Although it is helpful to collect the majority of your business information into one database, it is unlikely that you will need to review it all at the same time, which is where Microsoft (MS) Access can be an important tool for your company.

This product allows you to compile massive amounts of data, which you can call up and analyse whenever necessary. For example, if you are in charge of running a specialist cake shop and are using the programme to make records of your regular orders and stock, you may want to check that certain ingredients are available for a future order. Instead of having to look through databases to find which foodstuffs are needed for each client you can create queries to do this for you.

If you are a newcomer to MS Access, you may like to take a short training course that can reveal more about the application before you begin to use it. Or if you prefer, you can start creating datasheets, which are generated by simple queries. Taking the previous example, you may have a table in a database containing all your advance customer orders for the following month and the cakes they require.

However, on another table you have listed all the cakes and the specialist ingredients you have in stock. Instead of manually looking through each one to see if you have enough to go around you can ask the application to pull in and compare data from each table, which can then be presented in a datasheet. In this example, you may have put the name of the cake in the 'customer's table' in a field indentified as 'products ordered', while the specific cakes and the products they include are listed in a 'cake's ingredient' field on another table.

Here, you could create a simple query that would, for example, publish the type of cakes ordered in the next month from one table along with their ingredients required, from the latter table, meaning you could check stocks and order more if necessary. The query would provide you with one document bearing the information you have pulled from the different tables. Once you have asked MS Access to perform this kind of function, the results tend to be displayed in a datasheet, which also acts as a simple report.

Now that you have a datasheet, you may want to add more or less information to it, in order to expand or delete the information you have complied. For example, you may want to keep your stock suppliers details on the report so you do not have to go hunting for it each time you reorder ingredients. In addition, as well as your customer's name it could be useful to include their contact details in case you need to reach them to inform them their order is ready.

This can be easily done via the software, as it allows you to add more information, while also giving you the opportunity to hide elements that are not quite relevant to the task at hand. As well as adding and deleting columns of information, you can also change the overall look of your datasheet, which can help alert you to dwindling stocks that ought to be reordered in the coming days and weeks. It is possible to use MS Access to change the colour of rows and add emphasis to the data, while you can also filter and sort the information further, such as by listing cake orders alphabetically.