Microsoft Access can be an invaluable tool for a business. It is able to store vast amounts of information in a relational database, allowing you to call upon individual entries and to see relationships between pieces of data (such as listing customers who have all bought a number of similar items). Access can enable any organisation to really take control of their information.

Yet, for all the practical benefits of such control, there will be times when elements of the data will need to be shared. Management or stakeholders or potential clients may wish to see evidence of how the business is going, and can't be expected to delve through row after row, column after column, however informative and important the details contained within might be. You need a clear and comprehensible report on the key points of the data, and an Access report is just the job.

Gloria works for GlobeSky, a small but successful budget airline looking at the possibility of expanding. The company are hoping to understand from their existing business where they're most likely to find potential for revenue growth and return on the investment needed for expansion. The IT department maintains a database of customers, their details, and where they've travelled to and from in the past; Gloria wants to draw out of this information a clearer picture of what market is secure and productive enough to offer significant returns for GlobeSky to either put on extra flights to the same destinations, or to consider new destinations that have a similar appeal.

With Access, Gloria has three routes by which to produce the report that will tell her what she needs to know. She can share this report with those in management who'll make the final decision. If she's after a quick look at the underlying data, with as little preparation as possible, the Report Tool provides a swift solution. Without asking for any further information, the Report Tool uses pre-existing queries and tables to produce a simple and clear report instantaneously, with just one click.

Should Gloria want to take greater control over her reports, the Report Wizard allows her to be more selective about the fields that are used to compile the report. Data from different tables and queries can be included too, with a specified relationship, thus allowing Gloria to see deeper into how different aspects of the business affect one another. The Report Wizard also gives her more control over how data is grouped and sorted, helping ensure that the report she has is what she needs.

Alternatively, Gloria can produce just the report she was looking for from scratch, with a Blank Report. This way, the fields that she wishes to include can be simply dragged onto the report from the database, allowing complete flexibility in designing the report. The Blank Report can also be a great help in putting together a small report in a hurry, the simple dragging procedure being not at all time-consuming where just a few fields are needed.

Having created her report, Gloria can now fine-tune it, to make sure that the finished article is exactly what she was after. Again, there's more than one way in which she can do this, a choice that gives her greater control over her work. Firstly, she can use the Layout View to adjust the appearance of the report visually. Layout editing is a wholly WYSIWYG process, moving fields and controls to where she needs them, adjusting their dimensions, rearranging data and putting in entirely new fields if she needs them.

But if she wants a greater control over the content of the report, she can switch to the Design View (and it is indeed just a switch; Gloria can move between the two views at the touch of a button). Here, any new fields can be customised in greater depth, individual text boxes can be edited directly, and she has complete control over all properties and elements of her report. Using the Layout and Design Views in tandem gives her all the tools she needs - the former to manage appearance as it will be seen by others, the latter to delve into the finer points to tweak any aspect of the report.

Gloria now has just the report she needed - it's time to share it. It's easy to make sure that Access reports get to the people who need them. Reports can of course be printed at the touch of a button. They can also be emailed directly, even if the intended recipients don't have Access, or any Microsoft Office software for that matter. Reports can be sent just as easily as a .pdf file, freely accessible to all, so you can always be sure that the information you need to distribute is seen by everyone who needs to know.

Sharing your information with everyone who needs to know is such an important area for any business, and one in which Access was of such assistance to Gloria and GlobeSky, and can be for you and your organisation too. A short training course will help you to make full use of all the tools it offers.