Guide to designing reports

Microsoft Office Access 2007 provides you with a number of tools that help you to quickly build attractive, easy-to-read reports that present the data in a way that best suits the needs of its users. You can use the commands on the Create tab to create a simple report with a single click. You can use the Report Wizard to create a more complicated report, or you can create a report by adding all the data and formatting elements yourself. Whichever method that you choose, you will probably make at least a few changes to the design of the report to make it display the data the way that you want. This article discusses the general process of designing a report and then shows you how to add specific design elements to your report.

In this article


Decide how to lay out your report

When you design a report, you must first consider how you want the data arranged on the page and how the data is stored in the database. During the design process, you might even discover that the arrangement of data in the tables will not allow you to create the report that you want. This can be an indication that the tables are not normalized — this means that the data is not stored in the most efficient manner.

For more information about normalization, click the link in the See Also section about database design basics.

Make a sketch of your report

This step is not required — you might find that the Access Report Wizard or the Report tool (both of which are available on the Create tab, in the Reports group) provide a sufficient starting design for your report. However, if you decide to design your report without using these tools, you might find it helpful to make a rough sketch of your report on a piece of paper by drawing a box where each field goes and writing the field name in each box. Alternatively, you can use programs such as Microsoft Office Word 2007 or Microsoft Office Visio 2007 to create a mockup of the report. Whichever method that you use, be sure to include enough rows to indicate how the data repeats.

Completed form overlapping preliminary sketch

For example, you can use a row for product information, then several repeating rows for that product's sales, and finally a row of sales totals for the product. Then, the sequence repeats for the next product and so on until the end of the report. Or, perhaps your report is a simple listing of the data in the table, in which case your sketch can contain just a series of rows and columns.

 Note   This technique is also very useful if you are designing a report for someone else. In this case, the other person can draw the sketch before you begin work.

After you create your sketch, determine which table or tables contain the data that you want to display on the report. If all the data is contained in a single table, you can base your report directly on that table. More often, the data that you want is stored in several tables that you must pull together in a query, before you can display it on the report. The query can be embedded in the RecordSource property of the report, or you can create a separate, saved query and base the report on that.

Find a link to more information about using a query as a recordsource for a report in the See Also section.

Decide which data to put in each report section

Each report has one or more report sections. The one section that is present in every report is the Detail section. This section repeats once for each record in the table or query that the report is based on. Other sections are optional and repeat less often and are usually used to display information that is common to a group of records, a page of the report, or the entire report.

The following table describes where each section is located and how the section is typically used.

Section Location Typical contents
Report header section Appears only once, at the top of the first page of the report.
  • Report title
  • Logo
  • Current date
Report footer section Appears after the last line of data, above the Page Footer section on the last page of the report. Report totals (sums, counts, averages, and so on)
Page header section Appears at the top of each page of the report.
  • Report title
  • Page number
Page footer section Appears at the bottom of each page of the report.
  • Current date
  • Page number
Group header section Appears just preceding of a group of records. The field that is being grouped on
Group footer section Appears just after a group of records. Group totals (sums, counts, averages, and so on)

For information about adding or removing report header and footer sections or page header and footer sections, see the section Add or remove report or page header and footer sections in this article. You can add group header and footer sections by using the Group, Sort, and Total pane in Layout view or Design view.

For more information about using the Group, Sort, and Total pane, see the link in the See Also section about creating grouped or summary reports.

Decide how to arrange the detail data

Most reports are arranged in either a tabular or a stacked layout, but Office Access 2007 gives you the flexibility to use just about any arrangement of records (record: A collection of data about a person, a place, an event, or some other item. Records are the logical equivalents of rows in a table.) and fields (field: An element of a table that contains a specific item of information, such as a last name. A Title field might contain Mr. or Ms. Databases such as Microsoft SQL Server refer to fields as columns.) that you want.

Tabular layout    A tabular layout is similar to a spreadsheet. Labels are across the top, and the data is aligned in columns below the labels. Tabular refers to the table-like appearance of the data. This is the type of report that Office Access 2007 creates when you click Report in the Reports group of the Create tab. The tabular layout is a good one to use if your report has a relatively small number of fields that you want to display in a simple list format. The following illustration shows an employee report that was created by using a tabular layout.

Employees report in tabular layout

Stacked layout    A stacked layout resembles a form that you fill out when you open a bank account or make a purchase from an online retailer. Each piece of data is labeled, and the fields are stacked on top of each other. This layout is good for reports that contain too many fields to display in a tabular format — that is, the width of the columns would exceed the width of the report. The following illustration shows an employee report that was created by using a stacked layout.

