A Practical Approach to Database Theory

Tuesday Jan 27th 2004 by Jan Haugland

Like it or not, 90% of the work a Visual Basic developer does is likely to be database related. Learn to get comfortable with databases. (Added: 18-Oct-1998)

Introduction Normalization Queries SQL Data Access Objects

A Practical Approach to Database Theory

Database development is unlikely to score very well with VB programmers for popularity. Yet, like it or not, 90 % of the work a professional Visual Basic developer does is likely to be database related.

One reason is that VB is particularly well suited to database work. Another is that very much development is database related. Those who are willing to pay for your services are businesses, and they use computer systems mainly for basic office work and database work. The former is handled by generic tools like Microsoft Office. The latter is often handled by tailor-made tools, and this is where you come in.

In smaller projects, some of which I've had the mixed pleasure of working, the basic design choices behind the database is done by someone who have no grasp of database design, and who claims to "not have time" to learn it. The authorities thankfully don't allow that approach to driving a car. The databases coming out of these operations leave a lot to be desired.

Here is very basic vocabulary for database work:

Term Meaning
Column Interchangable term for field in database description. E.g. name, phone number, price or any other single item of a database is a column of data in a table. The smallest item that are addressable by the relational database engine (but of course, its content can be further analyzed with VB code)
Database The whole set of tables that make up all relevant data for a project or system.
Field See column.
Record Corresponds to each card in a cardfile. In relational databases, and VB terminology, it is often replaced by the term row.
Row Corresponds to record, which would be individual cards in a cardfile.
Table Each two-dimensional data array in a system is called a table. Tables consist of rows (corresponds to cards in cardfile) and individual rows which are fields of the table.

Table of Contents

  1. Normalization
  2. Queries
  3. SQL
  4. Using Data Access Objects

[TIP] Few who do serious database work in VB can do without Microsoft Access. Most things you can do with Access can be done in VB, but it's so much easier to create, format and manipulate databases in Access you will find it worth the cost. More likely than not, you will find use for other Office components as well (like Excel, Outlook, and Word), so do check out Microsoft Office 97 Professional which comes with Access. There is also a Developer's Edition available which allows you to create and distribute runtime Access database products.

Joe Garrick has a "Database Programming Corner" at his also otherwise excellent VB web pages. Visit http://www.citilink.com/~jgarrick/vbasic/database, where you will see one of the best series of articles available on various aspects of VB database programming (general theory, dao, Jet, sql).
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