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The Problem with Word Tables and Excel Spreadsheets

For starters, I’ll set up a Word table with each of the fields I’ll need, as shown in Figure 1. Uh oh. I’m in trouble already. The cast names are wrapping, which makes them hard to read. Plus, to keep other fields from breaking badly, I had to reduce the font, making it harder for me to read. Moreover, even a short review will make it difficult to fit more than one or two movies onscreen at the same time.

Let’s try Excel. I copy my Word table to the Clipboard and paste it into a blank Excel spreadsheet. As shown in Figure 2, this looks a little more manageable. Still, the review doesn’t fit unless I make the row taller. Even then, the font is too small for me to read, and zooming sends it off the screen. I could judiciously try hiding different columns to view just what I want. But even if I hide the review column, that doesn’t change the height of the row. I’d still be limited to only a couple of reviews per screen.

And these are just the simple problems. What if I want to see a list of movies that feature just Kip Pardue? I could search, but that doesn’t let me see them all together. I could use Excel’s Filter feature, but then I’d need to create a different data record for each cast member. Heck—I was using Excel to avoid that kind of complexity. There probably are other approaches I could use. But just having to think about the possible problems and how clumsy the database would be to use makes me recoil.

If I didn’t have Access, would I be admitting this level of frustration so quickly? Or would I continue beating my head against the wall trying to make each oddly shaped peg fit into Excel’s rectangular slots? I honestly don’t know. I suspect that I would make compromises and end up with something useful, but far from perfect. But I do have Access, so the deeper psychological and philosophical ramifications of this question will go unanswered for now.

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