Using Microsoft Office for Mac as a Relational Database

By Jim Gordon, co-author of Office 2011 for Mac All-in-One For Dummies.

Part 3 - Organize your files

Every commercial database program has its own particular way of organizing data, input forms, queries, and reports. Librarian Donna Serafin of the University at Buffalo Libraries has invented an ingenious organization structure that is particularly pleasant to use and understand, dubbed the "Searfin System." The Serafin System is a folder hierarchy in Finder. The topmost item is a folder that contains data. Sub-folders contain Input forms, queries, reports and macros. You can see at a glance all of the files that interact with the data tables.  Because you make the folders in Finder, you have unlimited flexibility. This screen shot shows a database arranged using the Serafin System:

Serafin file system

Notice how Mail Merge Data is situated in the Serafin hierarchy. Because Word 2011 does not support ODBC, we use one or more intermediate Excel workbooks to use as data sources for Word mail merge documents.

The Serafin System is not the only possible arrangement. If you have used other databases you may prefer to use a more familiar folder setup. Microsoft Access users might feel more at home with one folder at the same directory level as follows: Database, Forms, Queries, Reports, and Macros. Because Office 2011 database organization is Finder based, you are free to use any organizational scheme you prefer.

Rules you must follow

If you want your database to work right or even at all, you have no choice but to follow these four simple rules:

Don't use special characters.
Special characters are characters such as *,.&^%$#@!{}[]/?>< control, option, and command. Don't use these characters in the name of your hard drive, in folder names, in file names, in column names, or in table names.
Don't rename or move your database files or folders. You will have to reconfigure your Data Source Names if you make changes.
Don't change data source names. Your queries will break.
Don't use
reserved words as column header/field names or as table names.

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