Of all the Microsoft products, Access is the one that most often requires outside training. It's not hard to understand typing text into Word or plugging numbers into Excel, but even experienced computer professionals require Access training.

Often it is not enough to take an introductory course. For most users of Microsoft Access, advanced training is mandatory and even that is no substitute for experience. Here are a few tips that even many experienced users don't know.

Database Design

Simply sitting down and planning their applications on paper before ever touching the computer could solve most of the problems people have when designing databases. Designing a large project on they fly while sitting at the keyboard is doomed to fail. You may spend hours trying to fix problems that ten minutes of planning could have avoided.

Never work on the production database. Work on a separate copy, the prototype, so that when you make a critical error (and we all do) you don't destroy all of the company's information. Only once the prototype is finished and well tested should it be put out live to other users. Some other pearls of wisdom from Microsoft Access advanced training to remember are to clearly understand all of your fields and relationships, choose naming convention for all elements and stick to them, never set up a database where users can edit fields directly, and always use forms.

Code Writing

Microsoft Access advanced training is where people learn to write SQL and VBA code. This gives them the ability to create powerful databases. It also gives them the ability to really mess things up. Document all code with comments. Don't document outside the application since those documents will inevitably be lost. Never write code with the idea that other developers or users will be able to come to you and ask what the code does. You may no longer be available, have moved on from a job or department, or just not have the time to explain.

Look at other people's code for inspiration. You can even use the code in your application if the author's usage guidelines allow it. Before using it, understand how it works. You will learn how to code better in the future and you will avoid unpleasant surprises.

Write custom error handlers so the users don't get unintelligible error message that will just confuse and frustrate them. Additionally, don't use SendKeys, Smart Codes, or GoTo. Very skilled database programmers may be able to make exceptions to this rule, but usually they just lead to bad code and future problems.

The Most Important Rule of All

You probably learned this in Microsoft Access advanced training. You may have learned it in introductory training and will most likely learn it again in the future. You may have even learned it the hard way when all of your data disappeared. It is the rule that even people who know better frequently violate: Keep regular backups!

Back up not only the production database but any prototypes you are working on. Backup your databases often and occasionally restore the backups to ensure they are working properly.