Employees report in stacked layout

 Note   In the Report Wizard, this layout is referred to as a columnar layout.

Mixed layout    You can mix elements of tabular and stacked layouts. For example, for each record, you can arrange some of the fields in a horizontal row at the top of the Detail section and arrange other fields from the same record in one or more stacked layouts beneath the top row. The following illustration shows an employee report that was created by using a mixed layout. The ID, Last Name, and First Name fields are arranged in a tabular control layout, and the Job Title and Business Phone fields are arranged in a stacked layout. In this example, gridlines are used to provide a visual separation of fields for each employee.

Employees report using mixed layout

Justified layout    If you use the Report Wizard to create your report, you can choose to use a justified layout. This layout uses the full width of the page to display the records as compactly as possible. Of course, you can achieve the same results without using the Report Wizard, but it can be a painstaking process to align the fields exactly. The following illustration shows an employee report that was created by using the Report Wizard's justified layout.

Employees report using justified layout

The justified layout is a good layout to use if you are displaying a large number of fields on the report. In the preceding example, if you use a tabular layout to display the same data, the fields extend off the edge of the page. If you use a stacked layout, each record takes up much more vertical space, which wastes paper and makes the report more difficult to read.

For step-by-step information about how to create reports that use these different layouts, see the link in the See Also section about creating a simple report.

Top of Page Top of Page

Use control layouts to align your data

Control layouts are a new feature in Office Access 2007. Control layouts are guides that you can add to a report while it is open in Layout view or Design view. Access 2007 adds control layouts automatically when you use the Report Wizard to build a report, or when you create a report by clicking Report in the Reports group of the Create tab. A control layout is like a table, each cell of which can contain a label, a text box, or any other type of control. The following illustration shows a tabular control layout on a report.

Basic tabular control layout

The orange lines indicate the rows and columns of the control layout, and they are visible only when the report is open in Layout view or Design view. Control layouts help you achieve a uniform alignment of data in rows and columns, and they make it easier to add, resize, or remove fields. By using the tools in the Control Layout group on the Arrange tab (available in Layout view or Design view), you can change one type of control layout to another, and you can remove controls from layouts so that you can position the controls wherever you want on the report.

For more information about working with control layouts, see the link in the See Also section about modifying, editing, and changing reports.

Top of Page Top of Page

Add or remove report or page header and footer sections

As mentioned earlier in this article, headers and footers are report sections that you can use to display information that is common to the entire report, or to each page of a report. For example, you can add a Page Footer section to display a page number at the bottom of each page, or you can add a Report Header section to display a title for the entire report.

Add report or page header and footer sections

  1. In the Navigation Pane, right-click the report that you want to change, and then click Design View on the shortcut menu.
  2. Verify which sections are already on the report. The sections are separated by shaded horizontal bars called section selectors. The label on each section selector indicates what the section directly below it is.

Report in Design view

Every report has a Detail section and can also contain Report Header, Page Header, Page Footer, and Report Footer sections. In addition, if there are grouping levels in the report, you might see group headers or footers (such as the File As Header shown in the preceding illustration). By default, group headers and footers are named by using the field name or expression that is the basis of the group. In this case, the name of the grouping field is "File As."

Find a link to more information about creating grouped or summary reports in the See Also section.

  1. To add page header and footer sections or report header and footer sections to your report, right-click any section selector and then click Page Header/Footer or Report Header/Footer on the shortcut menu.

 Note   If the section is already present on the report, Access warns you that it will delete the existing section and the controls it contains.

You can now move existing controls or add new controls to the new sections.

Find a link to more information about adding fields and other controls to reports in the See Also section.

Office Access 2007 always adds page and report header and footer sections in pairs. That is, you cannot add a page or report header section without also adding the corresponding footer section. If you do not need both sections, you cannot delete a section, but you can resize the unused section to a height of zero (0) to avoid adding extra vertical spacing to your report. Position the pointer at the bottom of the unused section until it turns into a double-headed arrow cursor, and then drag upward until the section is hidden. If there are any controls in the section, you must delete them before you can fully hide the section.

Remove report or page header and footer sections

  1. In the Navigation Pane, right-click the report that you want to change, and then click Design View on the shortcut menu.
  2. Right-click any section selector and then click Page Header/Footer or Report Header/Footer on the shortcut menu.

If you are removing a header and footer pair and those sections contain controls, Office Access 2007 warns you that deleting the sections will also delete the controls and that you will not be able to undo the action. Click Yes to remove the sections and delete the controls, or click No to cancel the operation.

