FD's Diary: Excel, OK. Access, no go. Why is that?

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April 29 ' I admit it, I'm an Excel junkie. I always have been. Well, I have since about 1990. Supercalc and Lotus 1-2-3 had teased my affections until then.

So of course I find what's going on about Excel on AccountingWEB fascinating.

But one thing troubles me. That's the comment in the review of David Carter's recent presentation that those of us who spend hours building complicated Excel spreadsheets should really get to know Access.

I fear he's right. After 20 years of spreadsheeting I try to avoid databases whenever possible. Why is that? What is the phobia? I'm not sure, but I know it's real.

So I've been really good. I think it's time I went on an A...

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17th May 2005 14:03

I was just browsing your April ramblings (sorry!) and came across your reflections on differentiating products. This won't be any help, I guess, although I don't know what you make; however it may raise a smile. The figures are representative as I can't remember what they were.

An aquaintance of mine used, many years ago, to work for a firm that made weighing scales, very high tech. They made three versions; an industrial one that was painted black and cost £150, a military one that was painted green and cost £500, and a medical one that was painted white and cost £750. The only difference was the colour of the paint!!!

Now THAT'S marketing.

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11th May 2005 09:24

Access for accountants - shameless sales plug
I have tried to produce an initial introduction to databases based on taking a simple Excel spreadsheet and converting it to an Access database. It is available in the AccountingWEB Resource Centre

If you want more specialist follow-up material or training, feel free to contact me via The Knowledge Base
Hope it helps



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By Robjoy
11th May 2005 19:03

Excel to Access link
Sorry, should have mentioned - it's an add-in, I think it's just called 'Access Links' - which gives you converting to Access, as well as using Access reporting. It's a standard MS add-in, so you should be able to find it via the help file.

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11th May 2005 12:34

convert to Access tool
Joyce - where can I find the "convert to Access tool"?

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By slarti
06th May 2005 14:43

How can Accountants have probelms ...
... with relational databases?

Don't you use an accounting package?

What is an accounting package? It is a relational database, or at least all of the ones I have seen are.

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By Robjoy
05th May 2005 17:38

Hold nose, deep breath . . .
Pick a spreadsheet with any sort of list of stuff - transactions, customer details, doesn't really matter what, and use the convert to Access tool. Just PLAY with the resulting database, rummage around the help file (it really isn't bad, just huge), and you'll probably soon realise why people tell you that Access is brill.

Sure, you can get obscenely complicated with it, start getting clever with VBA and DAO (wassat? you say) such that a non-geek would struggle to understand, but you can do an awful lot of useful stuff without going bonkers.

Once you've had a go at it, find a local MS solution-provider-type company and get them to show you how to progress with what YOU want to do. More expensive than any out-of-the-box training, but much more likely to motivate. Apparently Microsoft are going to give it some serious development attention, so I wait with baited breath.

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By neileg
29th Apr 2005 11:32

David is restating what I have said a number of times in this forum, over the years. A relational database like Access is great tool for accountants and one I would not like to do without.

You will have a problem, though. Anyone who has a high degree of competence in Excel will need to relearn their approach to problems. In Excel, you tend to store manipulate and display your data all in the same place. In Access these are separate functions. Excel junkies tend to try and use an Access table like a spreadsheet and that doesn't work.

I frequent www.access-programmers.co.uk and there's a load of helpful people, sample databases and FAQs. Not a substitute for formal training for a beginner, but a valuable resource if you want your databases to really perform.

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29th Apr 2005 12:06

I agree with Neil. Can't live without Access, and there is a distinct lack of good relevant training - too much is focussed on Access itself, which is not what is really required. The useful bits are the queries (or SQL) - which allow you to manipulate data, join up data from different sources, extract data, and do complex calculations.

I too am an excel junkie, but about 4 years ago i started to dabble with Access, and also with vba and dao, which allows me to manipulate access data and present it in excel.

