The Access Wizard Newsletter Tips Tricks and Traps for Access Users and Developers
May 2005

Shortcuts – How to get from Point A to Point B with the Least Amount of Effort

I recently took up a new hobby - Geocaching. For those of you who have not heard of this pastime, it's been best described as a high-tech treasure hunt. It uses a Ground Positioning System (GPS) Receiver to locate treasure, typically hidden in the woods. You basically go online (http: //www.geocaching.com is a popular site) to find treasures near you. First, you use your GPS unit to get to the general location of the cache and then you use the internet for specific clues that (hopefully) lead you to the treasure.

I'm enjoying this hobby so much that I've started recruiting my friends to do it too, and recently moved up to a new GPS unit that also does street navigation. In my car I'm discovering all sorts of shortcuts for getting from one place to another. I've saved hours using the shortcuts that the GPS unit has shown me.

Inspired by my new hobby, this month's issue examines shortcuts in Access that can save you lots of time.

In this issue
  • Tip of the month - forgoing the mouse for keyboard shortcuts
  • Overview
  • Form Shortcuts
  • Table Shortcuts
  • Conclusion
  • Reader Feedback

  • Overview

    The best news about shortcuts is that many of the shortcuts you've learned from Microsoft Office programs (e.g. Word, Excel) will work in Access. I won't list those here since you probably already know them, nor will I try to be comprehensive in my coverage of shortcuts. My aim this month is to review my favorite Access shortcuts that you may not discover on your own.

    Form Shortcuts

    Copy a field from the prior Record
    Most Access users spend much of their time looking at or manipulating data in forms. There are a couple of shortcuts that can be real time savers here. The one I use most often is Control-" (holding down the control key while pressing the double quotes key at the same time). This shortcut will copy the field from the prior record into the same field in the current record.

    This actually works the same way for both list forms (forms that show a few details for many records aka continuous forms in Access) and single record forms (forms that show more detail for a single record). Using this shortcut in a list form will copy the value directly above the field the cursor is currently in. However, the exact same thing holds true for single record forms. What's neat about this is even though you can't see the prior record, the data will still be copied.

    Turn a Table into a Form
    Under the Forms Tab

    • Choose New
    • This will bring up a form with several choices. Choose Autoform (any of the choices for Autoform will work)
    • In the bottom part of the form choose the table or query section that you want to turn into a form
    • Click OK

    Voila, you've created a form with almost no effort. I think you'll agree that you'll need to do some work to make it pretty, but the bang for the buck here is huge.

    To Explicitly Save a Record
    A record is saved in Access when you close a form or move to another record. You can tell that a record has not been saved by looking on the right hand side of the form or table. If the record has not yet been saved you'll see a small pencil icon.

    Sometimes when you're dealing with a complex form and want to make sure that things are saved before you're completely finished, you can force a save by hitting Control-Enter. When you do this the pencil will turn into a black triangle and you'll know the record was saved.

    Table Shortcuts

    Copy a Record
    This can be a real time-saver. Let's say that you're working in a table and you need to add a new record that's almost identical to an existing record. The easiest way to do this is to:

    • Select a record (left click in the grey box on left hand side of the table)
    • Choose Edit Copy (Ctrl-C) from the menu at the top of the screen
    • Choose Paste Append from the Edit Menu

    You'll get an exact copy of your record, with the exception that any autonumber key will appropriately tick up to the next number. All you have to do at this point is change the fields that are different in the new record.

    Close a Table View
    To close a table view, use Control-F4. As a matter of fact, this shortcut will also work in forms, reports and queries.


    These are just a few of my favorite Access shortcuts. I hope that they will save you time and effort as you create and use your Access databases. Let me know if you have favorite shortcuts that are especially useful that I may have overlooked or not yet discovered.

    Reader Feedback

    One of my readers recently confirmed my feelings about redundant data - see February 2005. He says:

    I strongly recommend that your readers listen very carefully to your recommendation to avoid storing redundant data. It is a pit that I fell into. As the number of tables, queries, forms, reports and modules increase within your Access program, problems associated with redundant data seems to grow exponentially, especially if you're joining queries on the redundant data. It takes a long time to go back and remove redundant data, but over the long term it is better to do so.

    L. Guilmartin -- H20 Software Groton MA lguilmartin@cs.com

    As I've mentioned numerous times in this newsletter, the best approach is to avoid storing redundant data at the onset, when you're designing your Access database. If you eliminate the redundant data from the start, you can avoid the arduous task of removing redundant data in an active database sometime down the road.

    If you have any thoughts, questions, or suggestions feel free to send them along.

    Tip of the month - forgoing the mouse for keyboard shortcuts

    Back when I worked in Corporate America, I had a colleague who was very good with computers. This was just around the time when Windows 95 was coming out and mice were becoming common (oh-oh, I think I'm showing my age).

    When he first got a mouse, he told me that he'd never use it; as a matter of fact he said, "I'd just as soon carry a pink purse as to go mousing around my computer." His method was to use every keyboard shortcut available. He was a whiz at speeding through menus and seemed to know an incredibly long list of shortcuts. He gained much of his knowledge by keeping his eye on the menus at the top of the screen.

    If you look closely, you'll notice that some of the letters of the words in the menus are underlined. These underlined letters indicate "hot-keys," or actions that can be selected by holding down the Alt Key and typing the underlined letter. It's the equivalent of choosing the same menu item with the mouse.

    Try this and pretty soon you'll find yourself using your mouse less and less.

    Bonus Tip: To see every keyboard shortcut in Access, open up Help and do a search on the term "Keyboard Shortcuts." You'll find more ways to speed around your application than you ever thought possible.

    By the way, after six months my friend conceded that there were some things a mouse was really better for then the keyboard; however I could never get him to parade around the office with a pink purse.

    Quick Links...

    Custom Software Home

    Access Wizard Archives

    Our Services

    Join our mailing list!

    Forward email

    This email was sent to jim@custom-software.biz, by jim@custom-software.biz
    Powered by

    Custom Software | - | Westford | MA | 01886