Top of Page Top of Page

Tips for formatting different data types

When you create a report by using the Report tool (available on the Create tab, in the Reports group), or by using the Report Wizard, Office Access 2007 adds the fields to the report for you and creates the most appropriate control to display each field, based on the field's data type. If you are adding fields to a report yourself, the preferred method is to drag each field from the Field List to the report. As with the Report Wizard or the Report tool, Office Access 2007 creates the most appropriate control for each field, depending on the field's data type. For most data types, the most appropriate (default) control to use is the text box.

The following sections provide tips about how to format some of the data types that are new in Office Access 2007.

Multivalued fields    The default control for a multivalued field is a combo box. This can seem like a strange choice for a control on a report, because you can't click the arrow on a combo box in a report. However, in the context of a report, a combo box behaves like a text box. The arrow is visible only in Design view.

If the field contains multiple values, those values are separated by commas. If the combo box is not wide enough to display all the values on one line and the CanGrow property of the combo box is set to Yes, the values wrap to the next line. Otherwise, the values are truncated. To set the CanGrow property for a control, open the report in Design view or Layout view, click the control, and then press F4 to display the control's property sheet. The CanGrow property is located on both the Format tab and the All tab of the property sheet for the control.

Rich text fields    The default control for a rich text field is a text box. If the text box is not wide enough to display all the values on one line and the CanGrow property of the text box is set to Yes, the values wrap to the next line. Otherwise, the values are truncated. To set the CanGrow property for a control, open the report in Design view or Layout view, click the control, and then press F4 to display the control's property sheet. The CanGrow property is located on both the Format tab and the All tab of the property sheet for the control.

A rich text field helps you to format text in a variety of ways. For example, several words in a field can be underlined, and several other words in the same field can be in italic. You can, however, still set an overall formatting style for the text box that contains the rich text. The text box formatting applies only to the text that has not been specifically formatted by using rich text formatting.

Set formatting styles for a text box that displays a rich text field

  1. Right-click the report in the Navigation Pane, and then click Layout View on the shortcut menu.
  2. Click the text box that displays the rich text field, and then, on the Format tab, in the Font group, click the formatting style that you want to apply.

Access Ribbon

Office Access 2007 applies the formatting to all text in the rich text field that has not already had that type (but not value) of formatting applied in a view that supports data entry, such as Datasheet view for a table or query, or Form view for a form. For example, if a portion of the text in the field is formatted with a red font color, and you apply a blue font color to the text box, Access 2007 turns all of the text blue except for that which was individually formatted as red. As another example, if a portion of the text in the field is formatted with an 11-point font size, and you apply a 14-point font size to the text box, Access 2007 applies the 14-point font size to all of the text except for that which was individually formatted at 11 points.

Attachment fields    Attachment fields use a special control that is not used for any other data type. You can attach multiple files to a record by using a single Attachment field, but the field can only display information about one attachment at a time. By default, the attachment control displays either an icon or an image, depending on the file type of the attachment that is currently displayed by the control. If you want, you can set the properties for the attachment control so that all attached files are displayed as icons, or so that the field simply displays a paperclip icon and the number of attachments. Assuming that you already use an attachment control on your report, you can use the following procedure to adjust the control's properties for different uses of the control.

For more information about adding an Attachment field to a report, see the link in the See Also section about how to attach files and graphics to the records in your database.

Set the display properties for an Attachment field

  1. Right-click the report in the Navigation Pane, and then click Layout View on the shortcut menu.
  2. Click the attachment control. If the property sheet is not already displayed, press F4 to display it. On the property sheet, click the Format tab.

Use the following table as a guide for setting the attachment control's properties.

Property Setting
Display As
  • Image/Icon displays graphics as images and all other files as icons. This is the default setting.
  • Icon displays all files as icons.
  • Paperclip displays a paperclip icon followed by the number of attachments in parentheses.
Default Picture

To make a default picture appear in the attachment control when there are no attached files, click Button image in the property box, browse to the picture that you want, and then click Open.

 Note   The default picture is not displayed if the Display As property is set to Paperclip.

Picture Alignment Select the alignment that you want from the list. The default setting is Center. Adjusting this setting can produce unexpected results, depending on the setting of the Picture Size Mode property.
Picture Size Mode

This setting is available only if the Display As property is set to Image/Icon.

  • Clip displays the image in its actual size. The image is clipped if it is too big to fit inside the control.
  • Stretch stretches the image so that it fills the entire control.

 Note   Unless the attachment control is the same exact size as the image, using this setting will distort the image, making it appear stretched either vertically or horizontally.

  • Zoom displays the image as large as possible without clipping or distorting the image. This is the default setting.
  1. If you are using the control to display graphics, adjust the size of the attachment control so that you can see the amount of detail that you want.

Top of Page Top of Page

 
 
Applies to:
Access 2007