I had a kickstart because i was involved in a project to implement a new time and fees system, part of which was to port existing data from 9 existing systems to 9 new systems, using access database structures, so i spent some time with an expert in sql, and learnt at the coal face.

My other useful source is the computer magazine PCW - there is an "experts" section at the back, and it has a regular feature on databases - pitched at the right level for the enquiring novice - I still learn lots from it. I think you can buy back copies of these from the website?

I have also over the years found nuggets via google.

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02nd May 2005 08:30

It is a bit of a mental leap to go from spreadsheets to relational databases, but once you've made it it's pretty much impossible to go back. I didn't find it clicked until our IT guy sat me through it one day with a pencil and a bit paper (and a lot of lines and arrows) and I've never looked back since.

There's a very good free set of online tutorials at www.functionx.com and any time you are stuck you can always rely on the users at www.utteraccess.com to help you out.

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By Anonymous
22nd Apr 2005 10:13

Thanks Helen

I'll have a look at them

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28th Apr 2005 09:20

P35 - don't panic!
Was the P35 reminder you've received an 'AR1' form?

If so, and you've sent your P35 electronically, then the reminder has probably been sent in error. HMRC (the new name for the Inalnd Revenue) issued the following statement a few days ago:

"Employers who had their 2004/05 P35 Annual Return issued electronically have been sent an AR1 reminder in error. Please be reassured that where the confirmation email has already been received ... following submission of the P35 or where the 9004 xml message code is received, we do have the details.

We apologise for any inconvenience caused by this problem. Investigations are underway to ascertain why this has happened and to ensure that the problem cannot arise again.

You will also find that the incorrect year of 2019/2020 is shown on reminders."

So if your software (or HMRC's email) has told you the P35 has been received, you can ignore the reminder.


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28th Apr 2005 09:28

P35 reminders
See HMRC watch: P35 reminders for 2019/20.

Andrew Goodall
Editor, TaxZone

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By Anonymous
28th Apr 2005 10:39

Thanks re the P35
You're all right

Flipping annoying though isn't it?

And that's the polite version!

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By Abacjm
11th Apr 2005 18:01

Congratulations, Auld Yin!
Good to know that there is still some lead in the old pencil despite using it for so many Spreadsheets!

And all this after you tut-tutting about AJ's hem-line at the year end stocktake!
No doubt, you will need lots of advice to keep two incomes flowing and here is a link to get your started.

We wish you both all the nappiness to come.

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19th Apr 2005 10:22

P11D software
We currently use PTP which works well for us but we're a firm of accountants preparing the forms for numerous companies after the year end. I recently looked at alternatives and came across one that I thought was better suited to individual companies to be used throughout the year and you can get a free download or arrange for a free trial version for 30 days;-
Another alternative recently recommended to me is PKF P11D software;-
click here to see it

(Please note that I'm not connected to any of these companies in any way)
P.S. Could some kind person make the above into links as I haven't a clue how that's done!

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06th Apr 2005 12:21

Good news!
Congratulations. As a 44 year old father of a ten month baby boy and a 4 year old girl, I too can say that parenthood at this great age brings much joy.
It also makes you very knackered and puts your planned retirement date back by a fair few years!!
Perhaps the siblings will be able to assist with nappy changes and night time feeds?!

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By eusjaka
05th Apr 2005 20:26

Congratulations, as a 43 year old mother of an 8 month old baby girl, with a 12 year old stepdaughter, I can say that parenthood at this great age brings many rewards and much joy. Your new addition is going to be adored by his/her siblings and don't forget you will also have some built in baby-sitters/baby amusers!

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By Anonymous
06th Apr 2005 09:16

I hadn't thought of that one
I hadn't thought of the baby sitting point. Our eldest will be on for this (suitable bribes no doubt being supplied). That's one relief because we were just about over that era and I wouldn't like to have gone back to it entirely.

Mind you, I do recall having no energy to go out anyway when the existing brood were young.

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