if you wish. You can also add a new field using the 'Fields' tab and this lets you add a new field to the right of the current cursor selection, rather than at the end of the table. To do this, click into the box under 'FirstName' and choose the 'Fields' tab to select a new field type from the 'Add & Delete' group. Here you'll see the most commonly used field types such text, number and currency. Choose 'Text', and then rename the field to 'Surname'.

To modify a field property click into a box under the field name, then select the 'Field' tab. In the right hand side of the Ribbon, you'll see options for changing data type, formatting, and working with validation rules. A particularly useful field validation rule checks validation and triggers a prompt if required when you move between fields rather than records.

Choosing from Quick Start ready built fields

If you choose the 'More Fields' pop down in the 'Fields' tab you'll see a comprehensive list under the headings 'Basic Types', 'Number', 'Date and Time' and 'Yes/No'. In addition you'll also see the Quick Start heading which lists ready built fields with preset name, field types and field sizes allowing you quickly add fields with standard names and settings to your table.

Hopefully this article has given you a brief glimpse into the world of Access 2010 and in particular how to add and modify table fields all within the Datasheet View. You can add from a standard list of field types or add ready-made fields to get you up and running in Access 2010 in no time at all. Then you might consider attending a training course to take your skills further forward and really develop your Access capabilities.