Even if you've used earlier versions of Access, you may need to spend a little time becoming familiar with Access 2007's new opening screen and user interface.

The Opening Screen - Getting Started with Access

When you launch Access 2007 the new Getting Started with Access opening screen appears, with a strong emphasis on templates. Some templates are local and are installed along with Access, more are available online via the Templates Categories Navigation Bar on the left. You also have the option of creating a new blank database.

If you want to open an existing database, click on the Office Button at the top left of the screen. This shows you a range of file management options such as New, Open and Manage. The Office button has similar commands found under the File menu in earlier versions of Access.

Just above the Office button is the new Quick Access Toolbar. This toolbar contains commonly used commands and can be easily customised, so you can add your favourite Access commands.

Once you have opened an existing database or created a new one, the commands Ribbon appears at the top of the screen containing four Tabs - Home, Create, External Data and Database Tools. All Access 2007 commands are grouped under these tabs.

Try creating a new database from one of the local templates, such as Northwind 2007. Once this database opens you'll need to click Options on the message bar and then select Enable this Content. Then login to the database using its opening login dialog screen.

The New User Interface

With the database open, you're faced with a completely new looking user interface. Gone is the familiar Database window with its list of Access objects; Tables, Queries, Forms, Reports, Macros and Modules. Instead you'll see a Navigation Pane on the left and a multi tabbed viewing area on the right.

The Navigation Pane may seem bewildering initially with a complexity of headings and expandable sections. However it all boils down to Categories and Groups. In the Navigation Pane you can choose a particular category and group within the category. Within each group are sets of Objects such as tables, queries, forms and reports. You can then double click on any object within a group to open it in the viewing area.

The apparent complexity in the Navigation Pane is because you can select different combinations of pre-set categories and groups, and you can also add your own customised categories and groups. For example when you open Northwind 2007 a customised category called Northwind Traders is shown, with customised groups such as Customers and Orders, Inventory and Purchasing and Suppliers.

To change the category in Northwind 2007 to a more familiar view, click on the down arrow on the top of the Navigation Pane, and under Navigate to Category click on Object Type (this is the category selection). Then click on the same down arrow again and under Filter By Group choose All Access Objects (this is the group selection).

In essence the Navigation Pane allows you to first select a category and then select a group within that category. Choosing the above combination shows the category All Access Objects at the top of the Navigation Pane and the familiar groups Tables, Queries, Forms, Reports, Macros and Modules.

You can expand any of the groups by clicking once on a group heading. For example clicking on Tables will expand to show all the database tables. If you then double click on a particular table, it will open in the viewing area on the right.

You can open several objects at once this way - each opens in a separate tab in the viewing area. Clicking on the cross to the far right of the viewing area closes the currently selected object.

To create a new Navigation Pane category, right click on the Navigation Bar heading, and choose Navigation Options. In the Navigations Options box click Add Item, then give the new category a name. Then with the new category selected, click Add Group, give the group a name, and click OK to finish.

Attending an instructor lead training course would be worthwhile way to really explore the user interface and to learn about the many new features of Access 2007.

Within any Access 2007 database you can create different sets of categories and groups to suit different database users. This is a powerful new feature in an already impressive database.