Northwind Traders database?



I have a very small business that I keep track of inventory and sales using
an Excel spreadsheet. I have Access 2002 available and I've been wanting
to learn enough Access to develop a database and move from Excel. In doing
some studying I've been looking at the sample Northwind Traders database
that comes with my version of Access and I think that it would be just what
I want for my little business. My questions to the group are, would it be
legal and how hard would it be to just change the company info and use that
database? Obviously, I'd have to back out most of the data but would that
be difficult? Any help or suggestions would be greatly appreciated! TIA!


I may be wrong about this, but I think that (a long as you don't try and sell
the results) you are free to use the Traders DB as much as you want if it's
for your own use. The idea of the Traders DB is to show you what can be done
and give some samples of methods and possible code solutions.

Can I make one suggestion. If you are just starting to the learn access now
- learn to use the vista version, at least this way you will be (almost) sure
of MS support for the next years.

Good luck

Albert D. Kallal

My questions to the group are, would it be legal

The north wind sample ships with every copy of MS access. You are absolute
free to do with that sample whatever you please to do so. I should point out
that it's kind of a lame example, and it's missing a lot of things, but it
is a good idea place to get some basic ideas of how to do things. You'll
rapidly find out that there's a lot of pieces and bits missing in that
sample (such as inventory used amounts don't update).
and how hard would it be to just change the company info and use that

It is very easy to change the company information. As for modifying the
designs of the application, how long it takes you to learn that stuff is a
question in terms of saying how long does it take you to learn music? You
can learn to play a bit of music in a week. You can also spend five years
learning to play music. And, I know lots of people have been working at
their music sklls for 10+ years.

Learning the software develpumet process is much the same as learning music.
It isn't hard skill, but it does take time. I know a tremendous amount of
people who've taken music lessons, I don't know actually very many that make
a living playing music. I have to say software's almost near identical in
this conceptual ideal.

Only you can decide at this point in time if it's beneficial for you to
invest a lot of time to become pro efficient at using MS access. After these
baby steps are how most of us started down this road.

On the other hand if you're busy person try to run your business, I would
suggest that you purchase a system like "simply accouting", or one of the
other many applications that integrates things like purchase orders,
inventories, payroll etc. Keep in mind that some of these systems have
millions of dollars worth of developer time invested, and you can often
purchase these systems for what one day of a professional developer will

In a sense your question of how difficult this task is is asking the same
question is how difficult is it to learn play music? it's not really that
hard, and tons of kids in school to learn music all the time. It's really a
question of how much time you want to invest to learn this new skill.

Perhaps you might save more for your company by buying a home dentist kit,
and a dental drill. Or perhaps you take an auto Mechanic course and start
working on your company vehicles to save money. Or, in this case you learn
to modify this piece of software. The time and efforts to get good at any
these endeavors is all about the same. I know some people that have a
squeaky door, and have to call in a carpenter. I know other people that will
ripe the whole door out and build the door from scratch in their garage when
the door starts to creak and make noises. So the question herein is the kind
of time you want to invest to obtain the skills needed here, and how much
your time is worth.

If the northwind sample does most of what you what, then you may not have to
modify the northwind example much it all. However in my experience that
sample is a very weak and is a very simplistic sample, and your unlikely to
be able to run much of your business off that sample without extensive

I think you'd be far better of to purchase somthing like simply counting or
other small business acctouing packages that also has things like sales
management and inventoried built in.

on the other hand the reason why a MS access is such a popular tool is
because you can build applications and customize things for your specific
business needs. I think if your business needs are not special or specific,
then go out purchase one of those general packages.

I suggest you spend a few days playing with that sample and access. You
should purchase a few books on MS access, as you just can't approach this
whole process by trial and error.

I don't want to discourage you in any way here, and there are tons of
secretaries, accountants, small business owners etc. that have built
applications that are extremely useful for their business in MS access, and
they have done so without any kind of formalized training.


Wayne, thanks for the quick reply! The reason that I'm thinking of Access
2002 is basically because I'm cheap! I have 2002 and I don't want to spend
the money to upgrade to 2007 unless I know that it'll be worth the cost.
I'll think about it, though. Thanks, again!


Hi Albert! Thanks for a very comprehensive and thought-provoking reply!

Just a little more background. The business is my wife's and I'm retired
and help her a bit with the books. I've actually tried a number of programs
and even went so far as to buy couple. (I haven't tried the Simply
Accounting since it looks like it's more geared toward Canadian businesses
and we operate primarily in the U.S.) Many of the programs that I've tried
were good but none did everything that I wanted. Most offered to customize
their programs but that was usually for a fancy fee. I thought that I
might be able to build off the Northwind database without having to start
from scratch. I do have a few books that teach Access so I have a little
knowledge, but just a little.

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