While there are four types of database objects in Access, tables are arguably the most important. Even when you're using forms, queries, and reports, you're still working with tables because that's where all of your data is stored. Tables are at the heart of any database, so it's important to understand how to use them.

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In this lesson, you will learn how to open tables, create and edit records, and modify the appearance of your table to make it easier to view and work with.

Throughout this tutorial, we will be using a sample database. If you would like to follow along, you'll need to download our Access 2013 sample database. You will need to have Access 2013 installed on your computer in order to open the example.

Table basics

To open an existing table:Open your database, and locate the Navigation pane.In the Navigation pane, locate the table you want to open. Tables are marked with a spreadsheet icon.Double-click the desired table. It will open and appear as a tab in the Document Tabs bar.
Opening a table
Understanding tables

All tables are composed of horizontal rows and vertical columns, with small rectangles called cells in the places where rows and columns intersect. In Access, rows and columns are referred to as records and fields.

Records, fields, and cells in an Access table

A field is a way of organizing information by type. Think of the field name as a question and every cell within that field as a response to that question.

Fields and field names

A record is one unit of information. Every cell on a given row is part of that row's record. Each record has its own ID number. Within a table, each ID number is unique to its record and refers to all of the information within that record. The ID number for a record cannot be changed.

Records and record ID numbers

Each cell of data in your table is part of both a field and a record. For instance, if you had a table of names and contact information, each person would be represented by a record, and each piece of information about each person—name, phone number, address, and so on—would be contained within a distinct field on that record's row.

Click the buttons in the interactive below to learn how to navigate a table.

edit hotspots

The Records Command Group

The Records command group on the Home tab contains a handful of commands for working with records, including New Record, Save Record, and Delete Record.

Find and Replace

The Find command allows you to search for any term in your table.The Replace command allows you to search for any term in your table and replace it with a new one. For example, you could replace the word Fall with the word Autumn.

Text Formatting Command Group

These formatting options allow you to make your table easier to read by adding an alternate row color or modifying the gridlines that separate individual rows and columns. You can access even more formatting options by clicking the arrow in the bottom-right corner.


In Access, columns are referred to as fields. When you organize your data by entering it into different fields, you are organizing it by type. Each field contains one type of data. The type of data contained within a field is described by the title at the top of each field.


In Access, table rows are referred to as records. A record is a unit of data that includes every piece of information in a given row.

Record Navigation Bar

The Record Navigation bar allows you to navigate through records one at a time. Click the arrows to move from record to record, and navigate directly to a record by searching for it with the record search box. You can also use the Record Navigation bar to add a new record to the current table.

To navigate between fields, you can use the left and right arrow keys or scroll left and right.

Adding records and entering data

Entering data into tables in Access is similar to entering data in Excel. To work with records, you'll have to enter data into cells. If you need help entering data into records, you might want to review our Cell Basics lesson from our Excel 2013 tutorial.

To add a new record:

There are three ways to add a new record to a table:

In the Records group on the Home tab, click the New command.

Sometimes when you enter information into a record, a window will pop up to tell you that the information you've entered is invalid. This means the field you're working with has a validation rule, which is a rule about the type of data that can appear in that field. Click OK, then follow the instructions in the pop-up window to re-enter your data.

To save a record:

Access is designed to save records automatically. After you enter a record, you can either select a different record or close the object, and Access will save the record. However, in certain situations you may want to save a record manually. For example, if you needed to edit an existing record, you could save the record to ensure your changes are saved.

Select the Home tab, and locate the Records group.Click the Save command. The record will be saved.

Editing records

To quickly edit any record within a table, you can click it and type your changes. However, Access offers you the ability to find and replace a word within multiple records and delete records entirely.

To replace a word within a record:

You can edit multiple occurrences of the same word by using Find and Replace, which searches for a term and replaces it with another term.

Select the Home tab, and locate the Find group.Select the Replace command. The Find and Replace dialog box will appear.
In the Find What: field, type the word you want to find, then in the Replace With: field type the word you would like to replace the original word. In our example, we'll find instances of the word Fall and replace it with Autumn.

Click the Look In: drop-down arrow to select the area you want to search.Select Current Field to limit your search to the currently selected field.Select Current Document to search within the entire table.

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Click the Match: drop-down arrow to select how closely you'd like results to match your search.Select Any Part of Field to search for your search term in any part of a cell.Select Whole Field to search only for cells that match your search term exactly.Select Beginning of Field to search only for cells that start with your search term.