Although this book includes a multitude of explanations and exercises for performing essential, everyday Access tasks, its overriding objective is to instill in you the relational database framework.
My sense of the importance of having the relational database model in your head parallels my experience of learning and teaching accounting. The basic accounting equation, as every accounting student soon finds out, is Assets = Liabilities + Owner's Equity. As I watched students struggle with the vagaries of accountingsuch as why an increase in cash and an increase in insurance expense both require debits to their respective accountsit occurred to me that their main problem was they didn't understand this basic equation. Oh, sure, they could repeat it back on a pop quiz. But they hadn't internalized it to the extent that it had become second nature to use with accounting problems.
But once you are able to see all accounting transactions as affecting assets, liabilities, or owner's equity, accounting's mysteries become solvable. Of course, accounting poses some very thorny theoretical and practical questions, and merely knowing a very simple equation won't solve most of your problems. Without having that model in your head, however, it's difficult to tackle them at all.
Relational database theory can't be reduced to a simple equation. But the need to have an underlying theoretical framework is, if anything, as important in using a relational database program such as Access as it is in accounting.
Because a table is the only object that you actually have to use in Access, it is also the object new users learn about first. So there is a tendency for novices to use a table for all sorts of tasks and functionsentering data, viewing it, printing it, and so onwhen other objects are much more effective. Knowledgeable Access users will recognize the central importance of tables to a database, but they actually spend little time working in them. The relational database framework, as manifested in Access, requires that you know not only how to relate tables to one another, but also how the various objects interact with and change each other.