In Access 2010 the database documenter is located in the Analyse section of the Database Tools tab on the ribbon. As the name suggests the tool is used to document the database. This article explores exactly what this means and how the functionality can be used.

To create a detailed report including field names, properties and relationships between tables, go to the Database Documenter and Access will present you with a list of all objects within your database. These objects are arranged in intuitive tabs so you can navigate through easily and choose exactly what you want to document. This is particularly useful if you have previously documented the database and would like to create a document to reflect the changes on one table. Select which objects you would like to document or if you are documenting everything then select the All Object Types tab and click the Select All button. There are some additional options to allow the user to document specifically what they require. Click OK and the user is automatically presented with the document in Preview mode.

This document can be exported to a range of document types. To export, right click on the document, choose Export and select the document type and location when prompted. This will provide an automatic detailed report on all objects included within the database along with other options such as the relationships set up within the tables. For a novice user of access this document is very detailed and may be considered to contain too much information, but consider the following scenarios.

The first is that something goes wrong with a table. Every other user swears blind that they have changed nothing within the database and it's your design that is the problem. You open the database and run the report and can see that the Last Updated field was today while you were at lunch which is when the problem started. You can therefore deduce that someone is telling fibs and this will help you narrow down the problem. Having printed off the new report you can quickly and easily compare it to the old original report which you saved and can see exactly what is different. Change it back and hey presto things are working again just fine!

The second scenario is when a user has created a database and needs to document the structure and tables generally. You may not be with the company forever so you need to document carefully in case you leave and somebody else takes over your job. The automatically created document can be a good starting point. You may want to add or delete information. You may want to add more text with further instructions to help people cope when you aren't there to help them, but this document will save you time in giving you a basis for the documentation.

This is particularly useful when it comes to documenting the relationships between tables as a small diagram is automatically produced including the relationship type. This will save a lot of box drawing time in whatever software package you used to use! Bear in mind that there is no table that stores the field names for a table so documenting them manually can be tedious.

The third scenario is for when databases get more complicated as the wish list grows. A developer will constantly need to make additions and alterations and sometimes it is easy to forget why something is the way it is. Sometimes things look complicated, but were created in a particular way for a reason. Using this document as a basis for you documentation means you can add notes to show exactly why something has been designed in a particular way.